Archive for the ‘Rodney’ Category

Eulogy for Rodney

November 21, 2014

My cat, Rodney died today, Thursday, November 20, 2014, at 11:45 AM.  He was about 12 years old.

I met/acquired Rodney about 10 years ago. I went to a local resident’s place on town business, and a cat came up to me and rubbed up against my legs. I commented “Nice cat”, to which the resident said “Want him?”. Seemed kind of cold-hearted, but he explained that the cat was a stray, and that the resident was about to travel, so someone needed to care for the cat. That cat became Rodney, since Rodney Dangerfield had just died, and apparently I was fresh out of creativity as regards cat names.

Rodney proved to be an amazing animal. If any cat had 9 lives, it was Rodney.

He was very territorial, which caused problems. The other two cats that I had when I acquired Rodney proceeded to disappear in the next few months. I imagine Rodney ran them off, which was too bad, because they were, also, great cats. Roo and Kenga.  I nursed Roo through a near-fatal fisher cat attack; and I acquired Kenga as a blue-eyed kitten, sitting terrified by the side of the road.

Rodney would often howl, and it sounded to me as if he was calling for some missing mother. It sounded sad. Eventually, it turned out that he suffered from megacolon, a disease where the colon becomes enlarged, and excretion becomes difficult. We tried high-fiber diets and acupuncture, but while his summers were often OK (more grass/roughage, more exercise), winters were terrible for him. The rugs had to be taken up as he pooped indiscriminately. I became hyper-vigilant, waking up in the middle of the night when I heard him straining or howling. He went through a variety of medical procedures, none of which helped him much.

After much hesitation, eventually, I had his colon removed. The primary function of the colon is to remove the water that is added to aid in digestion, so his poops were immediately like diarrhea. Not fun for him or me. To my surprise, they eventually firmed up. It was as if his small intestine looked around, said “where did that darn colon go?!?”, and sucked it up (literally).

The surgical stitches burst about 2 weeks after the surgery, and he ended up running around the house with his intestines hanging out, leaving trails of blood on the floor, howling. I was totally freaked out. I collected him and rushed him to the surgeon, a trip of some 45 minutes. He survived, but it was one of the most horrible days in my life. When he continued to have problems, straining when he tried to poop, he went under the knife for a third time, to see if there was a constriction. None was found, and I vowed to never subject either of us to that again.

Before the surgery, during the year or two when he struggled with the megacolon, Rodney was not a very clean cat.  He would often jump in bed with a fairly dirty ass, which made it difficult to accept him whole-heartedly.  After the surgery, he became limber again, and was able to clean himself perfectly.  I guess the enlarged colon had acted like an inflated balloon, making it impossible for him to bend forward to reach his butt.  His instincts remained intact.  He never gave up.

During the past 7 years, we had another cat, Oni, living here. Oni arrived when a friend dropped her off, because the friend could no longer keep her. Oni and Rodney often fought, but occasionally you would find them sleeping on the same bed, not right next to each other, but somewhat close. Hard to figure. Oni was often aloof, and would not let anyone pick her up, for years. although she clearly liked women more than men.

Rodney’s territorial behavior often resulted in loud fights, and Rodney stuffed in to the garage for a timeout (which never had any long-lasting beneficial results).  One time I saw Rodney chasing Oni into my bedroom.  Oni raced around the bed and climbed up under the covers from the far side, leaving a small hump in the middle of the bed.  She did this at full speed, so fast that it took me a while to understand what had just happened. Rodney ran in, and looked around for about 10 minutes before giving up: Oni had vanished into thin air.  She rarely wanted to sleep under the covers, but sometimes if I made a tent with my bent knees, she would curl up next my butt for a little while. Oni was both skillful and clever.  She could climb a tree at a dead run, and practiced this relentlessly.

Oni was a devoted mouser, and a cat who ate her prey.  Rodney started out just catching things and playing with them until they died.  Eventually, he started eating the kills, too.  Since both of them were on restricted diets as they grew older, this was not always a good behavior.

At first, I let them use the cat door to go in and out, thinking that it was important that they be able to get inside quickly if necessary, since I live way out in the woods.  But there were the live animals that they brought in for us.  Mice, of course, of many species.  The long-tailed ones were particularly cute, but they all were cute.  The occasional bird.  A few frogs.  And, one summer, two flying squirrels.  There was a particular pounce-pounce-squeek sequence that meant that it was time to go to the rescue.  This was not only to protect the prey, but also to prevent them from hiding under the stove and dying, leaving the house filled with the stench of death.  I became fairly adept at using an inverted waste basket to trap them, then sliding a plate of plexiglass under the basket, inverting it, and bringing them outside.  Usually, this only took 10-15 minutes, but the flying squirrels were much more difficult to catch.  After one summer of this exhausting fun, I decided to close the cat door and only let them in and out by the people door, so that I could inspect their mouths as they entered.

