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On Hairballs and the Writing Life

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I meant to get a lot of writing done today. I hadn’t necessarily intended to do a blog, especially after I spent the entire morning doing the state taxes for our businesses (mine’s writing, of course), but I wanted to get some work done on that 15th Anniversary Edition of one of my books that I’m revising. Which was supposed to be published in December 2015.

Missed that deadline by being Mommy to a doggie that had to get an emergency tooth extraction, to one of our kitties who was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes and who had to be hospitalized (who’s now in remission), to another kittie who has FORLS — a dental disease found in 20% of Rescue cats which causes their teeth to break and expose the root — requiring two emergency tooth extractions, and to another kittie who has Stomatitis, an auto-immune disease in which the cat is allergic to the natural bacteria on its own teeth, causing its tongue, gums, palate, and throat to get inflamed and swollen, leaving the cat in great pain and unable to eat or drink. The only possible cure: complete extraction of all her teeth. But she still occasionally gets lesions on her lips, allergic lesions, which cause her great pain and prevent her from eating. So she has to get NSAIDs every third day, and get blood work every three months to make sure her kidneys are functioning properly.

As if that weren’t enough to keep Mommy from having any writing time over the last few months, the dreaded HAIRBALL Season has begun.

If you have cats, you know what I’m talking about. That horrid time of year when the weather begins to warm and cats’ hair begins to shed. Only it usually ends up in their mouths and digestive tracts from grooming before it gets a chance to be swept up by your vacuum. Last week, it was 50-60F every day. Shed-city.

And before we knew what was happening, Hairball Disaster Zone.

IMG_0576_1024 2Sascha is leading in this race to cover the house with slimy, disgusting, smelly hairballs. She’s hurled 7 of them just in the past few days, 4 of them this morning and this afternoon. None of them has been less than 5 inches long, and each is as wet as a dripping beach towel. I’m thinking of giving up washing the blanket I put on the couch to protect it. Water is a more precious commodity in the desert than a couch, even if it does get stained. Meanwhile, Sascha, who doesn’t think much of the hairball gel, is giving me the Evil Eye and the Arched Back from the top of the highest Cat Tree in the house.

Eli’s become a real pro at this Hairball Game. He can drag out a Hairball, leaving little gnarly puddles of food and… well… imagine it… all around the room in a circle before he finally coughs up one humongous hairball. His must be at least 6 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. It wouldn’t be so bad if he did it all in one place, like Sascha, but he prefers to try to cover as much ground as possible while discharging the hairball and all its accompanying contents. He’s only done 3 today, but when you have to clean the entire carpet in the room each time he hurls one, it makes it seem like so much more.

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Ling seems to be annoyed that the LongHairs are getting all the attention, so she dropped 3 in an hour today. And even though she likes the taste of the hairball gel, she made us chase her for half an hour before letting us get some into her. Then she stalked away and promptly ejected another gnarly mess.

Trixie just gave us the Evil Eye To The Max when we tried to approach her with the tube of hairball gel: I believe she feels she has “done her time” — for life — after being subjected to Blood Glucose tests, which require ear-pricking, and insulin shots for the past 2.5 months. Don’t tell her she might come out of remission: she might run away and join the circus.

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Sophie is totally simpatico with Trixie on the hairball thing, even if she does like the taste of the gel if she’s in the mood. Neither of them were in the mood today. And both of them like to expel their hairballs on the top of things like my computer keyboard, my desk, the book I’m currently reading, my iPad (cover closed, thank god).

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Baxter likes the gel, but not all the commotion. After depositing his slippery hairball gifts on the kitchen chairs today, he jumped up onto the top of the cupboards. I guess he thought it might be fun to see us climbing on chairs and ladders to try to catch him. We eventually surrendered to his High Ground, though I’m sure there’s a pile of hairballs up there by now.

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Shooter Tov — THE Alpha male in this household — not to be outdone by his little brother Baxter, who sometimes gets the privilege of playing Alpha Male if Shooter’s taking a nap, watched Baxter cover the cushions on the kitchen chairs, watched Mommy and Daddy sponge-sponge-sponge-ing them off, and then climbed onto the kitchen table and decorated it with a hairball that would rival any canvas of Jackson Pollock’s.

So, there.

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The only person who has NOT expelled a hairball today is Sadie-Doggie, but she’s been following the cats around as they do them because she loves the hairball gel and insists on getting some each time one of them does. Mommy’s trying to write and Sadie’s begging for more gel. I can just hear her asking, What does a dog have to do to get some yummy-yum-yum hairball gel around here? Cough up a hairball?

And I’ve just been told that Shooter is attempting to deposit a slimy gift in my bag, which I accidentally left sitting on the kitchen chair while I went to clean up Sascha’s latest offering.

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Ahh, the life of a Mommy.

I had to write this blog today to remind myself that I am actually also a writer.

