Kitty Update

Several weeks ago I wrote about our cat Charlie and his scary health situation. We weren’t sure how it was going to turn out but I can now happily say he appears to have made almost a full recovery. It looks like it was idiopathic vestibular syndrome. He seems to have recovered his mobility and his head no longer tilts. For awhile we thought he was going to have a droopy eye but that’s resolved itself. His voice is a bit rough (he used to have a very sweet meow and now it’s sort of crackly) but if that’s the only residual symptom we’ll consider ourselves lucky!! We’re happy to have our lovely boy out and about again.

Music for this post- I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy CliffCharlie in the gardenCharlie on the moveCharlie checking out the harvestCharlie catching some rays

Sleepy Charlie

Should I Ever Stumble and Fall

Monday morning Charlie, my brown tiger tabby, ran past trying to get to the stairs before me. As he turned to go down his back feet tangled and he almost fell. It struck me as strange but he recovered immediately and raced down to the first floor. When he mewed to be let out there didn’t seem to be a problem so off he went. He was gone all day and it was after 9 pm when he finally reappeared. He was a mess. He could barely walk. His legs didn’t work properly. He looked like a furry four-legged drunk. That might sound cute in theory but in real life it was scary as hell. My first concern was that he’d been hit by a car. The second was that he might have been shot. I live in a rural area and though rare that kind of thing does happen. He didn’t seem to have any marks or tender areas.  His symptoms started getting worse. There was something wrong with his eyes. It was after business hours so I decided to take him to the emergency clinic in London (about a 45 minute drive from home).  He usually puts up a fuss about the cat carrier but he was quiet on the way in.

The vet technician did Charlie’s intake. We waited for the doctor to come in. It was a long wait. It was a busy night at the clinic. Charlie sat up on the examination table. He wasn’t even trying to move any more. He looked, to be indelicate, as high as fuck. His eyes were wide open but non-reactive. His head was slightly tilted back and to the side. His gaze seemed to be fixed on the ceiling lights but I didn’t get the impression that he saw them. Whenever there was a loud sound in the clinic he would flinch but otherwise he didn’t move. When the vet came in to examine him the first thing she did was put her face right up to his. He didn’t see her. She flicked her fingers in front of each eye almost tapping the surface. There was no flinch, no change in pupil dilation…nothing.  She listed off possible causes (some with really long names). Then she asked me if there was a possibility that he had gotten into some marijuana.  I guess she thought he looked high as fuck too. I assured her there was nothing like that in my house (there isn’t).  She asked again suggesting that perhaps “teenagers might have dropped some on the side-walk”.  I informed her that I live in a rural area at the edge of a small hamlet. People don’t walk in front of my house. I have farm fields behind my house but one is lying fallow and the other has soy beans in it (no place for pot plants to hide). My nearest neighbours, on my side of the highway, are ½ an acre away to the west and east but if they were smoking pot outside I would have known (no secrets in a small place). I’d had my roof re-shingled the week before but I’m pretty sure roofers, a roof with an extreme pitch, and pot, don’t mix on the job site.  If my cat had gotten into something toxic it wasn’t “weed”.  She explained some possibilities for tests and treatment and then went off to put an estimate together for services.

As I waited for the veterinarian to return I could hear what was going on across the hallway in another room.  What sounded like a senior couple had brought their dog in. The dog had been vomiting blood as well as bleeding from the back-end. The vet was telling them, in the kindest way possible (there’s no use sugar-coating it) that she didn’t know what was wrong with their dog Mickey, that it was going to take a lot of tests and a lot of money to figure that out, and that they would need to make a decision because it wasn’t going to be a cheap or easy journey. I would see them later in the lobby settling their bill. They were taking the dog home and the wife was crying.

When the vet came back with the estimate it was $1100 to $1500. I signed the paper and put the deposit on my credit card. She mentioned marijuana again and I realized she thought I might be lying. I can’t be mad about that I guess as I’m sure they do have people lie to them. Still the fact that I had just agreed to pay up to $1500 for my cat’s medical treatment should be a pretty good indication that I wouldn’t be holding back any info that would help it.   I do have to say none the less that I was very impressed with the staff at the clinic. They obviously care deeply about the animals in their care. While being completely professional they went out of their way to be kind and comforting during what was a very difficult/emotional situation.

