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On the Road Again

Today was the day the caretaker has been dreading for months: the annual vet visit x 2. Even though the cats seem quite healthy, the law requires that they be vaccinated against rabies, in the event that the house is overrun by rats, bats, or gnats that are foaming at the mouth. And so to be in compliance with the law, the caretaker called the vet’s office way back in July to make two appointments. When she asked that they be two hours apart, the chirpy clerk asked, “Don’t you want to bring them both in at the same time and save yourself a trip?”

The caretaker chuckled and replied, “I’ve done many crazy things in my lifetime and will do so in the future, but I can honestly say that what you are suggesting will never be one of them.” Little did the chirpy clerk know of the harrowing time when Buddy escaped from his carrier outside another vet’s office and had to be coaxed out from under the car. Or the two times when he bolted out of the examining room door and had to be hunted down in the vet’s office in a scene straight out of Jumanji.

But this morning at the appointed hour, the caretaker readied the carrier and resigned herself to the monumental task of securing Buddy for the trip. He did not acquiesce easily. Indeed, he did not acquiesce at all. The initial attempt resulted in a one-inch gash on the caretaker’s wrist, followed quickly by the frantic loping of a black and white blur through the house. The second attempt was accidentally successful. Instead of trying to put him into the carrier head-first, the caretaker stood the box on end and tried to lower him into it tail first, as he wriggled and protested vehemently. After a few tense minutes (or possibly years), the caretaker lost her hold on him, and he jumped…..straight into the box, upon which the caretaker quickly slammed and locked the door. Mission accomplished, the caretaker began to tend her additional wounds and heaved a sigh of relief. No arteries seemed to be damaged, and whatever else might happen in the next 45 minutes, she would not have to manage the Tasmanian Devil again by herself. She would have the help of a whole staff of vet techs.

The car ride was filled with the sounds of tires on a rainy street, cheery tunes on the radio, and the fierce yowling of a caged beast. He continued his caterwauling in the waiting room, while a polite little girl looked on with interest. She asked the caretaker what his name was, and she inched forward as though to comfort him. The caretaker pronounced his given name, and quickly told the child that she could look at him but she shouldn’t put her hands near him because he might hurt her. Thankfully, the child was obedient, but just at that time a vet tech came in an whisked the caretaker and the boxed cat into an examination room, for the safety of all concerned.

The very nice vet whisked in and said, “So this is Merlin Blacktail.” Yes, indeed, it is he in all his glory. A quick exam revealed that Buddy’s health is excellent. He was pronounced “chunky,” which he instantly took as a compliment. When the vet and the vet tech tried to return him to the box, he rebelled, so the caretaker wisely suggested that they back him in. With the cage door secured behind him, the caretaker drove him home in the rain, thankful that all had gone well with a minimum of bloodshed.

And now to the tale of the second patient. Bear had sensed all morning that she would be the next victim, so when the caretaker returned with Buddy, she found Bear pouting in her bed by the bathroom door. Normally Bear loves her weekly grooming, but today she refused to break her pout, so the caretaker was forced to sit in the hallway floor to groom the diva before her journey.

Mercifully, Bear was much easier to secure in the carrier than Buddy was. The extent of her protest was a slight balk upon being pushed through its door, followed by a subtle hiss when the door was closed. But then the car ride began, and true to form, Bear sang the song of her very oppressed people:

“Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww.”

The incessant, insistent, irritating sound dripped into the caretaker’s ears and began to eat through her brain, so she turned up the radio a bit, in hopes of distracting Bear. “Listen, Bear. It’s a happy Jesus song. You like happy Jesus songs. Listen to the happy Jesus song!”

But Bear was unimpressed by Jesus songs, happy or otherwise. Her mournful aria continued until the caretaker entered the waiting room again. For some reason, the polite little girl was still there, two hours later, and her face brightened when she saw the caretaker. She waved happily and asked, “Is that another cat?”

The caretaker smiled, waved, and answered, “Yes.”

“Is it a girl?”

“Yes.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“Oh, nothing. She isn’t sick. This is her annual checkup. These are the happy visits to the vet.”

