Coco the Wonder Cat

Some of you might remember that last year right around this time, our kitty Coco ran away. It was completely unexpected and left us heartbroken. And it’s especially hard to say goodbye without having any closure. I’m not sure that I really want to know what happened to her, the possibilities are pretty grisly. But, maybe it would help me heal a little to know and be able to move on. A year later, and I still check the animal shelters and neighborhood boards. When someone posts “found cat” to Nextdoor, my heart still skips a beat. Could it be her? It never is, obviously, but I hold out hope.

Since she’s been gone a year, I just wanted to write a little piece about her. Her eulogy, if you will. I wrote one for our kitty Nashua when he passed away, and it was very healing for me.

Coco came into our lives as quickly and bizarrely as she left. Our friend had found her in a tree near his house. She was tiny and scared, but sweet. She needed a home. I had mentioned wanting to get another kitty. Brien and I had just gotten married a few weeks before, and he said we could take her in, as a gift to me.

She wasn’t sick, and aside from her umbilical hernia, which they fixed when we had her spayed, she was a perfect little orange and white ball of fluff. It took us a while to name her, but we settled on Velcro (the nickname Coco came later), because she literally stuck to everything she touched with her claws. She was always, up until she left us, a very timid and high-strung girl. So when she landed on something, or someone tried to pick her up, or someone was holding her, or she was trying to jump up or down, always with the claws. She got stuck a lot, and it was fun to tell people, “well, that’s how she got her name.”

She and Nashua didn’t hit it off right away. She was scared, and he was pissed. He’d been my only fur kid for 10 years. What is this nonsense, he seemed to be saying. But they began to tolerate each other, and lived in peace. Well, more like a cease fire. A year or so later is when we got Newton (our beagle). After that the cats were absolute best friends. Thick as thieves. Inseparable. United in their hatred for the dog.

The cats rode in the car with me and my stepdad on the long drive from Wisconsin to California. She immediately hid, and didn’t make so much as a peep. Somewhere in Nevada, we had stopped for the night and upon pulling into the hotel parking lot, discovered that the car could no longer go in reverse, only in drive. I’d find out later that a simple bolt fell out, but at the time we were like WTF, and had no idea what to do. My stepdad opened the door, got out to look, and left the door open. Velcro made a break for it. She hopped out, ran ten feet or so, and then stopped and I scooped her up and tossed her back in. So, ok, it’s not like she hasn’t tried to escape before.

When we pulled up to the apartment in California, we couldn’t find her anywhere. I had that thing packed floor to ceiling and I started getting scared she’d been crushed by a shifting box somewhere along the line. But, when we were down to just a few boxes, I saw her. Terrified, as always. But seemingly grateful to be found.

When we moved from that apartment in Mountain View to our first flat in San Francisco, the first thing she did was find the smallest opening in the wall under the stairs and climb in, refusing to budge. But, it was dark in there and I didn’t know how big that space was, or where it went, and I asked our landlord if they knew. They turned out to be some of the nicest people we have ever met, but I didn’t know that yet. Anyway, one of them, a big burly guy, came down and started ripping out the wall. I’m not even kidding. He’s just pulling drywall and boards away, and then he said exasperated and teary-eyed, “I found her.” It was a tiny space. Maybe 4 square feet. Just a little nook under the stairs. And she still sat there, staring at us with her glowing eyes, until that evening.

When we moved to our second home in San Francisco, it had a big yard (well, relative to San Francisco it was big). And we were in the middle of the block, so back there she could not get to the street. I think she probably found a way at some point, but I liked to tell myself she couldn’t to feel better. We let her be an outdoor cat for the four years we lived there. THIS is why I was so confused when she full-on left last year. Back then, she always came meowing at the door at night, came in and ate and slept. She often showed up with an injury.

The vet told us, “She’s one of the tough ones. The scared ones get injured in the back, when they run. She gets injured in the front, fighting back.” Good for her. Not for our bank account. This girl had multiple bladder infections (where she peed blood, it was SO great for my anxiety), a huge infected abscess on her face that ruptured, a twig stuck right into her gut that I ended up pulling out myself (barf), another abscess or possible fracture on her arm, intestinal blockage. The list goes on. I showed up at the vet one time and the tech told me, “Her file is really thick!” That’s Coco, nothing done halfway.

