Vets

Dexter's Dark Passenger

Note from Robin: CREEPY PHOTO BELOW, BUT NOTHING GORY! You have been warned.

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Terri Royal has a big heart. She loves cats and has been particularly touched by the plight of feral cats in her community of northeastern Georgia. Terri's not one to look the other way when a cat needs help. She and her husband, Warren, always seem to have a foster cat in their home, in addition to their five cats, all of whom were rescues.

Terri is the caretaker for a number of feral cat colonies. She makes sure they get fed and that they're all spayed or neutered. Once in awhile a friendly stray comes along and she helps that cat find a good home, too

A few weeks ago, Terri spotted a tiny kitten when she was putting food out for the feral colony. From her husband, Warren's email to me, he described the situation:

dexter before surgery.jpg
©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. Dexter, so sick, but what is wrong with you little guy?

He lived in the bushes behind Target and today when she went to feed them, he walked out and was very lethargic- horrible respiratory infection, dripping from nose, mouth, and eyes. He was blowing bubbles from his nose, and sneezing terribly.

He was too weak to eat, or to struggle, so Terri just picked him up and put him in a small box. He's very young- 6-8 weeks, and starving. We think he has 2 more siblings in similar condition.

Dexter after surgery.jpg
©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. Just after surgery.

She [Terri] took him to the emergency vet, who gave him fluids, vitamins, combo test, and antibiotic shot, and some milk replacement. I had to leave to catch a flight (on it now) but he's in great hands with Terri. She took him home, set him up in a bedroom upstairs, with water, a little warm bed, and plenty of food and the milk. (she just told me he LOVES it!). He is resting very comfortably and is purring when she pets him- he seems to love affection.

Terri named the kitten, Dexter. He weighed only 1 lb, 4 oz.

Dexter wasn't doing so well. Although he loved affection and wanted to eat, he had constant, severe breathing problems. He had great difficulty eating. It would take him 30 minutes to eat a small amount of food. Terri gave him milk replacement, which he could eat more comfortably, but the poor little tabby was very ill.

Warren writes: And he would start sneezing - I mean REALLY sneezing - sometimes 20 times in a row, violently. We would find blood spots afterwards. The vets thought that his nose was just really irritated from all the sneezing, maybe a tiny vessel rupture, and that was causing the bleeding. But also he could barely breathe - he was always breathing very loudly, and sometimes mouth-breathing.

The Vet said to let Dexter rest. Give it time. Thank goodness Terri and Warren didn't heed the advice. They'd seen cats with upper respiratory before. After another day passed, they were sure something else going on, so they took Dexter back to the Vet.

One of Dexter's nostrils was bigger than the other. Nothing remarkable about that, but it was odd. What happened next was horrifying. When the Vet looked into Dexter's nose, SOMETHING LOOKED BACK...and was MOVING INSIDE DEXTER'S SINUS!

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©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. THE WOLF WORM.

Warren wrote:

This little kitten had a 1-inch+ WOLF WORM living in his nose.

It was so big that the hardened vet techs cried when they saw it and what this poor kitten had endured.

They could not believe that something SO BIG had been in this poor kitten's nose. They saved it for me in formaldehyde so I can see it when I get home - but they're saying it's like the size of a large garden grub-worm, they have never seen anything like it. He must have filled up his sinus or partially gone down his throat, his nose was so tiny -

No one expected that Dexter would have to have surgery, especially to remove a Wolf Worm!. Simply tugging it out was NOT an option. Wolf Worms are Bot Fly larvae. Removing just a piece of them results in a horrific anaphylactic (allergic) reaction and terrible infection which could easily go to Dexter's brain.

But would Dexter survive the surgery?

Warren writes: But since we didn't know this, Terri had fed him that morning, before the vet visit. And when they figured out what it was, they had to anesthetize him, which was very risky because he had eaten. (We have lost other ferals during routine spay/neuters under similar circumstances and had been heartbroken). But we felt that it was an emergency, and we had to go ahead and cross our fingers and hope for the best. They waited a few hours to make it a little safer - and while he was down, we went ahead and neutered him.

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©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. Getting some rest.

The Vet carefully removed the Wolf Worm. It was no longer Dexter's Dark Passenger. Now it was safely preserved in a jar while Dexter began the long road to recovery.

Warren writes: He is much better now, his breathing is completely clear - but there may be some residual damage. They say he may always have issues with sneezing, and his nose may be permanently enlarged. But we just don’t know. He is very happy, and playing, and eating like a HORSE.

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©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. Squirrel!

Since he has been with us, even with the worm, he has gone from 1 lb 4 oz to 2 lb 4 oz , mostly on the milk replacement. But I think now the will really start to thrive...

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©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. Making friends with Abby

Dexter will be ready to find a forever home in a few weeks. Though they struggle with the idea of keeping Dex, Terri and Warren know they can't help more cats in need if they have too many cats of their own. It's not an easy decision to make, but with Dexter's loving personality and winning ways, we feel sure his family will find him soon.

Dexter growing bigger.jpg
©2011 Warren Royal. Used with Permission. .

If you're interested in learning more about Dexter or want to adopt him, please contact me directly at info(@)coveredincathair.com and I'll put you in touch with Dexter's family. Transportation can be arranged. Dexter is located in Northeastern Georgia.

The Wolf Worm is not available for adoption.

My First Neuter & My Last Bowl of Clam Chowder.

