Archive for the ‘Companion Animals’ Category

Losing my dog, losing my guilt

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
My dog, Emmet

Emmet, age 13

One week ago, my 14-year-old dog, Emmet, who’d spent nearly his whole life with me, was euthanized. Since then, I’ve been plagued with regret and guilt over all the many ways in which I deprived him of a happier life. I didn’t take him for enough walks, I got frustrated with him too often, I didn’t recognize soon enough that he was getting tired with age (rather than just being stubborn), and I spent a good chunk of his life resenting the fact that I had a dog at all, especially a terrified, fear-biting dog like Emmet. Every thought, every memory, was of my betrayal of this sweet dog who loved and trusted me completely.

This morning at 2am, I woke up with a sudden thought, “I’m making a choice to think this way. This isn’t the only narrative.” Much like any historical account, you can string events together in vastly differing narratives, putting emphasis on different events, and assigning cause and effect to help support your claims.¬†After I had this thought, I told myself another version of Emmet’s life, and it sounded just as true, if not more true.

Emmet was a dog in need with behavioral challenges that made him unadoptable through common methods. I took him in and gave him the best home I could. I made mistakes, I was sometimes selfish and lazy, but I always, always kept him safe and healthy, no matter what. I loved him more with every passing year, and gave him a better and better life with every passing year. In the end he was a much better and happier dog, I was a better and happier person, and at least in part we owed that to each other.

Now I can think fondly of little Emmet and I can miss him. And it’s no longer unthinkable for me to some day open up my heart and home to another dog in need.

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Brother Wolf Run for the Paws 5K

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
A couple of runners not taking the race very seriously

A couple of runners not taking the race very seriously

The Animal Hospital of North Asheville gave away a registration to the Brother Wolf Animal Rescue‘s 5K, which happened this afternoon. I was the lucky “winner” of the vet clinic’s prize.

There was no time for training or preparation since I only found out I was running 3 days ago. Shear force of will and my desire to believe I’m still 20 years old got me across that finish line in just over 44 minutes. I managed to run for most of it, taking a walking break for about 1/2 mile in the middle.

Dogs were encouraged, and all seemed to be having a total blast. It wasn’t the most exciting event, but the weather was perfect, the people and dogs were friendly, and the race course was nice and easy. I thoroughly enjoyed the excuse to get outside and get some serious exercise.

If you’re looking for a new companion or a place to volunteer or donate, check out Brother Wolf. They’re a great organization.

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Thoughts of Gregory that won’t let go

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010


Gregory, my old friend, when you first appeared it was as though you’d always been with me. Now that you’re gone, I don’t know how I’ll ever let another in.

Gregory, my sweet boy, when you first left it was as though you’d never been here. Now it is as though you haven’t really gone, and at any moment I will hold you in my arms again.

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Natural Death for Cats: Letting Go

Sunday, July 11th, 2010
Rocky in his younger years

Rocky in his younger years

About 4 years ago, my cat Rocky was euthanized after about 2 years and $20K worth of veterinary visits, hospital stays, expensive tests, injections, pills, liquids, special food, vitamins, and subcutaneous fluids. I didn’t realize at the time that it would add up to so much effort and money just to have the same end result. Every new treatment came with the promise of “fixing” him. It always seemed as though if we could just get past this one thing, he’d be back to normal. Whatever “normal” had become.

In retrospect, I realize that every new treatment brought with it a new set of side effects and problems and none got to the heart of the problem. And every new test seemed to come back with a similar inconclusive result: “It could be [some innocuous problem] or it could be cancer. We’ll try some Clavamox.” It was so predictable that it became a running joke in my household.

