Thursday, November 27, 2008

We give Thanks

It's about 11pm, Thanksgiving Day evening.
I've just returned from dropping my wife ("the pussycat") off at work.

Since we moved away from "real" civilization, the only employment that she's been able to find is in retail-hell (aside from the ass-backwards; "this is how we've done things for years - even though it's the wrong way and doesn't really work" office position or two).

While her most recent place of employment (I won't give the name of it, in case they come under fire here at a later date) is, at least tolerable.
The people she works with are all nice, the atmosphere is pleasant, and the clientele (for the most part) are less "shopper-crazy" than what one usually encounters in the retail world.

Still, it's the Thanksgiving-time shopper's blitz season, and she was half-drafted / half-volunteered for the "MIDNIGHT MADNESS" sale.

As it's name would aptly describe, it's for the maniacs who have a burning desire to shrug off a heavy Thanksgiving meal and stand out in the cold late at night, waiting for the doors of the shoppes to open at (say it with me now) MIDNIGHT!
Then they shop and shop and shop until the wee hours of the morning.
Literally, until they drop.

The only reason that "the pussycat" opted for the overnight sale is because she worked "Black Friday" last year and swore that she'd never do so again.

This evening's adventure wasn't as simple as just my driving her to work, dropping her off and returning home.
Oh no.

The whole reason that I was driving her, instead of her driving herself, was twofold:
1) at that late hour - and with ice and snow on the road - she loathes driving in the dark.
Deer and other wild critters jump out onto the roadway (like a real-life game of "frogger") and she has a touch of "night-blindness", making the circumnavigating a bit harder on her.

2) due to the awaiting throngs of shoppers, all store employees are expected to drive a few miles further away from the shopping center, to a municipal parking lot, where they then stand out in the dark and cold waiting for the shopping center's sponsored shuttle-bus (a repurposed old school-bus) to pick them up and ferry them to a drop-off point (that is NO WHERE NEAR her store) and then they have to walk (again, alone in a darkened parking lot) to their stores, in the cold.

Then, in the early morning hours, after a grueling shift, they'd have to repeat the procedure (in reverse) to get back to their cars and head for home.

Yeah. Not gonna happen, if I can help it.

So, we packed up our littlest cat; Spanky (whose adventures I've detailed in many of the early posts on this blog) in a carrier, bundle it up with blankets and went out into the chill night air.

Upon arriving at her shopping center (I guess I can say where THAT is; the "Crossings Premium Outlets" in the Pocono's) we were only mildly surprised that the parking lot was jam packed with sale-hunting loons.

I'm sorry. I just don't get it.
Maybe it would be different with the current economic crisis, if all of these people were just there because they wanted to find gifts and whatnot at a sharply discounted price due to the financial crunch, but we all know that these people would be there no matter what the scenario.
There was a LINE AROUND THE BUILDING at the "COACH" bag shoppe.
As I understand it, those are insanely overpriced handbags. Even with a steep discount (although, I don't know what the price cut was) they're STILL overpriced handbags!
My mind - it boggles.
And luckily, my wife feels the same way that I do.
That money would be better spent on ANYthing else than a status symbol to show other shallow people how "exclusive" you are.


Anyway, to make matters worse, the mall have security personnel blocking the parking areas behind the stores (making sure that no employees try to park there) only removing the barricades at midnight (because, by then all the workers would already be in their stores). This irked me, as an "imaginary shopper" because what if I was there to shop?
The main lots are jam packed! So I'd have to park at the ass-end of creation and hike all the way back to the mall, instead of just being able to park in one of the many nearby, but verboten, spots, to which the latecomers will be given access? As a shopper that would cheese me off.

But, since I'm not here to argue the merits of (mis)management thought processes, I'll get back to my tale.

We were lucky enough to have found a spot fairly close to her building, and disembarked with Spanky in tow.
The crisp night air making the white lights of the Christmas (and other religious, ethnic and multi-purpose) displays glint ever the more dazzlingly. Spanky seemed genuinely interested in the multitudes of people all scurrying to and fro to jockey for position in the many lines outside storefronts.

I only stepped into the shoppe for a moment to wish her well, and to show off Spanky to her manager, who is an animal lover and who had heard much of the saga of our many "children".

Suffice it to say, he was his usual adorable self, garnered ooh's and ahh's and then I headed out, back to the car with Spanks and headed for home.

Normally, Spanky enjoys car rides.
With all of the many journeys we've taken together, to vets near and far, he just chills out and looks out the screening of his carrier to the outside world as it flits by the windows - or to me as I return his loving gaze.

At night, however, since he couldn't easily see anything (or at least I couldn't - I know that cat's are supposed to have super-vision at night) he was less amiable than usual and caterwauled for much of the trip.

Still, we made it back without incident, and I am now watching over the menagerie before trying to figure out how to best approach the night's sleep rotation.

I may have a snack before bed, however.
We didn't have a big "Thanksgiving" dinner.
With my wife's schedule at work the past few days (many hours of overtime) working all day yesterday, the over-night tonight, and then again mid-day tomorrow, she was in no place for cooking (and won't let me near the kitchen - which is probably for the best). We had a simple "normal" meal (Salisbury steaks, veggies, jellied cranberry sauce and instant mashed potatoes - with some sweet-potato pie) alone together, which was sufficient.

We both knew that as crazy and as bad as things have been as of late... there are MANY people in the world (be it in far away lands, or in our own neighborhoods) who have it far, far worse.

We have each other, our crazy "kids", our friends and families (as frustrating as they can sometimes be - for any number of reasons) and a roof over our heads (that we were smart enough to NOT go for anything out of our price-range)... and for that, we ARE Thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

While unwanted, it's beauty can't be denied.

Blizzard-effect snow, as seen through the newly installed window, overlooking the deck.

The snows came yesterday... and fairly harshly.
While not the first snowfall of the season,
(we had snowfall in October again this year - the 21st, if I recall,)
it was the first that gave actual lasting accumulation or any warning claxons from the weather reports.

Winds whipping through the treetops brought forth bitter, unseasonable cold.

My wife and I had to set up new shelters for the outdoor cats. Luckily, we got them done the day before, prior to the weather changing for the worse.
You can see, in the photo, where my wife has cleared off snow from the corner of the railings and bench, because that's where the outdoor cats like to sit and look out over the propery, and she didn't want them sitting in snow.

Added to the mix was sleet and ice. Just enough to make walking outside treacherous.
There's too much ice for using the shovel and, unfortunately, the accumulation isn't enough to allow use of the snowblower.
Having a gravel driveway means that snow needs to be at least 4 to 6 inches or so for it to be functional (without throwing stones all over the place and damaging the 'blades').

We've learned from past experience here that it's best to leave the car at the far end of the driveway, where it meets the road, and then just clear the snow out from in front of it.
We'll clear a path from the house to the end of the drive, just wide enough to walk.