Have you ever seen something, then couldn't erase the image from your mind? This often happens during a tragic, high-stress event, like seeing your dad naked (by accident, of course!) or when you see a woman on the subway wearing stretchy leggings. She has a REALLY BIG BUTT. She's tired, standing in the subway car, so she leans her back against a metal support pole. Her huge buttcheeks part slightly, as she presses against the pole, which forces the metal support into her butt-crack! (This is why I avoid touching ANYTHING on the subway). I'm sure some scientist could describe why our memories lock down certain events, but all I can say is I just witnessed a kitten being neutered and now I can't unsee what I saw!

The event keeps looping over and over in my head. After all the cats I've had neutered over the years, I finally got to see it done. After the shock of watching it wore off a bit, I realized, WHY DO VETS CHARGE SO MUCH FOR THIS? It took all of a MINUTE to do the surgery! SHAME ON VETS FOR CHARGING MORE THAN $50.00 for this procedure!

Connie and I arrived at the Vet's office nice and early. She brought all five kittens, even though only the three boys were going to be neutered. Neither of us were positive we HAD three boys so better to bring them oll, just in case-plus they all needed a booster FVRCP shot, so now was a good time.

It was really lovely to see the kittens again. It'd been only a few days since they went to Aunt Connie's but I was missing them. They all sat serenely in their cat carrier, wondering what was going on, no doubt. I blurted out; “You're gettin' your balls cut off soon!” and the Vet tech scolded me for letting the “cat out of the bag.” She hissed; “Don't say that out loud! You'll upset them!” The kittens gave me a dirty look. I just shrugged and tried to look innocent.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The gang just before surgery time.

Dr. M came out and said hello. Connie and I looked at each other. I knew what she was thinking. She didn't want to go in the back room. Neither did I. My heart started to race and my hands got cold. This wouldn't be so bad. We didn't have to watch. We just had to help a bit, then wait for the Vet to do his part, then we would help the kittens as they woke up.

We were taken into a long room that was a combination of shelved storage-a stockpile of drugs, syringes and other things. I mostly kept my head down, afraid to look around. The room was worn, the building was fairly old and this back room needed an update. There was a small, elevated table with a towel over it at the end of the room, parallel to the shelves. The Vet indicated that we could put the cat carrier on the table. I thought this was the prep area and that we'd be going into a surgical suite with a stainless steel operating table with bottles of magic knockout gas nearby.

Dr. M took one of the kittens out of the carrier-Ruby, the boy cat with the girl name. The Dr. weighed him, then made some notes. He opened a safe and took out a small vial. He drew some of the contents into the syringe. Then he told Connie to hold Ruby down tightly and to “karate chop” the cat's back leg to keep it down and force the vein to appear. Then we both realized he was going to do the neutering RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE ON THE TABLE. Did he wash his hands first? I had just put hand sanitizer on my hands, but what the heck? Connie looked like she was going to panic and I didn't blame her a bit. We both thought we didn't HAVE TO SEE the surgery and here we were about to SEE THE SURGERY! We couldn't RUN AWAY! This was the agreement. We help the Vet, he gives us a big disount.

Connie turned away. Dr. M injected the fluid into Ruby's vein. The kitten quickly went limp, his tongue hung out of his mouth. I petted him and said it was going to be OK. Then before I could turn away, Dr. M made a tiny incision across Ruby's scrotum, then pulled the fur down, exposing his tiny little testicles. At first I was amazed at seeing them, but then, he grabbed one of them and gave it a TUG. It stretched out on a flesh colored tether about FOUR INCHES LONG! He twisted it around. Did he put a knot in it? I felt woozy. Then, just as quickly, he took an object out of a sealed package and sliced the tether at its' base. WOAH! One nut down, one to go.

I held my hand up to help cover Connie's eyes. I didn't realize I was talking until Connie told me later, but apparently I was saying; “WOW! Look at that! Oh my GOD! Connie, it's not that bad, but WOAH! WOW! I will NEVER EAT CLAM CHOWDER AGAIN!”

Dr. M quickly repeated the procedure on the other testicle. In a few seconds he was done. Connie let go of Ruby and I picked him up. I began to gently rock him and pet him. In a few moments he began to wake up. His tongue hung out of his mouth and Connie said he drooled. He felt so limp in my arms. It reminded me of the day Bob died. I didn't want to cry. I just focused on Ruby. He was ok, but WOW...I did not think I could help do this two more times!

Ruby Baby.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Ruby, who may be renamed Inky.

It turns out we didn't have to watch two more times because we have THREE GIRLS and TWO BOYS! The girls got their booster shot and Spot was the only other male. Sadly, Spot was very difficult to knock out. Dr. M had to try a few things-finally we had to bring him into the surgical suite and I had to hold a tiny gas mask over Spot's face until his body went limp in my hands. It was very unnerving. Dr. M. went to work quickly and in a few moments Spot was done, too. I was told it would take a lot longer for him to wake up, so I just held him so he could breathe easily and tried not to freak out over him being so very limp in my arms.

Ruby was still weak, but awake. Then Dr. M said he was interested in ADOPTING a kitten! He had two cats and one died a few months ago. He had plans to adopt another cat, but it didn't work out. He was looking for another black and white cat! BINGO! We had THREE! He asked which one was the most outgoing? Friendly? Sweet? They all were great, but he focused on Ruby, though it was tough to know how friendly he was based on him being wobbly and out-of-it. Then I showed him photos from my blog post about the Flying Zombie Kittens. He LOVED the photos and when he realized Spot was jumping more often than the others, his attention turned to him.