When it grew dark at night they would eagerly wait at the door, sometimes meowing.  Once out, Oni usually would stay out the whole night, but Rodney usually wanted to be let in after a few hours.  He signaled this desire by getting up on his hind legs and scratching at the glass on the door.  Having to wake up to service him was annoying, but leaving him out there with a possible predator was intolerable.  Some nights, I stuffed him in the garage, just to get some sleep.  The door glass was always smeared with his paw prints; there was no point in cleaning it, because he would be at it the next day.  I guess I can clean the door, finally.

Both cats would race into the kitchen if they heard a tin can opening, hoping that it was cat food (unlikely) or tuna (likely).  They loved the excess water from a tuna can.  When I was in the kitchen, Rodney was often under foot, which occasionally resulted in his getting stepped on. While such incidents would leave him a bit more cautious, eventually he would be back there, under foot again.  He was eternally optimistic and trusting.  I already miss tripping over him in the kitchen.

Oni became ill with kidney failure this Spring. She lost weight and became weaker. The cat who would run at a tree and climb it at full speed became a cat that I had to help climb down from heights.  As she became more frail, she became more accepting of affection, purring in my hands rather than squirming, letting me hold her in my arms for a few minutes. She disappeared in early Summer. Whether she was taken by a critter, or just wandered off to die alone, I will never know. It was sad, but the indefinite ending dulled the pain: there was always the hope that she would stroll back, until she had been gone for so long that it was no longer an immediate loss.

Throughout the years, Rodney was ill from time to time.  He would get bladder infections and then get diarrhea.  One time he was so weak that he went off to hide, and finding him was difficult.  Sometimes it would take a week for him to recover, but he always did.

With Oni gone, Rodney became more affectionate, often climbing up into my lap and purring himself to sleep.  He had a signature move to get affection: he would climb up on my lap and then put his paws on my right shoulder with his hind legs on my left hip, setting himself diagonally across my chest.  He would not accept being vertical on either side, nor diagonal in the other direction.  Only diagonal in the manner described.  This could be awkward if I was typing.  And he did not hesitate to use his claws to keep himself in place, so I often also lost an arm tucked under his butt to keep him stable and with claws retracted.

He sought me out at night, curling up against me and purring himself to sleep. If I did not wake up quickly enough, to pet him, he would gently claw at my face until I gave him what he wanted. He would often lick the tip of my nose, to the point where it was raw. He was an avid lover of cat treats, and would lurk near the bird cages when the parrots were fed, in case anything dropped. Too bad that most of that food was not very good for his stomach.

He killed mice and birds mercilessly, which was not my favorite aspect of him, but he was a cat; what can you expect? When visitors arrived, he came to greet them: he was very sociable, and would sit on anyone’s lap, immediately after meeting them. Made me a little annoyed: I loved him and fed him, but there was no loyalty on his part there when it came to laps.  He was a lap slut.  He was not a cat that you saw out of the corner of your eye: he was there all of the time, sleeping on his various cat beds, on chairs, on beds, and interacting with you.

He started losing weight over the summer, and was half of his normal weight about a month ago.  I could feel every rib, his spinal bumps were sharp, as were his shoulder blades and hip bones, and I could feel bones around his neck.  It was disturbing.  And yet he remained Rodney in every way, affectionate, engaged, although he slept more.  We discovered that he had thyroid problems, and I started medicating him. I was also giving him syringes full of pumpkin, to increase his fiber, to help his digestion, as the diarrhea returned. He was very tolerant of these intrusions, never complaining.  The procedures for caring for him became increasingly complex, including bags of frozen syringes of pumpkin, and eventually syringes full of cat food.  Plus the pills.  Plus the cat food.

He grew weaker and weaker, eventually being unable to jump up onto the counter. He stopped using the cat condo. He would purr when picked up and petted, but he began to stagger and walked more and more slowly. Strangely, that did not stop him from going outside, sometimes for an hour, even when there was snow on the ground. He was weak, but perhaps he did not consider himself to be weak.  And cold did not seem to bother him.

