Sunday, July 22, 2012

Page 84 Cat Ownership

This is an absolutely true story

Actually, cats do this to protect you from gnomes who come and steal your breath while you sleep. - John Dobbin


Cat ownership is a responsibility, just ask any cat.
My son, Patrick, had an above average relationship with my daughter. It could be because they were not together during their formative years. But I chose to believe I fostered in them, what I myself didn’t have. In the Schuch family sibling rivalry is a contact sport. I never liked playing, but you know how parents are. They want their kids to be good at sports. My brother Gil was the star athlete, with my sister Marnie a close runner up.

One Christmas Patrick bought Devo a kitten. He didn’t purchase it from the pound. He bought it at a pet shop in the Woodlands. It was a very healthy little creature in spite of that fact. And unusual. It had almost a complete black coat, something unheard of, that turned a beautiful cocoa brown in winter, with a tiny splash of white . She had long languid legs and a sphinx like face.

In spite of that, I was livid. I am of the belief that you do not buy any of a household members pets. Not without the head of the household’s permission. And Willie was even more upset than I.

The cat stayed in Devo’s room for the most part, but then we had the falling out where Devo went to Hawaii and the creature became “orphaned”.

Willie and I decided to take her to the pound, but the cat wasn’t having any of it.

She couldn’t have been older than 6 weeks. But she was a quiet little thing, not prone to the typical antics of kittens. Willie and I were in bed discussing the matter when the little girl jumped onto our bed, easily 30 inches up (we had one of those double pedestal deals). Neither of us said a word. It was a bit surprising, she propelled herself to a perfect landing on Willies soft expanse of a belly. But what happened next sealed the deal. She climbed on top of Willie and lay across her neck and she started to bathe Willie.. When she was done, she fell asleep right there and then.

Only a heartless pig could follow through on those plans. So, no pound, at least for today.

Willie named the cat Magpie, and she was Willie’s owner. I could write pages on this little manipulator, but just go to Tinks page and that is basically the personality of our Magpie.

This little kitten was a stickler about cleanliness and would meow us into insanity until we changed her cat box. At one point, from all the use, we needed to get her a new box. We read that if we were to do this we needed to leave her original litter box in place and fill both the old and the new one with litter so she could get used to it. Then we could remove the old one as we slowly left less and less litter. Magpie wasn't in on the program. Instead, she decided one was for #1 and the other for #2. When we took the old one away (#1 box), again she threw an absolute fit. So for the rest of her days, she had a toilet and a bidet.

Like I said, she wasn’t much of a “player”. We would buy toys and she would act as if she was the one that should be dangling it in front of us. I even gave her catnip, but that just seemed to mellow her more. After she ran laps through the house for an hour.

Then one day she was even more docile than usual. We noticed it immediately. She stopped eating, and she was already a tiny cat. Full grown she only weighed 9 pounds…and she was considered OVERWEIGHT! On the third day we found her sleeping in a far off corner instead of adorning Willie’s neck. We read that cats tend to go off and be on their own when they die. Willie took off of work the next day and took her to the vet.

“Di, something terrible has happened” she cried from the vet’s office.

Willie explained that the cat had a bowel problem. Her bowel had folded into itself. A Intussusception. And the reason was carelessness. Magpie loved to chew on EVERYTHING. She apparently had been chewing on a piece of string that didn’t have the ability to break. Catgut (yes, ironic) that Willie had been using to practice stitching wounds. Willie had been careless and left it on the floor. The string had looped under Magpie's tongue and ran down her esophagus into her bowel and caught every bit of food and whatever else she had gotten into, finally wrapping around the lower bowel bringing it up and over the upper. The operation was going to cost $900. Money we didn't have in spite of my long hours and above average pay. She had to finance it. Yes, just a year before we were going to impound her, now we were financing her life. But didn't we owe it to her after all? If you asked her, she would probably get up and walk away over your ignorance and irresponsibility in even considering the only other option.

She came out of the surgery fine. We brought her home and doted on her like a newborn infant. I bought a heating pad and covered it with her favorite blanket, a burgundy and blue chenille throw I fell in love with from Marie Claire. The only one she had loved and had worn it thru buy constantly trying to arrange it to her liking. I put her food up on a tray so she didn’t have to bend down to eat. We were happily, if naively convinced we had seen the worst.