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Portrait of the Writer as a Woman: My New Year’s Resolutions, 2016

UnknownDecember 2015 was a very rough month for my writing. In fact, I believe I only got one blog done, and nothing on any of my books. One of our cats was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, had stopped eating and drinking, and was doing an excellent imitation of a Zombie-cat: she could have done a cameo on The Walking Dead without any previous acting experience.

Tom and I hadn’t even realized that cats could get diabetes.

After the first shock of the diagnosis, we were hammered with the cost of the insulin: $389 for 10ml. I began to weep, despite the fact that the vet said that bottle could last as long as 6 months. All I could think was that one of my babies was going to die because I couldn’t afford her medicine. Tom was too deep into shock to register much of what happened after he heard the diagnosis: he just assumed it was a death sentence, so I don’t think he heard much of the consultation beyond that, though he did hear the cost of the medicine.

Apparently, human insulin, $25 for the same amount, doesn’t work as well on cats, and the more expensive one has been shown to put many cats into remission.

Not cure.

Remission.

But I didn’t have $389. I’d just spent almost $500 on new tires for my ’99 Jeep Wrangler: my old ones had no tread, and winter was coming to the mountain. Without off-road tires and 4-wheel-drive, no one can make it up here. Over the past few months, as my car had broken down several times, with parts simply wearing out from age, I’d also paid our mechanic $2300 on a “back-up vehicle.”

Which wouldn’t start.

images-2So I didn’t have the $2300 I’d spent on my back-up vehicle, whose insurance is more costly since it’s a “classic.” I thought the insurance representative was playing a joke on me in May when I bought the ’94 Jeep Cherokee Sport, but, apparently, it is considered a “classic,” and so my insurance is higher. So there was that cost: $89/month since May, on a “classic” car that I didn’t even have, and for which I bought new tires, a new windshield, new brakes, etc. Yet it was still sitting at the shop because, despite my mechanic’s insistence that he could start the car, I couldn’t. Ever.

I still can’t.

Only now it’s sitting in my driveway.

Waiting to be towed back down to the shop, where we’ve decided to “swap it out” for another vehicle. Or, at least, to swap out the $2300 I already paid and apply it to a more reliable (read, it starts right away when you turn the key, not three days later if you’re lucky) “back-up” car.

stethoscope-1-1541316And then there were all the medical expenses.

Since the blessing of Obama-Care, my deductible has gone from $500/year to $7K in 2013, to $8.5K in 2014, to $12K in 2015, to $15K in 2016. Needless to say, I’m still paying off the “deductible” bills from 2013. Despite the fact that it is illegal to have a medical insurance deductible higher than Obama-Care’s $3K, the President or Congress or some idealist didn’t realize that you cannot have “government” health care provided by private,  for profit providers, like Blue Cross / Blue Shield (who is the only provider of Obama-Care, as far as I can determine), nor can you force other for profit insurance providers to lose money. So, technically, as my insurance provider has constantly assured me every time I’ve protested or vociferously complained, my deductible is only $3K a year.

My “co-insurance,” which I never had before and which is, apparently, unlimited, makes up the balance of what I have to pay each year.

I say deductible, you say co-insurance… let’s call the whole thing off.

So there’s that, too.

And then we got slammed with Trixie’s “uncontrolled diabetes” diagnosis and the cost of the preferred insulin.

IMG_1005My grief over the thought of losing Trixie because I didn’t have the money for her medicine encouraged the Vet to suggest that I save for the medicine that might put her into remission, while using human insulin to keep her alive and out of the Zombie-cat mode.

I’ve spent the entire month of December managing Trixie and her hypoglycemic crises. Yes, that’s hypoglycemic, as in her blood glucose falls too low. The Vet insists that this is good, and that she might already be going into remission. Apparently some 15-20% of cats can go into remission on any insulin, relatively quickly after they start treatment. We can’t know if it’s happening with Trixie yet because she needs to stabilize, and the Vet has had to lower the dose virtually every day this past week.

These are the kind of things that prevented me from writing in December 2015.

They’re also the kind of things that made me think of how different writing can be for a woman than for a man.

After all, though I’m sure Tom could take care of Trixie if he were forced to, he mostly hurriedly volunteers to take the dog out to the bathroom or to shovel 4-6′ snowdrifts away from the vehicles and the gate rather than to test her blood glucose or give her the insulin shots. Mommy is the one who does that.

Mommy also watches for the Invasion of the Zombie-cat, which means Trixie is hypoglycemic and could go into a coma or have brain-damaging seizures. It’s Mommy who rubs the Karo syrup on her gums when she becomes non-responsive and sits staring at the wall. The one afternoon I went out to do some food shopping and get a medical massage (which helps reduce my hemiplegic migraines) and asked Tom to keep a “close watch” on Trixie, he promised to do so but went out to work in the barn and was out there all afternoon. In fact, when I got home, he didn’t even know where Trixie was. Oh, he knew she was in the house since the cats don’t (can’t) go out up here on Big Rock Candy Mountain because of the wild animals, but he hadn’t been in the house himself to see where or how she was.

These are some of the events that have made me re-evaluate my usual New Year’s Resolutions: I was born a woman, but I believe I was also born an artist.

