Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Handsomest Cat

On March 14, 2007, a young grey and white cat was found scrounging for food in a McDonald's dumpster. He was picked up and taken to an animal hospital down the road and named "Shamrock Shake," since that was the special treat at McDonald's at the time for St Patrick's Day. He was a stinky intact male tomcat who desperately needed a bath and a neuter.

I worked at an animal clinic that took in stray cats and fed them until they found homes. In the morning all hospitalized animals needed cages cleaned and changed, and new food and water. I never did the strays because I couldn't have pets while still living at my parents home, and I didn't want to fall in love with a kitten I couldn't keep. Until one day.

I walked into the cat ward, and in the first cage was a grey cat who immediately began pawing at me through the bars and rubbing his head all over. I opened it up and he was just as happy. He was handsome. I looked at his cage card and saw it said Shamrock Shake.

Dublin in F-Ward at WVMC

Later he had his neuter surgery. A knot slipped and he hemorrhaged little. NBD. Then when he was healed, I gave him a bath. He just sat there letting me bathe him, and stared off into the distance like his life was over. But it had just begun.

He was put on the adoption board as a young, active, 9 month old cat. He was taken home and returned twice, once because he was a gift and the receiver did not want a cat, and once because he was too old and they wanted a younger kitten.  After the second time, I couldn't bear to let him be rejected again. I added him to my account and changed his cage card. "Shamrock Shake" would have to go though. I enlisted help from my teammates. We decided to stick to the Irish theme. One of the assistants suggested Clover. Too demure. How about Dublin? Yes.

My fiancé was soon returning home from Oregon so we could attend his cousin's wedding in April. I called him and told him that before he left, he should go out and procure a litter box, litter and cat food because he would be returning with a cat.

"But I don't want a cat." He said.

I said, "Well it's not up for discussion. You'll learn to love him." And...

Two days after arriving at his new home 2800 miles away from that dumpster, he was sleeping on my pillow next to my future husband. He has been my husbands favorite cat since then.

On my pillow

Later that Spring I received my acceptance letter to vet school. When I brought Bella out two months later, he accepted her immediately and they became so close, I had to leave them together in Oregon when I went to school.

As they aged and became more mature, my husband started calling him Fatman, even though he really wasn't that fat.  We also referred to him as Handsome Man, Little Buddy, and Bud-bud. We really only started calling him Dublin again once my daughter could talk, since we didn't want to teach her it was ok to call furries or people fat.

He was super sweet, never hissed or tried to bite or scratch anyone. He was cautious, preferring to hide first and ask questions later if someone knocked on the door. He was always the last to come out and meet people. He was intensely playful, and would jump in for a game any time. He chased the laser pointer with a sniper's focus. He attacked toy mice with a frenzy worthy of Nat Geo. He trotted around with his tail ramrod straight up in the air, except that time Bella did something to him and it was down for a few days. He never ate wet food but he did have a penchant for Chinese.

Catnip was a favorite
He never sat on our laps unless forced but he was always near us and wanting to be scratched. He loved to be furminated but pretended he hated it.  He had a substrate preference for soft, fluffy towels and would ball them up and urinate on them whenever he had the chance. This actually worked out well because it trained my husband to not leave towels on the floor. He loved watching birds and laying in the sun. He wanted to go outside so we got him a harness and let him go out occasionally. I even had plans to build him an outdoor cat enclosure so he could go outside and breathe the air.

Dublin in the Sun

When Sophie arrived on scene, she started bullying him. He backed down even though he was easily twice her size. He accepted Alice without anything except curiosity. He even warmed up to my daughter and eventually let her pet him and stroke his tail, and he would rub against her. He loved to have his whiskers scratched.

On the porch in Portland

He began losing weight 6 months ago. He had a long standing heart condition that was controlled with medication and practically non-existent. Every test I ran came back normal. I posted his case on VIN and in Facebook groups for vets. I asked colleagues for ideas. I thought it might be intercat stress and tried everything I could think of to reduce stress in the house, but my stress increased and was sustained as he continued to lose. Eventually I started him on mild treatment for GI disease presuming that's what it was since no other cause could be found. Still nothing worked and he finally went in for endoscopic biopsies. I was substantially worried to leave him, but I had a previously booked girls trip starting the day after his biopsies were taken.

The day after I left, he had a saddle thrombus and my poor husband had to take his favorite cat to be euthanized without me.

I am so heartbroken. I wasn't there for him when he needed me most, I wasn't there for my husband or daughter to ease the pain of this. I couldn't have predicted this or done anything to fix it, but I still feel like I failed him as a vet and mother. I could have sought more help, taken him to the cardiologist, did more investigating, something.

My little buddy, I am so sorry for the pain you went through. I am so sorry I wasn't there to support you in your last moments. I am so sorry for bringing three bitchy cats into your life and letting them boss you around. I will forever treasure your sweet gentle spirit and I hope you can forgive me. I hope you are running free and chasing birds like you always wanted. I hope I will see you again someday. I love you--love, mommy

The Handsomest Man

Other Blogs featuring Dublin:
Professional Courtesy and Pay-it Forward
Mirrored Cats
Three Bad Cats

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

YES it fucking hurts and other idiocy

Lately I feel like I am defending everything I say in the exam room. I have to compete with Dr. Google constantly. I don't just have to explain things. I have to actually convince owners that I know what I am talking about. (If I really don't know what I am talking about, I will tell them I don't and we will discuss where to find someone who does. That's called referral).

For example. A client came in with a clearly limping cat and said the cat got out a few days ago and came back limping. It hasn't gotten better, so she brought the cat in for an exam.

Many times, limping cat appointments are unrewarding because the adrenaline of the vet visit masks pain and so the cat often will not show any limp or pain during it's exam. This time though, anybody could have seen that the cat was favoring it's left front leg.

I recommended radiographing the leg and some pain medication to take home, assuming no bones were broken. The owner agreed that this was a reasonable plan. But, once my receptionist went in with my estimate for exam, radiographs, and pain management, the owner flipped out, said the cat is not in pain "He's just limping" and took him home without any treatment.

Well, when was the last time you hurt your foot? Pulled a muscle? Did you limp around, screaming in pain constantly for days after you stubbed your toe? NO!

It is a common misconception (I'm not sure why, honestly) that if an animal is not crying out, it is not in pain. Animals have an instinct to hide pain and illness for many reasons including self preservation. Most animals WILL NOT continuously cry out in pain from minor or even major injuries. If a cat or dog is screaming in pain constantly, obviously that warrants immediate attention. However, silent pain is there and deserves equal respect and attention.

Animals do not limp just because it's fun. You or I don't hop down the street on one leg just for the hell of it. They limp because they cannot bear to put their full weight on that limb.

I recently broke some bones and dislocated a rib. I didn't cry when it happened, but have been in pretty constant pain since. But I am still sitting here quietly writing this blog on my lunch break where I am back at work full time, driving, and doing all my regular activities without screaming in pain constantly.

So therefore, yes, it fucking hurts.

Ultimately I think this comes down to ---- duh-duh-na-nah! Money. She probably didn't have the money or didn't want to have the money for the recommended plan, but instead of asking if we could just try pain meds first, she decided to get angry and leave with nothing, except her painful cat.