In the last few weeks, he stopped eating. This can be due to olfactory problems: if the food does not smell like food, it will not be eaten. We went through this a year or so ago, and force feeding him for a week or so allowed him to recover. I tried force feeding him for a few days, at which point he started eating dry food again. But then he stopped eating again, and was not even drinking water when it was offered to him. Force feeding is OK as a means of getting a cat through a rough patch, but with all of Rodney’s problems, it did not seem likely that he would recover and continue to eat.

This morning, he tried to poop, whining, and failed. I let him outside, and he went from place to place, in the snow, trying to poop. When he came back inside, he was unable to open his nictitating membranes entirely: he was exhausted, done.  He was not complaining, but I knew he was no longer living a good life.  I brought him to the vet’s knowing what she would say. We could have kept him alive for a while through intense chronic care, but that did not seem to be doing him any favors. We agreed that we should put him down.

I had brought a blue blanket that he use to sleep on. As she prepared, I picked him up and held him, crying.  He purred gently as I loved him for the last time, scratching him under his chin, stroking his head and back. feeling his motor going, a bit dim, but still functional. I considered staying there as he died, but I was crying too much, and thought I would freak out.  I left the room. They wrapped his body in the blanket and gave it to me. I’m still crying episodically, and expect to do so for a while. It has been a very difficult day.

We went through a lot together. Moving from one house to another. The addition and subtraction of other cats. A series of girlfriends. He was a welcome and good companion, and I will miss him enormously. I do miss him enormously.

I took his body out into the woods and left it on a ledge, so he could look out, but in a posture of sleep. There is nothing more I can do, for him, or for me.


Epilog: I keep adding details to this Eulogy, tweaking it.  So, you might want to stop by again in a week or two.  It seems that I am looking to this document as a way for me to maintain contact with Rodney’s memory, as mine fades.  Amazing what memories keep bubbling to the surface.


Rodney’s Tongue is Rough

April 3, 2009

So, as soon as the stitches were removed, Rodney made it his principle task to lick the fur off of his belly, and then lick the skin off, too.  I tried two varieties of  “yuck”, evil tasting goops that you lather on around the wounds, to try to keep a cat from licking.  Neither worked.  I tried a salve, hoping that it would reduce the itching, and he would stop licking.  He actually enjoyed eating the salve right out of the container.  I tried a small tee shirt, with leg holes cut in it; that lasted about 12 hours.

Now we’re onto a soft E Collar, which is working (he can no longer lick his belly), but he is fairly annoyed.  And annoying.  He licks and scratches at the collar all of the time, which is loud enough to wake me up at night.  He looks ridiculous, and the other cat, Oni, seems well aware that Rodney is now absurd. The collar makes it difficult for him to walk, because he keeps stepping on the thing.  And it can focus sounds, when it is bent forwards, and this seems to make him freak out a lot when the birds squawk.

So.  Rodney’s better.  But not perfect yet.  Another few weeks.  Sound familiar?

Rodey Doing Well

March 27, 2009

Rodney had his superficial stitches removed on Monday; the ones holding his abdominal wall together remain, under his skin, unseen. He continues to have a good appetite, is enjoying the warming weather, and continues to be a pain in the neck for the other cat, Oni. In short, he appears to be doing well!

Rodney, Saturday

March 7, 2009

Rodney spent most of Tuesday meowing, and spent the whole night in bed with me, neither of which are “normal” behaviors.  Wednesday he was not as vocal, was eating, and was sleeping in a variety of places, which seemed more reasonable.   He seemed more engaged with what was going on around the house.

I had 5 separate meds to give him, two of which were so voluminous that I had to give them in two separate doses.  That meant 7 separate medication events, which took something like 2 hours to complete, during which I was interrupted every 15 minutes or so.  The meds had been prepared by a regular pharmacy, and were totally unpalatable to him, so I arranged to get them prepared by a specialty compounding place, to be picked up on Saturday.

By Friday, he was a bit sluggish, and I took him in for a pre-scheduled checkup.   I was nervous, thinking that Rodney was declining.  The doctor did some blood tests, and showed me that his red cell count was up (good) and his blood protein was up (good).  His temperature was high normal.   The vet also looked at a slide and determined that there were very few young white cells, which indicated that there were no new infections.  He declared that Rodney was doing quite well.  He pointed out that continued improvement would depend on Rodney’s eating a high protein diet, and he supplied some special cat food for that purpose.  The session took 2 hours at the vets, plus an hour each way; I arrived home wiped out.

Rodney came home, at a mouthful of food, and went to sleep on my chest.  In the evening, he crawled up to lie next to me. His nictitating membranes were mostly closed, indicating extreme exhaustion.  He slept near me all night, sneezing a few times, and making noises as if he was sniffling.  In the morning, he just lay there.  I rubbed food on his nose, and he licked it, but was uninterested in eating.  We won’t increase blood protein through fasting.  Sigh.

