A BRIEF HISTORY OF PETS

This post is a departure from the usual home and renovation topics. But it’s what’s on my mind today, and really, a lot of days lately. Yesterday after Thora and Mike left for their tri-weekly trip to the YMCA, I spent the morning cleaning cat vomit and urine. And while I was doing this thoroughly unenjoyable and all-too-frequent task, my little blog was getting many, many visits from brand new readers by way of Apartment Therapy. I had no idea until I was all done, the house smelled good again and I finally sat at my desk to work. It was such a delight to see all the comments in my Inbox that weren’t spam and it made my day so much better. So thank you and welcome!

With that said, let’s talk about pets! This is Orange.

Orange is old, not a spectacular age for a cat, somewhere between 16 and 17 and certainly geriatric. She eats special food and takes medication twice daily for a hyper-thyroid. She suffers from incontinence. Or should I say, I suffer from her incontinence? This little lady leaves a puddle wherever she sits, sleeps or walks. She also barfs. A lot. Like, a lot a lot.

At a mere 4.7 lbs per her last checkup (pre-thyroid meds, I think she’s upwards of 6 lbs. today), Orange takes up more than her share of my time, my space and my cash. But I do love her, I swear.

Are you kidding me? This photo always cracks me up.

Today Orange is our only pet, but it hasn’t always been that way. At one point, between the two of us, Mike and I had four cats. And they were a mighty crew. I mean, LOOK at these guys! Randall, a black and white farm rescue was Mike’s late-night art companion for years. I brought Marlon, Roosevelt and Orange to the mix.

Softest kitty. Never needed a brush.

Randall was used to being the main event when Mike was a single guy, but he handled the new arrivals with grace—stepping to the side so Marlon could take his spot by the drafting table, and Roosevelt could walk by without kicking his ass. He was the sweetest and he drooled when getting a good rub. He was also the first to go, succumbing to the dreaded and almighty kidney failure. When he first got sick, I recognized it right away. My childhood cat, Sam, died the same way. First, you get the diagnosis. Hopeful, you attempt to treat it with daily fluid injections (which can be difficult to administer), and they get a little better for a little while. Then it stops working. And your cat gets smaller and weaker until finally you are forced to make the choice. And so we did.

Like a sack o’ potatoes.

Marlon was my pride and joy. I’ll cop to paying money for this cat, from a breeder. Sam was a Persian and when I lost him, I could not imagine a replacement. Until I met this cuddle muffin who once fit inside my palm. I loved him the way I love Thora. I kid you not. He could do no wrong. Everything about him was hilarious, adorable, perfect and genius. He was just so cool. Even with all that fur and pompous heritage, this cat was full of love and swagger. Oh my god I miss him. Marlon died in one day. One incredible, traumatic day. I came home from a girl’s weekend to find him stretched on the bathroom floor, sort of panting. It looked suspicious, but I thought maybe he was hot. But the panting didn’t stop and that night I woke up in a worry. I went to find him. He and Roosevelt were sitting by the refrigerator and they both looked worried. Roosevelt peeped and Marlon’s breathing was officially labored. I scooped him up and got online, Marlon draped over my arm. There it was, Cardiomyopathy.

Just another nap.

I headed to the vet the moment they opened and they whisked him off to X-ray. The results showed a heart that had grown much too large. I remember they weren’t sure if the walls of his heart had actually thickened or were filled with fluid. We discussed specialists and next steps, I was in tears. I can’t remember exactly what treatment they were going to start with that morning. But I do remember petting him too hard through the armholes of the oxygen tank he was laying in and with a dirty look, he swat me to tell me to cut it out. I smiled and sighed. Mike and I went across the street for coffee and to discuss, then we headed home. Marlon died before we got there. The vet said they went to give him an injection and his heart just stopped.

You shall not pass.

Roosevelt was my bully. I adopted Rosie, totally appropriate nickname btw, from a friend’s mother. She had found him and his siblings and his mother under an overpass in Lake Forest, IL. He was wild. His markings so beautiful. As a kitten he tore my arms to shreds, but thankfully not my furniture. He followed Marlon around like a shadow but never liked Orange. He was massive. Always a wildcard but he matured into a lap kitty who loved me. He would look you directly in your eyes and it seemed, ask you questions. Eventually he got fat, I suppose because his body was designed for in-the-woods-nature-channel-type survival. He lost his weight by eating his food from a toy ball—which he quickly mastered, laying on the floor batting it just so for maximum spillage. He was a marvel. I reluctantly put everyone on wet food, all for him.

Don’t make any sudden moves.

During my pregnancy it was Roosevelt who was most concerned. He curled up with my belly every night. And once Thora was born, well, I had never seen him more careful all his life. He kept his distance, I think he sniffed her head once or twice. But he also kept a close watch. He was her personal gargoyle.

