I find myself on yet another mission this year. This one for our cat Lucy, who I blogged about briefly a few days ago. The mission: to lower Lucy’s blood sugar, elevate her potassium and GET HER TO EAT (which, as anyone who has a cat knows, can be TRICKY when they turn up their noses at every variety of food you present. And you start to wonder who ‘owns’ who as you literally open can after can of food, heating it up, cooling it down, stirring it up, adding water, adding milk … generally looking and acting like a crazy person crawling around on the floor after your cat and begging them to eat).
The task is extra challenging as Lucy is suddenly on a hunger strike with the ‘Catch-22’ situation that she needs to eat to feel better and get the meds she needs to heal. But she doesn’t want to eat as she doesn’t feel well.
Bottom line is I’ve stayed home from a planned vacation to see our son Dan in Texas to try to nurse our female feline family member back to health. I know she’s 14½ years old, but I’ve told Lucy and her brother William repeatedly they have to live forever or, at the very least, until their late teens or early 20s.
To help Lucy meet this goal, we’re armed with insulin and needles; gooey, nearly impossible-to-administer potassium gel supplements and pills to supplement the supplement (no kidding). We’ve got anti-nausea pills, appetite stimulant cream we need to wear rubber gloves to wipe in her ears (again, no kidding), and syringes of every shape and size to ‘force-feed’ food as necessary.
Ah yes, the food … we’ve got an alphabet soup array of prescription diet foods (A.D., M.D. and Z.D.); and we’ve got small cans of (relatively low-carb) Fancy Feast chicken, turkey, and the brand my veterinarian said was the only one his nine-year-old adopted diabetic cat would eat – salmon with savory sauce in the middle. We’ve even got chicken, turkey and beef human baby food jars (Gerber’s and Earth’s Best organic), at the vet’s suggestion, if nothing else works.
The going is rough but hope springs eternal, and we’re committed to doing all we possibly can to get this cat’s levels right … which is key to her future health.
Despite some really low moments, I’m working to stay positive and productive as I enjoy some additional bonding time with Lucy and Will over the past several days and for a couple more days to come.
So what are we three ‘cool cats’ up to on this unexpected ‘stay-cation’, beyond Lucy’s daily food and medical regimens?
Well plenty of cat naps goes without saying.
We’re also catching (‘cat’-ching? sorry, couldn’t resist) up on some fun and inspirational TV shows we all love. Besides keeping our wits sharp through daily Jeopardy games, we’re now all caught up with weekly faves This Is Us, New Amsterdam, Perfect Harmony and Bluff County Law (which leads me to wonder how I’ll even have time to go back to work!).
I have been leaving my furry friends behind at times as they’ve mastered the all-day nap better than me. I’ve been walking, especially at Heckscher Park, where the infusion of nature always lifts my spirits. The return of two mysteriously missing swans (or maybe they’re new ones, I couldn’t tell) in the pond did the trick immediately.
I’ve also been spending more quality time with mom and dad, eating dinners over there and out with them (I know, in honesty, I’ve also been ‘mooching’ and happy not to cook!). And mom and I also saw the wonderful new Linda Ronstadt documentary.
Not sure if Lucy should thank me, or I should apologize to her, but I’ve also been singing to her (mostly soothing Brandi Carlile and Robert Earl Keen tunes), as well as giving her daily pep talks. And I’ve been playing the piano for her (mostly Debussy and Bach) when I find her lounging under the piano bench. She hasn’t moved away immediately when I’ve played, which I’m choosing to take as a compliment, not a sign of her weakness.
What else? Well, of course, we’ve been doing some reading in bed (finishing off last month’s book club selection, Carnegie’s Maid, which both cats seemed to enjoy during different reading sessions, and the new nonfiction book that looks great, called Fly Girls, about famous female pilots back in the early 1900s). I hope the cats haven’t been too frustrated with my inability to read more than a page or two late at night before conking out completely, book falling down on my chest repeatedly before I finally give in to sleep.
Several visits to the vet haven’t been ‘fun’ but I hope Lucy feels all the love, caring and support pouring out from every pore at Commack Animal Hospital, where we’ve been going to for the past two decades (with our previous cat, Christie, too). From the funky young, rainbow hair-colored technician who has been so beautifully and delicately affectionate to Lucy, to receptionists offering me hugs, encouragement, advice, even additional ‘tools’ like syringes with wider openings. Another tech spent ½ hour bringing out at least five different varieties of foods in small cardboard containers to the examining room, alternately diluting them with water, heating them up, etc. All to no avail, but not for lack of trying. The two of us were on the floor at this impromptu smorgasbord with Lucy, who also walked away from water delivered in both pot lids and regular metal bowls. Oh Luce! It would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating!
Dr. Kari Pettit is our main veterinarian at this practice. She wears a small silver elephant locket around her neck. She also tells us stories about feeding ‘the big cats’ when she worked at the zoo and adopting a three-legged chihuahua. Mostly, though, she is so super smart and insanely dedicated that she’s doing research over lunch and during her extremely limited ‘free time’, consulting with other professionals and just not resting until she provides every possible remedy and option you can think of.
You just meet some of the most special people in the field of animal care. You know you’ve got a fantastic team behind, and with, you. And even Lucy had to forgive the constant yipping of the vet’s said chihuahua and his slightly larger adopted chihuahua brother who were in the cage below her on her couple of hydration days at the hospital.
The kindness hasn’t stopped at the vets’ office though. The incredible shows of compassion I consistently receive from everyone around me during dark times is truly the light in the middle of the tunnel for me. I simply don’t feel alone, and I stay energized and hopeful thanks to the constant support of my friends, coworkers and family members.
I get daily calls and texts, many a day, checking in on Lucy, and me. I had a really healing talk with my piano teacher friend, who took me on a beautiful little walk and beach visit in her hilly bucolic Centerport hometown. A special friend at my new job fortifies me with daily ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ therapy … texting me pics of the Nickelodeon cartoon character in meditative, Yoga position and among different little environments around her desk at work. Which led me to get out a bunch of Dan’s little figures, just for a smile every time I walk by the small office area at home, including my latest creation, ‘SpongeBob PearPants’.
In short, I’m doing what I can do to show Lucy all the love I have and keep myself ‘o.k.’ in the process.
Looking at the bigger picture, I’ve talked with other pet owners about how we get through trying times like this. Worse yet, how we bear the relative certainty that we’ll outlive our beloved animal dependents. How we get past the pain when it happens. And how we ever open our hearts like that again, which many of us do when we adopt new animals.
Sometimes I marvel about how much work, sleep deprivation, worry and even money we put into our pets, who are like perennial babies. For brief moments, I even question all the inevitable sacrifices and hardships we make.
But then my cats will simply look me in the eye, purr when I pet them, fall asleep on me or any piece of clothing I put down anywhere, cuddle and sleep with me. They will show their unconditional love. And that’s all it takes.
Like any parents of animals or humans anywhere, I know I’ll do anything it takes to keep them healthy, happy and safe. And I know I’m the lucky one to be able to care for my loving animals. In reality, there’s nowhere else I want to be than at Lucy’s side right now. And I’m hopeful for, and staying confident about, success with our current Lucy Rally Mission.