The girls
  • Sweet dreams sasspants

    This little sasspants. 

    I mean, I think there was a time when she wasn’t part of our family, but I can’t imagine how that is, because it seems like she’s always been here. 

  • Snuggle sasspants

    I remember, not so long ago, when this cat didn’t want to be touched very much. When getting to pet her entire back was a success. 

    I remember when she didn’t dare hop up and sit on the couch with us, and how the first time she did, we sat SO still, because we didn’t want to startle her.

    I remember when she wouldn’t sit on our laps, and when she started to, she’d creep very slowly, and then relax one muscle at a time until she was comfortable. The process took about an hour, so by the time she was comfortable, you really weren’t.

    She snuggles on me most nights. Apparently she also snuggles on me during the day sometimes, too. 

    Not sure how we got here with this girl, but I’m happy. 

  • The kids turn two

    Yesterday Buttercup and Vizzi turned two years old, which I can’t believe. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that they looked like this:

    How did they get so big, so fluffy, and so sweet? 

    Look at that handsome fluff boy. He should be the next Bachelor. None of the girls would be leaving the show willingly with him there. Granted, we’d have to pry him out of the back room to MEET the girls, but I digress. Still better than Colton. 

    And this beautiful Buttercup. How can you not love this majestic creature? She KNOWS how pretty she is, and she KNOWS how sweet her meows are, and she uses both like weapons. Works every time. Okay, maybe not every time. If that were the case, I’d never eat anything, because this girl would steal it all. 

    Not to be outdone, Aeris and Gwen got into a fight. Or, more accurately, Gwen jumped up onto the bed, crashed into Aeris, and started smacking. She lost that fight. I’m not surprised.

    We saw blood around her eye after the spat, so we packed her up and went straight to the emergency vet. Eyes just aren’t something to mess around with.

    Thankfully, it turned out to be scratches around her eye and not ON her eye, but she’s still not feeling terrific.

    Today she had an appointment with the vet for a thyroid test, which came back well for her. I’m very glad for that, because it already feels like we go through ear gel in a blink. I’m hoping that little sass will be feeling better in a day or two and I’ll see more of her again. Right now, she’s hunkered down in my office. I go and visit her every once in a while, but I’m also trying to give her space to rest. 

    Never a dull moment with the Smyczyncats.

  • Toothless Sasspants

    It’s been four years since this sass had her teeth removed.

    I was really scared for her at the time, because I didn’t know what it would mean for her. 

    Really, it’s meant nothing but good things for her. She hasn’t had any recurring inflammation, so we haven’t had to do steroid shots, she’ll eat whatever she pleases, and she isn’t in pain. 

    The most commonly asked question I get about her is, “Does she only eat wet food?”

    No. I wish I could get her to eat more wet food, but she’d rather toss kibble down her gullet and be done. She gets a fancy feast broth packet every night when everyone else gets their wet food, but she won’t eat the meat. She’ll ‘humor’ me for a while if I try to get her to eat something else, but as soon as she thinks it’s a pattern, she’ll stop. 

    Just for the record, you don’t need teeth to be the sassiest bossy pants in the house. 

  • The Evolution of a Strange Friendship

    I wasn’t sure how Gwen would react to kittens. She used to run over and seem curious when I played something with tiny kitten meows, so I thought maybe she’d be interested. But then again, she definitely didn’t like Aeris, and didn’t seem to like any of the cats at the shelter, either.

    Still, I was a little disappointed when she had no interest in our foster kittens. She wasn’t as awkward with them as Aeris, but I got a “this is not what I signed up for” vibe. That didn’t mean that the kittens weren’t interested in her, however. 

    Cuppie loves everyone and everything. She’s been a social butterfly from the first day we met her. It still amused me that she wanted to try -so hard- to be Gwen’s friend, when Gwen clearly wasn’t giving off any friendship vibes. In fact, when the kittens became permanent and super into everything, Gwen plunked herself down in the closet. It was the one place the kittens didn’t really go, and she could get away from them. 

    You know, until Cuppie figured it out. 

    She started to figure out Gwen’s boundaries, when to back up, when Gwen didn’t -really- mean it, and how far she could push before Gwen would smack her in the face. 

    I have to give Cuppie credit: she is tenacious. It’s like she decided that Gwen was her bestest friend (besides Vizzi) and she just didn’t know it yet. It didn’t matter how many times Gwen smacked her in the face or grumbled at her, Cuppie just came back later. For a while, I thought Cuppie just wore her down. It was just easier to let Cuppie hang out near her than to continually smack her in the face. 

    But then they started playing together. 

    It started out with Cuppie chasing Gwen, and Gwen hissing and sputtering as she ran away. But one day, Gwen chased back. Then they started running around back and forth for a few minutes at a time - I’d hear Gwen growl when she’d had enough. The play sessions got longer. Gwen started instigating. She’s even tried to tackle Cuppie a couple times. (That has not been successful, but I give her credit for trying)

    Cuppie can groom Gwen a little bit (before getting hit in the face). Gwen will play with Vizzi now too, but not nearly as often. There’s something of a strange camaraderie here.

    None of the other cats can get away with this kind of physical proximity with Gwen. I think she likes Vizzi well enough, and her relationship with Aeris has improved overall, but this? 

    Before Mikenna got really sick, Gwen tried to play with her a little bit. It scared the living daylights out of Mikenna, because she was used to Aeris, whose method of playing involved getting Koo to chase -her-, not by chasing Koo or, wait for it, smacking her in the face. (Yes, Gwen has a pattern)

    Cuppie has never been intimidated by Gwen. She takes all of Gwen’s quirks in stride. I think that is why they get along so well. Cuppie showed that she was willing to back off when Gwen actually meant it, and that made Gwen more comfortable with letting her close. Cuppie doesn’t want to be the boss of Gwen, she just wants to be her friend.

    So, strangely enough, she is. 

  • If you can't beat em, share em

    This isn't the most extraordinary picture. But it's a lot easier to picture what I'm talking about with it.

    I'm sure I mentioned somewhere that last year Gwen (the calico) started snuggling on me at night. That was a surprise, given how standoffish she is. I still don't know if she stopped snuggling because it got too warm for her, or because she wasn't feeling good due to her thyroid. Getting her thyroid in the right place seems to have taken place around the same time two years in a row. 

    This summer, Aeris decided that she wanted to snuggle on me. That one also surprised me, given the fact that we've had her for 11 years, and she's never been inclined to sleep on me before. Maybe she got the idea from Gwen.

    Anyway, Gwen recently decided that she wanted to resume our snuggle arrangement, only to find that Aeris was on her human. RUDE. 

    So I am currently the subject of some sort of cat terf war. They've reached an uneasy agreement where Aeris is allowed to have me from the waist down (though she's strongly encouraged to stay below my knee), and Gwen gets my torso. 

    At some point last night (I was asleep) Gwen left, and Aeris moved up. When Gwen returned (and what I woke up to), she was upset that Aeris was in perceived violation of their agreement. 

    Gwen and Aeris aren't particularly chummy with each other. They don't go out of their way to be aggressive to one another, but Gwen would really prefer if Aeris kept a good 5ft away at all times. So this weird nightly arrangement is possibly the most time they've spent in close proximity. 

    Meanwhile, Matt has an entire side of the bed to himself. Joke's on him, Gwen makes an excellent scarf. 

  • Make it Stick

    So, we're trying to help Gwen gain some weight, or at least keep what little she has on, while we sort out her thyroid. It's not the easiest task, given that Gwen eats like a little bird, has no teeth, and is relatively picky.

    When we were trying to figure out what wet food she'd like after her teeth were removed, we went through so many different cat foods. I couldn't really find a theme like a flavor or meat texture. After a while, she seemed to enjoy licking things, but not so much the chewing. (Which makes her choice of kibble as her primary food ... odd.) The only constant was the fancy feast broth packets. Sometimes she'll eat some of the chunks of meat. Most of the time, she doesn't, and those chunks of meat get poached by two furballs who shall remain nameless.

    I wanted something more dense. A friend of mine recommended these delectables packets. The one Gwen is currently enjoying is a bisque with tuna and chicken. It's very soupy, with no discernable chunks of meat to work around. Plus, this one is formulated for cats over 10, so it has extra vitamins. So far, so good. Gwen hasn't turned it away yet, and she's eaten all of it each time. I'd love it if I could get her to eat -more-, but she seems to have very strong opinions on the subject. Trying to give her food - even beloved broth packets - is turned away. She'll take a few dry treats from me, but nothing substantial.

    I kinda wish I had a little produce scale to weigh Gwen on and track her progress, but I guess we'll have to wait until mid-September to find out whether it's done any good.

  • A girl has a cranky thyroid

    A girl has a cranky thyroid

    So, we had Gwen's thyroid check this week. I can't say the results were too surprising.

    Her thyroid is still too high, and she's lost more weight. Poor sass is down to 5.7lbs, which is very close, if not exactly, what she weighed when we adopted her. I can't stand how extra fragile she feels.

    We're officially on 3 clicks of medicine, 2x a day. I have to say, since increasing her dose, she seems to have come around pretty quickly. She's certainly more friendly and active, and *KNOCK ON WOOD* hasn't had any pee problems in 5 days.

