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The Duke Diaries – Month 1

My Sweet Dukie patiently receiving his fluids.

It’s just over a month and Duke has been such a trooper. He knows the drill for the fluids and we have a little routine down. This routine includes Ted waiting outside the bathroom door, somewhat patiently, waiting for his turn to get treats. It’s a regular Treat Fest here at Casa de Copelan these days!

Today we received the results from Duke’s labs after four weeks (two bags) of fluids. There is no improvement; there has been a slight decline. He has lost more weight. Not a lot, but for a boy who was at 15 pounds at his biggest, he looks tiny to me at 12 pounds. Last week he had really bounced back with energy; this week he’s very lethargic. They tell me it’s very much a roller coaster and this kind of vacillation is to be expected. I learned that there is no recovery from kidney disease; only management. Based on Duke’s current numbers (Stage IV) the vet is unable to give me a timeline for Duke’s longevity (my heart aches so badly, I can barely type the words). As long as he’s still interested in food we will keep plugging along, keeping him comfortable.

Our fluid regimen is changing from 125ccs every other day to 100ccs every day if he will allow it. Currently, he’s been amazing. He just looks at me and purrs. Today when I bent down with the fluid bag he turned his back to me so I could access the scapula. Then he just sat down and purred.

This post will publish a week or two after I received the update from the vet. By then perhaps I’ll have digested it a little better. Right now it’s honestly unbearable to me. I cannot go back and change anything, but Lord knows I wish I could. If only our fur babies could live forever. Thankfully, they live eternally in our hearts.

He was sitting just outside the door, but when I bent down, he came to me (marking along the way – ALWAYS the Alpha Cat)

The Duke Diaries – Toys

An unanticipated challenge with Duke was toys. As an avid hunter, Duke played with his prey. He knew birds, he knew mice, he didn’t know string. He did like to steal things. He stole Jerry’s socks. He stole pens (or anything small) off the coffee table. We bought a variety of toys for Baby Duke. He looked at them. He stared at us. Looked back and the toys, and back at us. We made baby-voice talking noises, and flipped those sticks adorned with ribbon, waiting for him to leap into the air and catch them! Nope. He looked at us like we were insane. 

My favorite experience is when we break out the laser. Oh, Ted LOVES the laser and he will run spastically. Seriously, he is completely spastic, even at 12 years old he still plays like a kitten. He gets wide eyed, and his legs sprawl out, he spins in circles, making himself fall over. He will chase that laser around the room and practically up the walls and across the ceiling like a cartoon character. Cecilia will partake, but only if Ted isn’t around (neither CeeCee nor Duke will play with Ted because Ted is a toy hog). But Duke? He sits there and looks at them with an expression that says, “You’re chasing a ray of light that you cannot catch. What are you doing?” It makes me laugh every time.

Finally, we discovered that Duke enjoys toys with feathers. Feathers on a stick work because we can kind-of-sort-of make it look like a bird in flight and he will jump in the air, catch it and walk off with the pride of the lion. We always give him huge praise for catching his toys, which may be the only reason he does it: to please his humans.

As he’s gotten older and I suppose resorted to pure boredom, he’s become more accustomed to playing with other things. We keep a toy box in the family room and the cats help themselves to the toys they feel like. We currently have a collection of stuffed toys he enjoys. The Cosmic Carrot is a favorite of all the cats in our house. I think we have three or four currently floating around. Duke brings them all into our room at night as little gifts. He also brings us his condor, and Buddy. Buddy is a stuffed little dog with a squeaker. Daily, Duke kills him and brings him to me. I haven’t trained him to bring the toy ALL the way to me, usually when I make eye contact he drops the dog and runs to me; but the antics are something to listen to. I always miss the actual kill, but he meows and howls, then howls with his mouth full of Buddy as he carries him by the head, trotting from one room to another, delivering the squeaky dog to me (or near me).

Interestingly enough, none of the cats really care for the fake mice, nor do they care for balls. It’s all about string and feathers in our house. And catnip pillows. I keep those hidden away as special treats for them to drool over and roll on every once in a while.

