We had settled into a nice little life, the animals, the hubby and I. Life was crazy, sure. But the general insanity was expected, and for the most part, mitigated. Mealtime was arranged to avoid a repeat of the drive-by chicken episode. The fridge was secured like Fort Knox. Sleeping arrangements were worked out so that I’d get a good night’s sleep at least once a week. Accommodations were created to make the house safe for a medically-challenged dog. A routine was established for the care and feeding of the moose and his sister.
Sure, I’m a dog person now, but like I say, I’ve always had kitties. So the
year started with four kitties in the house – all of them old. They came from multiple sources – one from a previous marriage, one from the current marriage, and two that we inherited when my mom became ill and could no longer care for her own zoo. The youngest cat was fourteen. It was like a nursing home for elderly kitties.
With so many old cats in the house, things were bound to happen. To begin with, it seemed like all of the cats dropped weight at once – a sign of impending doom in a cat. The two boys, however, seemed to fade faster. They were the oldest of the bunch, so not totally surprising. But this seemed especially significant, as they both seemed to lose their quality of life simultaneously.
It is hard to wrap my brain around how this happened, but we ended up saying goodbye to the two of them at the same time. We made the appointment for one kitty, and showed up with two. Horrifying, but a solid decision that I stand by. I couldn’t go through it twice in short succession and it was impossible to determine which cat was the sicker of the two.
So we were instantly down to two cats, two dogs, and two humans. It was heartbreaking.
We adapted to a new normal. Quite a bit less yowling – Edgar had been a Siamese, a breed notorious for their loud, sonorous voices. Edgar found that if he stood in the upstairs shower, he could make his complaints known throughout the whole house. Bubba (a brain-damaged, seizure-ridden, black Domestic Shorthair) had also been quite a warbler. In fact, why is it that all old kitties (at least those in residence at Allison’s Home for Elderly Felines) yell so much?
The year progressed and our doggy routine continued. By this time, I was no longer working. At the losing end of a corporate layoff, I had been laid off just in time to nurse Dexter back to health after his last hip replacement – the one related to the infection in his bones. Still, we had our trusty dog walkers taking the kids out most days during the week, and I settled into a weekend walking routine. This is how I learned that Dexter could tell time.
Zeta didn’t tell time – or didn’t let on that she did. Her version of telling time was a commentary on how long it had been since Daddy left town. A subtle protest that involved sitting by the door for hours. Dexter knew for certain that there were three times a day that were crucial: 6:30am, 1pm and 4:30pm.
One had to be up by 6:30 to satisfy the hunger of the great beast! He’d start off gently enough. Perhaps a cold nose on your hand. Then maybe a nose on your face somewhere. If that failed to get your attention, the whining would start. Just as with the backdoor bells, he knew that we were trained to stop the awful whining noise. So he’d turn that noise on, getting louder and louder until he could no longer hold back a bark. Few things are as startling as a giant dog barking full voice about six inches away from your face. I was suddenly nimble as a cartoon character, jumping from a dead sleep to a fully upright standing position, ready to do my duty and feed the Moose!
At the other end of the day, The Moose began alerting me to the impending dinnertime at roughly 3:30 – a full hour before the minimum mealtime. This was similar to the breakfast routine, though the solo performance became a duet as his sister (who couldn’t be bothered to wake up that early for the morning routine) joined in. As soon as the two of them showed up in my office to stare me down and offer a little whine, I knew we were in striking range of dinner.
The Moose had no regard for weekends, though I know he knew the work week from the weekend. After all, it was only on weekends that he’d alert us to the leash.
On weekends we’d find Dexter standing under his leash promptly at 1:00. Without fail, he’d be there, whining slightly and wagging that ginormous tail of his. Rain or shine, he wanted to go out. He certainly loved his walks, but I like to think that he loved them particularly on the weekend, as it meant he and I would be walking together. I think he loved that time with me as much as I loved that time with him.
But, back to the story. We (the dog walkers and I) began to notice that Zeta was constipated. Not surprising for an old girl. She wasn’t ancient, but at 12 she was certainly starting to slow down. She had been an incredibly fast young girl, and had kept her youthful vigor for most of her life. Now, though, she was not playing fetch for quite as long, stopping to rest a bit more. Again, nothing too out of the ordinary for a senior dog.
I was too preoccupied with Dexter’s surgery and recovery to be terribly concerned about a little constipation – something for which I will always feel devastatingly guilty.
We gave her pumpkin. We walked her more. We made her kibble moist. Still there was no change. Poor girl would try and try, and very little would come out. It went on for months. Me spending all of my energy on Dexter, her trying ever so hard to poop, all of us commenting on the little pellets of rabbit poop we were seeing.
Eventually – and far, far too late – I took her to the vet.