During the healing she had diarrhea and bless her heart, she tried so hard to make it to her #2 cat box, but failed and we had the horrors all around for us to step in during our sleep walks or when we got home from work. We couldn’t find it in our hearts to do the worst. And besides, we were paying off her surgery for the next 8 months. So back to the vet. The kind doctor recommended Prescriptive cat food.

Yes folks, $29 a bag and we had to have a prescription. Honestly, I think the prescription angle was there to explain the cost. Every month Willie had to stop at the vet, get the prescription, then pay the ludicrous price and finally would come lumbering in the door with a huge sack over her shoulder’s like bag of cement. Yet Willie never cared because Magpie would spend a half hour cozying up to her after she came home.

You see as Magpie got older, EVERY thing she did for us came at a price. She was a clever, smart little feline; She knew exactly when Willie was due home. Not only on work days, but when she would go out on errands during the weekend. Magpie would perch at the door around 15 minutes before Willie’s return, then once Willie’s car started up the driveway, Magpie would leave the door and perch on the couch acting very cavalier only lifting her head to give a casual “hi”. Such was Magpie.

Only cat owners know of this trait and believe this story. For the rest of you, well, isn’t it fun to think it is true? You cat owners can also attest to our new computer age cats that like to lay across the mouse pad and keyboard, or sit atop monitors with their tales slowly menacingly dragging across the screen. You see cats will not hear of you not living every moment of your life for them

When we moved to New Hampshire, she sat in the front seat with me and was a wonderful passenger, actually holding her water until we stopped.

Every year for Christmas, Willie would buy her a can of “wet” cat food as a treat. She knew she would have to contend with the “accident” issues, but Magpie was so grateful, Willie got her undivided attention all Christmas day.

Then in 2007 Magpie started acting the same way she did when she had the intussusception. We were terrified. When Willie took her to the vet, he was very upset with her. He said Magpie must have been sick a while, inferring Willie should have known, even though the Vet had just seen Magpie. Her kidneys were breaking down and she was dying. Willie was immersed in guilt. The doctor said we had to make a decision.

I could not be part of that decision. I cannot even watch animal planet when they put a pet to sleep, how could I watch it up close and personal.

When Willie returned with empty arms, she was inconsolable, and so was I. We said very little for the next few days and just went about our business while mourning in our empty house. I threw out the cat pans before she got home, chuckling to myself of how we had to buy twice the cat litter every month. And she had SPECIAL litter as well. I also put away the food dishes and packed away all her toys. It was the most difficult thing…I cannot compare it. You see, people are not that compassionate about pet loss. I do not understand why business does not give you at least one day to grieve. Co-workers give as much sympathy as they think necessary which is next to none.

And then the news reports started. There was a massive recall of pet food across the world. The Chinese had taken a shortcut and put an additive in pet foods that was not tested and pets were dying left and right. One of the carriers of this petfood was Walmart, where Willie had gotten the “Christmas surprise” for Magpie. The symptoms were like those when a pet eats anti-freeze. The sad part is, had the doctor known this, we may have saved Magpie's life. But as it went, it had looked like she was in the final stages of renal failure.

We were incensed! How reckless and irresponsible! These companies do not value a pet's life like that of a human, though some would say they are pretty unprincipled about humans as well.

The vet had put Magpie in the freezer while we were figuring out what to do. This of course was a fateful coincidence since he could then do an autopsy. We chose to let it go. Yes Magpie died unnecessarily. But at least we knew we hadn’t done anything wrong or neglectful. Everybody missed Magpie. Even the chipmunks who use to love to rile her while they sat on our picnic table eating corn out of Willie’s hand.

One of her fans was a little girl named Emily. I babysat for Emily quite often and she loved Magpie, though Magpie detested her. She was a little girl who saw a fluffy warm animal and wanted to hold her. Magpie saw her as a menace and found secreted places to hide where even we couldn’t find her. Once when we moved, she had hidden in a covey we knew nothing of, because she hated new people and the movers upset her. Willie stayed in that empty apartment waiting for her. We were worried sick, and then a little tiny meow and there she was. In one of those compartments the old New England homes have.

After Magpie died, Emily who was 6, did not accept it. One day while standing at the door, Emily became very animated.

“Dianne, look there’s Magpie”.

Emily’s mom was standing there talking to Willie; I was not very far behind. “No Emily, you know Magpie’s has died” her mother responded sadly.

But I knew something was up, so I ran to the door and there sat a black cat, a little larger than Magpie, with a tiny splash of white under HIS chin. I do not know where he came from, but his travels ended there.

Time to unpack Magpie’s toys.


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