In the end he decided to let both kittens recover in his office, then he'd take them both home and see how they did with his two kids and his other cat! We said we would take back the one he didn't want, then he said he'd probably end up with both since each kid would probably want their own cat.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spot before his surgery.

We didn't ask him to fill out any application. We didn't do a home visit. We didn't even ask how old his kids were! We just numbly nodded our heads, yes. We were both in a trance. I kept seeing tiny testicles getting chopped off and Connie was focusing on remaining cool even though I found out later that blood freaks her out! I was a bit jealous that my guys didn't get adopted, but I was really GLAD these two had a good chance. My goodness-a VET for an adopter? Does it get any better?

As we walked out of the office, Dr. M. said thanks for helping him neuter HIS cats! Geez, maybe he could have decided to adopt them BEFORE we had to see him do the surgery? Now my brain hurts and I'm really glad Sam didn't see that surgery! He better keep in mind that now I know HOW to do a neuter so he better shape up.

As for Connie, she never wants to do this again! I can't say I blame her one bit, but I know I'll be back. The price is too good and Dr. M is two hours closer than the low cost S/N clinic. I hope I don't have to see him do a spay surgery, but I have this feeling it will be the next thing I see that will be featured in my “greatest hits of stuff that freaks me out that I've seen and can't unsee.”

Hanna & Macy Make a New Friend

Bridgeport, Connecticut has lots of rough and tumble neighborhoods. No one knows how many free roaming cats live there, but there's a never-ending supply of them in the local pound, their numbers reflect just the tip of the iceberg compared to the ones trying to live on the streets.

One of my friends, who owns a few rental properties in the area, is constantly trapping, vetting and trying to save as many cats as she can. It's a very hard life for cats in this part of the state. It's very urban, there's plenty of crime and not enough welcome places for a cat to find a break. There are some kind souls who feed the cats what they can or cal for help when they find a litter of kittens under a rusted out car.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Hanna, left and Macy, right

Two little kittens, barely two weeks old, perhaps not even related, were found by my friend. She knew they needed care right away, but didn't have a foster home for them. She called someone she knew who might be able to help-who had lots of experience caring for neonatal and very young kittens. The friend said yes, but on one condition, that a rescue group take ownership of the kittens, provide future vetting and eventually be responsible for getting them forever homes.

The Girls.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

That's when my phone rang. As long as the woman could provide a foster home, I'd do the rest. The littlest of the two kittens, a tiny dilute calico named, Hanna, was in bad shape. Both kittens were so flea-ravaged that we weren't sure they'd make it through the night. Macy, the larger of the two kittens, was weak, but due to her size, it was hoped she'd be able to pull through.

Hanna and Pup.jpg
©2011 Jessica Roque. Please doggie, do not FART!

The foster mom and her daughter cared for the kittens. Hanna survived the night and both kittens showed signs of improving. A few weeks later, I brought the girls to the Vet. It was my first time seeing them. They were huddled together, their eyes a bit runny. No one even knew if the cats were related due to their difference in weight-it was so different that it was thought that either Hanna was a runt or they were not blood sisters. Regardless of their parentage, they are very bonded. They've been through a lot. The upper respiratory they're flirting with could kill little Hanna. For now, they're basically all right. They need better nutrition-which I already took care of, and they need time to rest, recover and get back on their paws.

Along the way, they made a new friend-a huge dog who is part of the foster family's home. The kittens don't know the difference between a dog and a cat. They just know it's a safe place to sleep. The dog just had surgery, so maybe they can all recover together?

In time, the girls will be big enough to be adopted. At least they have a new friends to watch over them until they're ready to move on with the next chapter of their lives.

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Stand By Your Man.

When what ails your cat isn't clearly defined, it's easy to lean on your Vet and assume they know all the answers. They can decide what should be done next-that's their job, right? What I'd like to suggest is you don't let them call the shots-ever-without being your cat's biggest advocate. You know your cat better than anyone else how your cat behaves-how well they eat-if they are using the litter pan and their output is normal or not. Your Vet has MANY other patients to deal with, a life to live, other distractions. It doesn't mean they don't know what they're doing, but it does mean that they don't have the time to spend endless hours on your cat's case, alone. When it comes to your cat's health care, you must be prepared to push back, ask questions and offer reminders and suggestions to your Vet to help him/her solve the case.

The longer I do cat rescue and experience health issues with fosters as well as my own cats, the more I realize that it helps my Vet if I understand the pieces to my cat's health “puzzle” as much as I can. Overlook something and that might be the one thing that ties everything together. I may not understand cat's physiology the way my Vet does, but I can provide anecdotal information and I can be the one to remember my cat's health history when my Vet might miss something while reviewing my cat's file.

Before we visited Dr Weisman this morning, I made a list of every question I had, plus I thought about Nicky's past health issues. Dr. Weisman didn't have a complete picture of Nicky's life and it was up to us to provide that to her because whatever is ailing Nicky is not blatantly obvious.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting for Dr. Weisman to arrive.

It made me think of a few suggestions to share about going to the Vet. Maybe some of them will help you when you have to bring your cat to the Vet.

1. Keep a folder of your cat's health records. Sounds obvious, but if you have to look something up, it's there. If you want to compare blood work from one year to the next or can't remember if your cat was ever tested for Bartonella it's there. Yes, you can call your Vet and they should know, but what if your Vet is closed and you need to go to the Emergency Vet?