We moved from that house into another, with a much less protected backyard. We also kept her there illegally. Well, against the lease. I tried to find someone to take her, even just temporarily, but I couldn’t. And the thought of giving her away to strangers was just too much for me. But, anyway, we kept her inside there. It was a tumultuous couple of years of life for us there, but she was my constant calm. She was always ready to snuggle, and I was always relieved to have her. Two years we lived there. Two years of hiding her in the car when the landlord came by. She stuck it out through heavy construction noise, while they re-stuccoed the whole house and replaced some of the windows.

She was ok on the drive from San Francisco to Tucson. It was a long haul, and she spent most of the time under the passenger seat, but not a peep. She’d come out occasionally to look out the window and meow at my face about how long we had been in the car and where the heck are we going anyway.

And once we arrived, she did fine. She adjusted well to the new house. She was used to not going outside and she was very grateful for the extra space. She found a zillion places to hide and curl up for a nap. She was the only pet at that time, and loving it.

A few months later we adopted Wrigley. And she definitely didn’t like having him around, but she wasn’t mean to him. He was a tiny kitten when we got him and I guess she figured he was harmless, but she had to hiss every once in a while so he wouldn’t forget who was boss. My lap was definitely off limits. Especially after I got pregnant with Finley. It was Coco’s job, according to her, to curl up to the growing baby bump and make sure things were ok. She was always very tender and attentive when I was pregnant. I feel like she knew on some kind of biological level, being a girl herself and all. It was very sweet.

Then the baby arrived. And soon after that was when we took Newton back in. And I knew it was a lot of stress for her. But she still snuggled with me. She still loved me. I could tell that.

Our house already had two doggie doors built in when we bought it, so we opened one and the rest is history. Newton came in and out according to his needs, Wrigley went out and stayed very close, he’s what I call a “backyard cat.” But Coco. She went out that day, and never came back. I expected I’d see her back that night, the way she did in San Francisco. Then I expected her back sometime the next day. Then I posted on Nextdoor and was reassured that lots of kitties go on weeks-long adventures and come home. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

And after a month, I was at the shelter several times a week. Peering at all those kitties’ faces, hoping to see her sweet heart-shaped nose. I left in tears every single time. One time it was so bad I had to sit in the lobby of the shelter on my way out and let the sobs out before I could drive home.

It’s not the prospect that she has died that hurts. And it’s not even that she ran away, because I know she was stressed out. And she’s a very independent kitty. And it’s not that she might have gotten taken in by another family, because at least I know she’s being taken care of. I’m ok with all of those prospects. What I’m not ok with is never knowing. I’ll never know what ever became of my sweet girl. I’ll never have closure. That’s what bugs me. Like, if I stop looking for her on neighborhood boards and animal shelters, then what if she suddenly shows up, and I wasn’t looking for her anymore. These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

So, I write this for you today under the assumption that she is gone forever. Wherever she is, or was, she’s not coming back. I miss her like hell. And I thank you all for listening to all my Coco stories over the years and for listening to this one too. She was my princess. My love. My sweet wild girl. And I will miss her forever.

coco collage

Take Good Care

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it yet, but while my in-laws were here to visit the new baby, it was decided that our dog Newton would stay behind and live with us again (he went to live with them 8 or so years ago because Brien’s allergies had gotten so bad, but he’s since had shot therapy for it).

Anyway, when we bought our house it had a few doggie doors installed already. And since Newton was used to having a doggie door at my in-laws’ place, we thought it might be best, especially at night, if he were able to let himself in and out. We wondered what the kitties would do, but gave it a shot.

Mostly, the kitties just went in and out, explored the yard, and basked in the sun. But then, Coco left. I mean, she LEFT. She’s been gone for DAYS now, so many, I’ve lost track. And I put a post on our neighborhood mailing list, and a few people say they’ve seen her around (at least they think it’s her, this kitty matches my description).