The little girl smiled, and the caretaker congratulated herself on having a keen sense of irony.

But when all was said and done, this was a happy visit. A blood test revealed that Bear’s blood sugar is still under control and she therefore does not need to return to the regimen of daily insulin shots. Such news made the 10-minute drive home, with Bear’s song drowning out the happy Jesus songs, a little more pleasant than it might have been.

Upon returning home, the caretaker was haunted by one thought, and not just because today happens to be Halloween:

Only 365 days until we do this all over again.

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Gentle readers, Stratford Palace has been a most stressful place over the past few months, and none of its denizens has been more affected than its beloved monarch, His Royal Highness Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail, Emperor of the Front Lawn and Protector of the Storm Door. He feels responsible for the safety and well-being of his remaining subjects, especially after Unca Dan wandered off last year, and he appears to have let everyone down. His failures are recounted thusly:

  • He has lost all control over the caretaker. For the past few months, she has had many extra projects and often comes home late from work. Recently she packed a suitcase and was absent without leave for several days. In fact, if she were not so careful to ensure that the cats were always fed regularly, she would have been fired long ago and replaced with a much more amenable hooman. In fact, it is hard for him to imagine that there could be a less amenable one.
  • He has lost all control over Bear. She has recently been hauled away so often that he’s quite sure she is looking for another home. These adventures involve the caretaker shoving Bear unceremoniously into the little box and then taking her away in the big rolling metal box, whilst Buddy is left all alone in the palace. Then when his feline subject returns, she smells as though she has been in a place that houses dogs, and she’s frightfully grumpy and uncooperative.

(At this point, the caretaker must interject the observation that it is difficult to tell whether Buddy is more upset that Bear has been taken away or that she has been brought back. Nevertheless, an upset of some sort has occurred, so Buddy requests that you pity him for it.)

  • Besides all of these changes he has witnessed in his subjects, he has been forced to deal with excessive intrusion from the outside world. Some of these events the caretaker labels as “thunderstorms,” and some she calls “firewerks.” Buddy just prefers to lump them all into the category “The End of the World” and then to behave accordingly.

And so, gentle readers, the photo below indicates the state of Buddy’s current mental health. He is very often to be found under the cot in his throne room, usually out of sight, but sometimes venturing one eye out from under the bedspread to see if conditions in his world have improved yet.

Not taking appointments

His Royal High-Strung Majesty

Perhaps that one-eyed look of hope means Buddy believes all shall soon be well now that Bear’s daily shots have ceased and her trips to the vet will be less frequent. What he does not know is that the caretaker made an appointment this week for his annual checkup and vaccinations. Please, gentle readers, do not break this news to him just yet, as he may never recover his composure. And let’s face it, he never had much of that in the first place.

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So this happened

In our previous post, we informed our gentle readers of the state of feline health at Stratford Palace. Since last October when Bear received a diagnosis of diabetes, the caretaker has had extra care to take. For several months, there were shots to administer twice daily, and extra note to take of Bear’s demeanor to determine whether her blood sugar was too low. Mind you, trying to decide whether Bear is lethargic is a chore in and of itself. Not to mention that both insatiable hunger and aversion to the food that was set in front of her are symptoms of hypoglycemia, as well as the normal state of life with most cats, including Bear.

But the caretaker did her best with the timing of food and shots, and Bear never once drifted into hypoglycemia, which would have required a dose of corn syrup rubbed directly onto the gums followed by a trip to the emergency vet. With time, a good diet, and watchful care, the injection requirement dropped from two daily to one in the evening. and a very low dose at that. The vet, being a very clever doctor, required frequent checkups, the most recent of which occurred this past weekend. Blood drawn, blood tests ordered, and then nothing else to do but wait.

The results were returned today and like the very best of fairy tales, we are able to report a happily-ever-after ending to nine months of treatment. The vet called to tell the caretaker to STOP GIVING INSULIN SHOTS! Bear’s own body has taken over the task of producing enough insulin to regulate her blood sugar, so there is no longer any need to supplement it with shots. In fact, it was a very good thing that the checkup happened when it did; the fructosamine study, combined with the blood glucose test done in the office, indicated that Bear’s blood sugar has been running on the low side for several weeks.