Frequently, we'll resort to using a big green plastic toboggan to shuttle groceries and such back to the house.

Whether for good or ill, the newly fallen snow has covered over the thick bed of leaves that I have yet to rake away. That provided a nice crunchy base to (slightly) counter the slickness of the ice. If walking through areas where the ice is shallow and easily penetrated by footfall, then walking is a (noisy, but) fairly safe endeavor.

I keep meaning to actually get an accurate measurement of the driveway, but it is easily over a football field in length (including end-zones). That estimate is only "as the crow flies", however, since it's not a straight path, instead twisting, bending and serpentining back and forth through the trees.

I can only hope that this winter isn't going to be too loose with the ice and snow.
Years' past have been bad enough, and with everything that's been going on lately, we're just not up to it this year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just (another) one of those things - or - Sunday-Floody-Sunday

I'm not quite sure how to begin this entry, really.

It was around 10am and, while my wife was getting ready for work, I was putting the cats in their rooms and trying to get the day going.

The "normal" (nothing is normal) routine these days is:
- after several hours of being out in the main section of the house, by 9 or 10am, Buddy & Spanky need to go to their rooms for sleep.

- then we let Abbott and Cissy out of their room to have the run of the house until about 5 or 6 pm, at which time, they go back to their rooms and the other two guys come back out (until 10pm, when the rooms are switched again)

It gets a bit complicated at times (especially since there are three different diets going on and juggling feeding times and medicines can get a bit crazy), but as of late, I've developed a fairly smooth rhythm to it all.

Today, however, no such luck.

As I was saying, I was getting the day going, so around 10am it's time for Buddy and Spanky to go to bed. I gathered up all of Spanky's stuff (bed, turbo-scratcher, food, water, litter box) and headed up with him to his "apartment" in the upstairs bathroom.
By now, I'd have liked for him to be living in the same room full-time with Buddy, but alas, Spanky is still in kitten-mode where he just attacks Buddy and won't let up.
Despite Buddy really being a trooper about the whole thing and putting up with it as best he can, it's not fair to him to make him endure the constant abuse (or looming threat thereof) and so, until Spanky is a bit older and more mellow, they'll still be in separate day-time rooms.

Anyway, I got Spanky all settled in, and then got Buddy settled but heard Spanky starting to jump around in his room, and it sounded suspicious.

So, I ran up to investigate.

Opening the door, my eyes perform a quick scan of the room. Much like a cop entering a possibly hazardous situation, I'm on the lookout for "the perp". I look around the corner at the far end of the room, and see him behind the bathtub wall where the toilet sits (with all of the boxes and barricades tat I set up to prevent Spanky from getting behind it or in, under the lid).

All I see is him chewing something and as I reach to grab it from his mouth... he swallows it.

I do a quick search of surfaces to see what he might have bitten off; boxes, a cardboard sheet that blocks his tearing at a plastic "insulation screen" (one of those "shrink-wrap" type clear plastic sheets that you place over windows for added insulation - but in this case in front of an access panel that allows entry to the area behind the shower's waterworks)...etc...

What he had in his mouth was light brown in color. The same shade as a corrugated cardboard box -or- his Hill's Rx l/d food.
From his location, it HAD to be a piece of box.
So, I started to examine the boxes for tooth-marks and then I saw that wasn't all he had started to chew.

That bathroom has a "cushy" toilet seat. One of those soft, stuffed vinyl units. And along the edge of it were tears and bite marks.

Great. I can't have him running the risk of choking to death on a piece of vinyl or the foam filling.

So, gathering him up, I decided that TODAY was the day for him to get indoctrinated into the "two cats - one room brotherhood".

Needless to say, it didn't go well.
No matter WHAT I did, it was chaos.

So, acquiescing to this, I figured the only other recourse open to me (aside from my running away and joining the circus) was to swap out the toilet seat from the downstairs bathroom, which has a normal resin one.

After I removed both seats, I went up to install the normal one there and had to move a few of the barricade boxes and a water jug (also present for barricade purposes).

Now, have you ever done something, that in the exact moment you did it, a little voice in your head tells you NOT to do that - or to do it differently?
It's that voice that tries to warn you (an instant too late) that you're about to lock the keys in the car or lock yourself out of the house. You always "hear" it, but too late to fully react in time.
It was that voice which warned me that I maybe had placed the water jug on an insecure footing.

As the warning filtered through my mind, and just before I turned my head to check, I heard the sound of the jug falling over. And then the sound of water gushing out.

In the split-second between my head starting to turn and finally seeing what had happened, most of the jug's contents had spilled out all over the comforter that lined the floor as bedding, and the floor itself. The cap had popped off the wide-mouthed jug and about two gallons of water was EVERYWHERE.

Shouting assorted sub-lingual phrases (i.e: GAH!!! RRRAAAGHHH!!! ...etc...) and a few well-versed curses, my wife shouted up the stairs to see what had (now) gone wrong, although I could hear in her voice that she was afraid to find out.

Explaining the situation in a garbled, hurried and butchered version of English (that I have recently begun to adopt in my old age when frazzled), I told her where the mop and bucket were and she quickly retrieved them as well as some towels for clearing up the mess.

Of course, Buddy had ALSO decided to investigate and kept getting into the room to see what was going on. Nothing like a cat underfoot while trying to clean up a flood.
I shoo'd him out of the room, closed the door and finished the mop-up.

As for the comforter that was now soaked thru-and-thru, she brought a replacement and I draped the wet one over the shower-door.

After all of the copious amounts of water was soaked up, (it was strange how much water came from that jug in such a short span of a few seconds, but since the mouth of the just is about 4 inches in diameter, it shouldn't be too much of a mystery,) I still had to install the toilet seat(s) and get the cats back into their rooms.

It is stuff like this that happens here on a daily basis.
Luckily, this was a minor instance.
So much so, that I could tell that my wife was laughing a little as she had brought the mop and towels up to me. Under our "usual" def-com situations, laughter isn't an option (unless it's the "...they're coming to take me away - ha-ha! ho-ho! hee-hee! - to the funny-farm..." kind of laughing.)

It was nice to see her smile - even a little, and helped turn this one minor situation into an amusing one.
(at least until the next one)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Détente & downtime

All the kitties are mellow and sleeping in the various hidey-holes and snuggly-coves that we have set up around the house.

I'm sitting on the floor of the living room, laptop on lap and relaxing watching a little tv, while Buddy is resting on a cushion under the papasan chair (that we call "the Baione", since it was given to us by our dear friends of that name), looking out the glass door onto the deck while Spanky sleeps nestled deep inside 'the Baione' (that has a blanket draped over it, forming a cave).

The wife is in the other room with Abbott and Cissy, all of them sleeping (or snuggling together watching a little tv as well).