Gorgeous boy. Photo by Aubrie Pick

Eventually Roosevelt got sick. Almost instantly, he became lethargic, jaundice and thin. I was pregnant, we were in the middle of the kitchen reno, life was stressful and I could not, would not, lose him. Our vet narrowed it down to something in the liver and sent us to a specialist in Concord. Roosevelt had a blood transfusion that saved his life. However, they could not determine a true diagnosis and tests were costly and uncertain. The following year is very foggy, with the new baby and lack of sleep that that entails, but we did everything for him. SAMe medications, liquid steroids salmon-flavored at the local lab, emergency meds when his appetite would drop, grain-free food or baby food if desperate. He would get better for months, then have a lapse, we’d rally the medical troops, he’d get better. It was a cycle. The last cycle the meds didn’t work. His body, HE didn’t respond to all our tricks and I could see he was over it. Then he was gone.

Wow, what a quick synopsis of the past 16 years of our lives with pets. I’m glad I’m recording it here. These guys are all so precious to me. I can’t believe we use to have 4 cats, in a 500 sq. foot apartment no less! When everyone was healthy, it was a lot of fun. A lot of fur, but a lot of fun. What I hate though, is the great loss. For as much love as they bring, there is always an end. And I’m looking at Orange…

Don’t hit me, Rosie. Photo by Aubrie Pick

Last Woman Standing. Orange was a real rescue, my foster child, from a Chicago alley behind my apartment. In the rain, in the dark, she came to me. She practically lept in my arms, muddy little paws on my brand new white t-shirt. I brought her inside. I only had Marlon at the time and I gave them a day to meet under a door. My apartment had it’s own stairwell to the street and I set her up in there. She proceeded to give us fleas, despite the flea collar she had been wearing much too tightly. A trip to the vet for shots and a de-flea and a health synopsis took place. They guessed her age around 2, probably abandoned, probably abandoned very young which was why her collar was so tight. She had a chunk cut from her tongue. She was six pounds but healthy, just small. I looked at her and thought, you are small, you are plain, you are Orange.

Orange and Marlon got along fine, but when Roosevelt moved in, she didn’t like it one bit. Upon introduction, she gave him a good smack. Of course, Rosie was small at the time. Little did she know he would soon tip the scales at 20 lbs. That smack sealed her fate and she became prey. To my surprise, Marlon joined Rosie in this reign of terror! Poor little OJ (her nickname) became the butt of every joke, the victim in every rumble. They would stalk her side by side and I served referee.

I suppose it’s only fair she gets to live out these last years in peace and quiet. If only she weren’t so old and so sick. At this moment I am waiting. Waiting to see if she gets sicker, if I need to make the dreaded, drastic and merciful move of letting her go. But I wish with all my heart she will pass in her sleep. I do not want to make this decision. So she takes her pill, and I clean up after her, and I give her a nice place to rest. She spends all of her time in the back addition. I simply cannot have urine all over the house. It’s decent back there and it’s where I work so we spend time together every day. Thora is gentle with her and loves her despite her funk. She has access to the yard, a bed, her food, her litter and a pile of toys she barely touches anymore. But I don’t think she feels well. How can she?

Mom, sorry for all the barf.

At this moment, and because of my little, tiny cat, I can not buy a new rug or a new couch. I even hate buying cat beds because they are ruined within days. But I do of course. It’s amazing the amount of mess she creates—way more than having four cats at once ever did. Sigh…

Watching your pets get old and get sick sucks. But it does not mask the joy they bring. I used to be lonely and they made me less so. And for that, I go to great lengths for their comfort, health and happiness—even at the cost of nice furniture. Little OJ, whatever you need, you tell me. And I will try not to get too mad when I am greeted with yet another barf at the foot of the stairs. We got a deal?



4 thoughts on “A BRIEF HISTORY OF PETS”

  • Beautiful, sweet, sad story. I love your usual posts about decor and renovation and this peek at the four-footed inhabitants of your lovely home is a perfect complement. Glad you shared!

  • Ohhh, Orange could be my Sarah's sibling, except for the little nose freckles. Sarah is 15, weighed 4 lbs when I adopted her from a shelter, and has never weighed more than 7. She is tiny and orange, and also a champion puker, and is now living out her twilight years with my mother, who is ill and home all day. Sarah only ever wanted a lap to sit on.

  • Those Chicago alley cats are the best. Mine meowed outside my co-worker's back porch door one freezing January morning 20 years ago until she let him to her enclosed porch. Just that prior afternoon, I had told her I wanted to adopt a cat. My co-worker knew exactly for whom this shaggy, black-and-white, long-haired cat was meant. After a couple days stay at a vet due to incidents and issues related to living on the street for so long, my cat came home with me, immediately jumped into my lap for a cuddle and into my heart.

    He's now around 22-years old. The vet also estimated his age to be about 2 when I fist got him. His health is not the best but he's still with me. I'm worried the upcoming summer heat and humidity will be too much for him to endure this year but I will cherish him for as long as I can.

  • Ah, the little barfer…I have one, too. She's 14, tiny, found on the side of the road when she was smaller than my hand. She's gone from a feral crazy cat to a good kitty who is amazingly patient with the little humans in the house. Wet food keeps her from throwing up every day but it seems we are heading for a pee problem. Best wishes for gentle remaining days for Orange!

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