    We asked our doctor about radiation, and she's looking into it for us. She confirmed what I suspected, that Gwen is likely a good candidate because of her lack of other health problems. Radiation would probably just be another nuisance on Gwen's list.

    At this point, she's basically a feline Arya Stark.


    So, we'll see. We're hanging in there for now. I'm looking into stuff that I can give to Gwen in order to help her gain back some of her weight, or at least slow it down until we get her stabilized.

  • 1037ef634b9f5180-37208219_10154759212567706_535319286344843264_n.jpg

    I can tell that Gwen is starting to feel a lot better. She's decided that she likes hunkering down in my closet again, which I don't love, but she's coming out frequently, and is very social when she's out.

    I'd prefer that she just slept on the couch or in Matt's chair, but if privacy is what she wants, at least I can keep an eye on her in my closet.

    It can be easy to overlook just how chatty Gwen is when she's happy and feeling good. She goes out of her way to trill hello, and often adds a headbutt to the arm, just for added enthusiasm. It's so nice to see.

    Gwen's also been feeling super bossy about the door. She wants to look out so bad, as it really is the best seat in the house for the cats. But the weather hasn't been great for it, so I've been trying to just open the door in the evening. But when she runs over, headbutts my arm, then runs to the door and meows sweetly, it's hard to say no.

    I believe this means her thyroid is going in the right direction. Time will tell if it's going down far enough. Fingers crossed for little sasspants.

  • A Gwen-sized Setback

    A Gwen-sized Setback

    We've been having a little bit of trouble with Gwen lately. Namely, she started peeing on things she shouldn't. It was pretty okay when it was the bathtub, but when I started waking up to pee by my head, that was less okay. She needed to go in for bloodwork anyway, so I thought I'd bring up the peeing and see if we could get her checked for a UTI.

    Little miss iron bladder utterly refused to give a urine sample (figures, right?) so we made our best guess that it was a uti, and since she was sneezing herself up a uri anyway, antibiotics were prescribed.

    Once the antibiotics kicked in, we could tell that she was starting to feel better, but the peeing wasn't getting better at all.

    We were waiting on her bloodwork, and when that finally came back it showed that her thyroid levels were way too high. Back in January, we had them at the low end of normal, so like, 1 something. They were back up to 10 something, which is not only really really high but about where we started when she was initially diagnosed. It was like we hadn't been medicating her at all.

    We're still not 100% sure that her levels are accurate, but my gut says that this is probably the answer to what's been going on with her. I've noticed that if I forget to give her medicine in the morning for a couple days, she's more prone to pee somewhere. So I imagine, if her thyroid is basically as bad as it was over a year ago, she's feeling pretty darn crappy, in which case, I'd probably just pee on my head too.

    Not only would her thyroid explain the peeing, but it would explain some recent weight loss as well. At barely 6lbs, it's not like she has a lot to lose, so going down about half a pound over the last six months is fairly significant for her. Didn't seem to alarm the doctor much, but I'm not too happy about it.

    So, here's where we're at:

    We're increasing her thyroid meds from .01 and .005 in a day to .01 and .01. She was on this dosage initially when we got her to the ear gel, and at the time, it knocked her thyroid down into the "too low" levels. I'm not sure what kind of results we'll see from this increase, but we should find out when we re-test her in four weeks.

    Depending on what we get back from there, we'll either have to increase her dosage and retest in another four weeks, or we'll probably wait something like either or twelve weeks and retest. Either way, there's a decent bit of poking in Gwen's near future.

    In the meantime, now that she's feeling better, I'm going to see if I can bribe her with some baby food periodically. That's supposed to be pretty good for gaining a bit of weight, and really, anything we can put on her skinny little frame would be a positive.

    I will say, I can tell that she is feeling better, at least with having her cold cleared up, and now two days into a higher dosage. She's a lot more chatty when she's feeling better, not to mention more willing to spend time with us, and KNOCK ON WOOD, she hasn't peed on anything in a couple of days.

    In case you're wondering, I'm not sure what Gwen's long term prognosis looks like at this point. Left untreated/too high, elevated thyroid levels will eventually take their toll on Gwen's other organs, like her heart and kidneys. However, her bloodwork came back really good in those respects, which is great. If we can get her thryoid under control again, we may be able to leave her on the ear gel, though the fact that she jumped from totally fine to bonkers in levels in such a short amount of time is concerning and probably means we can't go more than six months without tests.
    Thyroid removal or radiation are other options, but they're not our first choice. Radiation is a good shot at getting the whole thing taken care of once and for all. However, it's fairly expensive (I'm not sure what it runs around here) not to mention what you're putting her through. That said, we've been spending about $50/month on her thyroid meds. Each thyroid recheck runs about $70 and the increased dosage means we may be spending $100/month on that. SO, radiation might pay for itself pretty quickly. I just don't know yet.

    Part of the dilemma is the fact that we don't actually know how old Gwen is. If she's on the younger end of what we were projected, she's around 9. If she's on the older end, she's 11 or so. But the fact is, she could be even older. We're just not sure. Her great health otherwise, and great muscle tone suggests ... Well, I don't know exactly what it suggests. Just that her thryoid is definitely the problem.
    It's just a matter of deciding how much is humane to put her through in a weird cost/benefit analysis.

    I suspect she might vote for whatever gets her poked less, but I don't know. The frustrating thing about all of this is that we can't ask her. We can't ask her how she's feeling, if things seem to be working, or how she wants us to treat her. If we could, this whole thing might be a whole lot easier.

  • Strange Windowfellas

    Strange Windowfellas

    Gwen jumped up onto the crate to look out the door, and Cuppie decided to join her. Gwen was like, *SIGH* Fine. 

    It's crazy just how much bigger Cuppie is than Gwen. I knew she was bigger - if you pick them up, Gwen barely registers and Cuppie has got some oomph. But I hadn't seen them together at a good angle to compare. 

    To me, this picture looks so ridiculous - like someone photoshopped Gwen to be too small. Clearly, Cuppie is not THAT big. Except, apparently she is. So weird.

    They can stop growing now. I had to buy new bags for Cuppie and Vizzi because they had outgrown the original ones. Granted, the original ones were meant to fit up to 10lbs, and I'm VERY sure they're both past that now. Plus, they're long and sturdy. There's nothing dainty about those two. It's ridiculous. 

  • Gwen and the Hurp Durp Herpies

    Gwen and the Hurp Durp Herpies

    So we learned this week that all signs point to Gwen having feline herpes. YAY. (Not yay)

    Little girl came down with her second upper respiratory infection in a matter of a few months, which makes it look like she's got herpes, and her immune system is probably a little stressed. From my point of view, I think Gwen got the URI, passed it to Aeris, who ping-ponged it right back. Whereas Aeris looks like she kicked the URI like a champ, Gwen ... can't. She had been 'kinda sneezy' for several weeks, and then the sneezing went to eleven and she turned into a goopy, drippy, miserably sick cat in the space of a weekend.

    We don't know what this means for the bigger picture yet. Hopefully these are just a couple immune system hiccups for Gwen, and after this round of antibiotics, we can go back to smooth sailing. But, if the herpes is a fact, stress can trigger flareups.

    Haaaaaave you met Cuppie? Maybe I should have named her "Herpes Stressor".

    I'm kidding ... mostly. I don't know whether/how much the little ones stress Gwen out. She seems to handle them pretty well, and even enjoys playing with Cuppie. So I don't think she's a problem. Mostly.

    However, I know that our trips up north are a source of stress for her, coupled with the fact that she now needs 2x daily medicine, and we haven't tried that whole thing with anyone else yet. We don't know whether Gwen will let anyone put gel on her ears, or if that will stress her out. If it does, we don't know if that, along with us being gone, will cause a flareup.

    So I guess we'll see. I told Matt that until we've got her figured out, we'll have to be prepared to cut trips short if we have to. Because let me tell you, Gwen is a little firebrand when it comes to medicine. She is pretty good with us because we're her people, and she impaled the living daylights out of my thumb tonight. (To be fair, I was shoving a pill down her throat. I'd be impaling people too.)

    She went to the vet on Monday, and writing this, it's Wednesday night. She's been a lot better today. She scurried around the house about like normal, and had a few words with Cuppie and Vizzi for following her from room to room. They were just really happy that she's feeling better. The vet is supposed to call me tomorrow and tell me that I can pick up liquid antibiotics for her, so that the next week will be roughly 50% less traumatizing. Since they only gave me three days of pills, I'll be calling them if I don't hear from them.

    From here on out, we're supposed to call the vet right away if she starts sneezing a lot, so that we can start antibiotics before she turns into a sad, drippy mess. I'm not usually a fan of LOTS OF ANTIBIOTICS, but if you'd seen sad Gwennie in all her drippy glory, you'd probably be on board with this plan too.

    She looked sadder and more pathetic than I've ever seen her - and I saw her with a mouth full of rotten teeth that made her not want to eat.

    Antibiotics it is!

  • One Form of Attachment

    One Form of Attachment

    For the last several nights, Gwen has slept on top of me. Yes, you read that right. She comes out of the office, and usually waits until everything is quiet, then tip toes across the bed and gently sets herself down on my chest. She might try and settle in on me if I'm laying on my side, but she always leaves within a few minutes, so I can tell that she's not a fan. 