So we post a picture of Miss Sassy sitting on the porch of her favorite box. And we invite you to join us all in a happy dance of victory at new-found health.

Miss Sassy Bear

Miss Sassy Bear, Diabetes Survivor

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Presenting a story which has some ups and downs but which ends well.

Chapter 1: Woe is She
Venomous Vet

That fateful Saturday started out perfectly, with a hearty breakfast and a post-meal nap. For a little while the house was delightfully peaceful: Buddy was gone. The caretaker had snatched him off his throne while he was sleeping, deposited him in the Big Gray Box (BGB) before he could finish his vehement protest, and walked out the door trying desperately to maintain a firm hold on BGB. Bear had no idea where they went; she simply knew that Buddy was not eating her food, drinking her water, or taking over her favorite napping spot. Even better, he wasn’t lying in wait to pounce on her. There was no felicity in the world superior to this. These were perfect dozing conditions.

And then it happened. Bear’s nap was cut short by the sound of the front door opening again, and she looked up in time to see the caretaker bringing back a Buddy-filled BGB. When its door opened, Buddy came charging out like a speared rhinoceros. But that was only the beginning of Bear’s calamity. The caretaker’s next move was to shove Bear’s furry frame into the BGB, latch the cage door securely, and walk out the front door. After an interminable 10-minute car ride, Bear was sitting on a cold metal table being prodded, pilfered, plundered, pillaged, and poked while the caretaker watched, offering no help whatsoever. Another visit to the metal table two days later had the caretaker taking part in the poking ceremony, which was to be repeated every morning and every night for several months.

But the quick jab of an insulin needle twice daily was of little consequence when compared to the major dietary changes that would now be imposed:

  • No more gravy (inconceivable!)
  • No more meat-flavored cornmeal-laden bits that crunched like bones (impossible!)
  • No more tasty treats (unconscionable!)
  • No corn flakes or wheat biscuits (actually, not a problem at all)

Life as Bear knew it was over. But she wasn’t going out alone. Since there was little chance of keeping them on a separate diet, she would be taking Buddy down with her. There was, at least, some small comfort in that.

Chapter 2: Woe is He
Grains Have Left the Building

Buddy’s visit to the vet had been fairly normal, which is to say he flipped out during the car ride and banged his nose against the cage door, tried to escape when being weighed, fidgeted during the physical exam, barely noticed the rabies shot because he was so distracted by the contents of the vet’s pocket, and violently objected to being returned to the confines of BGB. So when he returned home and switched places with Bear, he relished the hour of solitude in his own personal man-cave. Having shaken off the dust from his recent outing, he convinced himself that all his troubles were over.

Whereas, forthwith, to wit, his troubles were only beginning for his well-known hatred of all healthy food would now be strained to its very limits.

When the caretaker returned with Bear, she brought a cardboard box filled with canned food. That could have been such a monumental event, but this was Special Food for cats who are either afflicted with “the diabetus” already or who just need to lose a bit of weight—say, for example, if a certain white and black cat weighed 14 pounds and should really weigh 12 pounds, according to the vet.

At the next meal time the caretaker opened one of the cans to reveal a substance that was both meaty and smelly, two of the cats’ favorite food descriptions. She then scooped out a little of brown mush onto two plates, set the plates on the floor, and both cats cautiously licked the surface of it a couple of times, as though sampling the most expensive beluga in the world.

Then they each chowed down.

Then Buddy threw up.

Thankfully, the caretaker had already formulated Plan B.

Chapter 3: Woe is We
Gravy, We Hardly Knew Ye

So we come to the concluding chapter in our saga of revenge, illness, diet, suffering, and barf. The loss of gravy was eventually borne with amazing alacrity, but not until the caretaker located a type of healthy food that Buddy could tolerate and that would also alleviate Bear’s condition. The caretaker has learned to administer insulin shots so well that Bear rarely squirms or flinches now. And in the past few months, Bear has gone for regular check-ups that usually end with the caretaker being told to reduce the insulin dosage.

