hope, Lost pet, pets, Uncategorized

Cat Tales

Our cat Bo got out last night. Of our two orange tabbies, he’s the more convivial one, the one I’ve taught to shake, and sit, and lie down. He’s the dog in a very large cat’s body. The one who needs to stick around long enough to enjoy our renovation when it’s complete. Why did we even start work on a screened porch if not for Bo?

Disney World for cats

Every escape, he runs out the door, darts left and ends up in the crawl space. Of course on the morning when it’s cold and rainy and a Monday no less, not this time. Last night I searched, really searched. With my husband’s old sweatshirt on and his sweatpants wrapped around me, drawstring pulled tight, I crept army style in our crawlspace hovering wherever there were breaks in wires and ducts and furnaces. I kept thinking, please don’t let some creepy black widow spider fall on my head and just then reached to find the sweatshirt came with a hood. Thank you, God. While subterranean, I phoned my son who always has success pulling this escape artist from the rubble. He gave me some pointers – just move around the perimeter and the minute you see him continue to track him. I know it’s a horrible job, but we know he always goes down there. Do you want me to come over?” Oh how I wanted to say yes, but he’d just left hours earlier to return to college and was settling into his dorm. I declined but feeling the love from my above-ground cheer section was boost enough, though it didn’t produce the cat I was after. 

Resigned, I went to bed, knowing his crawl space antics would run their course and his sweet face would peek out at me under the door in the morning. Up early to light rain outside I returned to the door. No Bo. Back inside to dress in the sooty sweats I’d left in a heap at the door, I crawled some more. Still no Bo. Started coffee and at this point my poor husband got the news, sick since the escape occurred on his watch. 

Have You Seen Me?

Next it was rallying whatever and whomever I could. Texted neighbors, posted to the neighborhood list serve and NextDoor, knocked on doors beside and behind me. Met several neighbors I didn’t know and it dawned on me, most people are really nice. Another sweep of the yard and crawl space entry and back in for more coffee and to craft verbiage for a sign. Which picture would I use to depict this sweet boy? Which one to tug at heartstrings and push someone to actually search their crawlspace? Found it! The one of him lounging on my mom’s old rug. The ultimate pampered and well-loved ginger cat. Who is lost. 

On to the FedEx store where I printed and laminated signs and then to my old neighbor’s house to borow her staple gun. Again, people are so nice and genuinely want to help. My husband called me with an update: he’d crawled into our new cellar and noticed something which had the distinct appearance of recent cat elimination (a highfalutin way to describe it but I’m trying to spare you gross). But for those with human and fur babies, think about how often we discuss such things? When their kids are little, parents ask each other, Did he poop? Was it normal? When did it happen? The parent returning to the nest overjoyed of course to greet the freshly diapered child who’d produced a perfect poop. With pets, it’s more of gathering intel before a dog walk: Did she go when you last took her out? Or with cats who left a horrible mess in their box, one wonders, should I switch his food? Or to find a little present deposited outside the box only to Google an afternoon away poring over what psychological or physiological distresses would bring such behavior. But this wasn’t simply evidence of a cat doing its business on a rainy Monday morning. This was something.

People genuinely want to help.

I made 12 signs and drove the walking route from earlier when I’d knocked on doors. The rain was falling but I worked quickly stapling them to poles, envisioning which were in the ideal location for passing footpath, car path too, since surely my yellow highlighted action items – please search your crawl space, please call me – would get notice however you passed.

Back home inside to drop off my things and head back out armed with tuna, a flashlight and my phone. Around the corner past the condensing units, I saw his sweet face, a fluffy copper visage standing on the side yard’s damp moss bed. We exchanged glances. Him: Where have you been? I’m ready to come in. But because I’m a cat, we have to do that thing we do. I have to walk away out of reach and you have to follow. Me: Get over here you rascal. I’ve been sick with worry! I have tuna, solid white in water. Doesn’t that count for something? The cat and human game moved inside the crawlspace, past the first room, around the corner to where the furnace is. I could tell he wanted a rest, but I had to work for it. A few more feet of crawling and I had him in one arm, my flashlight and tuna in the other. We made our way out and he squirmed a little, but I held tight. 

I have tuna, solid white in water. Doesn’t that count for something? 

Not the least bit ashamed of himself

Once inside, he disappeared, deservedly embarrassed about his antics or appearance, to take a bath and regroup. I needed a warm blanket or drawn bath or something to soothe. I chose coffee, this time with a little sugar. My treat for all that trouble. 