I know life has been hectic around here, with the new kitten last fall, and the reintroduction of the dog, and the new baby, and the boys just generally being crazy, so I get that she was stressed. But she always cuddled with me when she could. I never thought she’d leave.

coco 1

And of course my anxiety has me thinking the craziest things. Namely, is she trying to make her way back to San Francisco? Not to get all Homeward Bound on you, but animals have done crazier things under much less stressful circumstances.

And I’m so worried for her. What if she can’t find water in this heat? What if she runs into a coyote/javelina/other cat? She’s too old to fight like she used to, but she’ll try. Where will she end up? In another home? Will they think she’s young because she’s small? Will they think she’s too old and have her put down? My mind is a mess.

Anyway, it’s been making me think of this Cat Stevens song, and I’m sorry if I make you cry, but dammit.

 

Farewell, Old Friend

A week ago today, when we went to bed, I noticed my 19 year old cat wasn’t feeling well. He hadn’t been feeling well for some time, having bad kidneys and sore joints and just overall being old. But, something was off. He was moving really slowly, seemed anxious and wasn’t acting like himself.

The next afternoon, we went to the vet, who didn’t like the looks of him at all. He’d been dropping weight pretty steadily for the past few years. One tenth of a pound here, two tenths there, he was hovering in the area of 7 pounds the last time we were in. On Thursday, he was 4.7 pounds. As soon as I heard that, my heart dropped. I was in mega denial, but a part of me knew this was it.

His gums were pale, he wasn’t controlling his bowels or bladder very well, he had stopped eating, and he was weak and lethargic. She took some blood just to see where his kidney levels were, gave him some drugs to make him comfortable for the night, and told me she’d call in the morning with results.

I knew the results would be bad. The vet wasn’t hopeful, and couldn’t even pretend to be hopeful to help me feel better. So, when she called with the bad news, she said it was probably a good time to put him down. Especially since we had plans to leave town for the weekend: “You might not even have a live cat to come home to if you left him there. It’s that bad.”

I made an appointment for 3:50. And I tried to fit in some snuggles, but the hours seemed to fly by. Suddenly it was time to leave.

I didn’t bring him in a carrier, we thought bringing home an empty carrier would be too much. Instead I wrapped him in an old towel, and snuggled him for the car ride. I didn’t let him go at all, except when they put in the IV. I held him to the end.

The vet cried with us, and then she said, “I know it’s hard, but you did the right thing.”

And I know I did. But, I felt bad for choosing for him when his life would end. I don’t know, it’s strange. Of course I didn’t want him to suffer anymore, but some part of me wishes his body would have given out on its own first.

Anyway, here I am without my kitty that I had since I was 14. I can hardly remember a time without him. I knew this was coming. I mean, I started writing this post a year ago for Pete’s sake. But still, it comes as such a shock.

How can I even begin to describe to anyone the relationship I had with him? All I can tell you is that we were together for nearly 20 years. The most exciting / tumultuous / important 20 years of my life: half of my teens, all of my 20s and part of my 30s. I went to high school, graduated high school, went to college, got married, graduated college, moved halfway across the country and had children, and my kitty was with me for all of it. Graduations, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, celebrations, mournings, everything, my buddy was there.

That’s all I can tell you. And maybe you can feel 5% of how I feel about it. There are a lot of jokes and cliches out there about cat owners, and how crazy they are about their cats, and how they can turn into crazy cat people if left unchecked. But seriously, I would hope even the non-cat people could understand the idea of a constant companion, that adores you and wants nothing more than food and kindness from you (and, okay, they want you to scoop their turds), by your side for two full decades. Watching them go from bouncy little kitten to slow elderly gentleman seemingly overnight, which your brain can’t even process because in comparison, you yourself have not really aged all that much.

I had minor foot surgery when I was 15. The first few days of recovery were painful, and I was on some heavy-duty drugs which made me want to do nothing but sleep, and eventually nothing but vomit. Kitty, who I’d only had about a year at that point, was by my side the whole time. I mean, yes, I’m sure he got up to eat and stuff, but every time I managed to open my eyes and look around, there he was, a warm little fuzz ball curled up next to me. And that was him, always there, always offering a snuggle. Or a head-butt, he gave the best head-butts.