A rarity in our lives presently.

OK. I just thought I'd document this momentous occasion where no cat wrangling or excessive full-contact cat-wrestling is going down.

Back to "Bones".

Ahh... Bliss.
Temporary as it may be, I'll take it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

So bad, so good (a childhood memory post)

I'm not just a writer of blogs, but a long-time reader of other's as well.

One such blog of note is "bitterandrew's" Armagideon Time. (new posts moved to here). It's a well written slice of life and times from one of the web's best bloggers. Comics, politics, life, human nature as well as animal stories and musical history all tossed into a complex-mind's blender and served to you hot and fast.

Reading one of his recent posts that dealt a bit with horrendous things that are served up by marketing people (and parents) of days gone by (i.e; the 1970's) - in that case; a horrific Popsicle recipe consisting of 99% Miracle Whip, sent my brain reeling back to that much simpler time.

I left a reply comment there, but I'll just toss it on here since this is where I should be offering up my reflections on things experienced in life.


It reminded me of a few times as a boy (yes, in the early 1970's), when visiting my then-best-friend; Mike A., for a day of play, where he made me a sandwich comprised of nothing but Chocolate Cake-icing on white Wonder bread.
I don't really recall if HE made the first one for us or if it was first prepared for us by his mother (who was a friend of MY mother, and how the two boys had become best friends).

My mom was far more "uptight" about things like eating right and all that than his was (although, I know for a fact that his mother DID care about such things, but just that even the occasional icing-sandwich was something like that would never have flown in my mom's company).

Growing up as I did, I was aghast at the apparent lack of anything even remotely resembling actual "food" or "nutrition" to be found therein...

until I took a bite.

While I have only had about 3 or 4 of those in my lifetime since then, (the last time being two decades or so ago), I still crave them sometimes to this very day.


Sorry for the lack of updates as of late.

I've been spending most of my "blogging" energies on my other blog.
Still, even that has suffered, since my job and the whole menagerie here have been punching my time-clock pretty hard.

Normally, I steal some moments on a lunch break or late night when everyone (and everything) is (hopefully) asleep, and I quickly mash some laptop keyboard in a rough approximation of the English language just so I can have something "posted".

There's no time for fancy things like "drafts" or "cohesive thought".
It's just a smash-and-grab of bits of time and synaptic misfires.

Presented as-is to the world in all their "glory".

Good thing I'm keeping (fairly) anonymous in all of these endeavors.
My old English professors (who saw SUCH potential for wonderful writing within me) would be aghast.

Anyway, here's a brief mind-dump of the current status here since the last write-up:

- SPANKY is feelin' fine! He's on his meds as well as Hill's Prescription Diet l/d and he's showing no untoward signs of his liver disorder. The Hill's food is affecting him (positively, I think). So, I need to get a new measure for his lactulose dosage. It all depends on how his poop looks.

Soft and amorphous is OK. Soft and poop-shaped is best. Too hard or too liquidy are the far ends of the "bad" spectrum. He's currently moving from "amorphous" to "poop-shaped", but it's a slow transition, what with the food factor being new and all.

He's still in the bathroom "apartment" during the day.
After his 5 days of recuperation after his neutering surgery, we have been having him in the same bedroom with BUDDY, where I sleep with the two of them and try to keep them from playing too roughly. However, during the day-time, while I am otherwise preoccupied with work, and can't always hear the subtle sounds of cats mauling each other in play, would make it better to have them separate until such time as;
- they get reacquainted and civil with one another
- the full-moon phase is completely passed.

The full moon affects ALL of our "kids" in weird and frightening ways.
The levels of aggression, freneticism
(if it isn't a word, I'm coining it now), appetite, sleep patterns and all-around behavior-traits are all ramped up to 'roided-out levels.
Actually affecting them a few days prior, during and just after the moon waxes full,
my wife calls them "full-moon kitties" at that point on the lunar calendar.
(I think "luna-kits" is more punny, but then again, I only JUST thought of that.)
Once the phase is fully passed, they "crash" into mellow balls of fluff. As if waking from a lost-weekend bender, it's all they can do to just stay awake and blink their eyes.

- BUDDY is suffering a little from his allergies the past few days, eyes watery and sneezing snortfulls of "shnots" now and again (when agitated).

It's understandable though. The weather can not seem to make up it's mind:
Warm, cool, freezing, snow, rain, sun... all in a week!
Plus there are a TON of fallen leaves out there - adding to the pollen levels. Normally, at this time of year I have the leaves all raked into a giant pile, tat I cover with a tarp and I burn big bushels of it on spare days before the snow falls.
This year I haven't touched a one.
It's just been too crazy.

I will have to blow them into the woods this year.
No time for neat piles or burning. As it is, I usually have a decent sized pile left over after it snows which sits under it's tarp, waiting for spring for me to finish the job.
(Living in the woods, we have a LOT of leaves.)
I'm not doing that this year.

When it STOPS RAINING (it always seems to know when I have out-of-doors work to do and foils my attempts with random acts of precipitation), then I'll get the leaf-blower and send them all into t
he forest. It's not my preferred method of dealing with the situation, but sadly, it's all I'll have time for this year.

- CISSY (our only girl) hasn't had an asthma attack in a month or so... so she's about due.
We have to stay on heightened alert for the faintest sound of her breathing becoming distressed. I don't have asthma, but I did have a short bout with it last summer.
I couldn't breathe - at. all. A vice-like grip on my chest, my bronchial system being shuttered off, trying desperately to get one. good. breath.
The first time I felt that, it was sobering.
I had to go to the doctor for a quick visit, and an inhaler (thankfully, only needed for those few days), but it was enough to give me the depth of what it is that she (and all asthmatics) go through. Empathy is a strong link to making things better for those around us, and that was all I needed to know that when Cissy starts to wheeze, I'm not taking a "wait and see" attitude.
She quickly gets a regimen of prednisolone (not prednosone) or a depo-shot if the vet is open.

Right now she's watching the outdoors cats play in one of the many homes and shelters we built for them. This one being on the deck under one of the big windows (adjacent to the one that was just replaced).

- ABBOTT is blissfully sleeping. The big, black, beautiful "bear". It's all he wants out of life. A perch or pillow to sleep on, is his primary need. Sure, he likes some affection now and again, the occasional treat and/or play-time and someone to clean out the litter-box (they ALL pitch a fit when the litter boxes are used. Each of them have bathroom-"issues" and can't stand to have anything in the boxes for more than a few moments). But all he really craves is a snuggly place to hibernate.

- My wife ("the pussycat") is putting in crazy amounts of time at her job lately.
After having lost a ton of hours previously, it's a welcome change for the finances, but I'd be lying if I didn't say, that as grateful as I am to have her working, I do miss having her around.
Not just to help take care of these crazed beasts of ours, but just for the company.
I'm a loner by nature, but there's a difference between being ALONE with oneself and one's thoughts, and "alone" with kids or cats-with-children-like-problems.