I called the vets, hauled him back in, and he’s there for the weekend.  His heart and lungs seem to be fine, the incision is fine, and his hydration is OK, as is his temperature.  They have no idea what is going on, but will try to give him saline and an appetite stimulant.  We will see how things are on Monday.

So, I now have brand new meds, no cat, and no idea what meds will be required when/if he returns to me on Monday.  I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about making mistakes this weekend, but worried about what is happening, since none of the vets really has a clue at the moment.

I’m exhausted again.

Rodney’s Home, Tuesday, but…

March 4, 2009

I picked up Rodney today.  He is OK, but his back legs don’t work perfectly.  He can walk, but he acts a bit drunk or uncoordinated at times, and one of his legs tends to splay to the side.  A bit unsettling.

He complained a lot on the ride back, and during the first half hour once he was home.  He seems to have quieted down a bit, but he’s a little different.  Since his verbalizations preceded The Incident of last week, I’m more worried when he cries out than I was a week ago.

I now have to give him five different medications, twice a day, which is almost twice the amount that I had to do at the worst of his previous illness.  And this is up from zero a week ago.  In addition, he is to avoid jumping, which means that I should monitor him and try to restrict his activity.  No climbing on the furniture.  As if that’s going to work out!  And I have to watch what he eats, to make sure that he continues to have an appetite.  And take his temperature every day (now that will be lovely).

So, I’m back to being trapped here, and back on the hypervigalent bandwagon.  I’m stressed and tired and anxious already.  It is nice that he’s back, but I want him to be finished with all of these meds and all of the monitoring.

So.  A mixed bag.  Off to the pharmacist to buy some meds.  Sigh.

Oh. Yeah.  I received the bill.  Perhaps some of you would like to guess at the original bill, and then at the modified/reduced bill.  Stunning…

Rodney Update, Monday

March 3, 2009

Rodney’s legs continue to improve, but he is not back to normal yet, so we decided to leave him at the Vet’s until at least Tuesday.  If he’s not back to normal by then (which seems unlikely), he would have to return home and be supervised, which could be difficult for me.  He is likely to want to do things like climb and run and jump, and he could injure himself.  So, I might have to lock him in a bedroom, which is something that he would neither like nor understand.  So.  Could be difficult.  But at least his legs continue to improve.

Rodney Update, Sunday

March 2, 2009

While Rodney is doing well in many ways (blood protein, temperature), he no longer has full use of his rear legs. That was first noticed Saturday night, and he improved over night, but it remains of some concern. The proposed cause is a fat embolism that may have been released during the trauma and/or surgery. Prognosis for improvement is good, but not certain.


March 1, 2009

What follows is upsetting. Read it at your own risk.

My cat, Rodney, underwent major abdominal surgery on Monday February 9th, to have his colon removed (for mega-colon). I picked him up on Tuesday the 10th, but worried about him, so brought him back for observation on Wednesday the 11th. After that things went well. He was increasingly active, and would always give me a purr. We had another appointment on the 20th, for a checkup, and everything seemed to be fine. No infection, incision healing nicely.

Of course, since I used the phrase “seemed to be”, you know that it was not so; something I did not know at the time.

Rodney often would walk around the house and howl a bit. He’s done this for years. So, when he started doing this early this morning (Friday the 27th), I went up to him, and petted him, and he started purring, and I figured we were done with that.

He went up to the cat door, which I keep closed in the winter, and given that the weather was warm, I opened it up. He went out.

When I looked up, from my chair, he was at the back door, scratching his paw on the glass, wanting me to open the door. I try to avoid coddling the critters in that way, because it can lead to endless trips across the room, especially at night. After a while, he wandered around the house, to come back in through the cat door. I noted that he had had mud on his paws when he was pawing at the door, but didn’t realize until later that there was no mud out there.

When he came back inside, he lay down in front of the wood stove, and I walked over to him.

It was then that I noticed the blood on the floor.

Scared, I gently rolled him over on his back.

And there it was.

A fist sized piece of his guts, extruding from a tear in his abdomen.

I remember screaming “Oh, No! Oh, No! Oh, No!”

I tried to put him in a box, but he jumped out. and walked away. I ran to the upstairs storage area where I keep his carrier, and returned, closing the door to the garage, in case he headed out there.

And then I couldn’t find him.