After a battery of blood tests (all negative though that didn’t stop the day shift veterinarian  from mentioning pot again the following day), and a night on IV, they were still no closer to a diagnosis. They had ruled out toxic exposure as after 24 hours something toxic would have been flushed out of Charlie’s system by the IV (resulting in a cessation of symptoms) or the toxin would have killed him. Charlie didn’t seem to have any injuries and there’d been a great deal of improvement but he still couldn’t walk properly.  The vet hypothesized that it could be something called Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome. It usually goes away on its own but occasionally some long-term symptoms remain. He might have Feline Infectious Peritonitis (dry). There’s no definitive test or set treatment for that. You just do your best to make your cat comfortable until they pass (death occurs in a relatively short period of time). It might be a brain tumor (unlikely though for how quickly his symptoms developed) or some other kind of neurological disorder.  There was nothing to do but wait it out so I agreed to take him home. To add to the stress of the situation, while I was waiting for them to get Charlie ready, a pet owner who’d brought her dog in had a (possible) heart attack in the waiting room. She kept apologizing to me, the vet, and the receptionist, whilst panting in pain waiting for the ambulance to arrive. After she’d gone I went to finish up the finances and realized I’d lost my credit card sometime between paying the night before and picking up Charlie to take him home.

It’s been a couple of days.  I can see improvements though he still has the head tilt. I thought he was a little further along and allowed him access to the main floor of the house.  He had a spill down the basement stairs. He’s very tired. He tries to do the things he could do before but his body says no. He doesn’t understand why he can’t go outside.  His entire life has changed and I don’t know yet if it will be a permanent change. Despite his illness he is still his unfailingly sweet and affectionate self. He tries to rub up against legs and hands to get his loving though he often falls over as he leans in.

Charlie wasn't impressed with the shave job they did at the emergency clinic. They did both front legs as they had trouble finding a good vein to draw blood from.
Charlie wasn’t impressed with the shave job they did at the emergency clinic. They did both front legs as they had trouble finding a good vein to draw blood from.

His medical condition has turned the house upside down. The dogs are confused by the attention Charlie is getting and are upset that they are being admonished to be careful around him. My other cat, Lola Mae, seems to think I’ve brought an unfamiliar cat into her territory. I’m not sure if he smells different or if it’s the way he’s acting that’s set her off.  She’s never been the friendliest of cats but she and Charlie had an “agreement”. It was along the lines that she would do her best to not give him a moment’s peace and he would try to stay away from her. She’s called “Princess” Lola Mae for good reason. When Charlie first came home I confined him to a small room with all his necessities. Lola Mae spent some time hissing and growling at the door. She also took up hissing and growling at the dogs and everyone else no matter how nicely she was being treated.  Since I’ve let him out, she’s attacked Charlie at least once and continues to show aggressive behaviour. If it turns out that Charlie’s condition is a chronic neurological disorder I may have to think about re-homing her.

It’s never been a secret that she’s the kind of cat that would do better in a household with no small children or other pets. She’s a young beautiful looking cat and when she gets her own way she can be nice. She makes lovely little chirruping noises and will come for a treat if she’s awake when you call her name. But if Lola Mae isn’t happy, no one gets to be happy. I may have a place lined up for her already with an older woman who lives with her senior mother but I’m still going to wait and see how everything turns out. Honestly I’ve never been the kind of person who takes in a pet thinking it will be anything but a lifelong commitment so the thought of possibly “giving up” on Lola leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But if Charlie’s mobility is permanently affected and he can’t protect himself from her I might have to. Time will tell.

Music for this post- Danny O’Keefe’s ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues


I’m sorry. Did you say Bieber Fever?

There’s a part in this post that’s about pet bottoms. It’s not horribly horrible but I thought I should mention it for those who prefer not to read about those kinds of things. Anyway as I was about to say…

We’re a pet household. Pretty much for my entire life I’ve lived with some kind of pet companionship. Our current menagerie consists of two cats and two dogs. Our pets are all relatively young so we’ve only had the occasional health issue arise. There’s been nothing serious but as most pet owners do I keep an eye out for unusual behaviour that might spell trouble. Several weeks ago I was dismayed to notice our cat, Princess Lola Mae Piewacket, “scooting” across the floor (not exactly normal cat behaviour). I’d witnessed dogs do the butt drag but it was something I’d never seen a cat do. A visit to the vet was in order. As long as I was going I thought I might as well take our two dogs along as they needed to have their heartworm tests done. Not sure what I was thinking there.