I 'm getting that "hermit" feeling. Not speaking with adults (or humans for that matter, instead carrying on conversations for both myself AND the cats) is giving me the equivalent of "stay-at-home-mom" syndrome.

Our 2nd car is most likely dead for good this time.
Sadly, I was up for a p/t weekend job, but it was wholly dependent upon my using the "good" car on that day (since the gig would entail a lot of driving in adverse road conditions in all types of weather), and my wife using the 2nd car to drive to work should she have to do so.
But only one car = no 2nd gig for me.
Instead, I'll focus on getting the eBay store up in full gear.

(look for a link to that here soon)

My real job is picking up a lot of steam.
I've been getting more quick turn-around requests and that's fine.
The busier I am the better it is for the job security (or so I'm told).

To that end. My lunch-break over, I gotta get back.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Snug as a bug

Spanky is now happily ensconced in his "recuperation room".

A "cat bed" in a safe corner.

His food and water bowls (new Hills Rx l/d dry food. $20 for a 4lb bag!)

Barricades blocking anything hazardous:
- plastic litter jugs filled with H2O make great weights to keep him from opening cabinet doors
- boxes keep him from crawling behind the commode. (Don't need him chewing on the water feed line.)
- A row of GIANT boxes on top of the vanity /sink counter-top help dissuade any ideas of jumping up there (even though I already cleared out the medicine cabinets).

A comforter on the floor (not just for his comfort, but my own since I'll be sleeping on the floor with him - again. First time was nearly a month. This time will only be 5 days/nights).

A window (open when the weather permits).

His "turbo scratcher" toy (he loves that thing) for play.

And a radio to keep him company when I'm not there.

All in all, not the best of places to be, but he remembered being there when he first came indoors, and took to it like a fish to water.

A pic when I can get in there without waking him.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The long Long Island trip. (with 2 updates)

It never ends.

I'm on Long Island (NY) having come here yesterday to get Spanky to our old vet (that we used to use when we lived there - and whom I have been consulting on this whole liver situation) in order to get a Protein-C test (a special blood-test that will determine if it is indeed a liver-shunt) as well as having the poor little guy neutered.
Our local vet didn't want to do it, since the liver is what processes the anesthetic, and even a simple operation like that is now very hazardous - potentially life-threatening.

However, I trust in the abilities of our L.I. vet, and drove Spanky down here to have these things done yesterday.
I, meanwhile, would go into work (my job is located here, but I now work from my home office), make an appearance and put in a day or two in person.
I spent the night at friends' here, and was glad to have the opportunity to do so, if only it wasn't for such circumstances as that which surround us.

Spanky pulled through the surgery very well, and my vet told me that he was pulling in an associate who would come the next day to run the long-sought-after sonogram / ultrasound on Spanky, that would help determine what and where his liver problem might be (and if there might be other things going on in there as well).

That was supposed to have happened by early afternoon on the 2nd day (today).
That would give me enough time to get the test done, pack Spanky up and make the drive back to PA early before the NY rush-hour traffic kicked in.

My wife has to work a late shift tonight, so there's a bit of a time-factor for all of this.
I need to get back home before too long to care for the other 3 little ones and have Spanky and Buddy together long enough before bed-time so that there won't be any rough-housing due to anyone being confined for the day.

Unfortunately... the visiting doctor hasn't arrived yet (and it's now LATE afternoon - nearly 5pm), my wife already left for her work AND to top it all off, she was taking the 2nd car, which (as I'll relate in a future post about all of our vehicular downfalls) is not quite "all that".
She wasn't 5-minutes into her work commute when the "check engine" light illuminated, and she had to pull over.

We JUST had the vehicle serviced - twice in recent months - and are still reeling from the costs of that.
She just called me to let me know that there's no oil in the car - at all, and when was the last time it was checked?

I have no idea.
I hadn't used the car in awhile. Maybe I drove it to the Post Office - a 3 minute trip - a few days back. Otherwise, it's been unused for awhile.

So, I can only hope that it's a matter of lack of upkeep (which is not the norm for us) and NOT a massive oil leak wherein all the oil poured out recently (which WOULD be our throw of the dice).

So, it's now almost time to leave work.
I have NO idea what's going on - with ANYTHING, and will probably face one of two possibilities:

1) a very late drive back to PA at night.
2) another night spent at friend's, while poor Spanky is stuck in a cage at the vet's and my wife has zero sleep having to deal with the menagerie alone tonight.

Either way; it's a losing situation.

I just called the vet and they are in the middle of the test, but I won't be able to pick up the kitty until at least 7pm (probably closer to 8pm).
Depending on traffic conditions, it's approximately a 3 to 4 hour drive home from here, so I'll be arriving home around the same time as the Mrs. after her late shift.


----2nd update----
Well, I was able to pick up Spanky at a little after 6pm, and we made the drive back in about 3 hours. Spanky made himself comfy and slept for a good portion of the drive, only getting rambunctious for the last 15 miles or so.

However, my wife discovered, to our dismay, that the oil situation was serious; all the oil she put in while at work (4 quarts) must have poured out again, because she arrived home (barely) at 11pm with a steaming engine that was bone dry.
We can't afford to even have it LOOKED at now.
I'll have it towed to the mechanic at sometime in the future... and depending on what the situation is, this might be "the end" for that car.

And to top it all off, no one got ANY sleep.
We have to keep Spanky separated from the other cats until he heals (5 days), and this first night was a juggling act of swapping rooms, food (everyone is on different special diets), and litter boxes (Spanky is using "Yesterday's News", a recycled newspaper litter that won't infect the recent surgical area).

I'll have to re-set his "apartment" in the upstairs bathroom.
Lots of boxes to build barricades so he can't get into anything harmful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Things take time.

Just a quick post.

We have FINALLY had a replacement window installed (two days ago) that has been cracked since the past winter!

In the kitchen / dining area there are two large picture windows, measuring 3 feet wide by 5 feet high, that look out onto the deck and the woods beyond the yard.

During a violent storm last winter, one of them started to crack.

The fissure grew gradually, and despite my best efforts to stave it's progress, it eventually became woefully compromised.

Epoxy, clear packing tape and a prayer were all that was keeping it from shattering.
Images of giant shards of glass from the old, NON-tempered window, slicing any one of us continually worried me whenever I looked at it.

However, we KNEW it needed to be replaced and continually kept TRYING to do so.
But, one thing after another delayed it.
We have had several contractors and window salesmen in to give quotes for the job, but most wouldn't do JUST one window, some wanted crazy amounts of money, and still another while giving a great price-quote, gave me a bad sense of how he was to do the job.