    It's a really good thing that she is a light cat, because she's been sleeping on me almost all night, leaving only to do whatever cats do when they're not sleeping on top of you. One night when she got up, I realized my cheek was sweaty, because she'd been curled up with her back against my cheek. It's really ... cozy. A little weird too, let's be honest.

    This cat continues to amaze me. When I met that antisocial Nuggie who wouldn't let me touch more than on the top of her head, I never would have thought that she'd do this. 

    To be fair, she still doesn't like a lot of people touching her. You have to earn her trust. I seem to be the only one who has an all-access pass to petting her whenever I see her. Apparently I have her trust in spades. I'm not sure why, to be honest. I'm nice to her, sure, but I don't feel like I'm that much nicer to her than Matt, for me to be her preferred person. This cat is LOYAL. Occasionally I joke that she'd launch herself at anyone who tried to hurt me, but I think it's true. I was definitely Mikenna's person, but this feels like a whole different brand of loyalty. It was like, Mikenna loved me and we were bff and it was awesome. Gwen loves me and has sworn a lifedebt to me. 

    I'd love to know what's going on in that little calico head of hers. I have no idea when she'll get tired of this intense snugglefest. But I'll enjoy it as long as I can. Little weirdo. :)

  • Our First Christmas Tree

    Our First Christmas Tree

    For the last ten years, we haven't had our own Christmas tree. It was hard to figure out where we would put one, and I wasn't too keen on the idea of storing one from year to year when we hadn't put down roots anywhere. (Odds that someone would steal the tree out of our basement storage?)

    But the biggest reason we gave was ten pounds or less. Aeris. We were sure that she would be all in a Christmas tree, knocking it over, eating things, causing havoc, and it just didn't seem worth it. 

    But this year we decided that we didn't care. There was a spot in our living room where we could technically fit a tree. Of course it would be a little bit inconvenient, but we could make it work for a month or so. Aeris probably wouldn't cause too much trouble with a tree, but Cuppie has Aery's curiosity x10, and almost no fear to slow her down. So it's not like we thought we'd fare better with this arrangement of animals. 

    I would rather have the memories of the things I did do, even if they are imperfect or inconvenient, than regret the things I didn't do. Hence, getting a tree. We didn't go for anything too expensive, and we bought minimal, shatterproof ornaments to keep it simple should this go south. 

    Does Buttercup like to chew on the tree branches? Absolutely. 
    Does she try to chew on the lights? Ugh. Yes. 
    Does she bat at the ornaments? Yeah, and it's pretty dog gone cute.

    So far, (knock on wood) the cats have actually been a lot better behaved than I thought. The tree hasn't tipped over yet. They all kinda take turns napping underneath the tree, and it's really cute.

    It feels cozy. It feels ... like Christmas. If the tree falls over, we'll put it back up. As long as no one gets hurt, I don't really care. But I'll tell you what, in a few years, Matt and I will be talking about the first Christmas where we had to say "Cuppie, nooooooo" about a dozen times a night. Each. 

  • A year without my girl

    A lot has changed in the last year. I've been reflecting on that fact as I think about this week a year ago. 

    On Sunday, Mikenna wasn't feeling very well. She'd been started on an antibiotic for a uti, and it's not like she didn't have a fair share of stomach problems anyway. Nothing too much to think about. Matt and I went for a walk at Peaks View Park - we'd never been there before, even though it's pretty close to our house. It was a really sunny, warm day. It was nice to get out of the house and shake off some of the stress that comes from taking care of someone. 

    Monday, she still wasn't feeling very good, but that wasn't too abnormal. Tuesday was election day, and I was starting to get worried about her. I placed a call to the vet about maybe changing her medicine, because I didn't think we could make it through two weeks of her being this sick to her stomach. That night was long as we stayed up to watch the election results. 

    Wednesday, I had agreed to help out at a health fair. I set up the booth for the humane society and chatted with people about volunteering for the animals. Several people mentioned that their animal died at 13. Something about it felt really foreboding, as I hadn't brought up Mikenna. By that night, I was very worried. She was so listless, not even drinking much water by that point, which is always a red flag. So we opted to take her to the emergency vet. You know what I was expecting? That they would give her some anti-nausea medicine and some fluids, and we'd take her to the regular vet in the morning. I figured we'd take her home and get her better. But as we sat there after midnight, exhausted and cold, it began to feel like it was worse. They were taking an awful long time with their tests. They wanted to keep her overnight, and said that her kidneys looked off. I was too tired for things to really sink in. I agreed to it in a haze and we went home to snatch a few hours of sleep before picking her up bright and early.

    Thursday morning, as the sun rose, we were driving back to the emergency vet to pick up our girl. The doctor came out and told us that she had not improved any over night and that we had to take her straight to our regular vet when they opened. When they brought her out to us, she stared, but didn't make any excited ear twitches or stretch out her paws for us. That's the moment it hit me that she was very very sick. She always got excited about seeing us. We could walk out the door and walk in a minute later and she was thrilled. 
    We walked into our regular vet and sat on the bench, holding her in my lap. The song "Chasing Cars" played over the radio.

    If I lay here
    If I just lay here
    Will you lie with me and just forget the world?

    Oh, how I wanted to just take her home and snuggle up with her. The vet came out and told us that they'd looked over her paperwork from the emergency vet. She definitely had pancreatitis and something was up with her kidneys - prepare ourselves, it did not look good. 

    We spent that morning and early afternoon trying to keep ourselves occupied. Matt and I shared stories with each other, talking about all the good and bad of Mikenna, how she had made our lives better, happier, more quirky. 

    When the vet finally called, it was everything I was afraid I'd hear. Pancreatitis, her kidneys were failing, and her heart. There was no way to treat all three of those things at the same time. Two of them, sure, but not all three. There was nothing that could be done. They recommended taking her home for one last night together. 

    That was the longest night of my life. I didn't want to sleep and miss a minute she had left, but going on a third nearly sleepless night, I was exhausted. I had expected that she would settle down and sleep, but she couldn't get comfortable. She was thirsty, but as her heart struggled, the blood wasn't circulating well and her tongue was turning black. She had a brief seizure because, as the vet warned us, blood wasn't making it all the way to her brain as it should. I told her over and over again that she had done well, and if she wanted to let go, she could. I wouldn't be mad. She'd done her best. We all had. 

    The sun eventually rose and Mikenna wanted to go outside. Of course she did. She loved the outside. We took her out there and she just sat. Didn't have the energy to do much else. But she seemed happy. Matt encouraged me to go grab my camera and take pictures of her. I didn't want to, but I'm glad I did. I treasure those pictures, even though they show a dog who was very, very sick. 

    Time went by too fast and too slow. I wanted her to just die at home, peacefully, so we wouldn't have to take her to the vet. I remember when they gave her that injection to knock her out, and I thought, she's never going to wake up again. Everything that we've done together, and this is it. She was so tired. 

    When I walked in the door after we had dropped her off at the humane society for cremation, it all hit me. Everything I had done to take care of her, to make her happy, it was all gone. It was like my calendar had been full and then suddenly wiped out. But it wasn't relief. 


    A year ago, I walked into the vet with a dying Mikenna, holding her tight, exhausted. 
    This year, on the same day, I'll walk into the vet with Buttercup and Vizzi for a checkup. The vet will tell me that they are adorable and perfectly healthy, and I'll tell her how well they get along with their older sisters, and we'll all smile and chuckle at them as they squeak in gentle protest. 

    This week has been heavy with grief, I admit. I had a dream the other night where she slathered me in kisses, and knowing I'll never have that again, that little paw holding my face still when I tried to move, puts a lump in my throat. 

    I thought about the ebb and flow of our family over the years. Koo & Aery; Koo, Aery & Gwen; Aery & Gwen; Aery, Buttercup, Gwen & Vizzi. Never has our family felt lacking. There's never been better or worse, just different. I've loved every version of our family. We've never lacked love or laughter, no matter what. 
    It hurts not to have Mikenna here. Were she here and healthy, she would enjoy chasing Cuppie and snuggling with Vizzi. But if she were here, they wouldn't be. (I love animals, but come on, I have my limits) Because she died, they have a chance to be in our family. Aeris gets to have kitty siblings who adore her as much as she did Mikenna, and even Gwen is amused with everyone. It's not better or worse, it's just different, and beautiful in it's own way. 

    I miss my little girl, and that's okay. I wish I didn't feel grief as much as I do, but I know that's not a bad thing. Although many holes have been filled with the kittens, no one runs up and pounces on me when I cry, the way Mikenna did. That, I admit, is the thing I miss the most right now. 

    A few weeks ago, I realized that the day the kittens were born (March 13) is also the day that my ashes ring arrived. Something about it feels significant. The day that the last bit of Mikenna's journey was finished, the kittens arrived. I think that's pretty cool, that there's a bigger picture, even when we can't see it and aren't looking for it.

    Here's to Mikenna, and to getting what you need and not necessarily what you're looking for. 

  • Gwennie Ear Gel

    So, since the last time I wrote about it, we did in fact get Gwen on the ear gel. 