I feel like I won an Oscar and I have a host of people to thank. The lady at FedEx who taught me the lamination machine, took one look at my beautiful cat on my sign and gave me a sympathetic nod letting me know she also has a cat. The guy three doors down who I clearly interrupted, answering the door in his robe and who genuinely tried to help, pointing out areas around his house I could look. The people on NextDoor who commented, cheering on my victory. The neighbor behind me backing down her driveway stopping to hear my story, offering me her yard to explore and eyes full of empathy telling me she’d read my NextDoor post. She passed me later in her car as I climbed the hill walking back toward my house, her daughter’s face pressed against the car window watching the cat lady clutching tuna in the rain fade from view. 

Supervising mealtime

And then there’s my husband who worked all day from home and had to get into the office too, yet seeing my lack of steam, made me dinner. The best leftovers he fashioned from our fridge contents: crisped up Publix chicken tenders sliced atop a bed of kale and cucumbers, and a little parmesan, with a light drizzle of Caesar dressing overtop. And a side of my lentil soup to finish off the pot I made a few days back. Cold and warm, crispy and soft. It all tasted divine and I ate it in bed with Bo at my side. 

Three cups for the day and I’m tired and wired, alternating falling asleep with looking at the clock and trying to determine what to do with the remains of the day since I blew my morning on cat detail. As I do in other emergencies, I bargain with God, Please let Bo be okay and help me find him. Or the bigger recent plea, please let me stay healthy. I promise I’ll be a better person. I’ll eat better, stress less, exercise more. This is my reset if you could just help me this once. I mean it. It seems God is listening. 

Can you spot the distinctive M shaped marking on his forehead?

appetite, Atlanta, Food, pets

Whetting The Appetite

My mom used to pack a few fun-sized Milky Ways in our lunchboxes on test days. You know, “for energy?” The idea of treats accompanying challenges started a long time ago in my family, and seems I’ve perpetuated the tradition. Today I needed a similar salve, for reasons detailed below and having left the house quickly this morning with nothing but a cup of coffee and slice of pear in my belly. 

The larger of our two cats, Bo, had been scooting across the rug for weeks, and if you’ve ever owned cats, you’d know this as a sign of clogged anal glands and time to schedule an anal sac expression. It’s an awful visual, I know, but how do you think the poor techs feel who get to drain these squirming felines out their back end? A love bug at home, at the vet Bo is a member of the “Possible Caution” patient group, since crossing the threshold, he morphs into a monster, with fangs and bad breath to boot. 

Bo is a member of the “Possible Caution” patient group

Preparation for today’s appointment was a series of steps. You can opt for twilight sedation during the procedure which costs more and leaves your cat pissy and groggy much of the day, or you can take the edge off his anxiety with a few strategically timed Gabapentin pills, the night before and morning of. I took the latter route and last night after dinner started crushing a few pills into wet dog food, Bo’s favorite. In retrospect I should have pulled his dry food and left him hungrier so he would have finished the pea sized meatballs I’d made. Once he tired of the dog food, I rolled bits of cheddar around the Gabapentin dust, making little balls which I hoped would also tempt him. Bo found this impressive energy for an atypical après dinner snack suspect and left the room, likely already full from the dog food he’d inhaled. We added in a little turkey to the mix thinking over the course of the night he could nibble on this extravagant smorgasbord and by morning, transform into a floppy ragdoll, ready for his final two chill pills and a successful sac expression.

For ingesting his breakfast pills, I had the bright idea to tear open a pouch of solid white tuna, which I typically reserve for my tuna fish sandwiches. I twisted the two remaining Gabapentin capsules on a plate and cut their dust into ¾ tsp of tuna. A little tuna juice for binding and you’ve got yourself quite a breakfast, with a nice slice of calm on the side. As I had pulled Bo’s food during the night, he awoke hungry and lapped up every bit of the tuna and juice. At sixteen pounds, Bo can pack in a lot, and feeling sorry for him with the upcoming anal attention, I brought his kibble back out and he continued with the eating.

Bo can pack in a lot

When it was time to leave, Bo was that very ragdoll I envisioned, and it was a cinch to lower him into his vinyl mesh carrying case. I think he must have slept the nearly entire 6.5 miles there, drifting in and out of catnip dreams as my Spotify Christmas playlist hummed along. With ¾ of a mile left to go and in the exact same location on Amsterdam Avenue where my previous cats have also decided to call it quits, Bo let out a loud grown or two and then vomited up an impressive pile. He had the wherewithal to step back from the shocking regurgitation mound and I pulled over quickly figuring out a plan. Obviously, there was a mess in his carrier to clean, but at least it was contained on the fleece pad liner which I could easily pull out. With my trusty roll of paper towels I always keep in my car (and which I instruct my husband and sons to also always keep), I formed a wad to both blot and slide the mess to the outer edge of the mat, all the while trying to keep this slowly but steadily waking lion from climbing out of his cage. It was too much to clean parked on the side of the road and approaching our appointment time, so I zipped the carrier closed and finished the drive. 