Eventually, I found, through a neighbor, someone whom they trusted to work on their property.
So, I gave them a call and they got the job done.
A new tempered-glass insulated window, installed within the time-frame stated, for the price quoted.
I'll have to get some wood stain to match the existing woodwork, but that's not a big deal.

We're just glad it's done.

I'll add a pic to this post later.
Not that anyone is really waiting with baited breath, but the views with the autumn leaves of color really IS a thing of beauty.

Only a day or two after this post was written and already every tree is leafless.
Winter is here, early and it's getting very, very cold.
I guess we got this window in just in the nick of time.
Anyway, no pic.
It's too depressing-looking out there now.

SPANKY - post NYC update

Spanky, sitting atop one of the tree stumps that rose above his favorite unused flower-bed.
A photo taken several months ago, while he was still outdoors. In better times and weather.

A blizzard.

That's what faced us that morning when I was to take Spanky to Manhattan for his appointment at the Animal Medical Center.
A blizzard.

We've had snow here in October before. In fact, one year it came a few days earlier than this. But what that day, several years ago, didn't have to complicate things was a drive thru three states for a morning specialist appointment.

Waking up to find several inches of snow on the deck, yard and drive was not what I had envisioned when any of us tried to fall asleep the night before, (not that we got any sleep at all that night).

My wife and I briefly discussed the possibility of my postponing the trip, as if this, among other things facing us, was some kind of sign.

One of those "other things" was that I had come across critiques of the AMC and most of those critiques were horrific. These testimonials suddenly removed all the hope and confidence that I had, in one fell swoop. I was devastated, and felt like there was nowhere else to turn. However, a quick reassurance by my old vet told me that, while certainly, sometimes events turn out badly n medicine, that those write-ups were not the norm, and if they were authentic, were of a vocal few, whose own situations had less than ideal endings - for which they were lashing out.
Another of those "other things" was that, since the events of the previous few days had left me with no time to print out my driving directions, I was going to do it first thing that morning, but the storm had wiped out my service.
I had to keep unplugging and plugging the modem, routers and other systems to get it to work for a few minutes before it all conked out again. And again. And again.

I finally got it to work long enough to get all my directions; to the facility, the return directions, direction from the facility to a friend's place on Long Island and back - all bases and contingencies covered, in case Spanky needed to stay overnight for the surgery.

Still, looking out at the snow coming down in ever greater intensity, I did wonder, if it was all some kind of omen. However, I thought, it could just as easily be some kind of test. A test of will. A test of resolve. Or, quite simply, "just one of those things". Our lives are filled with a steady stream of "one of those things". One after another, so that at this point, I was not about to let it deter me.

I got ready, gathered all Spanky's medical records, my directions, and our little boy in his carrier, and headed out.


The drive to NYC was filled with weather changes and trepidation. Driving through inclement weather doesn't bother me. However, the fact that this wasn't just "a drive" made it a bit more grueling that it normally might have been.

We drove through bands of weather; snow, rain, sleet, what looked to be hail-stones, more snow...etc... until we reached the George Washington Bridge, where, by that point, there was no sign, save some minor rain, that anything was out of the norm.
Spanky, however, who had been fairly calm the entire trip had begun to voice his unease. My inner voice was also crying out, by that point.

We had made the trip to NY in less than 2 hours, but the FDR Drive (Franklin Deleno Roosevelt drive) was where our making good time came to an end. It took nearly 40 minutes to travel a few exists on that road to get to the hospital. At one point, 10 minutes before our appointment, when I knew our exit was just a little ways further, I had to call the Doctor and alert him to our situation and our proximity.

Still, we made the appointment with just less than 5 minutes to spare.


At this point, (and I won't discuss the ridiculousness of there being a parking attendant when the facility only seemed to have about 20 parking spaces) Spanky and I went up and saw that the facilities were nice and accommodating, and while busily attended by desk clerks and interns walking about, it seemed to be a fairly smoothly run office.

I sat down after filling out a few bits of paperwork and started speaking with a few of the other clientele, but couldn't find anyone who had been there before (still thinking about the negative reviews I had read, and hoping to find someone who had been the before to assuage my feelings).
But that was only for a moment, because we were nearly immediately called into our appointment with the doctors.


The examination rooms were small, barely enough room for a small metal exam table, two seats on other side of it (all were built directly into the wall for space-saving reasons) and a sink on the "far" end on the room.

I sat in the seat by the door, the head Doctor across the table from me, his associate Intern stood in the "far" corner and another "nurse(?)" aide between the two men.
Spanky was placed back in his carrier on the ground in the middle of the room, which, really should have been more crowded than it seemed.

The doctor had given Spanky a quick physical exam and we spoke about the various scenarios that could arise from any point from the CT "cat" Scan that was planned that day, all the way through the surgical procedure and three months or so into the future, after what we all would hope was a successful surgery and recuperation. AT any time along the way, he stated, there were any number of things that could go wrong, and Spanky would either get gravely ill or die outright at those critical points.
He attested that the odds of such things occurring were slim, but he had to make me aware of their possibility.

Sadly, during all my reading and rapid education of the various conditions that could be affecting Spanky's liver, I was well aware of many (but not all) of the pitfalls of the surgery.
For instance, while I knew that various points during the surgical procedure could be dangerous, I had no idea that the CT scan itself could pose a problem to Spanky's life, due to the anesthesia (which his liver couldn't properly process) and the reduction of his body temperature, which could make it hard, if not impossible to revive him.

(This explained why, when Spanky had been under anesthesia previously, following his first dangerous attack, he had been long in coming out of it. Acting very doped up for a few days afterwards - which at the time, we feared meant that he had been over-medicated. Instead, it was a by-product of his liver problem.)

That is why I then asked how long Spanky could potentially live with just a medicinal regimen, if such a thing were even possible.
I was amazed, and relieved to hear the answer:
Yes, and for YEARS.

He said "years" as if it were common knowledge, but for the life of me I couldn't seem to get anyone to tell me that before now.

The medicines that we were administering (Lactulose, and Metronidazole) would be enough to maintain a fairly healthy kitty (and Spanky was doing very well as of late, gaining weight and growing - despite the fact that he probably shouldn't be due to his condition) AND they could help him live for "years".
He obviously wouldn't have a "normal" life-span, instead having anywhere from a couple to several (2 - 8 maybe) years ahead of him if we were all lucky.
However, as I rather sadly pointed out to them, all of our little ones have some kind of ailment of some kind, that could shorten each of their lives, and point of fact, no one could assure me how long I had to live.

We weren't happy about it, but it was something that we have experienced twice before with our first two "children" that we had since we were wed, not to mention sad sudden illnesses or the deaths of family pets from before that.
We understand as a real possibility with each of our current little ones that the cards are stacked against their having extended life-spans.