    Does Gwen like it?

    Not particularly. Her feelings range from apathy to a stink eye, depending on how feisty she's feeling.

    But I think we can both acknowledge that it takes two seconds and is a lot better than sitting around for fifteen minutes trying to coax her to take pills. Plus, now she gets actual cat treats instead of these pill laden fake treats that I tried to pass off on her.

    As with the pills, we have to medicate her twice a day. In the morning, I try to do it while she's still sleeping or has just woken up, because she just doesn't care. I can slip the ear gel into her ear and she'll look up at me and I drop treats onto her pillow/blanket/whatever she's sleeping on. If I wait until she's awake and sunning herself on the perch, that's when she'll give me a stink eye. At night, I give her the broth bowl, and then slip it into her ear once she starts eating. But she's eating a broth bowl so she really doesn't care what's going on. 

    Regardless, it's been a lot better for both of us. Gwen has perked up. She's been a lot more social with all of us (kittens included). She'll let out a trill of approval if I talk to her when I enter the room. She's happy to give me headbutts and the occasional lick on the hand. Her quality of life seems a lot better these days all around.

    I'll have to take her to the vet in a couple of weeks to check on her medical progress. Apparently the ear gel metabolizes differently than the pills, so we have to see how this dose is working for her in ear gel form. Look, whatever man. Just don't make us go back on those pills. 

  • A reflection on a crappy week in November

    Okay, I'm going to be honest. I'm feeling WAY too lazy to actually fix the direction of the picture. Turn your heads.

    Recently, I asked Matt if I could look through the pictures on his phone, because I wanted to look for Mikenna pictures that I didn't have. I found this one. I both love it and hate it. 

    It's from the night we took Mikenna to the emergency vet, the week she died. That was a long night in a long week. It was Wednesday night, and I hadn't been able to keep food down her since Sunday. She'd lost interest in eating, which wasn't uncommon for her when she felt sick, but she'd never felt sick to her stomach that long before. I had a sinking feeling that we were losing her, and I didn't know what to do. I'd made an appointment with our regular vet for Thursday morning, thinking that maybe they could prescribe her some anti-nausea meds or something. 

    But that night, she kept throwing up, and there was nothing that she should have been throwing up, because she hadn't eaten. I spent a lot of that evening sitting on the bed, sobbing, because I felt so helpless. I'm not sure what tipped us over the edge to the emergency room, but I think it was something like being afraid that she wouldn't make it to the morning, and if I didn't try to save her, I couldn't live with it. 

    We got there somewhere around midnight. I was exhausted. They took her for some bloodwork and there we sat in the room, waiting. That's when this picture must have happened. I had hoped that they'd just pump her with an anti-nausea med and let us take her home. I mean, I knew enough to be worried, obviously, but I just didn't know the extent of what was going on. 

    When they came back, they told us that she had pancreatitis, and that her kidney values were extremely high. They wanted to keep her overnight and give her anti-nausea meds and rehydrate her, see if they could get anything to come down. So much, all at once. I agreed to it, but I can't say that I exactly knew what was going on. 

    Something like six hours later, we were back to pick her up. Take her to your regular vet immediately to continue treatment. We weren't able to make any progress with her. My heart started to sink. When they carried her out to us, her ears didn't flick back, and she didn't reach out for me in excitement. She just stared blankly at us. That's when, deep down, I knew she wasn't going to pull through. 

    We took her to our regular vet right away. As we sat in the waiting room with her, Chasing Cars played over the speaker. 

    If I lay here
    If I just lay here
    Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

    The vet told us before they took her that, based on the emergency vet's report, things didn't look good, and to prepare ourselves. As expected, there was nothing they could do for her. Heart failure was weakening her body, her body was having a reaction to the lasix and tearing up her kidneys, and the pancreatitis just tipped it over the edge. They couldn't treat two of those things without making the third worse. 

    Ten months later, here's what I wish I had done differently in all this:

    - Taken her to the emergency vet sooner, or to the regular vet. I don't think it would have changed the outcome - once her body gave out, it just flat gave out. But maybe she could have been a little more comfortable. 

    - Asked our vet if we could pick her up right away once they told us there was nothing they could do. They called us at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and told us we could pick her up at 5:30. I wish I had asked if we could have just gone then. I didn't think there was a real point to keeping her there, and I wanted every minute with her. I wish I had just asked.

    - Asked if I could have held her the day she died. We laid out a blanket for her and everything happened on the little exam table. I was so exhausted (I hadn't had more than a couple hours of sleep at a time in about three days) and so overwhelmed that I just let them go about it. I wish I had asked if I could have held her as she died. I was right there and talking to her and petting her, but still ... I wish she'd been on my lap. I realize it doesn't matter. It doesn't change anything. 

    So, that picture up there isn't a great one. But somehow it feels so fitting to that whole experience. We fought so hard for her, we did the best we could. It was absolutely exhausting, and in the end we lost. But we were there for her all the way through, painful as it was. (and still is)

  • It's hard to be Gwen

    As I write this from my office, there are three cats in here. Gwen is eating some kibble, but stopping every few bites to look around and check on her crowd. Vizzi is casually watching her from across the room. Little dude likes to be where the action is. Aeris is staring creepily from the doorway. After all this time, Aeris still has a creepy preoccupation with Gwen. I had really hoped that having kitten friends would make her chill out already, but apparently not.

    Okay, I was wrong. All four cats. Cuppie was watching Gwen from behind the litter box, which I only clued into when Gwen walked over to the litter box and got this look on her face like, "Well this is awkward." Which it is, I mean, how many people gotta stare at ya while ya use the bathroom?

    Well, bless her. Gwen still peed in the litter box, while growling at Cuppie, who was three inches from her face. In Cuppie's defense, she didn't move. Still. Do you want to make eye contact while peeing?

    Poor Gwen. In trying to be left alone, she makes herself an object of fascination to her siblings. Cuppie and Vizzi are better about it than Aery, as they'll at least watch from afar and for the most part, back off when Gwen gets serious.

    I had to go up to the vet today and talk to them about switching Gwen to the ear gel form of her thyroid meds. I'm pretty sure Gwen caught onto what the twice daily "special treats" were ages ago, but has continued to take them because I'm her person. That said, over the past couple of weeks, I seem to have exhausted all of my karma from being her person and she's had it with this whole pill thing. It's been taking longer and longer for her to take the pills, if she'll attempt to take them at all. Even then, she's figured out how to split the pill from the pill pocket, and once she does that, she will not entertain the idea of a second attempt.

    Gwen is a very good cat. She is also a very stubborn cat, and has her own code. She isn't overly anxious to please you, treats are not particularly rewarding, and her favorite human interaction is head boops. When you interact with her on her terms, and understand her language, she's incredible. But I can understand why most would probably not see beyond her intimidating exterior. Vizzi and Cuppie are cats who are incredibly easy to love. Gwen has a learning curve.

    So all that said, the last week or so, Gwen's been extra reclusive. Mostly keeping to herself in the closet, really irritable when it comes to her pills. I resigned myself to the idea that I was going to have to talk to the vet, but decided to ride the week out and see if she'd come around. (Thankfully, it takes a little while for her hormone levels to creep back up, so getting half her dosage or so wasn't the end of the world)

    When I stopped begging and pleading and sitting there with the pill inches from her, she got happier again. She started greeting me at the foot of the closet when I walked in with her pill. She'd swish around my feet, chirp at me, and come over for boops and pets if I sat on the floor with her. I started to see my sweet little sasspants that I love so much. That's when I knew I just couldn't keep going with the pills.

    Gwen hates to be made to do something she doesn't want to do. Being made to eat something twice day that didn't interest her (and let's be honest, probably didn't taste all that great even with the pill pocket) was straining our relationship. Gwen already has trust issues, she hates change, and it's become evident that even 'minor' things (like us going away) upsets her in a far different way than Aeris. I want to keep Gwen healthy, but when there are other options available, I need to explore those for the sake of keeping her happy too.

    So I should be able to get the ear gel for her tomorrow, and hopefully that won't be a complete disaster. As is kinda obvious from how I talk about her preferring "boops" to full body pets - her touch tolerance varies. I gave her ear a test rub today, and she liked it. Hopefully she'll still be okay with it when there's a substance involved.

    I wish Gwen knew how special she is. I think the world of her.

  • July Rambling

    So, it's July already. The kittens will be four months old on the 13th, and our 10th anniversary is on the 7th. Gwen has another thyroid test this month - so long as she keeps up with her medicine, I'm cautiously optimistic this time. I think she looks like she's put on weight, which is a good sign in this case. 

    I decided that this month, my goal is to hit my "calorie goal" every day on my apple watch. That's calories burned, not ingested. I was up to a goal of 520 for a while, but it's gone down in the last month to 460. It's a relatively easy way to get that success high, so why not? 