I looked all over, and then heard him vomiting under a fish tank. I grabbed him and dragged him out, trying to be gentle. He wrestled away from me, and ran to the other end of the house. I was astonished that he was that mobile, and terrified that I would not be able to catch him, or that he would injure himself further. I cornered him and threw him into the cat carrier. Gently. But I was going insane with fear.

There was blood everywhere. And cat guts. There were at least two separate pieces of cat guts that had come off during his running around and our struggles. One was fairly small, but one was perhaps half the size of a banana. I was sure that he was dying. I was stunned, shocked, horrified. I shoved the parrots into their cages, dragged some clothes on, and called my vet’s office.

I explained the situation, and said I would go right there. Given that this vet is 45 minutes away, that was not a great plan, but it was the only one I could come up with in a minute. They explained that the surgeon was not there. I called another vet that was more local. They did not open for another hour. The original vet called back and said that the surgeon would come in. I got in the car and drove. I had no idea whether Rodney would be alive when I arrived there.

The first 15 minutes were OK. Rodney howled a bit, but he was sitting up, which was better than his collapsing in a coma. Better loud than silent. He vomited two or three times during the drive, which I knew to be a sign of shock. Not good. Not good.

After the first 15 minutes, I began to think too much. I was crying a bit and driving with one hand on the cat carrier and the other on the wheel. At a light, I called a friend. Then the driving became too much, and I hung up. I tried to stay focused on the immediate task, not allowing myself to think of what might happen next. I passed quite a few cars, carefully, but very fast. I did not obey the speed limits.

I arrived at the vets in record time and ran in with the cat carrier. I handed it to them, and said that I didn’t even want to look inside. I didn’t want to know. I sat down and started crying hysterically, suddenly dizzy. They took me into another room, and rubbed my back a bit. I cried for quite a while. At one point I realized that my fly was open: I had not even dressed myself properly. What else had I forgotten? Was the wood stove door open? The garage door?

A series of people attended to me. When the surgeon arrived, he was fairly up-beat, saying that he’s seen worse situations result in recovery. I explained that if it was time for Rodney to be killed, then that was what should happen. Whatever was best for him. I didn’t feel as if I was in any state to make decisions. I was crying again.

The surgeon went to see Rodney, and came back, saying that things were not as bad as he had thought. I paced in the parking lot for an hour or so, and then the surgeon sat down with me to explain the situation.

He had explored all of Rodney’s internal organs, carefully, and none were missing or damaged. The guts that I had found on the floor were pieces of fatty tissue (he told me the name, since forgotten) that were not necessary for survival. He had found a single blood vessel that needed to be tied off, and a few places that needed an internal stitch or two, but basically what he saw was healthy and intact tissue. The blood supply to the intestine was good, and the intestine looked healthy. The original surgery had not been compromised. The exposure to infection was significant, but not necessarily a death sentence for Rodney. Rodney’s blood level was actually within normal, which was astonishing given what he’d been through. All in all, the situation was as good as could possibly be expected after such an event.

We talked about how this problem had come about. The original incision had come apart: he had not been attacked by some animal or cut. The surgeon had looked to see signs that he had made a mistake, but had found none. This was complicated by the fact that the sutures that had been used were designed to dissolve at about 3 weeks, so they were disappearing. We talked about the cat door, and whether something had cut him or caught on him, but we agreed that this should not have caused this kind of trauma. In the end, we did not come up with any clear cause.

Then he explained that if Rodney survived the afternoon [what?!?], and if he did not get a raging abdominal infection [what?!?], then Rodney would be OK. So, basically, things are fairly good, but I won’t know the real outcome until Monday the 2nd or so.

I’m exhausted, dizzy, and crying all of the time. I had just come through a breakup with a girlfriend. A month ago, she decided, unilaterally, that it would be best for us both if we stopped communicating altogether. So I’ve been very, very alone. A month ago, I was a real wreck. On the verge of a breakdown. Crying spontaneously, sometimes in situations that scared other people. As of this morning, I was getting better. Not great, but better.

But this is a real punch in the stomach. I know I can manage it, and will get over it, but I’m exhausted, drained, dizzy, and stunned. The shock of seeing Rodney’s guts, and even holding them in my hands, will not leave me quickly or easily. The event was traumatic for us both. As has been the case throughout the last year of Rodney’s illness, I imagine that it will be worse for me than for him. He’ll probably arrive back fairly happy-go-lucky. He lives in the moment; I do not.

Anyway. That was my morning. How was yours?

Later.  It’s Sunday, and Rodney is doing as well as can be expected.  I hope to take him home on Monday, if an infection has not developed.