The artist in me chose writing as the medium through which to express herself, so any Resolutions have to include the fact that I’m a writer simply because that’s who and what I am.

Resolution 1:
Write More

images-5I must write more blog posts, more regularly, as I was doing for most of 2015.

If that means that Tom must do more grocery shopping and meal preparation, as he’s been willingly doing since Trixie’s diabetes diagnosis, then he’ll have to do more of the household chores as well. We’re both liberated, and we’ve always shared the chores. Now that one of my jobs as a woman and as the Mommy seems to be nursing the sick animals, Daddy will have to do more than half of the chores. We’re both retired, we both have our own businesses, but his is more seasonal than mine, while mine is much more time-consuming than his. Therefore, it’s off to the market and into the kitchen more often for Tom because Mommy, who nurses any of the animals who’s ill, needs to blog more.

My blog-reading audience is actually contacting me via the twitter and the book of face and asking me to blog more, asking me if I’m all right because I haven’t been on the social media sites during December, asking me for suggestions about what shows or films to watch (I mostly blog about entertainment). They keep telling me they need my blog posts.

They are the boss of me.

I resolve to blog more.

Resolution 2:
Lose Weight

Me & PatrickI know some of you don’t believe that’s me there with Patrick, but it is. The year was 2000, my second novel, Only with the Heart, had just come out, and since he’d optioned my first novel, The Kommandant’s Mistress, to star in it himself, he asked me to come out to LA so we could meet in person and discuss the book. (We’d talked many times on the phone in the previous 6 years, but had not met). And that was not my heaviest, my highest weight. Of course, I don’t even recognize myself in that photo with Patrick, let alone in the photo Tom recently found of me at (almost) my highest weight, when we met and fell in love in 1994.

Between 2005 and 2007, I lost 275 pounds.

I don’t know how much more than that I lost because my therapist in Ohio wouldn’t even let me look at a scale until I’d lost 40 pounds (she brought the scale in to her office and weighed me). I was at 450 the first time she let me look, and I wanted to die of shame. Instead, I resolved to conquer my eating disorder and get my weight back under control for my own health.

Here’s how I did it: I ate whatever I wanted but only when I was hungry, and, even more important than that, I stopped eating as soon as I was no longer hungry. I didn’t continue eating until I was full. Not even just a little full. I put the food away as soon as I no longer felt any hunger.

That meant I ate several small “meals” during the day. It meant that if I wanted to eat ice cream, for example, or a candy bar, then I ate that as a meal but stopped if I found I was no longer hungry even if there was only one bite of candy bar or ice cream left. I kept telling myself that I could always have it later.

I ditched my parents’ Clean your plate rule.

I threw away the Three Meals a Day rule.

I didn’t care if anyone else thought my “diet” was balanced or not.

I have an eating disorder. In the past, it manifested mostly as anorexia, when I lived on sodas and sugary iced tea rather than on food, dropping down to 120 pounds (I’m 5’8″ with a large frame: my non-dominant wrist, at my lowest weight, is 7.75″ around the bones). After my first book was accepted, the anorexia changed, for some reason, to compulsive overeating: I literally could not stop myself from eating, even if I was in physical pain from eating too much already. And I was a complete failure at bulimia, which horrified my therapist when I said that to her after I sought help.

Drugs did not help me: I had an allergic reaction to virtually every one I tried, or it made it impossible for me to lose weight.

Restricting my food intake by calories or types aggravates the eating disorder.

Weighing myself daily does that, too.

Because my Muncher mother used to starve us children.

Women who practice Munchausen’s by Proxy — called Munchers by law enforcement and medical professionals who discover their abuse, torture, and killings — do so much damage to their children, it is virtually impossible to heal it all. They’re more than the female equivalent of male serial killers because they do damage to their own family members and to others dependent on their care — in the privacy of their own homes, where no one sees them, and with few people believing those who tell what is happening within the home.

M is for Munchers cover w mask 1In any event, I needed to lose weight for my health — even though I had no obvious medical problems — as well as for my own self-esteem, but I had to do it in a way that would not trigger the Muncher-abuse-induced eating disorder, which I and all my siblings suffer from. That’s how I came up with my eating plan.

Because it had to be for the rest of my life.

I lost the 275 pounds and, mostly, I’ve kept it off.

When my favorite cat died of heart failure in 2012, my grief tipped me over into the eating disorder again, and though I knew it was happening, I couldn’t stop myself. That’s what makes it an eating disorder: you cannot stop yourself without help. I gained 50 pounds before I got my eating disorder under control again.

Then I hit what has to be one of the longest plateaus in weight-loss history ever: 2012-2014. I didn’t gain any weight, but I didn’t lose any either. No matter how little I ate or how much I exercised.

Last year, I re-dedicated myself to my personal eating plan, and I lost 26 pounds.

My doctor insists I only have the original, re-gained 50 pounds to lose, and so now I only have 24 more to lose.

