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.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

MEET the FAMILY : SPANKY (pt 1.)

Meet Spanky
(although, I wish it were under better circumstances)

(this photo was taken shortly after he first came into the house, while I was nursing him from other ailments.
He's about 4+ months here.)

Even before I was able to begin writing a post about our newest addition; 6-month old SPANKY, his saga has taken more dramatic turns than even the most tense novel.

He's currently going through some serious health-issues.
However, every time I think to sit down and type out my thoughts, the circumstances radically change and take time to process.

As of now, my brain and heart are both filled to bursting.

As it currently stands, he may have Liver Shunts, which cause the ammonia levels in his blood to climb to dangerous levels and affect his brain-chemestry; causing partial paralysis, spasms, vacuous staring and copious drooling.

We have to have some more tests done (oddly enough, I started writing this several weeks earlier when he had his first ammonia test done, but it's been a whirlwind of events, reversals of fate and other life-events crashing down around us.
Needless to say, I have only now been able to sit and think.
The calm before the storm.


Cut to a few days later, and the storm is swirling full-blown.
I couldn't even finish this post to organize my thoughts before events all spun around again.
I've been on so many phone calls with so many different veterinarians, that the sheer amount of information (and some conflicting or contradictory) is killing me, and taking vital time away from diagnosing what the problem is.

I'm going to post THIS much, and then start up a new one to take it from here.
If I wait another day, (if it's anything like the past few days) the entire situation will escalate and I'll be mentally and emotionally spent.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Before anyone gets "Wise" *...

And no.
Before you ask; I have NO IDEA how many licks it takes to get to the center of a
Tootsie-Roll Tootsie-Pop.
I crunch them also.
(But then, I prefer regular Tootsie-Rolls over the pops any day.)

It looks like the world MAY never know.

*however, I would be willing to sign up for a spokes-owl position to the company, or the Potato-chip giant should this blog "take off" in the future.

Call me.

(EDIT: It seems my wife had NO idea what the heck I was talking about here, and so I had to pull up a YouTube clip of the old 1980's commercial spot. Here it is for any of you out there who also blanked on it.)

Setting Sail

As the first post in this new blog, a joint experiment/experience between my wife and I (and our menagerie of animal friends, both indoor at out), it would probably make sense, as a preamble (or in MY case, pre-RAMBLE), to give an overview of what our "mission statement" for this blog is to be, as well as it's inspiration(s).

Well, basically, it's a glorified diary of sorts.
And, before you yawn and click away, I can assure you, that our lives have ALWAYS been so rife with truly bizarre, oftentimes unbelievable events, that anyone who knows us, has long since accepted that it would be a *very* small leap of faith to take our word for it should we claim that we had been abducted by aliens (which, thankfully hasn't happened. Although, I'd be into the possibility of taking that sort of adventure. Really. It's not much further than what we go through on a daily basis. You'll see). They'd simply shake their heads, look at us in a mix of awe, shock and sadness and say; "Only you guys!"

But, as opposed to most diaries (or journals - for the guys ... or "Logs" for any ship-captains or Starship Officers out there), it isn't going to be a strict chronological procession.
That was the main stumbling block from my starting up a journal before, in all the previous years that I had the impetus to do so. I simply couldn't wrap my head around starting at some seemingly random date/year and jumping in like that - possibly leaving out previous exploits or tales of life's joys and/or miseries.

Of course, we're old enough that most of the times we thought of such things were before the internet was as fully functional as it is today (or *cough* even existed *cough*), and would have entailed actual pen and paper. But with the advent of blogging, it was then a matter of just getting to the point where we simply couldn't wait any longer. The time was now. There are far too many stories of past craziness, and new ones happening every. single. day... that if we try to wait for our lives to ease up on us, we'd never remember them all.

So, to that end, if we ever have a lull in our daily lives, or if something reminds us of a previous situation, we'll tell the tale of that past misadventure.
Jumping back and forth in the timeline of the 40-some-odd years our lives (whether it be the 11 years of our married life, the previous 10 years of friendship/ dating/ engagement before that, or the years before we met).

With these various stories, I'd imagine that there might even be times where I (who shall only go by the name of "The OWL") might tell of an event that transpired, and then my wife ("The PUSSYCAT") might tell of the same event, but from HER point of view. I have found that sometimes, that unique "split-screen" (or multi-camera) telling of an event helps give it breadth and clarity (or an often time unknown bit of hilarity).

Through all of this, I'm sure that the readers of this blog might fall into separate camps:
- those who'll like her
- those who'll hate me
- those who didn't think that was funny, and NOW are already starting to hate me

But, again, to the inspiration of the blog, it's title and our "pseudonyms", it's simple;
For as long as I've known her, my wife has been likened to a cat.
She possesses that strange mixture that many feral cats embody; of affection, durability, ability to withstand the harshness of existence with a shrug, loyalty, tenaciousness, snuggling with loved-ones and other cats, a temper when bothered too much, and the comfort of a warm, soft, loving home... and, in the eyes of this OWL, a deep, alluring sexiness.

Almost every Halloween she'd dress as a cat of some sort, and
she used to sign the love-notes she would write to me as "boo-boo kitty".

As for myself, as long as I can recall, when not being called *other things*, I have been given a comparison to being a "wise owl".
Bookish, sharp of eye, quick of wit and tongue, given to flights of fancy and/or necessity, a cool demeanor even if my feathers are ruffled, but a quick snapping temper when pushed too far, and much like my "namesake"; the curse of looking far smarter than I truly am.

I've never dressed as an owl, but I do have a collection of many items with an owl-motif. (One of the MANY types of collections that I have amassed over my years - in fact, I am also starting up a blog dedicated to some of those endeavors. Look for them in the "about me" space).

However, aside from that, all of my life, even people who might not have thought of me as being "owl-like" often come to me seeking "sage" advice, enlightenment or information (or just useless trivial "knowledge", of which I am a font). Truly, I know not why.

Then, one day, after we were married it dawned upon us that WE, were an OWL and a PUSSYCAT, much like that old, famous nonsense-poem by Edward Lear.

I know there's also a movie (based upon a play), but oddly enough neither my wife nor I have seen it. I might have to rent it one day, but it's not really germane to our appreciation of the symbolic nature of our love of the poem.

The poem seems almost written for us. It fits.
It tells the tale of an OWL & a PUSSYCAT who set sail in a PEA-GREEN BOAT to see the world, decide to get married and go on journeys to fulfill that goal (and while unwritten, obviously continued to do so after they were wed).

The PEA-GREEN boat that they sailed in is what we took as the title for this blog.
It is our vessel with which we will share our journeys.
Hopefully, for long years to come.

And for your appreciation, and to end this post (finally) I will reproduce the poem here for you.
Thanks for suffering through the first - longwinded- post.
It won't be the last.

The Owl and the Pussycat - 1871 - by Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey,
and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married;
too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.