2. Do your best to understand and be able to recall every treatment and condition your cat has ever had. If you have to make a cheat sheet of notes, do that. I seem to have a good memory for what each cat has been through, so I just sit quietly and think about it and jot down questions for my Vet based on the cat's past history and include the details of his or her past I think are important to underscore.

3. Don't let your Vet tell you what to do without clearly understanding the pros and cons of what is being done. It's nice when they offer to give your cat a shot of Convenia so you don't have to give it pills, but is Convenia the RIGHT antibiotic for your cat? Should your cat even GET an antibiotic? What about other medications other treatments? Understanding is so important. In the heat of the moment, some times you don't have the luxury of looking up what side effects or dangers are in a certain medication, but if you do have time, then LOOK IT UP. Be smart. Ask a lot of questions. Make sure your Vet remembers those details about your cat that he or she may have missed.

4. Take time to think about what is best. IF YOU CAN. There are many situations where time is a luxury you do not have. There are other situations where if you take a day or week to repeat a test or see how the cat does, it's perfectly acceptable. Sometimes rushing into a treatment or surgery makes it worse or makes the case more complex. Try not to do too much at once or you won't be able to understand what changes were the ones that made the difference.

What happened with Nicky today is a very good illustration of the points, above. Sam and I were expecting that Nicky would be having exploratory surgery today. He has too many test results that show some sort of problem-and we needed to know what was going on.

We had our list and because we had spent time thinking about it, we were able to give Dr. Weisman more information about Nicky that ended up being crucial to his care, today.

Nicky has a growth on his spleen-it is likely it is benign. Older cats can get these growths, but the ultrasound Vet didn't describe the growth well enough so we know if it is a tumor. Cats don't need their spleen as they get older so if it had to be removed, Nicky would be fine.

Although Nicky's blood work does show early signs of renal disease, what Dr. W didn't know was that Nicky is in DIRE need of a DENTAL!!! Some how that information was not passed on from our Vet to Dr. Weisman. Nicky has a cervical line lesion on at least one tooth and some mild tartar that needs to be cleaned. That, alone, could be the cause for Nicky's kidney issues and that his mesenteric lymph nodes are swollen, but that wasn't the possible smoking gun.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I DO NOT CARE TO BE IN THE CAR! WAHHHHH!

Before we knew any better and Nicky was being fed GRAIN (in his dry and canned food), Nicky's urethra would get blocked up. Eventually we spent many thousands of dollars having surgery done on Nicky to remove his penis (which can be referred to as a PU surgery) so he'd have a bigger opening to urinate through and not block up any more. Right after that we learned about diet and got him off grain. The surgery was done years ago, but once we mentioned it to Dr. W. she perked up. That one thing could be what is causing some of Nicky's symptoms and that his immune system is constantly being taxed from having that larger opening.

She also felt that possibly Nicky was having a reaction to being fed a raw diet. Sam and I aren't sold on that, but we're open to the idea that if Nicky's immune system is weaker from his bad teeth and the PU surgery, that perhaps the mild bacteria he might encounter on his food just adds to his problems.

We also showed Dr. W. Nora's blood work. She's Nicky's sister and she has no kidney issues whatsoever. Of course this is not comparing the same cats, exactly, but between Nora and Gracie's recent blood work there are no signs the diet is hurting them-rather helping if anything.

It became clear that doing anything other than a dental on Nicky wasn't necessary today. Nicky doesn't show enough clinical signs to tell us he's in crisis. None of his tests are so bad that we MUST do surgery NOW. We decided that after the dental and dose of antibiotics and some time to recover from both, that we'd re-do the ultrasound and see if anything has improved. It's possible many of these issues will lessen in severity OR get WORSE. If so, we move forward with surgery.

We're giving it a month. Right after Thanksgiving we'll re-test and see how he's doing. If he starts to show clinical signs before then, he has the surgery done sooner. It's really not a case of not going it at all, it's a case of when it's done. Sooner or later we will be facing this procedure, but today is not that day.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. My boys last night.

Nicky is on an IV for the next few hours to protect his kidneys before surgery, then they do the dental..and they remove and biopsy a growth I found on his leg while we were IN THE CAR, on the way to the VET! After that, Nicky goes back on the IV and tomorrow morning, with any luck, we'll bring him home.

I can't say we lucked out, but I think I can say we feel better about this choice. Nicky may still have cancer or renal disease or both or hyperthyroid or IBD...we just don't know yet. Maybe we caught it VERY EARLY or maybe not. We'll find out in time.

And all this happened because we saw Nicky peeing on the floor in the kitchen...

The Next Big Step for Nicky

It's getting late. I should get to bed. In less than 12 hours, we'll be seeing Dr. Weisman, Nicky's surgeon. I feel the same anxiety I felt before we went to see her with Bob. Bob's case was, at first, more clear cut. He HAD to have part of his liver removed or he'd die fairly soon. With Nicky, we don't even know for certain that we SHOULD open him up at all, but I still fear the same miserable results...the Vet saying; “I'm sorry, but...”

Over the weekend, one of my readers reached out to me. She worked for a great Vet in the Northeast for many years, who, according to her, was a fantastic diagnostician. She spoke to him about Nicky's case and right away he said NOT to do ANYTHING other than repeat Nicky's urinalysis in a few months. That what was the benefit of opening him up? I felt confused. I was so ready to move forward and now this...he asked us, through our CiCH friend, that we call him on Tuesday afternoon, when he had normal business hours, so we could talk to him.