I think losing 50 pounds would be better (taking me down to 150), but he insists that I’ll look like a skeleton and that he’ll be really annoyed with me if I lose more than 24 additional pounds. I say it’s my body and I can lose whatever amount of weight I want. But… this is a woman thing, I think, and even writing about it too much is treacherous because I begin to convince myself that if I could only be anorexic again — which happens after I don’t eat anything for a few days — it would all be so much easier…

And I would be treating myself just as my serial killer Muncher mother did: starving myself.

As my first therapist asked me, “Would you do that to a child of yours? Would you ever do that to one of the abused, abandoned, neglected cats that you rescue?”

No, no I would not.

So, I resolve, once again, as I did last year in Jan 2015, to continue to lose weight.

In a healthy way.

Resoultion 3:
Write More

POV cover 2015 webI will finish the revised edition of my 2001 book Mastering Fiction and Point of View. Not only have writers, experienced and new, published and not, been asking me for the new edition, but my editors actually were planning on publishing the Revised, Updated, & Expanded edition in December 2015. But I didn’t get it finished. I didn’t even get to the point where I could give it to my editors for their feedback.

Was I blogging too much?

Was I spending too much time on social media?

Was I working too much on my memoir of life with a serial killer mother, M is for Munchers?

Was I doing too much of the household chores, errands, etc?

Was I too busy learning Kundalini Yoga?

Was I spending too much time watching movies with Mads Mikkelsen — for blogging, of course…

Was I spending too much time staring out the windows?

Whatever I was doing, I do agree with my editors that I was not spending enough time working on the revision of my POV book.

I resolve to work on it until it is finished, get it to my editors so they can give me feedback, rewrite — taking their suggestions into account, and then get the book back to them so they can publish it without having to change the cover again.

They are also the boss of me, and though it probably won’t take them (or their graphic artist) too much work to change the words 14th Anniversary Edition to 15th Anniversary Edition, I really need to get this book done.

Resolution 4:
Walk More

pink-fitness-center-1432405When I originally lost that 275 pounds, I not only ate only when I was hungry and stopped when I was no longer hungry, I walked. Not fast: we live in the mountains, and you can’t walk fast in the mountains. At least, I can’t. But I walked every day.

I started with 5 minutes a day for a month. Then I moved up to 10 minutes a day. Each month, I added 5 minutes until I was at 30 minutes a day.

Despite eventually dropping down to 175 pounds, which was not the lowest weight I’ve ever been at, or even what I considered “normal” for most of my life (that would be 150 pounds), I was thinner than I had ever been. I was wearing smaller clothes, higher heels, and feeling better about my body than I ever had.

Walking, even slowly — I walk about 1-1.5 mph — can dramatically change your body shape. It takes a lot longer than running, but I can no longer run. In 1995, I fell down a mountain in Wyoming and shattered my L leg and ankle. It took 3 years to heal from the surgery, which replaced most of my bones — which had shattered into such fine dust, the surgeon had to use a surgical vacuum to get the bone out of my leg — with metal plates, bolts, and really big, long screws. Both the surgeon in Wyoming and the surgeon in Ohio, where we lived, told me I could never run again. They said that the plate would buckle and take the entire bone it’s attached to with it, necessitating another surgery and even more extensive recovery time and physical therapy.

They told me I would have to become a Walker, and this was long before most of us had heard of The Walking Dead.

I’ve walked since then.

In 2008, I was eventually walking 45 minutes a day, albeit at the same 1.5 mph pace.

Then I got a stress-fracture in my pelvis.

The doctors at the ER and those at the Sports Medicine Center told me “humans weren’t built to walk 45 minutes a day.” I think they’re all crazy: what did humans do in our ancient past, before we had animals to ride or vehicles to transport us? Still, that’s what all of them except my GP kept telling me. In any event, the stress-fracture side-lined me for several months while it was healing.

Two years ago, I discovered, during my annual physical, that I had virtually no vitamin D or calcium in my blood, and, after a bone-scan, that my bones are thinner than they should have been for my age. It’s a condition known as osteopenia rather than as osteoporosis, I guess because the bones didn’t just snap and break. They eroded over time with exercise (bones are supposed to release calcium etc into the blood when you exercise: that’s how they signal your body to send more calcium there and the bones get stronger), but my bones were too thin to begin with, and the doctor suspected that the osteopenia, combined with my exercise, caused the three stress fractures I’ve had in the last 10 years (2 in the pelvis, one in the foot).

The most likely reason for the osteopenia and the virtual lack of vitamin D and calcium in my blood?

Childhood dietary deficiency.

That’s another word for being starved by your Muncher mother.

I took supplements until I got into the low normal range, then began walking again, but I had to start all over again with the 5 minutes a day and adding 5 minutes a month routine.

In 2015, I walked 30 minutes a day, at 1-1.5 mph,  81% of the time: 297 days out of the year. I didn’t walk at all in February because I had bronchitis. That means I actually walked 297 days in the remaining 11 months.