Once at the vet, I called them to alert them to my situation, being that there was a pile of vomit, a crazy cat beginning to wake up and they’d best come quickly to the passenger door and grab him if we’re to pull off this scheme. Meanwhile, I continued to try and clean the mess, soon realizing the cat needed to come out of the carrier. I pulled him out and by some miracle, his fur was vomit-free (cats are remarkably clean creatures) and he snuggled in my lap settling in and resuming his nap. Some fourteen minutes later a tech emerged at my driver’s side window, and despite the detailed instructions I already gave, I had to lower my window letting in gushing cold air and retell the story trying my best to speak in a whisper (waking cat, remember?) and instruct them on what to do: walk over to the passenger side, lift the soiled mat out of the carrier so I can lower Bo in it and run like hell inside and get moving on his butt procedure. At this point, Bo is awake and coming out of that sleepy sweet mode, lifting his strong curious periscope head with a “What? Who is this? Where are we?” alert mode I know all too well. I released Bo to them, and they came back out three minutes later – still carrying him in his carrier – to find me scraping cat vomit from his fleece liner and into their outside trash can, to ask what time he last had his Gabapentin. I quickly answered, “8:15am,” and satisfied, they turned around and headed in, leaving me to continue with my cleanup.

Autumn merges with Christmas in downtown Decatur

I felt encouraged as I waited some 15 minutes in the parking lot, busying myself with my Spotify Christmas playlist, alternating songs and marveling at my great memory of Henry Mancini childhood carols and nice variety of current favorites to mix in. I then noticed the vet tech walking toward my car, and I’m feeling good about it all. I’d done the tough work, gotten all the sleepy pill dust in this crazy cat and the vet did their job, the routine expression of yet another cat’s bile. With a new lighter load, we’d head back home together joyfully noticing holiday lights along the way. 

Instead, all I got was “It was a no go,” the tech shaking her head at my optimistic naivete and handing over the carrier, lopsided from the 16lb orange bundle cowered in one corner. I couldn’t just drive off defeated so instead I pleaded, “Can’t you then just drug him and get it done? Can I come inside to the back and hold him for you while you do it?” She half-heartedly said she’d go check with the doctor. Another ten minutes in the car, trying not to look Bo in the eyes because Mommy at this point, was livid, and the phone rang, the tech’s voice returning an, “I’m sorry I talked to the doctor and you can’t come back, no one can unless they’re saying goodbye to their pets (don’t tempt me). The doctor will call you and discuss next steps.” 

At this point it’s well after 11am and I’m not going to just drive home defeated. I needed something for all my efforts – multiple unsuccessful attempts at pilling a large stubborn pet, swirling wet dogfood into bb sized balls, the interminable wait for the water to turn hot so said dogfood smell, after intense scrubbing with soap, can leave my skin, the tearing of beautiful Tillamook cheddar into bits for rolling into Gabapentin dust, the morning’s pre coffee tuna juice wafting over the kitchen, the victory of the tuna disappearing into the cat’s belly and the confidence I had pulled it off. The smooth roller coaster ride followed by bottoming out in ill-fated vomit, from which we would never recover. 

Flat white and egg bites.

What I needed was a Starbucks cheddar ham egg bite and a short flat white with one raw sugar stirred in. Intent on avoiding the Ansley Mall Starbucks which hasn’t a drive through, I began yelling into the air, “Starbucks near here!” and then found myself understandably pissed that no one’s answered me. A few more times, and still nothing, and it dawns on me that Siri’s requisite “Hey Siri” salutation had not occurred, and therefore she wasn’t going to do squat. I then greeted her appropriately and she obliged. We found another Starbucks a mile away. The map showed a few crazy hairpin turns and if one were a map reader, they would simply understand to turn around on Piedmont and proceed in the opposite direction. However, if one is map challenged, that person might make a slew of wrong turns only to aggravate Siri who is trying her damnedest to stay level-headed. Finally, as if mocking me like some mirage across the dessert, a Starbucks shop appeared on my right and I followed its signs to cue up in the drive-through. Big orange on my right at this point is realizing he is trapped and is determined to throw his weight around in hopes of breaking free. I, meanwhile, have placed my order and am beyond excited to now have it in hand. The cheddar bacon egg bites, their virtues long ago extolled in a magazine interview by Hoda Kotb which turned me onto them, are nothing short of sublime. And my Turkish friend introduced me to my now favorite coffee there, a flat white. I ordered the smallest, an 8oz short, with a packet of raw sugar (a treat I reserve for coffee out). I pulled out of the parking lot and into a neighborhood to park and enjoy it all. Bo lifted his nostrils smelling the lusciousness overtaking the car, but I ignored him, turned up my Christmas carols and savored every morsel and drop. I still haven’t heard from the doctor, but I know it’s going to be a good day.