Now what? Here we have Dr. Larry and Dr. Deb saying we need to open Nicky up. We have a long track record and trust both Vets, but this other Vet did bring up a good point-if it IS cancer and we cut into it, we can make it a lot worse.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. If you rub Nicky's head, you get full belly access!

I hate feeling conflicted about what to do. Nicky is Sam's cat. Ultimately Sam has to decide, but I'm definitely going to need to hear from Dr. Deb exactly why we need to do this now, instead of give Nicky more time and re-run all the tests again later.

Something else came up, too. Nicky may NEVER have been “snap tested” for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia! Back when Nicky was adopted he came to Sam unvetted. Sam took him to the vet and had him neutered. Did they test him then? It was 10 years ago? I wouldn't have known to test Nicky when he, Nora and Sam came to live at my house! Now I have a terrible fear of what if's going through my head...Meanwhile Nicky seems a bit down, a bit thinner, not eating quite as well as he has in the past. Is he feeling worse? We KNOW he has a bad TOOTH on top of his other issues so maybe that's what's causing his eating problems?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Meet my belleh.

At this point it's so hard to know. I've been down this road before and it sucks. Is this our last night with Nicky as a reasonably healthy cat? Are we losing him and this is the start of that journey?

Sam has been very stoic about how he feels about Nicky. Even though the two of them are always together and I know Sam loves Nicky, dearly, Sam isn't one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. This afternoon Sam looked glum. I asked him what was wrong. He came over to me and put his arms around me and sort of sank against me. All he could manage to say was; “Don't let them take my cat from me.”

My poor Sam. My poor Nicky. I have a hard time imagining one without the other. I hope I don't have to do that any time soon. My poor boys. We'll get through this together-just like we always do. I just hope that maybe this time we luck out-whatever lucking out means. Nicky and Sam need many more years together. We just can't lose another cat. Not right now. Not so soon.

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For the Love of Nicky.

We trudge down this all too familiar path with weary legs. It started with something that was a little bit off with Nicky's behavior, then a blood test, then, ultrasound. Next step takes us to having exploratory surgery done on Nicky on Monday, at which time they'll do biopsies. We'll get some answers and have more questions. Based on finally reading the ultrasound report, it looks grim, but it could be worse. I fear Dr. Weisman finding a labyrinth of tumors inside Nicky's belly-that same belly we've rubbed and kissed, now full of growths that could take us from him far sooner than we could have ever anticipated.

If you looked at Nicky, you'd see a big lug of a cat with a sweeter than sugar personality and a high LOUD cry (only when he has to be in the car or is looking for his sister, Nora). Nicky doesn't look sick. He eats well, gets around the house without problems, his eyes are bright, his coat is good. He doesn't vomit or have the runs.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky chillaxin' yesterday.

I look at him and think I may see him waste away-just like I did with Bob. I don't know if I could bear to see that again. Bob was an old kitty. Technically, I suppose Nicky is, too, but 11 doesn't seem that old. Sam and I both thought that we had at least 15 to 20 years with our cats, especially now that they've all been on a much improved diet for many years. This just seems so out-of-the-blue. We're both shocked and I don't think the reality of it has completely hit me.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, with sister, Nora, crammed into a cat bed even though there are two of them and the one next to them is empty.

Nicky could be weeks away from dying or not. I sure HOPE NOT!!! Some of you have been sharing stories with me about your cats who passed from lymphoma: one was only 5 years old...another a few years older than that. Some found out just before their cat had to be put down or died on their own. No, we don't have a confirmed diagnosis, but let's look at Nicky's ultrasound report. It's like reading another language. I have to wonder why they don't use simple words! I had to look up just about every word on the report. My comments are in italics.

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“There is no evident peritoneal effusion. (no fluid-this is good).”

There is an apparent solitary, solid nodule of undetermined nature which measures approx 1.5 cm x 2 cm. The parenchyma appears hyperechogenic (I think this means the functioning part of the spleen- allows increased sound waves to penetrate it. What does this mean? I have no idea and I can't find into online, but I DO KNOW WHAT A NODULE IS-TUMOR?) centrally in the nodule and the remaining parenchyma of the spleen appears unremarkable.”

[paraphrasing here]: The liver appears unremarkable..lacks lesions...gall bladder OK

There are multiple (4 to 5) hypoechogenic to mixed echogenic nodules in the mesentery. The largest is 1.5cm in size. The others are about 0.5-0.8 cm. The nodules closest to the root of the mesentary are likely the mesenteric lymph nodes (this is not good). The others may be the same but seem less likely to be so. The character of these is unknown but would include reactive noes or neoplasia. The iliac lymph nodes are not visibly enlarged (this is good).”

“Both kidneys have increased medullary echogenicity and consequent reduced corticomedullary contrast or distinction that would be consistent with mild inflammation or degeneration. There is no significant mineralization apparent. There is no visible renal pelvic dilation to support pyelonephritis (how about just say, NO INFLAMMATION in the kidneys, but I think the opacity of them varies in not a proper way! ENGLISH PLEASE!) at this time. The overall size of the kidneys are withing normal limits. Neither uretar appears dilated.”

[paraphrasing here]: Bladder is OK.