There was a period of about a year and a half between me leaving home for college and me getting my own place and being able to bring Nashua there to live with me (well, the landlord was a lot more clueless than my discerning R.A. so I brought him to live there even though looking back I’m sure I could have gotten my ass kicked out on the street). I missed him like hell and it was so fun finally having him back in my everyday life. After he’d been there only a few weeks, I remember running out the door in a rush to go meet up with some friends at one of the local bars, and when I got outside, I could see him looking out the window at me and I actually felt really bad for leaving him behind. And I made a mental note to always be there for him, and to be responsible so I could always be there. Original kid, I tell you.

And now, there’s a big space where he used to be. The house is so quiet, my lap is so empty. It’s hard to get used to. Bedtime is the worst. In the past year or so, I didn’t see much of him during the day. He was old and tired and spent his days sleeping and hiding from the preschooler. But he always came out at night, and when he could muster the energy, he’d hop in bed with us. Even the last night of his life, he snuggled all night on my pillow. Last night as I started to fall asleep, I thought I felt the familiar weight of him on my legs, where he always liked to curl up. This is going to take some getting used to.

I like to imagine him now in his own little slice of Nashua heaven: a huge, green, grassy plain to roam and munch upon; endless sunshine; a person’s open winter coat with the nylon lining to curl up on (he loved sleeping on them); endless supplies of ice cream and frozen waffles to dine upon.

No more rotting teeth, no more upset stomach, no more achy joints, no more dementia. Just a happy kitty again, finally.

I’m trying to remember him back in the day, when he didnt feel like a bag of marbles when you pet or held him, when he would run and jump and play with abandon, when he still had the energy to purr. That’s how I see him in his kitty heaven, or wherever those blessed pet souls end up at.

Glance Back at the Week

1. I thought this would be the week I get to meet my little guy. But, no. I am sitting here on Friday with a blog post to write, and I’m. Still. Pregnant. I’m at the point now where I can’t even pretend to be feeling ok, so I will skip all of that. I’m miserable, and ready to have this baby.

Mama at 39 weeks 5 days:

 

2. Update on Velcro: I spent $400 on a kitty who really didn’t need it, and won’t ever even be able to comprehend the fact that I loved her so much, and worried so much about her, that I forked over the cash just in case. Velcro’s diagnosis: stressed and anxious, with a skin allergy tossed in for good measure. Two things we already knew about her. So the next time she has blood in her pee, I have to force myself to wait it out for a few days, because it’s more likely to be that something freaked her out than that she’s actually ill in some way.

3. Bowie’s behavior has been pretty good, even the swearing, away from home. But, BUT, he’s still being incredibly defiant and disrespectful at home, especially toward me. It’s like a switch gets flipped in this kid, for realz! For the past three preschool pick ups, he’s a perfect angel, he leaves with no problems whatsoever. Wednesday, a fellow parent even helped me get him all the way to the car and she put him in the car for me, and he was wonderful and sweet and obedient. But, the second we pull away from the curb, it’s The Exorcist in the backseat. He screams swear words at me over the tiniest issue, he kicks the seat really hard, he stands on the street and refuses to go up the stairs into our house (most of the time he’s doing this in his underwear only, because that’s how he rolls at school these days). And the fit continues until dinnertime. I know that he’s holding it together at school all afternoon, so when he’s with me he feels “safe” to get out his pent up anger and frustration. I know this in my head. But, I’m exhausted, hormonal and anxious, and I don’t need the added stress. It’s been a very difficult week.

4. My young cousin Matthew is a Marine, and is stationed in Yemen. And although the TODAY show isn’t reporting on it, or anyone really, there was an attack on the embassy there too. So, keep him in your thoughts or your prayers or your good vibes, or whatever it is you send out there. He could use it right about now, I’m sure.

Not the most positive of weeks, sorry for that. But on the upside, the weather’s finally turning summery around here. And Bowie tried shrimp at dinner last night. And Husband is getting his old VW Moneypit Squareback closer to actual driveability. And I found a bunch of old favorite recipes on a long forgotten flash drive. Little things. Focusing on the little things.