    The kittens are turning into good little cats. Viz in particular is super affectionate with us. He's our little peacemaker. While both kittens want to be friends with the big girls, Viz seems to understand feline diplomacy a little better. On the whole, they are very well behaved. Cuppie likes to chew on things, which is fine as long as I give her appropriate things to chew on. But they both (mostly Cuppie) like to come see us as soon as they wake up ... which is somewhere between 4-7, and increasingly on the earlier side. She likes to groom Matt's face, so he's taken to sleeping with a pillow over his head. Poor guy. Viz seems to enjoy snuggling between us for a few minutes before we go to sleep, and then he goes off on his own. He sleeps better than Cuppie, so he's not typically such an early morning intruder. 

    Aery has had a rough few weeks with her little siblings. She likes them on the whole, and she boops noses with both of them often. But BOY does them playing drive her batty. They are practically bouncing off the walls, running around, tackling each other, having a great time. I don't know why, but Aeris can't stand it, but she won't go somewhere quiet. So that's meant a few weeks of Aeris growling, growling, growling at the kittens whenever they play. She has yet to do anything to them, and they don't seem fazed by it - they still want to sleep near her at naptime. 

    Gwen seems to be improving overall. Her mood is a lot better. She enjoys going in the closet for a time out, but is spending most of her time outside of it, by her choice. I think we'd see more of her in the rest of the house if Aeris would stop trying to run after her every time she sees her. Yes, Aeris is our problem child, we know it, and we love her. She has been taking her pills pretty dilligently, and I hope she keeps that up for the next week. If her numbers finally come back normal, we can switch her to an ear gel rather than the pills, which should take stress off of everybody. (By everybody, I mean me and her. The other cats LOVE pill time, because they all get treats.) I'm convinced we'll have everyone comfortable and happy at some point. 

    I've been taking the kittens up to the humane society for summer camp on Mondays to talk to the kids about cat behaviour and how to take care of cats, stuff like that. I'd like the kittens to be okay (relatively) with car rides and being handled by other people. So far, it seems like a good thing. The kids love them, and the kittens are tolerating it. I won't say that they're excited about getting passed around by kids, but they're being good little kitkats. 

    They definitely know that they're part of our pack now. They 'mark' us with their mouths and swish around our feet, getting their scent all over us. They want to be with us, and will often come running when we come home. It's a sweet experience.

    Speaking of sweet, you know what I found at the grocery store today?

    Oreo O's. 

    I love summer.

  • A year

    It's the end of a long (but good) day. I'm sitting in bed with my chromebook on my lap after having put in a couple Arbonne orders. The kittens are wandering around, looking just a little bit sleepy, so I think they'll find their place to sleep for the night soon. Matt's reading a comic, Aeris and Gwen are both asleep already. But I had to take a minute to acknowledge this day.

    Today marks a year since we found out Koo was sick. 

    It's a hard day in that, in the scheme of things, it marks the beginning of the end for our time with her. I find it hard to believe that just a year ago, she was walking around, panting with her little pink tongue hanging out, completely oblivious to everything the vet told us. Today, I look down at my ring that contains some of her ashes. It's not an easy thing to wrap your head around - she was this and now she is that

    Despite this being the official day of diagnosis, I knew in my heart something was wrong before then. Look, I'm not a shining example of a clear head when it comes to my animals. I fully admit that I once took Mikenna to the vet because she broke a toenail and I wasn't sure what to do and was afraid she'd broken it back too far and it would get infected. I stayed up many nights with her when her stomach didn't feel good, hoping that she was just uneasy and that we weren't looking at something like bloat. (Her breed wasn't predisposed to it, but I never ruled anything out) I walked around the apartment complex for one summer absolutely convinced she had westie lung disease. (Yes, that's a thing)

    This was different. This made all of those other things I'd worried about feel really insignificant. Part of me knew that whatever was wrong, this was the thing. I put off taking her to the vet for it, hoping that she would get better, that I would turn out to be paranoid again. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. It was eating at me. My intuition was screaming at me, and when it's screaming at me WITH anxiety medicine, that's something. 

    I clung onto a little bit of hope that maybe it was allergies. Maybe it was a little respiratory bug. But deep down, I knew it wasn't. I have to admit, I wasn't thinking heart failure right off the bat. But I knew it was something bad. 

    Having gotten her so soon after our dog Max died, and her having been such a heal to my heart, it was never ever far from my mind that someday she would die. I spent her whole life afraid that I would do something to break her. When the time came that she was diagnosed with the thing that would be fatal, part of me felt like it was just the other shoe dropping. This is why I did not want to get another pet soon after losing her. I needed time to feel the grief in all it's horrible heaviness, because I had run from it last time. And you know what? The kittens weren't magical fixes. I still feel grief. I have days where her loss feels unbearably heavy. But having the kittens around restored some of that goofiness and life to the air that we'd lost with Mikenna. So I'd waited long enough - at least for kittens. Even if we didn't have the kittens, I can't fathom another dog right now. Honestly, I don't want one for several years. Any sooner feels dangerously close to a replacement for her, and I won't do that. 

    But that's quite the tangent. 

    Today, a year ago, really stunk. It was the beginning of the longest and shortest four (plus) months of our lives. But I'm still, and will forever be, glad that we had that summer. We got to wander around outside, I freed Mikenna of her leash, intentionally stayed home with her as much as possible, and lavished her with as much attention as she could stand. (and that threshold was quite high) The medicine gave her time where she was quite comfortable and happy, and that was good for all of us. It made it less grim, in a way, to have some good time with her, and yet be cognisant that it was precious. I've tried to hold onto that, moving forward. Whether you see it coming or not, our time with pets, loved ones, friends, all of it, is precious. Savor as much of it as you can, and store up a lifetime's worth of memories. 

    I miss her. If it were possible to have her here and have her healthy, I would wish for that in a heartbeat. But since I can't, I'll spread that love that I had for her around, into Gwen, Aery, Vizzi, Cuppie, and whomever else crosses my path. For a dog who never tempered her affection for us, I think that's the best way to carry her memory on. 

    There's a joke, or saying, or something, that there's only so much weight in the world, and it just redistributes between people. Maybe with Koo gone, there's no less love in the world, it's just spread out a little differently. Weird thought, but hey, it's after midnight. 

  • Happy 10th, Aeris

    So the story goes, once upon a time, a girl went to a grocery store. On the way out, a lady was handing out kittens for free. The lady said that she was going to take these kittens to the shelter if she couldn't find them homes that day. It had been a long time since the girl had held a kitten, so she agreed to look at one. The tiny kitty fluff purred and snuggled in her arms. The girl called her prince charming and asked if she could bring home this tiny kitty fluff. Prince Charming didn't know how to say no to the lady, so he agreed, even though he hated cats and was allergic to them. Lady brought home the cat anyway, set the tiny kitty fluff on Prince Charming's lap, and everyone lived happily ever after.

    This has been a big year for Aeris. She lost her best friend in the whole wide world, and gained a little brother and little sister. Today, she turns ten years old. TEN. It makes sense when I think about it, but it doesn't sound right.

    She has been trouble and sweetness from day one. I thought I was bringing home a tiny, quiet, delicate little kitten. (See: Vizzi) What I actually brought home is a goofy, vibrant, opinionated little troublemaker. She has made our lives interesting since her appearance, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    To be candid, she's struggled in her own ways with all the changes inflicted on her this year. I believe she knew Koo was very very sick, and acted accordingly. She became very attached to me after Koo died. Aeris has always been a daddy's girl, so to suddenly find myself smothered was odd.

    And then there's the littles. She's made leaps and bounds with them since they came home. But they bring change, and I don't think she's very fond of change either. (Though to her credit, at least she's not hiding in the closet GWEN) She is extremely interested in the kittens, and will follow them around, plunking down in the middle of whatever area they're playing in. But then she'll sit there and hiss and growl at them. Such a little drama cat.

    Aeris is a beautiful, resilient cat though. We shower her with as much love as possible, and she usually bonks noses with the kittens at least a couple times during the day. (The nose touching/sniffing is an affectionate feline greeting.) And, having the kittens around has kept her out of trouble, too, which is downright impressive. Seeing Cuppie eat a treat that she snubbed has made Aery start to get over her pickiness. After ten years, I think Aeris is finally learning how to cat. When the kittens are older (and a bit more calm) I think she'll love having them around. Not that she doesn't now, I just think she'll stop trying to hiss at them.

    Whether Aeris is with us for another year or she outlives her little siblings, she will always be our babycat. Don't get me wrong, I love our current pride of kitties, I miss our Koo and Aery duo. It was special...but then again, isn't every mix of pets?

    We love you, Aery Bean. Thank you for tricking me into bringing you home. Happy birthday.

  • My Type

    My Type

    If you'd told me that I had a "type" of animal, I would have assured you that it was not true.

    But when I took this picture of Cuppie the other day, I said out loud, "OH WOW. I have a type."

    Because, you see, when I snapped that picture there, I thought of the picture above. I remembered Mikenna laying on her side, fresh spay incision, looking at me with her charm and attitude.

    So apparently, I pick confident animals with lots of personality. Little firecrackers. I mean, look at Aery and Gwen. They may not be the same amount of outright swagger that we've got going on here, but those girls know what they are about and they stick to it.

    I didn't really pick Vizzi, Matt did. That must be why he's shy and sweet and nothing like the little hellions I bring home. :)

  • Ob-la-dee-ob-la-dah

    I haven't known what to say.

