Today is three months since our Sweet Dukie left us. Ted has really stepped up his game as Alpha. Cecilia, while I believe she could absolutely fill the role, just won’t. Ted is the new Alarm Clock – man he makes so much NOISE – and he has no concept of the 9 minute snooze. He makes little chortling noises “mmm, mmm, grunt grunt mmm mmm, grunt grunt,” usually accompanied by some sort of physical abuse. If I don’t respond rapidly enough in his furry little mind, he stands on my pillow and whacks me in the head. On occasion he will lay on my head and knead my scalp. Honestly, it feels really good, so sometimes I pretend to be asleep just to see if I’m gonna get a kitty paw scalp massage.
He’s a pretty good food reminder – but usually only when he’s hungry. Duke would start “reminding” me at least an hour before meal time, usually with a death stare. Ted is much more vocal. He trots out, happy as a clam (he’s ALWAYS happy as a clam) and says, “Meow.” I say, “Are you ready for dinner?” and he says, “Meow.” We chat back and forth discussing menu selection and I ask him to go get his sister… we go through a whole vocal routine which he fully participates in.
Cecilia is another story. I got them new beds: round, with high sides, fluffy, fuzzy, soft, cheap Amazon delights. They LOVE those damn beds. Cecila only gets out of hers when she gets too hot. This morning I had to coax her out to get her breakfast. She loves to prop her head against one side and stretch a leg out so its hanging off another edge. She’s happy as a… cat in a fluffy bed!
My heart still aches for Duke. I keep his yellow flower shrine going. I talk to him a little. He still watches over things for me. It makes me reflect often on loss and grief. A distant friend lost her husband 7 months ago. I think of her so very, very, often yet do not reach out as frequently as I would like. At least three people I know have lost pets in the time since I lost Duke. I think of them too. A couple very close to me suffered a miscarriage earlier this year. My grandmother and grandfather lost their daughter a month ago. Through their grief they are packing up their home in Arizona to move to Florida and they are planning to stay with me for a spell while we locate a new home for them. Hmmm, my Spidey Senses are tingling. Perhaps a new Blog Category: Stories of a Sicilian Grandmother? Hahahaha. Stay tuned.
Today I send out love to all of those who have lost. Right after I lost Duke, my friend sent me this TedTalk by Nora McIlnery. I love her message and I’d like to share it with you here. It’s for those who have lost, for those being supportive of those who have lost, and for people who know someone who have lost (aka this is for EVERYONE). It’s totally worth 15 minutes of your day.
Our Sweet Dukie crossed the rainbow bridge on April 10, 2019. I’d venture to say he was with us for exactly 10 years. He walked into our lives and into our hearts in April of 2009. That scruffy beggar cat became my greeter, my guardian, my alarm clock, my companion, my confidant, and the audience for all of my private singing and dancing one-man-shows.
Duke was the best thing that came out of Texas. We went there under less than desirable circumstances. Duke chose to spend his life with us. He brought us immense joy every day of his life. I am eternally grateful for that.
Duke was cared for by an amazing team of people. Jerry and I were both with him in his final moments. As a token of his Texas beginnings we left him with a yellow rose. It gives me a sense of peace that I can find him in every yellow rose I see from this day forward. Our vet tech created his paw print and presented it with tears. He was loved by everyone who met him.
A dear friend shared with me the belief that souls are “promoted” when they pass on from this life. Duke was SO promoted. Always the Alpha, I know his spirit is starting on amazing new things. I know he’ll always be watching me; forever my guardian.
The pain in my heart is real. It ranges from a dull ache to the stab of dagger. Simultaneously I feel a radiation of peace and relief that he is no longer suffering. He is free. He absolutely left a mark on my heart – a mark the size of Texas.
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.
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.”
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.
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