Have a good weekend!

Glance Back at the Week

1. Our kitty Velcro is at it again. She always picks the BEST times to get sick, I tell ‘ya. Wednesday evening, I noticed a little blood in her pee, in tiny little puddles in front of the litter box. Her signature move when she’s got an infection. So, I take her in, thinking we’ll get the (expensive) injectable antibiotic, seeing as how I’m due to deliver a baby at any given moment, and we’d leave. Done and done. Well, wrong and wrong. She’s lost a pound since the beginning of the summer, and since a) her appetite has increased; b) her vomiting has MAJORLY increased; and c) she’s got another (suspected) bladder infection, they think she might have thyroid problems. So, they had to do a full senior blood panel, even though Lady is only 9 years old, and a lengthy urine culture to rule out other bladder issues. At least I was able to talk them out of the $200 x-ray I got suckered into last time this happened. $200 I may as well have thrown in the trash, as it came up showing nothing and her problem eventually cleared up on its own. This kitty. She is our problem child, no doubt about it. The vet tech made a comment about her “thick file” today. She’s been to the vet more than our 19 year old cat and our dog combined. More than our HUMAN SON has been to the pediatrician. I think of all the kitties who skate by on their good looks, she’s the luckiest to have been born so cute. She’d have been out on the street so long ago.

2. No baby yet. Not even a hint of baby. Well, at least up until this post goes to print. I know that I’ve got another week until my due date. And I know that Bowie came 8 days late. I just held out hope that the whole Second-Babies-Come-Sooner thing might hold true. I have stubborn boys, I guess. But, a fellow mama at preschool today did tell me, “Your baby is coming soon. You just have that look.” So, yay?

3. This post from one of my favorite blogs, Smacksy, brought up a pretty scary memory for me, one that I don’t like to think about but I suppose we should think about those kinds of things once in a while. It keeps us on our toes. It’s crazy being in charge of little people, being responsible for their well-being in every single aspect of their lives. Molding and shaping them with your every move, every second of the day. And dear God, I’ve got another one coming. PANIC. (But, no, seriously dude, you can still come out.)

Have a great weekend, and may my next Glance Back post find me the mama of two.

Friday Digest 3

1. NESTING has kicked in, full gear. Tossing out old stuff, scrubbing walls, cleaning out the fridge, folding and refolding all the baby clothes. And fighting the urge to buy everything we need from the registry for just a few more weeks.

2. I only gained a half pound since my last OB visit two weeks ago. That makes a grand total of about 11 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. Not too shabby! It’s been a very eye-opening experience being on this low-carb diet, having to read labels and control portions and monitor how it all affects my body. They seem mildly concerned that I’m not gaining weight in the exponential numbers I was during my first pregnancy, but the baby is active (understatement) and I’m measuring exactly where I should be. So, I’m fine with it.

3. To give you all a glimpse of life with a really picky eater, a story. Mere moments after I posted Wednesday about the Pasta Salad’s Feet You Should Kiss if Pasta Had Feet, Bowie announced that “I don’t like spinach or slimeys (salami) anymore and I don’t want this supper.” Ugh. We dealt with it and he ate (most of) it. But still. The picky eating. Ugh.

4. My Old Man Kitty turned 19 years young this week. Coupla bum kidneys and a touch of senility, but he’s hanging in there. He got to hang out in the backyard and have some treats that Bowie picked out at the pet store. A good 19th kitty birthday, in my opinion.

Have a great weekend, catch you on the flip side.

A few quick things

>I’ve started doing a wee bit o’ writing for Circle of Moms. Check my first post here.

>The fleas in California this year are at apocalyptic levels. Outdoor Kitty had them so bad, she gave herself a skin infection from all the itching, requiring a double round of antibiotics and steroids for the irritation. And even though I have given both kitties their monthly dose of Advantage, I am still finding fleas on them. Which makes me itch and scratch like crazy whenever I feel the tiniest little itch. Pair this with my strong distaste for the silverfish problem our house has and…I’ve got the creepy crawlies 24/7.

