Eyes green as new Spring
By my side like a lion
Purrs with healing heart
Eyes green as new Spring
By my side like a lion
Purrs with healing heart
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.
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.
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.
Jerry accuses me on a regular basis of stealing his cat. If you’re a cat owner, you’re laughing, because you know perfectly well that it’s the cat who chooses – people can try- but if a cat doesn’t like you, she will straight up leave and move into the neighbors’ house if she likes them better. In our case, Duke did choose Jerry. I wasn’t even there. I was just a pleasant accompaniment.
It was the spring of 2009. Jerry had moved to Texas to run one of our properties. A cat appeared one day, meowing at the back door. He had a whole Lady and the Tramp routine. There was a loud meow to get your attention, then when you opened the door, a very cute (but still loud) meow, with BIG, striking green eyes. He did this cute paw thing where he would raise his leg and stretch his toes in and out like he was kneading the air. It was straight up adorable and you were compelled to feed him. He was skinny and dirty, which only made you want to feed him more. He’s no fool.
One day Jerry opened the back door to the demands of the scruffy cat. The mercury was creeping up and the smart kitty was hot. So he walked on in to the AC and plopped down on the kitchen floor. There was no invitation. It’s just how it was going to be. I received a call at our home in California from someone posing as my husband, “So what would I need to do if I wanted to keep this cat?”
It’s worth mentioning here that my husband is (was) not a cat person. I was already an accidental cat lady when Jerry met me (really, it happens by accident). When we moved in together I brought Simon and Jerry tolerated it. After Simon passed we were catless for a few months. Then came Cecilia and months later, Theodore. Two was the “limit” and while Jerry had approved them both, I initiated the adoptions. He has since become The Cat Whisperer because any cat will come to him, but at the time, nearly ten years ago, this call came as quite a shocker.
I gave him a list of things to buy and the cat took to hanging out with him during the day, following him to the management office (where there was AC). At night he began choosing Jerry’s company over hanging out in the broken down Fire Bird he used to live in. He’d steal Jerry’s socks and hide them. He’d meow to go outside to relieve himself. Never, ever an accident indoors. Such a smart boy.
Ah, but how’d he get his name you ask? Ohhh, that swagger. This cat had a swagger like no other. He owned everything. He was the Texas Cat. He was like John Wayne. He was The Duke.
It’s been a challenging week at Casa de Copelan. My hair needs to be washed. My face is puffy. My heart is tired. We are entering a phase of the New Normal, yet I don’t know what that is or really what it means. I only know that what was will no longer be.
Duke is my youngest. He was unplanned. Yet as many unplanned things turn out, he is one of the best things to happen in my life. Duke is my constant companion. We have great conversation, and he snuggles into my hip nook every night. We cook together, and he hangs out with me when I get dressed every morning. He’s not much help with laundry or cleaning, but he will kill a spider for me when asked to do so. Yes, Duke is my cat. Or rather, I am Duke’s human.
Two days ago, Duke was diagnosed with Stage IV kidney disease. It’s serious. Very serious. He was displaying some subtle, odd behavior such as occasional vomiting and some excessive water consumption. Though not obese, this big boy weighed in at 15+ pounds at his peak. Even though he was on a diet, he seemed to be looking a little too slim in the hips for my liking so this was the trigger that led us to the vet. If I look back, perhaps he’s been slightly lethargic – it’s hard to tell with cats who sleep 20 hours a day. But he is still jumping to to the high places, he maintains his Alpha status with his brother and sister, and still brings me ALL of his toys in the middle of the night. He is 100% on task even if he’s not feeling his best.
Yesterday Cassie the vet tech with the huge heart took lots of time to teach me how to administer IV fluids to Duke (and shared a much needed hug with me). The plan is to add enough fluid to his system to help his kidneys function. While the vet could make no promises, he is hopeful that we caught the disease at a place where the fluids will help. All of Duke’s other numbers are perfect, so if we can get this under control we will have more time together. I don’t know how much time that will be. As long as it’s quality time for him I will do whatever needs to be done.
In the meantime, I’m starting The Duke Diaries. Yes, you will be seeing more social media posts about Duke and I’ll be sharing the stories only Duke could make happen. He’s an incredible creature and sharing his story makes my heart happy. I think it will make your heart happy too.
With love and gratitude,