“There is diffusely prominent and mildly thickened small intestine...There is no visible focal lesions and this thickening appears to be in normal mucosal to muscularis proportions which would be more suggestive on non-neoplastic inflammation (I think this means the inflammation is not an inflammation due to swelling of a tumor). There have been reports by oncologists of low grade lymphoma that mimics this same appearance (this could be very bad news).”

[paraphrasing here]: Stomach and pancreas are OK.

Sonographic Diagnoses (the bottom line):

Splenopathy-solitary nodule of undetermined nature. (growth on Nicky's Spleen).

Renal Disease: Increased medullary echogenicity consistent with Interstitial nephritis-nonspecific inflammation or diffuse neoplasia such as mast cell disease or lymphoma (Inflammation of the kidneys...not good)

Mesenteric nodules of undetermined nature (this could be mesenteric lymphoma).

Mesenteric lymphadenopathy (Mesenteric lymphadenitis is an inflammation of the lymph nodes on the wall of the mesentery-the covering of the intestines).

Small Intestine: moderate, diffuse thickening more consistant with IBD than diffuse lymphoma (but...lymphoma and IBD go "hand in hand" so we're not off the hook).

---------------------------------------------

We've stopped in our journey to take a rest. This weekend will be “All About Nicky.” We cancelled our plans to have an outing on Saturday. Instead, we'll stay home and focus on Nicky-as we have been for the past few days. We'll also have to ramp up our care for Gracie. She still has a growth on her belly that may also be cancer. Right now we're to put warm compresses on it to see if we can get it to drain. It got smaller a few days ago, so I'm hoping this will be a non-issue...please...please!

I realize that if we're facing the last days with Nicky that no amount of attention this weekend will ever leave us feeling like we had enough time with him. After this weekend has passed, Nicky's life will be much more difficult, at least at the onset of the week. When the surgery is over, hopefully he'll recover and be like his old self again, but these few days may be the last we'll ever see of our ol' boy, as he once was.

No matter what path his life takes, we will always love Nicky.

A few folks have contacted me, asking me to post a ChipIn to provide donations towards Nicky's surgery on Monday. If you'd like to help him, the ChipIn is on the right sidebar. To those of you who have already been so very kind to donate, Sam and I appreciate the help so very much---more than simple words can say. Thank you.

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Not Nicky.

After my father killed himself in 1999 I figured nothing bad would happen for awhile, as if I deserved a “pass” from any more pain. Of course I was wrong. I got divorced four months later and lost my biggest client.

I realize that most things that happen during my life are not about me. My father took his own life. I didn't cause that to happen, but certainly it effected me deeply, and still does. The thing is I can't help but feel a bit, well pissed when one thing after another seems to go down the drain. I asked Sam if we were being foolish to think that things were going to get better “some day.” Maybe we should just realize that life pretty much sucks, is difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking and has moments, just moments of good stuff to keep us from offing ourselves, too.

Last month after Bob died, I thought that maybe we were done with long trips to Vet Oncologists, done with digging the deep financial hole to provide Bob with the care he needed, done with heartbreak over our cats. Bob was an old cat with FIV+, two kinds of cancer and half a liver. Our next youngest cat is eleven, so certainly they would be fine for many years to come. I really wanted to take a deep breath and relax, focus on the working out some behavioral issues with the cats and get the foster cats adopted.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, this morning, getting ready to roll over and show me his belly.

I nagged at Sam to take Nicky to the Vet. I was fed up watching the cat urinate on the floor, right in front of his litter pan, often not caring if we were watching him do it. We knew it might be due to the stress in the house and the cats jockeying for position in the cat hierarchy with Bob being gone, but due diligence dictated that Nicky should be seen by Dr. Larry.

I honestly thought Nicky had a urinary tract infection or might be in the early stages of hypothyroid because he drank a lot of water (and I knew his blood sugar was normal so it wasn't diabetes).

The blood work came back and it indicated that Nicky might be in early stages of renal (kidney) failure. The next morning, Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat just posted an article by Dr. Darren Hawks about Kidney Failure that helped me understand what was possibly going on. It was devastating news, but since we caught it early, Nicky had a chance to live many more good years. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. He always gives us "lovey-dovey" looks.

But Dr. Larry wanted to do a sonogram to look at Nicky's kidneys. Sam agreed and the procedure was done yesterday afternoon. I wasn't worried. I thought we had that pass to not get bad news-Nicky is just eleven, right? He gets a raw diet and fresh spring water not our yucky well water. Sure he had some kidney issue, but maybe he just needed some antibiotics?

I was sitting at my computer, working on a project. I'd had a lousy day. An acquaintance of mine died. He was only 52 years old. He had a massive stroke last week and died on Monday morning. I had some very interesting times with him and I liked him even though he seemed to bring out the worst in my childhood friend, MaryEllen, who was dating him in those days. Now she's planning his funeral. I couldn't help but feel the weight of the ticking clock of my own life. How much time did I have left? I'm only two years younger than he was and a lot of people don't even get to be my age. I can't take it for granted I have tomorrow. It gave me pause.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Rub Mah Belleh.

Sam stood in the doorway to my office. He didn't look so good, but we've both been in fairly bad moods for lots of reasons lately. He started to talk about Nicky. He must have just gotten off the phone with Dr. Larry. They found a growth on one of Nicky's kidneys-which were both showing signs of degeneration. They found lymph nodes that were enlarged, but it wasn't renal disease, it might be CANCER.