The Duke Diaries – Week Two Fluids

A little ditty I discovered at the vet’s office. I MUST get one for home!

I’m going to open with our major coup! Woke up this morning and got out of bed. Duke followed. It’s cold here right now (maybe 60 this morning), so I got dressed and turned on the Keurig. Brought the fluid set up into my bathroom. Duke followed. I busted out some treats and Ted appeared (he can hear the opening of a treat bag, or the crack of a tuna can from pretty much anywhere). Both received some treats while I set up the needle. I was dreading the Week Two, Day Two administration.

Week Two, Day One was no bueno. Duke knows what’s happening and he didn’t want to participate that day. Needles popped out right and left. Finally I parked myself next to him while he slept in a sunny spot. I gave him pets and messed around on my phone until we were both calm. I tried to slide the needle in while he was sleeping, but he knows… so he sat up and let me do it. Then he walked off, under my dresser, and sat there. Thankfully he stayed still for a bit. We got 100ccs in before he decided to get up an shimmy his way out of the needle. The dose was fine, but it took three tries and I was convinced this would be come an increasingly difficult battle.

Then Week Two, Day Two arrived. With Ted booted out of the bathroom, Duke looked at me with eyes that said, “Ugh, we’re doing it, aren’t we.” “Yes,” I said, “Today is fluid day, but we will make it quick, and you can have treats, and then we will be done.” He reluctantly ate another treat while I fussed with the fur on his scapula. He walked away once, then settled down. He just sat there, still, while I found the spot and inserted the needle. Just still. I flipped up that roller to let the fluid flow; the needle was in a good, secure spot. I put down a handful of treats and the Dukester crunched away for 125ccs. Right at that 125 mark he was over it. He got up, leaving treats behind and walked a few steps. I turned off the IV (first time I got to turn it off without receiving a saline shower!), removed the needle gently, and opened the door for him. This time they were happy tears that trickled out unwillingly. He’s just such a good boy.

Happily, the rest of week two and now into week three (where are the WEEKS going?) have gone well. Even the “bad” sessions aren’t bad. I like to think myyyyyy fur baby is a GENIUS, but the receptionist at the vet’s office said, “Yeah, they’re all pretty good about it; it’s not really a big deal.” I beg to differ. It’s totally a big deal. I’m much more confident (like I pretended to be Week One, Day One), and Duke feels that.  We’ve got a little routine going and that’s good for both of us.

A happy side effect is that Ted is thrilled because my house has become Treat Central and since he’s such a Skinny Snausage (yes, Snausage) he gets treats too. Since Cecilia pretty much keeps to herself, she hasn’t caught on to the Treat Typhoon which is good because the little fat girl shouldn’t be indulging. All in all, things are pretty good. Duke gets labs done in another two weeks, so fingers crossed there’s an improvement.

Thank you everyone for all of your warm thoughts. Duke and I really appreciate it.

The Duke Diaries – The Purr Pack

The Purr Pack helping Mama UNpack in Texas


By the time we met Duke he was 18 months old and he had cultivated a successful survival routine. In addition to his impeccable human manipulation skills, he was an accomplished hunter. Even though he enjoyed hunting, he really enjoyed air conditioning. As the months passed, Duke began spending more nights with Jerry and so a litter box became necessary to prevent his little bladder from bursting. During one of my visits to Texas, I set up a nice little station, but the poor little guy had no idea what it was or what he was supposed to do with it so he cried the next morning to go outside to relieve himself. All it took was one quick training session which did involve me scratching at the litter (clean litter) he knew what to do.

The downside to Duke’s brilliance and his increasing dependence on Jerry was that he would alert the entire complex to Jerry’s absence. After spending a weekend with me in California to help pack up the house, Jerry returned to Texas and a neighbor said, “So, you were gone this weekend?”

“What do you mean? How did you know I was gone?”