    Life without Mikenna is really quiet. Not in a bad way, necessarily. For years, I spent nights fretting about her, thinking that every upset stomach was bloat, that a broken nail might lead to a paw amputation, that she would surely die while under for a teeth cleaning. Now that I find myself without the target of my frets, that frees up a lot of mental space. (and I sleep consistently pretty well now, which is nice)

    Thankfully, I haven't transferred any of my animal ailment paranoia onto the cats. Yet. I don't know how to say it, because I'm not sure what the difference is in my own brain. But I worry about dogs, and I somehow accept that cats are fleeting balls of destruction and cuddles. I don't think I love Aery and Gwen any less than Mikenna, but there's a definite difference in my brain. It also helps, I suppose, that I reasonably expect the kitties to be around a good 6-7 years on the low end. I mean, yeah, it could be less, but I don't feel like I'm on an ominous death march. I'll try not to think about that too hard, because I like not worrying about the kitties.

    My new "thing" is yoga. The local humane society started offering cat yoga (it's just a regular yoga class with cats in the room), and I thought, THIS IS THE MOST SARAH THING IVE EVER SEEN. So I signed up, and I've loved it, despite the fact that it dawned on me that technically any time I do yoga, it is cat yoga, since at least one of the cats is nearby, or involved.
    I love the way that yoga feels like it's working all the kinks out. It shows me how woefully unflexible I am, and works on that, gradually. Challenges me, but doesn't completely obliterate me. I feel good at the end, and I don't dread doing it.

    My relationship to exercise in general feels different. I didn't realize it, but there was certainly an element of guilt in taking care of myself while Mikenna was around, especially when she was sick. I felt guilty leaving her for the gym at night, and working out at home was always awkward. As soon as I would pop in a dvd, she would hop off the couch and tell me that she needed food. And water. And to go out. And probably to play with me. It was all sweet and makes me laugh to think about it, but when you're trying to do something teh srsly, it gets frustrating. If I did manage to take care of all of her needs before trying to exercise, she'd just decide to join in. Which usually made Aery join in. We've never had big living rooms to begin with, so that was just a recipe for chaos. As much as I loved the exercises in theory, I couldn't really enjoy them with a little herd of paws at my feet.
    But now I've realized that I can legitimately try out all these exercise dvds I've accrued, and I'm delighted.

    We had a tree branch fall on the car almost two weeks ago. There was a nasty wind storm one night, and one of the trees near the car let go of a decent limb, which crashed into the windshield, hood, and headlight. It also broke a mount of some sort on the inside - the name escapes me at the moment. So, we've had no car for the last eleven days, and just got it back today. I'm a little surprised that I'm not still joy riding around town, because sweet, sweet freedom.
    I feel like it's one of those things that you won't understand unless you really get it, but I get so stir crazy sitting at home for lengths of time. It's not that I constantly need to be moving, but I need the option. It's like my brain recalibrates that way.

    So, the ill-timed branch incident came a little over a week after we said goodbye to the Jeep. It was bittersweet, because I really did enjoy the thing when it worked. Problem was, it was falling to pieces faster than we could slap them back together. I am not exaggerating - there was a problem every time I got in the Jeep from November on. We sank more than the value of the car into it over the last year, and then HOURS after we changed the battery, the Jeep quit on me right up the road. Maybe the fuel pump. But there was no way we would be able to drive it to a garage, so we'd have to tow it. ($$$) Then, who really knew what was wrong with it, and the way things were going, it didn't seem too far fetched that if we fixed that issue, something new would pop up very soon. It was enough. Too much mental and wallet stress for very little return at that point. So we're a one car family for now. I think we'd like to pay off the car before we decide to take on another loan, but circumstances could always change.

    Wednesday was the second annual Gwensday. Since we don't know when her birthday is, we celebrate the day we brought her home. This year, we gifted her a really sweet scratching post that she hasn't really looked twice at, and gave her some extra wet food and love. For her part, Sassypants has alternated between hanging out with us and in my closet. I don't mind, as long as she knows she's allowed to come hang with us, and she's happy. I just put a little padded mat in the closet with her - it contains catnip - so it's probably my own fault that she's in there. But she is definitely a cat who needs a space of her own, and I'm happy for her.

    I've been reading a lot. Ten books so far this year - I set my goal for thirty, and I'm reasonably hopeful that I can demolish that. I'm concentrating on the books in my 'to be read' shelf, and finishing up books that I had started and left hanging. It feels good. It's both a physical and mental decluttering. Also, it more or less keeps me from spending more money on books, and a penny saved is ... still a penny saved.

    Recently, I ordered Mikenna's ashes ring. You send them a bit of ashes, and they fuse it into glass and set that in a piece of jewelry. Today the little "kit" came - a prepaid envelope and a small jar. So I had to crack open the little metal urn and fish out half a teaspoon of ashes. I want the ring - I've thought a long time about that - but the whole process feels strange to me. For one, it still seems unfathomable that the little ball of westie energy that licked my face raw on a regular basis is this sandy pile of ash. It then feels weird to go fishing around in, well, her, to get a half a teaspoon of ashes. Like, what am I sending off, here? Is it her little head that used to stare at me on my pillow in the morning? It is the tail that wagged ferociously when we came home? The little paws that would gently dig my arm when I stopped itching her too soon? I mean, the answer is probably all or most of the above, and then some. Conceptually, it's weird to say, alright, here, take some of my dog.
    The last thing that weirds me out is the little teaspoon. I'm looking at this thing, little traces of ash on it. Do, I, uh, burn it? Am I going to think, oh hey, I used this on Mikenna's ashes for the rest of the time this thing exists? And, you know, I tapped out what I could, but it still had ash residue on it. Like, I just take this out to the kitchen, soap it up, and wash Mikenna down the sink?

    It's just all really weird when you think about it too much, which obviously, I have.

    I think I summed it up best when I thought earlier that grief doesn't hit me so often anymore, but when it does, it feels soul rending. I feel like I have lost a part of me that is, sadly, intangible. I haven't lost an arm that I can point to, but the loss is still there and feels weighty. This is why, for the time being, I can't imagine bringing another dog home. It still feels like it would be a sorry attempt at filling the hole, and that's just not possible. No dog will be Mikenna, it would be its own self. Still feeling her loss, I can't commit to taking on another dog, making it a part of me, and feeling this loss again. I mean, at some point, sure. I don't think I can see us spending the rest of our lives without a dog. But right now, it's asking too much.

    All that said, I'm going to go back and play some Zuma while Matt finishes up season 2 of Daredevil.
    Life moves on.

  • You are my sunshine

    The last song I ever sang to Koo was "You are my sunshine". Matt pulled up a version with verses - I legitmately didn't know they existed. The first one in particular feels relevant.

    The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
    I dreamed I held you in my arms
    But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
    So I hung my head and I cried.
    You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
    You make me happy when skies are gray
    You'll never know dear, how much I love you
    Please don't take my sunshine away
    If you need me, I'll be in the corner sobbing. (Half joking)
  • To the end of the line

    To the end of the line

    I brought Koo home yesterday. I've got her in my desk hutch, along with her paw prints. There's a glass door in front of the hutch, because Aery goes through periods of deciding that my desk is an AWESOME place to knock things off of, so I want to keep these things safe from silly kitties.

    It was a relief to bring her home, because now all the crappy stuff is over with. What is left of her physical body is here with us, and it will always be. I don't have to worry about her anymore, whether she needs me, whether she's hungry or lonely or in pain. Don't get me wrong, I would rather have her here. But I would want her here whole, not how she left us. So this is the consolation prize in a way.

    Bleh. I'm not sure I'm writing coherent words here.

    Anyway, I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has been kind to us in one way or another about Koo this last week. I wish to the heavens that I could undo everything, but having so much support and love poured out to us has really meant a lot. More than I can actually express.

    I guess from here, we start picking up the pieces.

  • My sunshine

    My sunshine

    It's so bizarre to me that her body broke down so quickly. She was doing so well up until she absolutely wasn't, and then she crashed so quickly. She gave everything she had and left nothing to spare, that's for sure.

    It's hard. I won't lie. If you ask me how I'm doing, I'll probably give you a soft smile and tell you that I'm okay, in that tone of voice that implies that I'm not a complete wreck but I'm not doing great.

    Hardest right now are mornings and late nights, because Koo was such a dog gone cuddle bug. She'd usually wait until Matt was up for the morning and then come steal his spot. I'd wake up to her next to me, and then either grab her for a snuggle or talk to her until she decided to come give me kisses. Nights are hard because I miss her settling in at my legs, waiting for her to flop comfortably on her side, feeling the gentle breathing and twitching of her sleeping body.

    It's amazing how the loss of one animal can make a house feel so empty.

    But at other times, it's hard to be sad, because of the reminders of how much JOY Mikenna brought everyone. She was such a goofy, intense, devoted girl. Whatever she did, she did with all the gusto in her little body. Want food? Don't just ask, BARK LOUDLY and flip your bowl over.

    She was an amazing companion. I appreciate how the kitties have stepped it up the last few days, keeping us company, and in Gwen's case, being as nutty as possible to make me laugh.