It’s really not a good idea to arrive at the vet clinic with an unhappy cat in a carrier and two socially awkward yellow labs. I normally let the dogs have a good run before a vet visit just to get them a little tired out so they’re less likely to misbehave. The heat of the July midday sun ruled a run out. So that wasn’t a great start.  The overstimulation of a car ride with a caterwauling cat added the perfect incentive to go wild in the clinic environment where evidently everything smelled fantastic, and the kittens ready for adoption wandering around were enchanting, and other dogs were a possible danger, and there were people whose bottoms may not have been goosed by a dog’s nose before that had to have that particular experience. I’m lucky I didn’t pull a back muscle trying to rodeo the dogs while balancing a carrier that barely contained the heartfelt indignation of one unjustly confined feline. The upshot was apologies to all the staff at the clinic as well as some other clients for the overly friendly attention of my dogs, a summer’s worth of Revolution (protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm, etc.) for everyone, and a surprise backside procedure for Lola Mae (neither the cat nor I had any idea that cats could require this kind of “expressing”- her look of betrayal haunts me still). But wait there’s more.

I was sent home with a small container and instructions to take samples. I did and then duly submitted said samples for testing. I hoped for the best, expected the worse, but was still taken by surprise when the vet tech called several days later. I was informed the test results had come back positive. What I thought I heard the technician ask me was…had I heard of “Bieber Fever”. I was caught completely off guard. Was she telling me that my cat had a case of “Bieber Fever”? For those of you who don’t know this refers to a condition common amongst the fandom of Canadian pop star Justin Bieber. I’m not a fan myself (many moons ago when I was a teenage girl I was more of a DOA, The Smiths and Sex Pistols kind of fan) but to each his own. In the eternity that it seemed to be taking for me to process what I’d just heard, I wondered how Lola Mae could have experienced any of Justin Bieber’s music, never mind having become such a fan that she developed the “Fever”. Was scooting your butt across the floor a symptom of this fever? How was this determined from a fecal sample? Of course I didn’t say that.

What I said was, “Sorry, what was that?” The vet tech then went on to explain that BEAVER FEVER (which I had misheard) was actually an uncommon occurrence in an indoor cat. The medical name for Beaver Fever is Giardia. It is caused by a parasite that’s usually found in streams frequented by wildlife (such as beavers, hence the name) and can be spread through the usual way these things are passed along. People can get Giardia too. I have a friend who is a lab technician and she informed me that it sometimes pops up in rural communities with poor water sanitation facilities. We think the dogs might have picked it up at the kennel whilst we were away in May. The property has a stream that runs through it. The dogs had some digestive issues when we brought them home so it’s sort of the logical conclusion.

We’ve just finished 5 days of treatment for all four of our pets. No pills but liquid and syringes. Our larger dog is 90 lbs and he had to swallow an ounce of medicine. Do you know what happens when you try to shoot an ounce of chalky white liquid down the back of a dog’s throat with a syringe? It comes right back up. This animal will eat its own vomit or any type of exotic animal scat it comes across but refuse to lick that medicine up off the floor. A bottle of medicine, by the way, that cost us $98.00. As for the cats, well there might be some permanent scarring from the “cat incident”. I can tell you it was not a happy time for anyone. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks and test again to make sure everyone has a clean bill of health. Here by the way is a poorly edited picture of what my cat might look like if she was a “Belieber” (that’s what they call people who have Bieber Fever).

Lola JB Swag

When I looked on-line I discover a whole world of Justin Bieber “swag”. After the costs associated with our last vet visit I’m positive I couldn’t afford to support the habits of a true Belieber. I think overall we have to count ourselves lucky. It’s not known if there’s any cure for Bieber Fever but at least with Beaver Fever we’re confident we have a fighting chance.

Music for this post

If you haven’t heard of him, firstly I would be very surprised but secondly, here are two links to Justin Bieber videos. The first “Baby Baby” is the original Justin. He’s evolved a new style as he’s gotten older which you can experience in the video “Boyfriend”.

Just in case Justin isn’t your style you can give The Smith’s “How Soon is Now?” or the Sex Pistols “Holidays in the Sun” a listen.