Apparently, Duke had climbed the tree next to our bathroom window and he CRIED and CRIED and CRIED all weekend. Had he simply gone to the back door, I would have understood. That was where he came in and out, and where we left food and water. But the bathroom window was around the corner of the building. Yes, we were on the second floor, so I suppose that it only made sense that the cat would climb the adjacent tree to try to get our attention. Until this point, Duke hadn’t officially been adopted. He came and went as he pleased and his schedule was erratic. It became pretty clear after this that we were his primary humans.

After I relocated to Texas and we moved into our house, we decided Duke should come too. I pulled in next to the Firebird, loaded him in the Highlander, and off we went.  There was a short detour to the vet for shots, his microchip, and neutering. I wasn’t sure if he would adapt to being an indoor only cat. But he recovered in the new house and has never tried to leave us (on purpose anyway). We figure he was like, “Damn, there’s air conditioning, food that someone else kills and serves to me, there’s other cats to boss around, and a BED. Yeah, I think I’ll just stay here.”

Just like that, the Purr Pack was born.

The Duke Diaries – Week 1 Fluids

I went in to this with some false confidence. I figured if I just believed it would be easy, then it would be easy. In addition to just doing the IV fluids, I’m also “training” Jerry. Thankfully, we do this every other day, so we all get a mini-break.

Day one of the training / administration, Duke was hanging out with us, watching what we were up to (sometimes I swear he’s like Google and observes and then regurgitates what we’re doing). I actually got the needle in the first time. Duke was NOT happy, but we got fluids started. Where I faltered was while I was asking Jerry to confirm if the fluid was flowing (“asking” is a rather kind way to put it; it was more of a frantic ISITFLOWING?ISITFLOWING?ISITFLOWING?) I was trying to restrain Duke instead of letting him walk around. So the needle came out. I tried to get the needle in a second time immediately after, with the lure of wet food, but Duke was wise to us and was not having it. He was rewarded with pets and treats and I was forgiven with purrs and head butts.

The third attempt (still Day 1) was about an hour later and we administered the fluid in my office. I didn’t restrain him, yet we didn’t close the office door. He sat for a while, but the coolness of the famotidine hit and he didn’t care for that. He tolerated it a little longer, but then had enough and he ran. If he walks, we can follow him easily, but he thought Jerry was chasing him, so he ran fast and POP, needle out. So Lesson #2 = perform in a more restrictive area so running isn’t an option. I realize this sounds like a no-brainer, but we were working on Lesson #1 = don’t restrain. We got all of the famotidine in him (which coats his belly so he doesn’t feel sick) and about 75-100ccs of fluid (goal is 125cc).

Treats and purrs were exchanged and the best sunny spot in the house was found for lounging. I chalked up Day 1 to a success.

Day 2 was dispensed by the vet tech. I was out of town for a few days, and Jerry had only seen it done once by me, so on his way to his follow up appointment at Cleveland Clinic he dropped Duke at the vet, went to his own appointment, then retrieved Duke and both were comfortably at home. We also figured out Duke’s transportation / car sickness issues, so he made the trip both ways without vomiting. WIN! HUGE WIN!

Day 3 was Wednesday and I did the IV by myself. The bathroom worked best because the space is large enough for him to walk around, but he can’t run. He can hover in corners, but not get under anything. The needle action went a little better this time, but I only administered about half of the dose before the needle popped out (okay maybe I didn’t do a great job).

Day 4 went pretty well. I did the IV by myself again because we think it’s less stressful if only one of us is in the room. Duke followed me in the bathroom and he enjoyed some treats while I set up. He knows what’s coming when I pet between his scapula. I try to move the needle to different locations, but he may be sore there as well. I’ve learned a little better how to hold the IV bag so it flows faster and I’ve got the famotidine piggy back down good. Duke does NOT like it. He doesn’t fight, but he’s not happy either (would you be?). We got 100ccs in today, so I’m pleased with that.  My baby flinched away from me when I tried to pet him, which turned on my faucet of tears. I let him out of the bathroom. Had a cry and a good hug from my hubby. About an hour later Duke crawled up next to me on the couch. I got purrs and snuggles. Here is the up to the moment picture of Duke – just resting with The Mama.