    We're all getting through it together. It's not easy, but when you lose someone you loved intensely, it's not going to be. I find keeping pictures of her around is very comforting. If I can still see her, then she mustn't be too far away.

  • Spectral Canine Sightings on the Rise?

    Spectral Canine Sightings on the Rise?

    Matt wrote this little piece. I liked it so much (ie: it made me cry) that I asked him if I could stick it on here. I like the thought that Mikenna is out there giving joy and love to people.

    Reports of paranormal pooch activity began rolling in during the evening hours of November 11th, 2016.

    "I was sitting on the couch, listening to the transistor radio, when I hear some animal running up and down my hallway," said local sommelier Joanne Whittaker. "I got up to see if I had raccoons or something, but instead there was this little white dog. As soon as she saw me, she stopped and looked up at me, tail wagging. I took a step toward her and she started running up and down the hall again, three or four times, before stopping in front of me. When I reached down to pet her, she started again. We did this three or four times before she just vanished. It was so bizzarre."

    "She seemed like a good dog," said Whittaker.

    A similar story comes from high school teacher Devadas Singh, who reported seeing a small white dog thrashing around on his bed with a chew toy. "It was adorable. And weird. She looked excited to see me, though. Nice dog. Good dog."

    Perhaps the most touching anecdote comes to us from Patricia Simon, owner of Patti's Books and Trinkets:

    This year has been incredibly hard for me. My youngest went away to college, my wife broke both her legs in a trapeze accident, and I've been fighting with my insurance company over a tree that fell on my house. Add to that a workday that was slightly more stressful than normal, followed by coming home to discover that the furnace had stopped working, and I just lost it. I crawled into bed and started bawling.

    Almost immediately, I heard the patter of tiny paws enter my room and felt something hop onto the bed. To put it mildly, I was shocked to see a small ghostly dog making her way toward me. She gently-but-firmly nudged my hands away from my face and started licking my tears. When I tried to roll over, she just climbed on top of me and kept going, her tail wagging furiously. Before long, I couldn't help myself and burst into laughter (and I'm pretty sure some dog tongue got in my mouth). This little dog had come out of nowhere and made it her sole mission to make me smile again!

    When I calmed down, she flopped on her back with her head on my pillow and looked at me. If I started to get choked up again, she gently licked the tip of my nose. Eventually, she burrowed under the covers and I fell asleep with her in my arms. When I woke up the next morning, she was gone.

    What a good dog.

    Dog experts at the Imzy Herald have pored over dozens of accounts and determined that the dog in question was a West Highland White Terrier. If you, or someone you know, has an encounter with this exceptional spirit, please write us a letter or send a telegram!

  • A hazy future

    I didn't mean for my last post to be around Koo's birthday. That was in early August. Wow. Time flies as well as creeps along. I mean, the election is still almost two weeks away and it feels like this election has been going on forever. I'm so tired of this election that I looked up to see if Virgnia has early voting - it doesn't. Also, fun fact, you can't request an absentee ballot just because you want one. Not that I looked that up. I happened to hear about it on a podcast this morning. But still.

    I don't even know where to start. I mean, I've got this yogurt cup sitting next to me - black cherry, one of my favorites - and I can't even eat it because that's how things are these days. Sometimes I've got enough appetite to down forty-five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, five pizzas and a bag of peanut butter cups (exaggeration, yes) and today I feel like the yogurt is too much.

    Life is chaotic, sometimes in an actual scheduling sort of way, but mostly in a my brain and processing emotions and stuff way. I know it's hard to write about because I keep tabbing over to twitter, hoping that something interesting will pop up and I can avoid it. I guess that's also like life right now.

    For some blissful months, it was really easy to forget that Koo was sick. But the coughing has been creeping back up on her, and I had to take her back to the vet yesterday ahead of her scheduled appointment. The jist of it is that they can't just up the lasix, because her kidneys aren't handling it well. Or they're starting to fail. We're not sure yet. So we're having to play mix and match with medications, hoping that we can find some mixture that controls the coughing without harming the rest of her. They said that while she still presents really well (basically, she still looks good, she's happy, etc), the heart disease has progressed, and we're likely looking at 6-12 months. They would be really pleased to see her get to 12 months, and she could go beyond that, but it's not all that likely.

    It's not like I didn't know this was coming. It's not like I haven't had four months to process this eventual reality. And I feel like you either absolutely understand how I'm feeling, or you think I'm a nut for being this torn up over a dog.

    Twice a day, she gets her pills. I try to use as little cheese as possible because I want to keep the sodium down - but we're also talking 5.5 pills. I'm switching her to a lower sodium food to try and help out her kidneys. But she has been so incredibly picky about her food lately. It is seriously the most absurd thing. For several weeks, she would not eat her food unless there was baby food on it. Then it was cottage cheese. Then it was eggs. Now it's this chicken broth. Every few weeks, she decides she's done with whatever she was eating on her kibble, and I have to scramble to find something that she'll eat, something that I don't have to cook up every day, because I never know if it's going to be a two bowl or a five bowl kind of day. Lately, that last demand for food comes around 12:30-1:30am. But I can't just stay up that late. No. She'll whine at me until I go to bed, and then wake me up to feed her an hour or two later. I love her. But I spend so much time taking care of her...Between that, and her companionship, I look into a post-Koo future and I see a whole lot of blank space.

    That, in a really wordy way, is the crux of the issue, I think. Every day I look at those "on this day" posts on Facebook, and I see pictures of Koo. And I think, holy cow, it won't be that long before I'm looking at pictures of this dog, and she will be just a memory. At some point, there will be a "last picture ever taken" of her. She'll be gone, and what do I do then?

    She's such a presence in my life. I had to go grab her from the bed and bring her into the office with me because she was too lazy to follow me, but was barking indignantly. In the morning, I have until she finishes drinking water to get my shoes on and be ready to take her out.

    I know that things will be different. Very different. This is a season of inevitable change. When I'm feeling good, I try to embrace that fact. But it's hard. She's not okay. I'm not okay. I don't know what I'm going to do without her, and I hate that I have to find out.

  • Koo at Thirteen

    Koo at Thirteen

    My baby girl. She has no teeth, an enlarged heart, her knee caps seem to slip out more easily, and I'm pretty sure she's got some arthritis going on in her front legs.

    But she is so sweet. She loves to stretch out in my arms in the evening. She's one of the snuggliest creatures I've ever met. Oh sure, she'll wiggle out of my arms if she isn't feeling it, but more often than not, she wants nothing more than to snuggle in.

    If we would spend all day outside with her, she would be the happiest dog ever. Maybe she'd come inside for naps, but otherwise, outside is where it's at. Unfortunately, she lives in a rather indoorsy family. But I try to let her get some wandering in.

    I don't know whether we have any birthdays left with her. The odds aren't in her favor. But she had a good couple of days with us, getting completely spoiled, snuggled, played with, and fed special treats. Our next "milestone" is to get to Halloween. If she can do that, you bet your doggy biscuits she's getting a costume this year.

  • Thirteen years of Koo

    Thirteen years of Koo

    Yesterday Mikenna turned thirteen years old. While I'm usually more wordy, I decided that the best tribute I could think of would be to share some pictures. So I pulled out one for each year of her life. Enjoy!

    2003: Mikenna was born on August 7th, and I brought her home on October 5th. This picture is from that day.


    2005: This year, she met one of her favorite people.

    2006: She would probably live outside if we'd let her.

    2007:  Mikenna has always been a good big sister, even if she doesn't ADORE Aeris the same way she's adored.


    2009:  Aeris makes a pretty good pillow, at least.

    2010: This girl loves her Matty VERY much





    2015: At least when you get a sister who is already grown up, they're more low key. Mostly.


    It feels like I've known her forever and for a moment. But she's been an incredible blessing and I can honestly say I've never loved an animal more. Whether she lives one more day or one thousand years, she will always be a part of my heart.

  • Koo's Future

    Koo's Future

    We've been to the vet twice since Koo's initial diagnosis for follow up appointments. I'm happy to say that the medicine is working wonders for her. On the xrays we had taken Friday, her heart and lungs were clear. It was much easier to see her organs on the xray than it had been previously. 

    Side note, I find it both amazing and cool that I've seen inside my dog. I know not everyone would, but I find this stuff fascinating. 

    I had strongly suspected that the medicine was working because of how Koo was acting. It's strange - when a dog gets to a certain age, you (or at least I) write off things as "getting old". Oh, she's laying around all the time and has kinda lost interest in her toys. Must be she's getting old. 
    It's the little things. When she lays on the bed, if you walk by, she'll immediately sit up and watch you. She's more bossy about her food. More eager to ask us to go outside. Wants to wander the yard. More playful. Extremely cuddly. Sleeping through the night like a boss. Giving me kisses. Chasing Aeris around.

    When things don't degrade overnight, you can see why losing these things can look like old age. Getting them back has been a pleasant surprise. I love seeing her so happy and content. 

    So the vet thinks that, based on her rapid improvement, and how her xrays looked on Friday, that we caught her heart failure early on. This is great news, because that means medicine has a good shot at being effective for her. The longer we can keep her symptoms at bay, the happier she will be, and the longer she'll live. 