Best of all, the caretaker located a grain-free dry food that crunches well enough to satisfy even the bone-hungriest cat. Bear has regained her shiny coat, her bright eyes, and a guarded sense of playfulness. In fact, only tonight when the caretaker was walking down the hallway holding a sweater fresh out of the washing machine, Bear began to pretend that it was the Great Cardigan of Doom. She jumped from her spot in the hallway and ran aimlessly into the bedroom before darting out again to face the dreaded beast head on. Happily, both of them survived the encounter, as did the caretaker.

And so, gentle readers, even if we have come to the ending of all things, we are still pleased to report that the denizens of Stratford Palace are doing fine.

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Houdini’s Cat

You will please forgive the caretaker for being a bit more addled than usual today, but she has a good excuse: she has just returned with Buddy from his annual physical. Let us hasten to say that his tests show him to be in excellent health, except for a mild case of acne under the chin. Let us then hasten to say that his behavior shows him to be an arrant rogue. Let us finally hasten to say that this latter title in no way disqualifies him from retaining his royal title.

Today’s adventure started with one of the soft-side pet carriers that the caretaker had purchased to transport the cats when absolutely necessary. (If the gentle reader will remember, Buddy’s nose is permanently disfigured from a skirmish with a metal pet carrier door.) The caretaker sprinkled a few treats into the carrier, lured Buddy inside, and closed the zipper as quickly as possible, which was difficult, considering that a frantic head kept popping through the opening, a portent of disaster.

“MAROUW!”

Indeed, Buddy. It will not be your last word on the topic.

Grabbing her purse with one hand and the carrier handle with the other, the caretaker headed for the car, confidently thinking, “This is going to be easier than I thought. The vet’s office is a mere nine blocks away, only a five-minute drive even in traffic. What could possibly go wrong, now that Buddy is contained?”

Hubris is an ugly, ugly thing, and it is usually followed by a terrible fall. In this case, the fall began with a jump, and the thud at the end of the fall was caused by Buddy’s deft paws hitting the pavement in the vet’s parking lot. He had spent the five-minute drive assaulting the zipped opening of the carrier and had damaged it enough to free himself. One minute the caretaker was holding the handle of a 12.5 pound carrier; the next minute the carrier weighed a mere 0.1 pound. The frantic head had done its worst, and Buddy was gone.

Horrified, the caretaker launched into her infamous “beheaded chicken” dance, dashing back and forth in painful indecision over whether to remain outside and try to corral Buddy by herself or go inside and seek help. Seeing that Buddy had decided to remain in hiding under the car and was therefore in no immediate danger, she ran inside, dropped her purse on the couch, called out to the receptionist, “I’m here for my nine-o’clock appointment, but my cat has escaped,” and then darted back outside. The now useless carrier grinned back through its broken zipper, and if it had a nose, the caretaker would have punched it. Buddy, in the meantime, was doing his own “beheaded chicken” dance under the car, not sure whether to run to the caretaker as the only familiar thing around him, or to run away from her as the person who had betrayed him so completely.

Fearful that any action on her part would cause Buddy to run into danger, the caretaker did the only sensible thing. She sat down on the pavement behind the car and began to talk to him calmly. “Come to Momma, Buddy. It’s o.k.” He inched closer, wide-eyed but beginning to trust again. At the same time, the caretaker inched forward to close the gap. As soon as she could reach him, she grabbed him around the barrel chest and hugged him. Though he squirmed, he was secretly glad to feel safe again.

Once inside, the caretaker was escorted to an examining room with doors that would close and with no zippers to break. The rest of the visit was mostly routine (apart from Buddy’s two escapes from the room), with poking and prodding and tests and shots and plenty of admiration for golden-eyed Buddy, the Houdini of the cat world. The trip home was also routine, as the very kind vet was willing to lend Buddy a sturdy carrier to prevent any further mishaps. By some miracle, he remained calm enough not to break his nose again, but he was never so glad to see the screamed-in porch when the carrier door opened.

Buddy at the vet

Buddy examines the examining room

He is now dozing in the hallway, with one eye open to watch the tricksy caretaker. He has nothing to worry about, however. She has no further trips planned for him any time soon. In fact, she may never leave the house again.

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