We would try to do anything to stave off anything harmful or fatal for our babies, but it isn't always possible. Still, we've never given up without doing everything possible. However, we have learned from bitter experience, that sometimes, you simply can't fight it. And to try, might only cause more immediate danger or harm or the loss of the life you were trying so very hard to save.

That is precisely why, my wife and I had discussed, well in advance, that if the surgery, it's recuperation process or any stage therein was potentially more immediately hazardous to his life, and as long as a medicinal regimen was possible, that we would forego the procedure, opting to try to keep him healthy and happy for as long as we possibly can.

The only thing that we did agree to have done that day was an ultrasound, since it didn't require any anesthesia. Unfortunately, the conversation after that point got a little derailed, since I was so thrilled to hear our fears allayed, fears that the weeks of delay might mean Spanky's life was in immediate danger. Due to my being mentally jarred by the relatively "good" news, I had got up, shook the doctor's hand, thanked him and left.

It wasn't until I had pulled out of the valet parking space and started back on the road that my brain kicked back in and I realized that we had forgot to set up the ultrasound.

I pulled over while ON the FDR Drive (NOT an easy thing to do) and called the doctor's direct line. Receiving his voice-mail, I called the main operator and found that he had been called away. I guess I might have been his only morning appointment and when we left, he went on to other things.

Still, Spanky and I were undeterred and headed back home, knowing that we could have that test later. That was one thing that the doctor made clear; Spanky is NOT in a dire emergency state, and we have some time to think things over.


The drive HOME, however, was insane.
THe snowfall had been commencing all the while that we were in the veterinary hospital, and not too long after crossing back over the GWB, we hit major traffic problems.

First, was a slow delay, which while we slowly inched along, we found that several exits on Route 80 in New Jersey were closed off and all traffic was being re-routed.

For a few miles, we crept along a side-road exit and eventually were able to make our way back to Route 80.

That lasted less than 5 minutes, until we stopped cold.
Traffic came to a halt and we sat, unmoving for easily half and hour.
After 15 minutes or so, I put the car into *park* and sat there.

All this while, from the first detour up until now, I was in cell phone contact with my wife (don't worry - hands' free). She was trying to find traffic information online that she could relay to me. Nothing that she could really do at this point though, as all of the traffic was completely halted.

When vehicles DID finally start moving we soon found out why we weren't doing so shortly before - the roads were a MESS.

Luckily Spanky enjoys car rides.
He sits happily in his oversized canvas carrier.
Maybe it's because three of the sides are "open", with big open-weave "windows".
Maybe it's because it's soft and conforms to the seat cushions for a more comfortable experience.
Maybe it's because I am able to keep one hand tucked just into the "door" to keep him comforted.
Maybe it's because I'm always talking or singing to him.
Or maybe he just likes the rides.

Either way, it was good that he wasn't freaking out in there, because I was about to do so for the both of us.

There was at least a foot or two of snow and slush over the roadway, and the conditions were less than ideal.

As I mentioned earlier, I have no worried about driving in inclement weather.
However, it always seems that everyone ELSE forgets how to drive as soon as the roads get wet.

The main problem, even for me, was that at any time, without any notice, the snow / slush would waft over the lines of the lanes and cut a lane in half (or completely) and then you were either driving in foot high slush, or you were being pushed into another lane (where, more than likely an 18-wheeler was already trucking along).

That happened to me twice.
The first time I found myself being pushed into the right mid-tires of a huge semi truck, trying to get back into the right lane. THe second time, I took it upon myself to push thru the slushy barrier and forge ahead of the truck and then, as quickly as I safely could do so, move to the center lane and race ahead,


While it took only 2 hours to get FROM PA to NY, it took FIVE HOURS to get back.


Still, it was a worthwhile trip.
Even though we didn't really have anything done.
Just knowing that Spanky has a chance at some kind of happiness, was all we needed to know.

And now, it would be up to us to keep him healthy and happy as long as possible.

Monday, October 27, 2008

MEET the FAMILY : SPANKY (pt 3.)

Spanky on sentry duty in Buddy's castle.
Seems Spanky has stormed the castle and has laid claim.

This next post is to truly bring Spanky's medical history up to date.
I have to bring him in for specialist / surgical consultation and testing (with possible surgery) tomorrow at the Animal Medical Center in NYC, and I need to get my head together.

It's been a whirlwind and a lot of it is mixed up in my mind, so I have to resort to looking at his records to help me piece together the events.

When I last posted, we were on our way to the vet for Spanky's FIRST visit on August 11, 2008.

That first bout of illness was:
- possible upper respiratory infection
- congestion
- infestation of strange tick aphids
- tapeworms
- gooey eye(s)

Some antibiotics, de-wormer, flea & tick ointment, a warm place to sleep and round-the-clock love brought him out of that.
But we were still so very worried about his passing his blood tests.
What if he had some contagious illness?
We couldn't bear to put him back outdoors.
Even if he did have a loving family out there, he might spread it to them, if they didn't have it too.
If he DID have a blood-borne illness, like leukemia or FIV, we'd have to try to find a special home for cats like that.
Some special people open their homes (or facilities) to JUST cats who are infected, so they can all live together, without fear of passing on the illnesses to healthy cats.
They live their life-spans out there as best as can be.

We prayed, however that he'd be fine.

Soon he was doing very well, and the big day had come...(August, 23, 2008). He had his FeLV/FIV blood-tests (passed!) and had his Rabies shot.
Things were looking good.

So, I took him home and proceeded feeding him soft food mixed with hard kitten-food (I was told to start weening him off the soft food, so mixing in the hard food is step # 1).
His sneezing lasted a little longer, so we got some more Baytril, but otherwise, he was looking good.

Within a few weeks afterwards, he started to show some very strange signs of distress;

- lack of bowel movement
- staring into space
- tremors
- lack of energy
- tongue sticking out a tiny bit
- drooling

They didn't happen all at once.
The lack of bowel-movement was our first sign. Then, the lack of energy, then the minor drooling. We looked these up online, and they all seemed to be fairly common kitten-things, so we just monitored him closely. Even our vet had said that one or two days with no bowel movement isn't out of the ordinary, but to keep watch. Drooling, we had heard could be anything from teething to happiness.

Within a couple of days, the drooling and tremors got so bad that we knew it wasn't anything run-of-the-mill.

So, of course, this was late at night, after the vet's hours of business and we rushed to the Emergency clinic (Sept. 16, 2008).

After they took a urine sample (and since he was "holding it in", they had to forcibly squeeze his abdomen!) and saw that it was chocolate-brown in color (like a liquified tootsie-roll), the vet surmised that it was acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning.

Normally, I'd have dismissed that as impossible, since I'm hyper-vigilant about dropping stuff on the floor, but there was a chance, since I had asked my wife for a few pills just the day before, and one might have dropped.

