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 photo taken several months ago, while he was still outdoors. In better times and weather.
That's what faced us that morning when I was to take Spanky to Manhattan for his appointment at the Animal Medical Center.
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.