When do I walk? After I feed the cats their breakfast — canned food, which is the only time of the day they get it; the rest of the day, they eat from the buffet of dry food — at 5 a.m. Why so early? Before we moved to Big Rock Candy Mountain, when I was teaching, I used to get up at 5 to write for at least 2 hours before I went to teach my classes at the University. Our cats thought that since I was already up, I might as well feed them breakfast.

Though I’m now retired from University, the cats still think breakfast is served at 5 a.m., and for much of the year, here in the Desert Wilderness, the temperatures are in the 90s before 7 in the morning, so, actually, walking after serving them breakfast at 5 works for this writer-Mommy, because I usually write after that.

Though I only lost 26 pounds in 2015, I lost 5 inches all over (except my bustline, which is genetically large… to Tom’s delight). In the past, when I was anorexic or “dieting,” losing an inch off my waist, hips, etc equaled losing 10 pounds of weight. Not so with walking. It may take longer than it takes with running, but walking gets you to the same place eventually. And you end up thinner at a higher weight.

This year, I resolve to continue walking and to add 5 minutes a day to each walking session.

I’ll walk 35 minutes a day, at 1-1.5 mph, and my goal is to walk at least 90-95% of the time.

Resolution 5:
Write More

The Zombied Trilogy Book One webIn January 2015, the first volume of The Zombied Trilogy was published: Love is a Many Zombied Thing. According to my editors’ plan, the 2nd and 3rd volumes of the trilogy were to have been written, edited, revised, and published in 2015.

I think it didn’t happen because, in 2014, I began completing their suggested (major) revisions to my memoir, M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door. That book has taken me years to write, and not just due to the editors’ suggestions about changes. I entered an earlier version of it in a contest in 2007, and was given enough praise and critical suggestions for me to completely change the way I was doing the book, given its subject matter. So I know I had an entire manuscript of the book, with a different title — which none of the judges in the contest liked, by the way — in 2007.

After Love is a Many Zombied Thing was published, I felt a blank about where the second and third books in the series should specifically go, although the editors and I were clear about where they should generally go. In short, I had the ideas for the remainder of the trilogy, and the editors heartily approved the ideas, but I didn’t know how to start book 2.

As is my usual practice when something won’t come in a book, I begin working on a different one. That’s how I began the revisions to Munchers.

But what stopped me from writing any of the other books was the intense grieving that writing the memoir caused.

I thought I’d done all the grieving when I wrote and revised Munchers originally.

Apparently, I had not.

The grief almost overwhelmed me.

Though Munchers was published in 2014, the grief prevented me from finishing Zombied on schedule. By the time I finished Book 1, I had already missed the deadlines for Books 2 & 3. My editors were not pleased, though they claimed to understand the grief-delay.

I resolve to finish — or at least to start — the final two books of The Zombied Trilogy.

After all, those characters, and my readers, deserve to have the story finished.

Resolution 6:
Spend More Time
With Those I Love

Ling and SophieThat means Ling (L) and Sophie (R) as well as Trixie. After all, Sophie is the one who has Feline Stomatitis, an auto-immune disease or disorder, whom we would have had to put down if extracting all her teeth, including the roots, had not put the disease-disorder into a manageable state. She gets NSAIDs every other day. Each time we’ve attempted to increase the time between doses or to reduce the dose — to protect her kidneys — the painful inflammation and swelling of her gums, tongue, and throat return. In the wild, she would have starved to death, in great pain. We have to get her blood tested every three months, to monitor the kidney function, and she’s staying steady — at an already slightly elevated rate — so Mommy has to take care of her, and that includes checking her mouth every time I give her the meds to make sure she’s doing fine.

Ling and Sophie are the ones who contracted Bubonic Plague in 2012 (and gave it to us) and almost died. I didn’t even know Bubonic Plague still existed when we moved here, but it still exists all over the world, not just in laboratories, but in dry, arid climates like the American Southwest. We already almost lost them once.

IMG_2520 It means spending time with Sascha (middle) because she’s been operated on twice in the last two years for cancerous tumors on her lower lip that have gotten so close to her jawbone that the Vet promised she would never take Sascha’s jawbone, even if the suspicious cells became malignant. When Mosie died, we didn’t even realize she had cancer until the week before she died: she began breathing strangely, and X-rays revealed the tumors. Though Mommy checks Sascha’s mouth regularly, the next surgery and pathology report — if there is one — could reveal malignancy rather than “suspicious cells.”

IMG_2397It means spending more time with Shooter Tov, the oldest of our cats (12 this month), who has FORLS. I can’t recall right now what it stands for, but 20% of Rescue cats have the condition, which has also been found in the skeletons of sabre-tooth tigers. The enamel of the teeth doesn’t re-form, eventually exposing the root or simply breaking the tooth, leaving the animal in great pain. Additionally, if the affected teeth are not removed, the disease moves into the bones of the jaw, face, head, neck, etc., killing the cat.