I couldn't be 100% sure.

So, they had me drive about 35 minutes away (on the highway) to go to the only 24-hour drug store around) to pick up a special medicine that was the antidote.

A series of one-way streets, road-construction, bad-directions and 18-wheelers-of-death doing well over the speed limit in the post-midnight hours, and I finally arrived.
I got the meds and drove like I was in a race against chariots from hell to get back to the emergency clinic.

They treated Spanky with that, and kept him overnight.
I stayed with him until well after 3am, before going home for a few hours sleep.

He had a LOT of backed up stool in his colon, and was a bit toxic from everything, but he seemed to be out of danger.

The next morning, he was released and I took him to our normal vet for an early am drop-off appointment where they continued testing and monitoring him.

Later that day, I was told that he was doing well, and that there might be some damage to his liver, but with medicines, he should recover.

We could only hope.


However, not a day or two afterwards, after I had administered some Clavamox and gave him a good, hefty amount of food that he started showing more signs of distress;

- vacuous staring
- lack of coordination and fine motor skills
(would walk in tight counter-clockwise circles or circumnavigate the room only clockwise.)
- tremors
- he missed the litter box for a urination
- couldn't drink properly

I figured it was all because of the meds (because, coincidentally, it happened after I gave them) - although, I would later find out it was the FOOD that he was reacting to. His illness is supposedly food-triggered.

Once more, due to it occurring during off-hours, I rushed him to the Emergency vet again (while I had my wife monitor the phone for a call from our regular vet, whom I had left a message on their machine).
Of course, right after I arrived at the emergency clinic (and found that they were booked solid for the day) my wife called me on my cell to let me know that our vet was open and expecting Spanky as soon as I could get there.

So... back I drove to our vet (which is only 5 minutes away from our house, but a good 30+ minutes from the clinic).

The vets posited that it might be high levels of ammonia in his bloodstream, and that I would need to drive to a different Emergency Clinic, an hour away, for a special ammonia test.
But first, I had to quickly drive to the local pharmacy.
Our vets prescribed Laculose to remove the ammonia from his bloodstream & metronidazole (instead of the Clavamox).

Then, Spanky and I made the hour-long drive to the Emergency clinic (which, oddly enough, is when I first started writing about Spanky for the blog, but never had a chance to wrap that up).

Right then and there, within minutes, they confirmed that his ammonia levels were quite high.

On the way back home, I passed our vet again and went in to bring them up to speed. The results were exactly what she expected, and we were told to keep up the meds for about 10 to 12 days.

Within a day or two, Spanky seemed to be perfect.

So, it was hoped that he may have had some minor liver malfunctioning, but that the meds would give him time to heal.

2 weeks later, I stopped the meds and he was AOK.


THEN... almost 2 weeks after that (October 10, 2008), he had a major relapse.

- lack of energy
- loss of stability (you could knock him over with one finger)
- loss of ability to eat or drink properly
- drooling

This time, I recognized the symptoms and brought him to our vet for a refill of meds and a recheck.

Our local vet examined him and concluded that it seemed to be a fairly classic looking case of hepatic encephalopathy, but she wanted to know what the ammonia levels were at this time.
So, back to the emergency clinic an hour away for a recheck on the ammonia levels.
And again, the test results came back high.

So, we then made an appointment to have a consultation at the Emergency Clinic in two day's time (Oct. 13, 2008), and hopefully with testing, they'd be able to determine the exact nature of his possible liver damage.

- How severe was the progression of his condition?
- Was it due to toxicity (the acetaminophen)?
- Congenital defect?
- Shunts?
- Damage Induced by trauma?
(Spanky's balance was off and he'd often fall flat on his back. Sometimes from moderate heights).

We needed to know.

However, this is where everything started to go off the rails.

When we arrived at the clinic, we found that he should have been kept from eating the night before (even though I DID call to ask, and was told that he could eat normally). Then, the resident who was to perform the test informed me that he probably shouldn't have been the one to have been scheduled for this, as he was more of a post-op Dr. and that he also has a zero batting average at being able to find shunts on an ultrasound and would probably just have to hand the case over to the surgeon who would have to go in blind and perform an exploratory.
He stated that she "felt confident" about her ability, as she does this procedure.

However, by that point, I had zero faith in their ability and opted to find another place to have it done.

Of course, I still had to pay his consultation fee (for him telling me nothing that I didn't already know, except that he isn't confident in his track record for this particular thing).

Then, while once again stopping at my local vet on the way home, I asked them to see who else performed this test, and where could we be ready for the best chances for surgery should he need it.
Somewhere where it's all under one roof.
We were told for where we were, the "closest" places were University of Cornell (in Ithica NY) or U. of Penn (near Philadelphia).

We were also allowed to bring Spanky in the next day for proper "bile acid" tests, and that he'd need to NOT eat the night before.
Unfortunately, BOTH tests were high.
PRE test levels were: 43.6
POST levels were: 110.4

As I understand it, Pre should be around 10 or so, Post around 20.
He was at 5X the proper levels.

We were told to keep Spanky on his meds until we could get him properly treated.

I spent that day calling and researching both Cornell and U of Penn, but only became more frustrated.

It was at THAT point that I called the one man whom I trusted to give me the straight answer; our old veterinarian from when we lived back on Long Island, NY.
We had gone to him for several years and he was always spot on with his diagnosis and was so obviously caring about all of his patients, that we knew he'd be able to steer us in the right direction.

Calling him, he definitely set me more at ease, because while I was detailing the course of previous events, he was able to consistently jump ahead to the test or situation that I was building towards, obviously knowing what was next.
After he did this three times, I realized that he knows exactly what I'm leading to and we got the the current situation.

I mentioned to him, that I didn't have to pick either Cornell or U of Penn, that I'd be ready, willing and able to head back to Long Island for someone there, if they were qualified.

He recommended someone,while also mentioning the NYC-based Animal Medical Center.
I first called his L.I. based referral, who, in turn made mention of tests done at A.M.C. (where his radiologist comes from), and so, right then and there, it made sense to go to the one place that has it all under one roof.

I then called A.M.C. and made an appointment for Oct 23, 2008, but as it turns out, there was a medical conference most of that week, and the Doctor whom I was to see, after getting the information from me about Spanky's situation thus far, agreed with me that a normal consultation isn't what we need.
We were past that, and now NEED to know WHAT it is.
So she made an appointment for us to see a Surgical consult and testing a few days later (the medical convention was playing havok with schedules) the next Tuesday (Oct 28, 2008).

So, here I sit, wrapping up Spanky's 2-month saga up to this point.
(I can't believe that's all it's been since he came in the door. Just a week or so past 2 months - it seems like a year.)
My wife and I are crazed. The delays, especially these last 3 weeks are killing us.