After Rocky died, I changed my whole approach to veterinary care for my remaining 2 cats and dog, all of whom by this time were fairly elderly for their species. I have followed 3 new rules fairly religiously:

  1. If he isn’t bleeding or in pain, he doesn’t go to the vet.
  2. If the treatment offered will not fix the problem, but will only mask some symptoms for a while, I won’t do it.
  3. If the expensive test offered only has the potential to find a problem that can’t reasonably be cured, I won’t bother getting the test.
Gregory 2008

Gregory at 14+ years old

About 2 years ago, my beloved cat Gregory started losing weight. He had always been 11-12 pounds (and not overweight) and now he was down to 9. Then closer to 8. After a couple of vet visits I was already starting to see the familiar pattern at the vet’s office emerge. “It might be diabetes, cancer, or maybe just an infection. We could run some tests…..” I had the basic blood tests done, to make sure there was no immediate danger. There wasn’t. The vets, as usual, could not tell me why he was losing weight. They offered various tests that each cost between $300 and $500. All the same tests I’d had done on Rocky that always produced inconclusive results.

By this time, Gregory was at least 14 years old (true age unknown but I took him in as an adult cat in 1995). I accepted that he was a very old cat and would die one day soon, as we all do. I reminded myself of my 3 rules, and resolved to buy him the best food, and give him absolutely the best life I could give him for the time he had left. As it turns out, that time lasted until July 8, 2010 at 4:12pm. Last Thursday.

His quality of life was very high up until maybe a month before. He became quite thin and his back legs were getting wobbly and weak. He suddenly began drooling when he drank water and rather gross-looking saliva was pouring into his water bowl. At that point, I brought him to the vet, thinking he might have an infection in his mouth that could be “fixed” so that he could continue on a little longer. The vets found nothing conclusive, but gave him Clavamox anyway thinking he might have a gum or tooth infection. His teeth really needed to be cleaned but he was too weak to be anesthetized for the cleaning. Gregory continued on with his happy life even with the drooling and the muscle weakness.

Gregory toward the end

Gregory in his last few months

Last Thursday, at the age of (at least) 16, he quite suddenly took a dramatic turn for the worse. He was so weak he couldn’t walk without falling over. He drank and ate a little bit, but mostly could only lay on his bed. I assumed (hoped) that this was the day he would let go, since his quality of life was seemingly gone. I spent the day with him, scratching his chin and listening to him purr. I helped him get to the litterbox or readjust his position when he struggled to get up. I fought the urge to take him to the vet, determined not to make him spend his last day on Earth in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar place with strangers. After a long day of waiting, Gregory began to get a bit fitful, pushing his paws against some force that I couldn’t see – this lasted for several minutes. Then he calmed down, took several very deep breaths, and then died.

Just like with Rocky, Gregory lived about 2 years after his health began to decline. But unlike Rocky, he wasn’t burdened with hospital stays, poking and prodding, and side effects. Vet care for his final 2 years was under $1000. I would have happily paid $20K if it would have fixed him, but I don’t believe it would have. You can’t fix mortality.

Do I have any regrets? Yes, I do have one. I wish I had gotten Gregory’s teeth cleaned again while he was still well enough to handle it. I worry that his tooth and gum issues hastened his decline and made his life a little less enjoyable. That is the only one though. Gregory was just about the luckiest cat in the world. Spoiled, happy, and truly loved by many many people.

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Old sick cats don’t like a covered litter box

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Covered litter box

I’ve had my beloved Gregory for almost 15 years now. He came to me as an adult so I don’t know how old he is. But he’s clearly at the end of his life. He’s frail and he has poor balance and I don’t think he sees very well anymore.

A few weeks ago, Gregory started doing something he has never done in the entire time he’s been with me. He started peeing and pooping on the floor. It became a regular part of my morning and evening routines to clean up some disgusting mess that he’d left for me.

I’ve accepted that Gregory is ill and that he will likely not be with us for much longer. But this new symptom I simply could not accept. I brought him to the vet, but they could not account for why he would be doing this.

The flash of genius came when I saw Gregory trying to do figure 8s around me one morning at breakfast. He really couldn’t make those tight turns anymore and he practically fell over when he tried. I looked at him and I looked at the litterbox, and realized, he probably can’t turn around in there anymore!

I removed the lid. No more accidents. The problem was immediately resolved and has not resurfaced in 2 weeks.

If your geriatric cat is peeing outside the litterbox, quit torturing him! Take the lid off.