FU@KING CANCER.

Mesenteric Lymphoma. The same thing that JUST KILLED BOB.

When I heard “lymphoma” my head buzzed and my stomach flipped. I felt like I couldn't breathe for a second. No. No. NOT NICKY. NO!

They can't be certain until they do EXPLORATORY SURGERY. Maybe it's something else? Maybe it's some sort of reaction to something else? I don't know what else it COULD BE other than some sort of cancer!!!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky's view of the world is often upside down.

For the handful of you who've met Nicky, you know he's our BIG 20 pound boy who would rather lay in your arms, belly up, like a baby or get tummy rubs than do just about anything else at all. Nicky is a big sweetheart who LOVES everyone. He and his sister...and then I thought about Nora...are inseparable. She wouldn't survive without her big brother. Oh my GOD..what is happening to my cats?! We found this out just because Nicky was drinking too much water and peeing outside the litter pan. That was all we had for symptoms.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Skritches from mama.

I really thought we had more time. Now we have to scrounge for money. Nicky must have the surgery, but we are tapped out. We gave all that we had, and more, for Bob, thinking we could recover in time for the next cat health issue, but we were wrong.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. We love you, Nicky!

Later that night, after we picked up Nicky from the Vet and brought him home, I half jokingly said to Sam that I was feeling suicidal and asked him if he was, too, and he said, yes. Then he said, gesturing to the cats, but they would suffer if we died and I answered simply, we'll just take them with us when we go.

I guess we didn't get that pass we were hoping for. We'll do our best for Nicky. I don't know what that means. It's one step at a time. We need to confirm that it's lymphoma. We need to sort out what Nicky's options are and how we can provide for him. These are dark days indeed and this is just the beginning of a very sad journey for one of our beloved cats.

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Snowshoe Sisters-Giving Thanks

Sally and Clare were barely busted out of Henry County and spayed, before Sally's sutures started to rupture and she got a hernia. Foster mom, Bobbie, got her to the Vet right away. He said it had to be fixed and was one of the worst hernias he'd seen. We didn't hesitate in saying, YES, to going forward with the surgery. Bobbie left Sally's sister, Clare with Sally at the Vet so the two would not be alone, even for a day.

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©2011 Bobbie Coker of Cats-Goats-Quotes. Sally's herniated belly boo-boo!

By the next afternoon, the girls were home. Sally was recovering slowly and had to wear the “cone of shame” for about a day so she wouldn't tug her sutures out. She did well and got back on her paws quickly.

In the meantime, I asked for some help. The girls didn't have any toys and were clearly itching to play. Miss Memory and Miss Emily jumped at the chance to help and sent a VERY NICE selection of toys. The girls LOVED THEM!

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©2011 Bobbie Coker of Cats-Goats-Quotes. Nom nom nom nom nom

The only problem was that Sally is not very good at sharing. She'd grab up the toys and guard over them, growling at her sister if she came near. Sally also eats FAST and jumps into Clare's dish if Bobbie isn't watching them during meal time. Okay, so maybe Sally is a bit of a brat OR she just never had toys before and good food, so maybe this is just a passing phase?

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©2011 Bobbie Coker of Cats-Goats-Quotes.Are you gonna eat that?

Bobbie reported that the girls are very friendly. Sally more outgoing, Clare more reserved. They're both full of energy and want to play, over sitting in Bobbie's lap, but they do like their head skritches and pets.

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©2011 Bobbie Coker of Cats-Goats-Quotes. Clare with her toys-until Sally steals them away!

A few days ago, the girls started to have very stinky poo and were having lots of accidents all over the carpeting! Bobbie took a stool sample to the vet and sure enough it was positive for Coccidia. This is why when you foster like Bobbie does, you MUST keep the foster cats separate from your own cats. Coccidia is very contagious and is spread through the litter pan so good thing Bobbie didn't let her cats share the girl's pan!

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©2011 Bobbie Coker of Cats-Goats-Quotes Don't even think about taking Sally's favorite toy!

It was touch and go for a few days. The girls were having lots of accidents and Bobbie was being very gracious about having to clean it up. I shipped her some things to help with neutralizing the odors and helping clean up. I sent her some Cat Attract cat litter to see if the girls would stop having accidents if that was added to the litter. I told Bobbie it might be that the girls just didn't feel well and that hopefully they would stop going outside the litter pan as soon as they felt better.

Two days later...the girls stopped their inappropriate behavior as their stool began to firm back up and clearly they were feeling better. This is yet another example of why it's so important to get your cat to the vet when it inappropriately eliminates!

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©2011 Bobbie Coker of Cats-Goats-Quotes. The snowshoe sistahs!

The girls are doing well and having loads of fun with all their toys. Thank you very much to Memory & Emily for their generosity and kindness. Bobbie and I appreciate your help and I know the girls are passing the days until they come to Connecticut with joy in their hearts with all those good toys to play with and a belly full of nom-noms.

ME-OW!

Not on My Watch: Snowshoe Sisters-Saved!

I do not like to pick and choose who I rescue because I know whoever I say yes to, means others don't get a rescue and may not live. It makes me sick that I have to be faced with this choice. If I choose cats I feel are very adoptable, then they get adopted quickly and make room to save more, though sometimes I just have to save ones like Nigel and Basil, who had no hope of survival, but weren't any less deserving.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Clare.