Spanky, however, is feeling FINE.
The medications are keeping things in stasis, and he's growing by leaps and bounds.
He's much bigger than he was (for the longest time, it seemed like his growth was stunted) and has energy to burn.

Unfortunately, he's also teething AND needs to be neutered (his hormones must have kicked in because he's performing flying-tackles on BUDDY who easily outweighs him by almost 10 pounds).

I can only hope that this newfound strength aids him in this next step.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

MEET the FAMILY : SPANKY (pt 2.)

Spanky, while still living outdoors - relaxing in his favorite spot

While I have a little break in the flying circus of life, I'll try to bring the tale of SPANKY up to date and fill in any lapses along the way.

Spanky is the 9th cat that my wife and I have "adopted" in our lives.
We don't have nine cats. That's just how many we've taken into our home on somewhat "permanent" basis over the past 11 years, although there were one or two that we just "fostered" for a little while.
And this is not counting the many dozens of cats we've sheltered, fed and cared for who lived out of doors.

But Spanky is the newest, having been indoors for the past 2 of his 6 months of age.

I should start at the beginning, really, and try to get you up to speed without getting too stuck in minor details.

Spanky and his siblings were born (we're fairly sure) in early April 2008.

I'll get into the situations surrounding the nature of our property and the cat's sanctuary therein in a future post.
To do so now would just convolute this post and make me blitzkrieg through what would normally be a rather worthy subject of writing.

Let's just say that our property* has many places where the feral cats come to hang out and have their litters each year.
In his case; one of the three woodpiles that we have set up on the edges of the yard.


Spanky was different from day one.
While his litter-mates were tiny, frightened balls of fuzz, he was drawn to me.
Maybe it was something in him, maybe it was something in me, but as a tiny little newborn, he would try to come out of their hiding place in the woodpile and step towards me, before his brothers and sister would shrink back, which would make him instinctively do so as well.

But, from day one, he wanted to be closer to me.

As the weeks and months passed, he would soon abandon any relative safety of hiding places and come galloping towards me, whenever I was outside.

One time, I recall quite vividly, he was hiding between a tree and the car in the driveway, and when I opened the basement door, (which is actually AT ground level), he saw me and started to trot over to me.
However, I was in the process of taking out the trash and quickly turned to step back into the doorway, which caused him to stop his forward motion, and suddenly look so sad and forlorn. He dipped his head down in obvious disappointment and started to slowly turn away.

My wife noticed that and called my attention to it.

I immediately stepped back outside to greet him, and his eyes lit up with excitement and he ran (in that clumsy way that tiny kittens leap and bound) straight to me.

That was the moment that I KNEW he loved me.
Before that, I just figured, he liked how I would whistle tunes around him, or call him and play with him.
But THAT drastic changing of emotional responses showed me that he was really attached.


Oh. It's worth noting that originally, I had named him "BUCKY".
This was because he would fearlessly follow me around like a faithful sidekick.
(Bucky was the sidekick to WWII era super hero; CAPTAIN AMERICA, and while I have never been a fan of Captain America before, I had the image of a loyal sidekick in my head, and it was either Bucky, or ROBIN (as in Batman and...).
Anyway, BUCKY won out.

However, somewhere in the deepest recesses of our minds, we wondered that IF he were ever to come inside, "BUCKY" sounded too much like "BUDDY", who is one of our other indoor cats, and it would cause confusion, so we had to think up a new name for "Bucky".

My wife came up with "SPANKY" because, as she said, "He's a 'Little Rascal'".
And that he is. So, Spanky it would be.


As he and his litter-mates were growing up, they would lounge about, either in the various hidey holes that we had set up for them, or the assorted spots where the tall grass grows.
One such place is the disused flower-bed, by the basement door, at the near end of the drive, by a few tree-stumps which also serve as perches and playground.
The flower-bed was allowed to get overgrown with grass and wild plants, because with all the deer that roam our yard, growing flowers just isn't an option.

Spanky's favorite place to relax and soak in the sun, was there, in the disused flower bed.
He would often do this with two other, younger kittens (his blood-cousins) from a different family, whose mother pushed them to Spanky's litter shortly before she vanished.
(She may have been ill and known, so she made sure that they were in good "paws" before leaving them, OR she went off to search for the 3rd kitten who disappeared one night after a horrible rainstorm. We'll never know.)

Unfortunately, he would sometimes remain there even after the weather turned, and his mother would take the family to a safe haven (or just for a walk in the woods). Whether he stayed there for comfort, laziness, not wanting to be too far from me or the onset of his illness, I can't say. Often, however, I'd go outside only to find him, alone, while his family had ventured out for the day.

One day, during a tempestuous thunderstorm, I went out to make sure that their food bowls were all filled for the night, and running up to me was Spanky.
Alone, scared and getting wet.

I held him while we sat under the retractible awning on the deck waiting for his family to return so that he could rejoin them in one of the shelters we have built for them.
But as the night approached, I didn't see any sign of his kin.
Lightning flashed and thunder crashed in the distance while the rain grew in intensity.

I knew that I couldn't sit there, holding him all night, so I quickly thought of a way to take him in for the night.
The upstairs bathroom is of a decent enough size that I could be able to set it up as a temporary "motel" room for him, and I'd lay out a few comforters on the floor, so that I would be able to sleep in there with him to keep him company.

He nuzzled up next to me all night and slept like a baby (with a few instances of kitten-playfulness).

The morning came, and my wife saw his family outside, so I quickly scooped him up, reassuring him with soft words, bringing him out to them for a reunion.
They all played and seemed genuinely happy to see him; hale and hearty.

Not a day or two later, when setting out the food bowls again, I found him playing near a large mound of what I surmised as raccoon poop.
The problem was it was infested with bugs, and upon closer inspection, so was he.

I pulled a tick from his face and removed a few bugs that I saw upon his coat.
He must have got too close to the poop.
The raccoons come out to eat the leftover food at night, and Spanky, being fairly fearless (or ignorant of such things) would often get quite close to them.

I had to go away for two days following that, and when I returned, the Mrs. seemed very concerned about Spanky's health. He didn't seem "right" to her.
Of course, this was a weekend, and the vet was closed, so I took him in again, and catered to him, nursing what ailments that I could see.
He was congested and his eyes were all goopy, and he was sneezing. Blood.

Monday morning, off to the vet we went. By now, I was thinking that he was a good 50% "ours" and as long as I could take care of what ailed him, and if it weren't too severe, he might be able to return to his life - but more than likely, it seemed like we probably had another "child".

I couldn't help but think that if he were so easily susceptible to ailment and injury, then he might be better off inside.

But first, we had to find out what was wrong.

(continued in part 3)


* I don't like the term "property" to describe land, since... really, it'll be around far longer than we will. It's just "on loan" to us from the planet.
(yeah. I hug trees. I'm not ashamed of it.)