My cat really is cute despite the awful picture I made of her. By the way I personally think that cats shouldn’t wear hats in real life unless they’re a Dr. Seuss character. It took me a terribly long time to make the Lola JB Swag image. The computer with my photo editing software on it isn’t working right now. I edited that picture in…wait for it… Microsoft Word. I then converted it to a PDF, printed the screen shot and pasted it into Paint where I cropped it and then saved it as a jpeg. Pretty sad really when there’s free editing software that I could have downloaded and later deleted. Truth be known that picture of Lola isn’t my first horribly edited photo. I occasionally make and send them to my friends and family because I NOT so secretly enjoy making images that look really tacky. It just doesn’t normally take me as long as this did because of the software issue. Here’s one I made for my nephew who is 19 years old. He loved it.


Les Enfants Terribles

Trouble has a new name, two if you’d like to be exact…


The pet cemetery at the back of our yard has been growing at a slow but steady rate. Since the acquisition of our new home three years ago we have interred one hedgehog, one zebra finch and two cats. In an effort to slow the trend our household population has been expanded by a very young twosome. The Prodigal Son has named our adoptees “Captain Awesome” (the utterance of Captain Awesome must be undertaken only with the accompaniment of a hand gesture stabbing the air vigorously in front of the orator) and “The Black Avenger”. The Black Avenger was demoted to “The Dark Avenger” after peeing on the Prodigal’s leg. For simplicity’s sake other members of the household have chosen to refer to said adoptees as “Charlie and Jack”. Our husky-shepherd-cross, Jack Kerouac or Kera as she is more commonly known is understandably disconcerted. As anyone can see, these two will be an ongoing concern.

Captain “Charlie” Awesome,  “Jack” the Dark Avenger, and “Kera” Kerouac


Layman’s Nave

     The Cathedral is glory pine bowered with staves of naked bark. The sheltered corridor lies soft underfoot flowing away into the parish press banked by early sharp ferns and moss covered logs. The beating heart warms the air calling restless spirits. The forgotten lives awakened are gargoyles that rise up to the belfried heights and sound the boughs like ancient bells in groans and creaks and snaps of supplication. That hymn of lamentation sinks only to the earth drowning in the embrace of the captured sky muted and choking on the mirrored pool shallows of mud and rotten leaves. The bowls of careless hollows house quiet buds that break the earth and strain towards the sun.

*This post was originally hosted on another blogging platform (MSN Space to MSN Live and finally WordPress). When the content was transferred the media files were lost. I’ve chosen to add new photos rather than delete the posts. I try to match any updated content to previously posted comments. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t so the comments can seem to be out of context but I don’t want to delete any of them as they are a part of my blogging history.


     The winter dried grass, a golden expanse soft like the velvet fuzz in the warm nape of a baby’s neck, slides down to meet the sharp stubble of the cornstalk graveyard. Winding off in the distance the furrows are crowded in a jumble of waves. Distinct and stiff the guerrillas’ pit is laid flat, open to the air. The stabbing swords are sometimes bare under the mercurial sky or hide in the dark moonless nights waiting only to break the skin.

     The gate way to the fields is guarded by the weighted bows of sentries. Old generals’ vanities dangle from camouflaged limbs only to be cast aside to lie forgotten on the needle covered parapet. Lateral roots in the shallow bed wind through the acrid soil. The questing tendrils, cinnamon grey scabby fingers that poke out here and there, break the surface like the backs of whales as they gasp before sinking below the surface again. The morning sun strikes the three quarter profile running from pate to sole and sinks warm to the roots. The profile strains in a light flush from labouring up distant cliffs. Languorous, first arms and then legs, light and clear, crystal dew misted, wrap round to caresses the sap crusted bores.

     In the daylight, overcast or bright, the trees mark the way to the world beyond and the preternatural quiet is not as noticeable. The empty thump of the root riddled ground, the hollow echo of an underground warren, is not so solemn, not so full. The trees are graceful, heavy and benevolent in the light of day. Back behind that green needled barrier the orchard spreads out and the acres of field behind seem just that and nothing more. Hemlock and nightshade are speckled in bright reds and blossoms of purple and gold, just that and nothing more.

     In the dark of night, in the bright light of a blue moon (the moon light is always blue even when the moon is golden and full of the secret harvest) the evergreens are suddenly unknown and dark. The safety of the house floodlight reaches back as far as the trees where it is set upon and divided into long streamers. They falter and the warm comfort of home fades behind. The moonlight and the darkness paint the rises and the falls. The shadows should be black and empty but they’re not. They are full.      

     In the dark the nightshade glows and creeps. The hemlock is blacker than black. The line of the orchard caught frozen in a fleeing strand, shows surprised, a figure watching from the edge. A dun coat…a deer…no an upright figure…silent there and then lost as the dark tide rises again.