>When I was pregnant with Bowie, I ate a ton of junk food, fast food, sugary stuff. This time I really haven’t craved it all that much. Once in a while (like, once a day) I want chocolate, but I don’t overdo it. And I almost never want fast food at all. (Which is just weird for me, pregnant or not.) (But I’m not complaining.) SUCH a different pregnancy, in so many ways.

>Also about this pregnancy: it’s all of a sudden going super s-l-o-w. When I hit the 20 week mark, I thought wow, this is going SO FAST. And now the days are dragging, I can’t imagine myself making it all summer long being pregnant, and I spend all my time either yawning or peeing or being hungry. Or yawning while peeing and being hungry. And for all that yawning, you’d think I’d be able to sleep at night. But, no. My body gearing me up for sleepless nights with the babe, I guess.

>Bowie’s behavior at school improved drastically for a few weeks, but this week went back to its normal ugly self. And I am truly scratching my head. Sometimes in life, I have these thoughts, “If I’m really going to be honest with myself, I know what the problem is here.” But this time? That is NOT the case. I’ve been trying my damnest to be the patient yet firm, fun-loving parent I know I need to be, I really have been trying. And it seems to work some days, but not other days, normal I guess. But, I can’t deal with my normal as ending my day with reports of other kids getting injured by my son, and having my own scratches and bruises from him to contend with. The occupational therapist we have met with is taking her dandy old time getting back to us on what she thinks about his issues or lack thereof with sensory processing. I have a very strong feeling that is the issue (like after a violent outburst in a crowd of kids he tells his teacher “I thought everyone would push me and step on me”), and I’m dying to meet with her and hear her strategies for dealing with it. With the new baby on the way, I’m operating on borrowed time here.

>On a much lighter note, my garden is going off. I guess the past few years of experimentation and poring over gardening books is finally starting to pay off. I’m definitely still experimenting here, but so far so good! I just hope it all doesn’t go to pot when A) we finally get our normal San Francisco cool, foggy summer weather and B) I have a newborn.

Ok, I think that’s it for now. I have to go, I’m hungry. And I have to pee. Have a good week, all!

 

YOU GUYS.

Disclaimer: this post may not be for the overly squeamish.

On Monday, my second fur baby Velcro (aka Outdoor Kitty for my Twitter peeps) had to undergo last minute surgery. So not what this mama wanted to put her through.

She’s been an outdoor kitty for about a year now, at my husband’s insistence. She was a stray when we found her, and she was always trying to sneak out, so finally we let her go. And she’s super happy, but also she gets herself into some jams.

For instance, about 5 months ago, she came home with a bleeding hole on her abdomen. HOLE. Not into her belly or anything, it just went under the skin, but A HOLE. A BLEEDING HOLE. We monitored it for a few days, and eventually it healed up, no big whoop.

So, last Thursday when she came home and looked like she was smuggling two golf balls in her cheek, I was slightly worried, but not overly so. I kept an eye on her, and she seemed ok. She went back outside on Friday morning, and when she came back the golf balls were gone. DONE, I thought. But oh how wrong I was.

When the wound had first drained, I could see a couple of little tears in her skin that I figured would heal up. On Sunday? She had a 2 inch full-on open wound and we could see her face muscles inside. We figured she’d need some stitches.

Veterinarian: Well, she’s got some infected tissue that will have to be removed, and she’s got some granular tissue that will also have to be removed, and I highly recommend surgery.

Shit.

Shit, not only because, I’m not sure if you non-pet people realize this but, THE VET IS FLIPPING EXPENSIVE. Shit, also because hello, it’s almost Christmas. Yeah, I wanted an ailing kitty with a cone on her head for Christmas, THANKS, UNIVERSE. And Shit, because my poor little baby girl.

She’s on some heavy duty meds (I had to prove that I was old enough to buy them) so she’s just hanging out in the dog’s old crate, sleeping it off. Today she had some food and water. Poor girl.

I’m still amazed it’s her I’m nursing back to health, and not my ailing, arthritic, senile 17 year old cat (aka Old Man Kitty aka Nashua Beano). If something happens to him anytime soon…Lord help me.