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Keep Out Ants With Caulk and Cinnamon

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Just over a year ago, I wrote about using a cat food moat to foil an ant invasion. That worked well for a short while, but it got old real quick. For one thing, my cats and dog were always pushing the bowl close enough to the edge of the tupperware that the ants could still get in. For another, the cats are such messy eaters that the cat food was always getting into the water, creating the most disgusting slimey mess. Very gross.

One year later and my ants are gone for good. It was a 2-part solution, one part of which was pretty obvious. Plug the holes into the house.

I caulked the path into the house that ants were using. They almost immediately found another one. I caulked that too. And repeat. Many many times, repeat. It helps to let the little ants stay alive and well in the house because they will help you find more holes as they try to find their way back out of the house.

The second part of the solution is cinnamon. Ants will absolutely not cross it. If you have an area that you cannot seal, such as a doorway, create a thin but continuous barracade of cinnamon. Seal it if you can though, because too much cinnamon everywhere just ends up being a big mess as well.

Totally non-toxic, safe for pets, natural.

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Kitties Adjusting to Indoor Life

Friday, March 27th, 2009

kitties watching squirrel

After the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of my cat, Gregory, and the less mysterious phone call from my cat hating neighbor who may or may not have dumped poor Gregory out in Weaverville, my cats have been confined to the indoors. They are adjusting remarkably well.

Actually, I found that Simon doesn’t like to go outside very much if Gregory isn’t with him, and if I do let him outside, he won’t leave the porch. I’m not sure if they were always this attached to each other or if this is a result of Gregory’s 6 day adventure. They are awfully chummy now.

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Gregory is home!

Friday, January 16th, 2009

It feels like a dream. But here he is, purring on my lap – skinny, exhausted, but otherwise doing fine. He was 17 miles away in the town of Weaverville. Luckily my number was on his collar and he is so friendly that he eventually wandered up to someone who thought he might be lost. I cannot begin to describe how relieved, happy, grateful I am right now.

Tomorrow I am going to talk to my neighbors and see if I can figure out how he got all the way out there. It’s not that I care so much, I just would like to not have to think that I have a twisted cat-hating neighbor who would do such a thing on purpose.

Gregory is home

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Gregory is missing, and I am lost

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009


In the fall of 1995, Gregory appeared in my life one day as an apartment stray. Last Sunday, over 13 years later, he disappeared. I don’t know where he is or what happened to him.

If someone had found him, surely they would have called me. I have signs all over the neighborhood, ads in the papers and online, lost cat reports at the shelter and emergency clinic, and my number is on his collar if he hasn’t lost it. It’s been terribly cold the last few nights. If he’s trapped outside I don’t know that he’d survive. If he’s trapped inside he’d be awfully thirsty by now.

Gregory, my old friend, I’m sorry I couldn’t save you this time. If I could throw a blanket over the whole world, to keep you warm and protected, until someone found you and brought you home to me, I would.

Gregory was last seen in West Asheville near Olney Rd. and Vermont Ave. He is grey and white, 10 pounds, male, neutered.

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Natural Pest Control – Cat Food Moat

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Call me a sentimental vegan if you like, but I can’t bear to hurt nature’s miraculous little robots – the ants. Even before I ever considered going vegetarian, I flicked one off a wooden foot bridge and into the creek below. The guilt of that moment haunted me for quite some time. Maybe it even still does a little.

cat food moatAbout a week ago, ants discovered my cat food bowls. For several days in a row, I’d wake up in the morning to find ants swarming the uneaten food leftover from the cats’ dinner the previous evening. Maybe it’s the summer heat, but the cats have taken to slowly eating their food in a few phases, rather than wolfing it all down at once, thereby preventing me from cleaning their bowls thoroughly before I go to bed.

But no matter, I discovered a solution. The cat food moat! Simply find a tupperwear bowl or other shallow container that is slightly bigger than the food bowl, fill it with an inch or less of water, and center the food bowl in the middle. Make sure the food bowl is at least a half-inch away from all sides of the tupperware or the ants may still be able to make their way across without going near the water.

My kitchen is now completely ant-free! No harm came to any ants and I didn’t need to poison my home with chemicals.

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