     The passage from the controlled confines of the garden across the border to the place beyond is marked by the knell. The taproot and laterals have eaten away the foundations. Giants hang from perches, their limbs dangling in the sky anchored by macramé weavings. The pale strings vibrate to the tap of a step, booming loud through the delicate tatting that decorates the skin and the caves beneath. Stepping across the ridge, the alarm sounds, alerting the earth and whatever dwells beneath that someone walks there …in the dark or under a moon…sometimes hidden, sometimes bare, under the stars cloaked or jewel bright.

     The small grave yard is marked by flats of slate. Old roofing tiles mark the slumber of the ones we brought to this place, the one who trusted us, that are with us no more. I did find a bullet casing in the garden buried a foot or so down but that was closer to the house; a most curious place for something like that. We buried them and in doing so carry some of the responsibility for the hand dealt. The scratching of claws on bark and the soft trill of a night bird join the rising wind. One would think that the darkest nights are the direst but that is not so. It is the moonlit nights that are the most laden, dripping with purpose and superstition.

     In the blue light, the landscape is altered. The pines loom over head, a hundred feet high or more, blocking off the house. The flood light seems weaker under the full face of the pearl. The three graves are aligned but not even. Hemlock and nightshade creep and glow. Standing on that swell of velvet gold, the ocean of jagged knives is thrown into sharp relief and spread out in choppy furrows that lap on the shores of the orchard tree line. Perspective demands a precipice where reason says there isn’t. I could turn back and pass through the trees, past the graves while my steps sing a betrayal to the hollow ground below. I could step off the ledge into that bayoneted ocean and swim out to the distant tree line and whatever waits in the blackened raspberry caned corridors beyond.

I could.

Jack Kerouac


     Jack Kerouac is the name of my dog though her gender doesn’t exactly match. She’s a cross of a cross of a cross. Her malamute heritage shows up in her webbed toes. Her stance is strictly German shepherd and her temperament and tail are husky. Jack Kerouac was christened so in celebration of her husky heritage, huskies being notorious wanderers as was the original Jack.  The name has undergone several transitions since she joined our family a little over a year ago. Kera kabuki face and Keraboo as in caribou (she loves the snow) are just a few but for the most part she’s known simply as Kera. On the instance of our first acquaintance she looked fat, sleepy and dumb (that translated in my mind as “no trouble at all”)…all the things I was looking for in a dog. Time has made a liar of that first impression. Part princess, part drama queen and part dog genius she has all the charm of a pampered debutante.

     Firstly I must confess that although I like Kera as a “person” I do not enjoy living with a dog especially such a hairy one. For those who don’t know, huskies shed all year long with a double helping of hair in the spring and summer. I don’t enjoy taking her out 4 or 5 times a day in the cold of winter and the heat of summer and I especially do not enjoy clean up patrol. That being said, although Kera was to be the family dog, I have acquired a shadow.

     The first night when she cried for her litter mates I slept beside her on the floor so she wouldn’t be alone. I taught her her first words; she can pronounce a passable “I love you” and also say “roll over”. She does sound exactly like Dame Edna but she’s a dog so we don’t give her a hard time about it. She does the usual doggie tricks. She can give you a “high five” or “ten” if you like. She will roll over and play dead but she refuses to close her eyes or cover her face with her paw. When I do my hair in the morning she likes to have hers done as well, she has her own silver hair clip. She’s not adverse to a little bit of powder on her nose and comes running for Blistex lip balm. When she doesn’t get her own way she sulks and I swear her bottom “lip” sticks out.

     She loves to roll in dead fish at the beach and eat rabbit droppings in the yard. This year she learned what a skunk was the hard way but I don’t know if the lesson will stay learned. She’s a stalker of squirrels. She has a wicked sense of humour and loves to sneak up behind the cat and pounce right behind him (the cat doesn’t get the joke).

     She is none of the things I thought her to be when I brought her home but those were my preconceptions. Although I do wish that she smelled a little better, that she’d shed a lot less and that she would cut out the occasional diva hissy fit she’s not all bad. Actually, as Henry Higgins once said, “ I’ve grown accustomed to her face”.

Come said the wind to

the leaves one day,

Come o’re the meadows

and we will play.

Put on your dresses

scarlet and gold,

For summer is gone

and the days grow cold.

         Children’s Song -1880’s