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.
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.
Seriously, how could you NOT feed this boy?
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,
This year has been deemed my year of “Revolution”. “Revolution” is the word I chose as my “word of the year” (in lieu of a New Year’s Resolution). As part of my Revolution I took a course hosted by Kate Yoga in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. The program was written by Baron Baptiste, 40 Days to Personal Revolution. Nope, I cannot make this up. My word of the year was selected before I even knew this program EXISTED. I met really lovely people and learned a lot about myself. It entails exercise (yoga), meditation, journaling (including deep excavation questions), weekly group meetings, and being acutely aware of your diet (it doesn’t prescribe a diet but requires you to pay attention to what is going in your mouth). It included an optional 3-day fruit fast (I dubbed it the Fruit FEST), which I did. I did not die, but it was a bit of torture and required a lot of creativity. I have a new love for a salad made of avocado, mango and pomegranate seeds. I grilled pineapple for dinner, roasted eggplant (yes, it’s a fruit – trust me you find ANYTHING that is classified as a fruit!) and bought a great little hand held spiralizer ($15) to make zoodles (zucchini noodles). The bigger challenge was no seasoning or butter – just fruit. But post-fast (um FEST), I have held on to some of the same recipes and I add some garlic and olive oil, a little salt and I get the healthy eating with a little pleasure.
Grilled pineapple with avocado, mango and pomegranate salad
I voluntarily gave up desserts (ALL sugar was honestly too much work because sugar is in EVERYTHING) and I’m still holding firm with that (aside from the carrot cake I ate for four days straight at my grandmother’s house because she made that cream cheese frosting from scratch and it was amazing and how can you NOT eat your grandmother’s homemade cake???). After my initial REALLY AWFUL sugar detox period (some nights I still really crave sugar), I found that I stopped craving carbs as much (AKA sugar), which also led to not craving caffeine as often (I do have a cup of coffee a few times a week, but I don’t need it every day and no more Starbucks). Giving up all of those things may sound sad, perhaps like I’m missing out on things. However, focusing on whole foods really did make a difference in how I felt physically and mentally and that makes it worth it to me. I can feel your eyes rolling… and I get it… when you’re ready, maybe you’ll try it, and you’ll know what I mean. If you’re already walking that walk, you’re nodding, mmm hmmmmm. No, I’m not prepared to be vegetarian or vegan but I’m working to focus on whole foods with an emphasis on plant based foods and I like the results.
I started to beat myself up because I didn’t do the program 100% and that’s not my way. I did not do 90 minutes of yoga EVERY DAY during my last week. My meditations did NOT get to 30 minutes twice a day. BUT I did SOMETHING every day and Kate and Rob were such inspirational facilitators, that I was able to gain a lot from the program and would be willing to do it again. There’s always something more to learn. Always a deeper level. No, you don’t have to be some kind of yogi or guru to do the program. There were people participating who had never been on a yoga mat before. They thrived and it was amazing and inspiring to share their journey with them. There were people who weren’t ready and they dropped out. That happens in any course and that’s okay too. In the beginning of the course we learn the phrase “Begin Again.” So when you get off track, in the program, in LIFE, you stop, acknowledge it, and begin again. So wherever you are on your journey, know you can always Begin Again.