Shooter’s already lost 3 teeth to FORLS, two years ago, and two weeks ago, he began crying out if anything touched his face. Two more teeth have broken, exposing the roots. He’s having surgery Wednesday (and has been on pain meds until the Vet could get him in: it takes special expertise to get the teeth, root and all, out of the jaw, so that the disease will not eat away the jawbone).

I know that, even if the Vet had to extract all of Shooter’s teeth, he’d be fine. After all, Sophie’s had no teeth for over 2 years now, and she not only eats dry food just fine, she hops, skips, and dances around the house like she owns the place. Still, Shooter’s in pain now, so I’ve also been nursing him for the past 2 weeks, and he’ll be in more pain after the surgery: he’ll need Mommy, whether Mommy thinks she needs to write or not.

IMG_2417IMG_2429I resolve to spend more time with Baxter (top) and Mr. Eli (bottom), who are virtually always with me in my office while I’m writing, not because there’s anything wrong with them, but simply because we rescued them and they deserve love and attention even if they’re not sick.

IMG_2165I can’t forget Sadie-Doggie, who had to have a molar extracted last month after she began vomiting and we discovered an apricot-sized lymph-node under her jaw. Her immune system was trying to fight the infection from the rotten tooth, but it was losing. It the infection had gone systemic, she would have died. Because she’s part Border Collie, part Terrier, and part Hound, she has the loose neck-folds of a Hound, and we didn’t notice the lump till after she was vomiting.

I love all the pets we’ve rescued, and have been devastated each time we’ve lost one. As one of my friends who also rescues cats said, upon hearing of Trixie’s diagnosis, “We know they’ll most likely have health issues because they’ve been abandoned, neglected, or abused, but we have to just act as if each day with them is the last. Because it might be.”

This year, every day, I’m going to act as if each day is the very last I’ll ever have with each of my babies.

Because it might be.

Resolution 7:
Don’t Forget Tom

I know this might sound corny after 22 years together, but sometimes I probably do take Tom for granted. After all, he’s a reliable, faithful, good man, and I certainly don’t “forget him” on purpose. Other things drag at my attention — like a dying cat — and it takes me a while to remember that’s he’s right there beside me, grieving just as much. He completely morally supports my writing, and so stays out of my office and doesn’t disturb me when I’m writing — no matter how long I’m at it. (He sometimes even makes dinner, fixes a plate for me, and puts it in the fridge for me to eat after I’m finished for the day.)

Tom’s gotten up with me every single morning at 5 since Trixie’s diabetes diagnosis to take Sadie out to the bathroom, wash all the animals’ breakfast dishes, and give me a kiss before he’s gone back to sleep, and I’ve headed for the treadmill. (He’s horrified that it’s still dark when I wake him: when he worked, he worked second shift virtually his entire career, so it was always light when he woke.)

Though he doesn’t admit to panic over the animals when they’re ill, he’s clearly stressed. He could probably use some more attention and comfort, too.

He also was diagnosed with diabetes himself last year, and though he lost the 20 pounds as directed, and mostly keeps to his “diet,” he has suddenly decided that he needs to take care of himself better.

And I need to love him and appreciate him more.

I need to tell him so.

Because each day might be the last.

Resolution 8:
Read More
Books-1

Because it makes me happy.

Final Resolution:
Write More

stock-photo-20291293-vintage-woman-writerBecause it’s who I am.

And because, sometimes, as women, we have to make a greater commitment to our art due to all the other things vying for our attention.

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Ripley Cat Takes on 2 Green Aliens

Let’s face it: cats actually like to scare each other. They like to scare dogs. They like to jump out and scare their humans. But sometimes, cats can get scared themselves. Even when cats are scared, they’re tough little guys who’ll go down swinging.

I’m not talking about cats whose owners intentionally scare their poor pets in order to make what they think is a humorous video but which is really animal cruelty: clapping their hands behind a sleeping cat’s head, for example, or relentlessly chasing the cat with the vacuum. I don’t find that funny. If the adults did that to a child, someone would call Children’s Services to take the little tykes out of the dangerous environment. Cat owners who intentionally and repeatedly scare their pets are just teaching their cats not to trust them. Those owners shouldn’t be surprised when their cats run away to a better home.

There are some times when cats — even though they’re scared — are intrepid. They take risks most humans wouldn’t take. In fact, I’d venture to say that cats are absolutely essential to the survival of the human race.

Like when this cat, as brave as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the Alien series but without weapons or back-up, takes on 2 green aliens.

Yeah, you go, Cat. Send those aliens to Roswell.

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Death, Be Not Proud

For Mosie

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful,  for thou are not so.

John Donne
Holy Sonnet #72

We rescued Mosie from a suitcase, literally, where someone had stuffed her, claiming she was “feral and violent and dangerous.” After my BF, who did animal control work at the time, donned protective clothing, including welder’s gloves to keep from being bitten and clawed, he unzipped the suitcase, and  jumped back. He expected the worst. He waited. He thought the violent cat might have killed itself in a frenzy inside the closed suitcase in the locked bathroom. Either that, or she’d been suffocated. He took a step toward the case. Cautiously.