Today I chose ID#9/26-3728 and 3729, two Snowshoe sisters. I thought they were well into adulthood, but it turns out they are just 7-8 months old. They have fleas. Of course, they're not spayed. I don't know where they came from, but they are sweet, so they knew life with a family, at least for awhile. I don't know if there is a little girl, crying somewhere, missing her kitties because her parents couldn't afford their care or if some cruel so-and-so didn't like them any more because they weren't cute little kittens and dumped them at the shelter two days ago. I just know they needed help.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Sally.

Today they got it.

They are named Sally and Clare. They are getting all their vaccines and they already tested negative/negative for FeLV and FIV+. They are getting spayed, too. It will be a BIG day for them, but after that they go to their Aunt Bobbie's house to rest and recover. Bobbie took in Phil, Nigel and Basil, MacGruber and others. She is a great foster mom and I was very glad she could offer her home to help these cats.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Clare is ready to be busted out of her cage now!

My sister-shelter, Animals in Distress, offered them a place to live once they are ready to leave Georgia. I have a feeling they won't be in the shelter for very long-these cats are, I'm told, very sweet and cute. It feels good to know they're safe, but there's a bittersweet quality to this small success.

Right now the girls are being prepped to be spayed thanks to the great work Doc Thomas does at Noahs Ark. Thanks to Bobby, for running to get them with no notice, for paying their bill for now and even for prepping them for surgery. Without these good people, this rescue would not have happened.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Silly siamese sisters!

I hate that I can't do more. I left behind all the others who I posted about this morning. I pray people find it in their heart to step forward and help these other cats. It's just so wrong that so many will die for no good reason.

There has to be a way to do more. I just have to find a way.

Foster Cat Journal: Day One. The Tiny Miracles

Mama weighs just over five pounds. She's skin and bones on her young frame. The Vet determined she is between 9 months and 1 year old-the same age as Cara. I can't imagine a cat that young having SIX kittens, but it happens all the time. I feel sick about it. That poor creature, trying to survive in what was, up until recently, a truly heartless world.

She has an haunted quality to her expression that speaks volumes of what she has suffered. Though she is malnourished herself, she provides for her newborns as they struggle for access to the warm milk that sustains them.

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©2011 Bobby Stanford. Just rescued and on the way to the Vet. I wonder what this mama thinks will happen to her now?

Yesterday we prepared ourselves that this Mother would have to die based on what we heard from the shelter. She wasn't eating-for days. She was depressed, lethargic. What was wrong with her could have been the end of her.

Once she and her babies were in foster care, Mama began to EAT and eat well. It will take time for her to regain her strength as her hind end is red and swollen from many days of diarrhea. She has a small abscess on her tail that the Vet thinks is a self inflicted bite wound from giving birth. She may have been tugging at one of the kittens as they were being born and she bit her tail by accident. The wound is not bad and she really shouldn't have antibiotics just yet, so Maria will keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't get infected.

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©2011 Bobby Stanford.

Overall we were VERY LUCKY-SO FAR. Mama is in rather good shape, considering. They did a stool sample on her and it was negative for parasites. She had no fleas. Maybe she knew life in a home for a time, but they got rid of her a few days after she gave birth.

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©2011 Bobby Stanford. Lunchtime rush is on.

Her kittens were in good shape, again, for now! Maria and I are both terrified of them coming down with the you-know-what-plague that seems to hit every cat that comes out of a shelter. It's wait and see. I find I am a bit reluctant to give them names-that said, should the worst happen, maybe they should have the dignity of having a name before they pass away? I hope it's not something we will meed to worry about. Right now, they're OK, getting fed and mostly sleeping in a big pile with each other-little orange puff balls.

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©2011 Maria S. Little orange puff balls.

I can't get over their orangey-goodness. I wish I could give them all kisses and welcome them to the world. Happy Belated Birthday to you my sweet babies!

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©2011 Maria S. Squee!

Taking on seven new foster cats will require some funding. I'd like to start raising donations for them so we'll have it set aside when they need it-or in case of an emergency! I'm using a low cost S/N clinic, but even with that, everything that has to be done will be times seven cats.

If you can help this little pumpkin patch, your donation is tax deductible as all the money goes to my non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation, Kitten Associates. Any overages that we don't use for this family, will be used to provide food and vet care for the other cats in our program.

If you want to send a donation DIRECTLY through to PayPal, then we will get 100% of your donation IF you take the following steps:

1. Log in to YOUR PayPal Account

2. Select the tab: SEND MONEY (on the top of the page)

3. To: info@kittenassociates.org, Fill in Amount, then choose the PERSONAL tab below where you fill in the amount and select: THIS MONEY IS BEING SENT AS A: GIFT

4. Press "continue" to finish the payment transfer

Checks can be made out to: Kitten Associates. Please note: Bob's Angels on your check and mail to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

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©2011 Maria S. Just a bag of bones today...but one day she will be plump and happy again...one day soon.

And now for some FUN. We need names! I'm open to suggestions-I may not use the names you offer, but let's give it a shot. We need a name for Mama and we have FIVE BOYS AND ONE GIRL (we think) who need names, too. They should all have names in honor of Bob. Here are his names and nicknames: Robert J. Dole, Bob Dole, Baba-D, Bobbie Tinkleberry (hee hee). Post a comment here with your suggestions or visit our Facebook page and leave a comment there.

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©2011 Maria S. Sweet dreams little ones. Grow big and strong!
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