Up popped the most adorable black cat he’d ever seen, sitting there ever so calmly, wagging her tail, and meowing to him plaintively.

“That’s no feral cat,” he said as he removed his gloves and protective gear, so as not to frighten her, and motioned to her. “Come on, Kitty. Come on.”

She did, purring like a little motor-boat as he petted her, rubbing against his legs, going easily into the cage he’d brought. He covered the cage with a blanket, exited the bathroom, took the $100 fee for “capturing the dangerous and violent feral cat” from the woman who’d hired him, then yelled at the woman for shoving a cat into a suitcase and locking her in a bathroom.

He was supposed to take her to the Shelter to be euthanized, which is the law with dangerous feral animals who bite, scratch, or otherwise attack people in an unprovoked manner.

Instead, he opened up the can of cat food which he’d brought along as bait, lifted the cage door, and offered it to the cat. Purring, she stepped out of the cage, ate the food (“As if she hadn’t eaten in ages,” he later told me), curled up on the seat of the truck next to him, and went to sleep.

That is how Mosie came into our lives.

We named her Mosie, from the Navajo for “Cat”, because we were set to move West the following month. The vet pronounced her healthy, shaved her belly to find that she’d been spayed, and got her immunizations up to date. As soon as she got home with us, she promptly took a taste out of each of the bowls of dry food — our buffet — then came over and thanked us by purring and rubbing her forehead on our ankles. When she met the other cats, she stood patiently as each smelled her, then she kissed them. After that, the romp began: running, playing, chasing each other.

“Feral cat, my tuches,” said my BF. “More like a poor little Suitcase Cat.”

That became our nickname for her. Mosie, our little Suitcase Cat.

Mosie-Cat

Mosie-Cat

She was always one of the most delightful, affectionate, non-aggressive cats we had ever met. She was so good at the Vet’s that she would walk out of the carrier and onto the baby-scale for her weight. She knew the routine. She was as clever as she was sweet. And for the last, almost eight years that she’s been ours, she’s been completely healthy.

This January, she began experiencing some strange health problems. Her teeth were bleeding and there was a mass under her tongue. The Vet suspected cancer, but the biopsy came back “Benign.” Since the teeth on one side had exposed roots, the Vet extracted them, changing her diagnosis to FORLs, a dental disease — not cavities — where the enamel eats away at itself instead of rebuilding. Unless the teeth are extracted, the disease attacks the jaw and facial bones.

In February, her left eye looked strange. Its pupil was fixed. Open. I thought she’d had a stroke. The Vet thought she might have gotten Toxoplasmosis, a virus carried by rodents, to which cats are constantly exposed in their litter boxes, but which they rarely contract. (Though our cats do not roam — because we live on a mountain where there are wild animals — there is a roofed kennel attached to the house: they can go outside, but only into the kennel. A mouse could have gotten into the kennel and left feces there; the cats could have inhaled the virus, which would go through their systems and be excreted in the litter box.) Cats, even those who do not roam, are constantly exposed to the virus unless they never leave the house, but they rarely contract it themselves.

Unless their immune systems are compromised. She tested Mosie for Feline Leukemia, though we’d had her tested before we ever took her home and put her with our other cats, and for Feline Immuno-Deficiency Virus (FIV), the equivalent of HIV in humans. Both tests came back negative. The Vet feared that, though she had assumed that Mosie came through the teeth extraction surgery “like a trooper,” it may have weakened her immune system. She prescribed eye-drops and strong antibiotics. Mosie seemed fine thereafter, though her pupil was permanently open. If she were human, she would have been considered “legally blind” and would no longer be able to drive: she could see light, dark, shapes, movement, etc from her L eye, but had to turn her head to see details.

Like the corned beef we offered her every time we gave her a dose of those nasty antibiotics.

All this time, Mosie continued to slowly lose weight. However, as she was on a diet, and the weight loss was slow and steady, we were all proud of her, including the Vet.

Four years ago, when we first moved to this house on the mountain, which is surrounded by Juniper and Pinon trees, she began sneezing and got a sinus infection (as did two of our other cats). Mosie had never had any allergies after we moved to New Mexico. Until we moved to the house on the mountain. The Vet at that time (who is, no doubt, no longer a Vet due to her extreme incompetence and terrible bedside manner) decided Mosie has asthma and put her on steroids. Mosie’s weight went from 15 to 25 pounds in 3 months. Her “asthma” didn’t stop until the Juniper stopped blooming. Exactly the same time our own allergies stopped, and the other cats stopped sneezing. We took her off the steroids and changed Vets.

In the last two years, Mosie has lost 8 pounds. Good work for a cat. Especially since we refuse to restrict food for any of our cats. They’re all Rescues, many had been found, starving, by the side of the road, and we simply will not feed them only once or twice a day. Their food is always available. None has an eating disorder. The Vet suggested more canned food, which Mosie really didn’t like, since that would help her lose weight (higher carbohydrates in the dry food).

So the fact that Mosie continued to lose a little weight over these last three months was cause for celebration, not alarm. The Vet wanted her back at her original 15 pounds, and she was down to 16 pounds, 11 ounces. She was doing better than most people who try to lose weight.

However, even at 15 pounds, Mosie’s face was always round. Now, though, her face seemed to be getting gaunt, while her belly seemed to be ballooning. But her weight was still going down. I pointed these things out to the Vet during one of Mosie’s follow-up eye exams, asking if she thought Mosie was “bloated.” She laughed. “Mosie’s just fat and needs to lose that last bit of weight,” she said, patting Mosie on the head, then bending over and kissing her.

Last Tuesday, at a follow-up exam for Mosie’s eye, to see if we could take her off the eye-drops, the Vet asked, “How long has Mosie been breathing like this?”

Since the night before. She was sneezing, too, so we’d assumed that allergy season had started.

The Vet took an X-ray. Mosie’s heart was slightly enlarged and moved to the right side of her chest. Very odd, even if a cat is in heart failure. Furthermore, her trachea was curved to the left. Odder still. She gave her heart medications and a diuretic, to eliminate excess fluid from her chest cavity. Mosie did not improve. In fact, she seemed to worsen.

By the weekend, we were convinced she was going to die. She seemed dazed, disoriented, and very confused. She couldn’t breathe, despite the medications, and we had to carry her to the litter box and put her in it to prevent her from having accidents. She stopped eating and drinking.

That is always a bad sign.

On Monday we took her in, though her follow-up appointment wasn’t till Tuesday with our Vet, and after a Partner-Vet listened to her breathing, he said he agreed with our Vet’s revised diagnosis on Friday: that Mosie might have some lung inflammation that was causing the heart failure, not vice versa. He gave her two shots of fast-acting steroids, to make it easier for her to breathe, and told us to keep Tuesday’s appointment with our regular Vet.

Mosie improved dramatically. By late that afternoon, she could breathe relatively easily. She ate, drank, purred, talked, came to my BF when he called her name, when he held out his hand and wiggled his fingers (a signal we’ve taught them to come get pets). We were so relieved and excited, I foolishly tweeted about it all over the place. On inhaled-steroids, Mosie might have another year. We were deleriously happy.

Then, it all just stopped. No eating. No drinking. But, strangely, no hard breathing.

I couldn’t sleep. I was awake all night. I decided to write a blog about revision, which people have been requesting, so I wouldn’t cry all night. Mosie was beside me most of the time. She was breathing so quietly that several times I put my hand on her to make sure that she was still alive. She was, but she was noticeably cool to the touch. Around 3 a.m., she got off the bed and went to the litter box. On her own. When she didn’t come back, I woke my BF and asked his help getting her out (my back had become sore from carrying her back and forth all weekend).

There was blood on the floor.

When he took off the lid of the covered litter box, we found Mosie inside, lying there. I lifted her out. My BF released a string of obscenities, an attempt, I think, to articulate his extreme distress and confusion, since he kept repeating “poor Mosie” throughout.

The litter box was filled with blood.

Mosie was covered with it. Crying and very confused, we cleaned her up. She never once protested. Her breathing was fine. We lined the bottom half of the cat carrier with soft warm towels and laid her in it, like a little clubhouse, so she’d feel slightly confined and safe. Her breathing was still steady, easy, and good.

But Mosie didn’t answer when we talked to her. She didn’t even look at us. She was completely unresponsive.

And so she remained.

Until she died.

The Vet was shocked. After she heard about the blood, she said she believed that the original pathology report on the mass under Mosie’s tongue, though it had gone away with antibiotic treatment and teeth-extraction, had been wrong. She believed now that it had been cancer, and that Mosie had at least one mass in her chest, which had moved her heart to the right, curved her trachea into a C-chape, and was causing her breathing difficulties (though, after the two steroid shots, her breathing was easy and quiet until the end). She also believed that her distended belly, which her Partner-Vet had commented on the day before, was a sign that Mosie had more than one tumor. The blood was either from a burst tumor or because Mosie’s bowel had ruptured; she was guessing it was the latter.

That accounted for Mosie’s increasingly cold body temperature. Internal hemorrhage. Plummeting blood pressure. It also would be the reason Mosie was completely unresponsive. She was dying.

We’d already figured that part out ourselves. We just didn’t know why.

We lost Mosie on Tuesday morning.

Mosie, sleeping on her favorite pillow

Mosie, sleeping on her favorite pillow

At least she was breathing easier that last day. And we got to have one final afternoon with her, when she was happy, loving, purring, and eating all the corned beef and whipped cream she desired.

We were with her the entire time, as I’ve promised all the cats we’ve rescued: “You’ll never die alone. I’ll be there with you.” So far, we’ve been able to keep that promise. We don’t intend to ever intentionally break it.

No one should be alone when he dies.

Not even a Suitcase Cat.

(Antony’s “Hope There’s Someone”), followed by John Donne’s Holy Sonnet # 72, in case anyone wants to read the entire thing.)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls’ delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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