    She's on lasix to keep fluid off of her heart and lungs, as well as an ace inhibitor to help thin out the blood, so her heart doesn't have to work as hard. We've also added Vetmedin, which dialates the arteries, also making the heart's job easier. Vetmedin came on the market in the US less than ten years ago, which makes it a relatively new treatment. But the trio of medicine has quickly become the "standard" in heart treatment. I've read cases where dogs have lived 4 years after diagnosis with this combination. Based on Koo's age and breed life expectancy (12-15 years) I don't expect we'll see that kind of result. If we get a year and a half to two years on this course of treatment, I will consider it a roaring success. 

    Overall, I just want Koo to be happy and comfortable for as long as possible. I'll do what I can to keep her that way. While I'm cautiously optimistic that we may yet have some time with her, I do recognize that every day is a gift. I'll do the best I can to take advantage of this time, whether we get one more day, or 730.

  • With Apologies

    With Apologies

    As most of you who follow this blog know, Mikenna was diagnosed with heart failure on Friday. Right now, she's doing really well. The medicines showed pretty good improvement in getting some fluid off of her chest in the first night, so that's good. Once we got the fluid off, we were able to see that her heart isn't -as-bad as initially thought. 

    That said, my baby girl is still dying. We go back to the vet on Friday to see how much a week's worth of medicine has done for her. If it continues to work well for her, we may very well get more good time with her - and right now, we're cautiously opimistic that this is the case. But still, heart failure is heart failure. We could get two years if we're extremely lucky. A year would be phenomenal. Six months is the average, but dogs who respond to ace inhibitors tend to do better. You just don't know.

    So all that to say, I'm not going to worry about blogging this week. I'm going to use the posts I had to buffer my queue a little bit, and let myself work on taking care of myself and my Koo. 

    Regular posts will resume July 6th, barring further complications. :) 

  • What's in a name?

    What's in a name?

    I went down the rabbit hole the other night as I laid in bed, thinking about how my trio of troublemakers ended up with their names. 

    Mikenna Oncha - When I brought home this tiny westie puppy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. At first, I dubbed her "Fiona" after the character in Shrek. I'm not sure what made me think of that, but I know my mom wasn't crazy about it. Must be they knew I wasn't completely set on the name, because sometime later that night, my dad showed me a post it note with some names scrawled on it. He said that they were Welsh, Scottish, or something close to what her breed was from. It was almost thirteen years ago now, so I don't remember that detail exactly. Nor do I remember most of what was written on that post it. For all I know, my dad made up a bunch of stuff. 

    The name "Kenna" was on there, beside it, the alleged meaning "Beloved". Being in spanish class at the time, I thought I would be really clever and drop the prefix "mi" in front of it to make the name mean "my beloved". I've never been able to verify Kenna meaning beloved, but at the time, that's what I thought it meant and I thought it was really clever. 

    Also on that list was "Oncha", supposedly meaning "Mighty dog" - which again, I totally can't verify now. So she became "Mikenna Oncha" - my beloved mighty dog. Even if those words mean nothing like what I thought they meant, she has certainly lived up to the intention. 

    Aeris Beatrice - I had a tiny six week old kitten in my arms and a big problem: my husband didn't like cats. Here I was, bringing one home. I knew I had to make my husband fall in love with this cat if she had any chance of sticking around. So I thought, what if I named her after a final fantasy 7 character? We had been playing through that game, and I knew he loved it, so maaaybe that would work. 

    She was so quiet and sweet, I thought that Aeris would be the best fit. 

    In hindsight, I think Tifa or Yuffie would have been more appropriate for her personality, but at the time this seemed perfect. I even suggested the Japanese version "Aeris" rather than the Americanized "Aerith" because I was that dedicated to keeping this kitten. 

    I don't know if the name played any role in her staying, but it stuck. Her middle name came somewhat later, when I discovered what a little bundle of jumping and energy she was. I kept calling her a jumping bean, and wondered what would a good name that kinda sounded like "bean" would be. Somehow, Beatrice popped into my head and that also stuck. We've had Aery Bean long enough that I no longer associate her video game origins with her. 

    Gwendolyn Stacy - I relinquished naming control to Matt for her, which was hard for me, because I was afraid he would pick out the worst name ever. I love picking out names. If I could sell my services as a professional baby namer, I totally would. 

    Matt has been into comic books for a couple years now, and one thing he had talked about was how they brought back Peter Parker's fridged girlfriend and gave her spider powers in an alternate universe. He wanted to name her after Spider Gwen.

    I think the name fits her perfectly. 

    Honestly, I think all their names fit them. I can't imagine calling them anything else. 

  • Where she fits, she sits

    Where she fits, she sits

    Lately, in the adventures of the calico kitty, Gwen has been testing out the world of sitting on laps.

    After 14 months with us, she has suddenly decided that our laps are pretty awesome. We're pretty happy with this development, but it's led to several instances of her perching on things that were already on our laps. Sometimes it's notebooks, sometimes it's computers or books. She doesn't really care. When she decides it's time for lap sits, that's all there is to it.

    One night, she conked out on the keyboard of my netbook while I was trying to use it. She stayed there so long that Matt turned out the light and went to bed. Gwen just cozied up to the screen, and I admit, I wondered if cats could tan.

    Gwen's also tried out other places to perch. For a couple days, she seemed pretty content in Mikenna's crate. I don't know why she was suddenly so interested - the crate has not moved or changed in ages.

    Comic books are also fair game for napping. At least she has good taste.

  • Grumpy Gwen

    Grumpy Gwen

    Good grief. Gwen can look like such a grump. She's got the "do not care" glare down pat. I think she must have spent those two years at the humane society perfecting it.

    I feel like it's hard to catch the real Gwen on camera. She's a fairly active cat, following us around, darting around the house, jumping out and playing tag. It's hard to get good pictures of her because she's always moving - unless she's sleeping, or perched. And if she's just perched on the couch, that's when she looks like a grump - because she's probably just woken up, and does not understand for the life of her why I'm putting my phone in her face. 

    This is not the face I see when I hear "MAO?" and look over to find Gwen standing on the bed next to me. Or when she jumps out and tags my leg. 

    The real Gwen is wide eyed and inquisitive. She's got sassy peridot eyes that watch things carefully. The real Gwen isn't grumpy at all (except for when her sister is being a pest). 

    Even when Gwen looks grumpy, when she realizes that you want to pet her, she's more than happy to meet your hand halfway for a head bonk. Someday, I have to dig out my real camera and take some pictures of Gwen. Maybe then I can capture our little miss sassypants. 

  • Full of Grace

    Full of Grace

    A few hours after we brought Gwen home, she stopped what she was doing, started turning her head to the side like she was possessed, and making this sad "NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH" noise. The first time it happened, I wondered if she had some sort of brain trauma we were unaware of. 

    I knew she had gunk in her ears, but part of me wondered if her mouth was bothering her. I used the free vet checkup coupon we had for adopting Gwen sooner than later to get her looked at. Sure enough, she had a double ear infection. But when the vet went to check her mouth, she went from a docile perfect patient to scrambling, clawing to get away. The vet and I agreed that something was probably up with her mouth.

    She continued to periodically stop what she was doing and make that awful "NYAH NYAH" noise, shaking her head along with it. Her ears were getting better, but her weird noises weren't. A day or two before her dental appointment, I saw rusty spit along her mouth. I wanted it to be kibble remnants. I tried to tell myself that it was just kibble spit. (After all, we have some pretty weird spit after eating things like oreos, right?) But in my gut, I knew it was blood, and I knew there was something up with her, just not the extent. I mean, even one really sore tooth could cause that, right?

    It's been just over a year now since Gwen had every single one of her teeth pulled. 

    I got to visit her the day she had it done, and they handed me a little Gwen burrito. She was loopy out of her gourd, laying there in her towel swaddle, staring at me sweetly. They told me that as much pain as she was in at the time, she was no worse off, and may even feel better, than the pain she had been living with before the surgery.

    Can you imagine that? The pain of having all of your teeth removed at once was better than before surgery? It took a lot of effort not to melt into a puddle of tears and cry all over my loopy cat.

    They told us that she was a remarkably sweet cat, because most cats in that amount of pain are incredibly mean and anti-social. 

    While I had my feeling that something was up with Gwen, I had no idea it was that bad. She had seemed so happy, curious, content! I never looked at her and thought, "ah, yes, this cat's mouth is horribly infected and she needs all of her teeth pulled." 

    Infected as her mouth was, I sometimes wonder how much longer she would have had to live, had we not come along. I'm no expert, I've no solid basis for guessing. But we know how this story ends. We know that Gwen healed up like a champ and went on to eat us out of house and home for several weeks after her surgery. We know that she became an even happier cat who loves to groom us and nibble our hands and play with everything. 

    This little cat has been through a lot. By all rights, she should be bitter and hate people. But she's not. I'm not exaggerating when I say that she is one of the happiest little cats I've ever seen. I see kittens run around with her energy and enthusiasm, but not cats her age. I couldn't be more proud of her, and if it's possible for a cat to inspire a person, she does. If Gwen can live in mind-breaking pain and still be a cheerful girl, what can I do? 

    And by the way, once her mouth healed, we never heard the "NYAH NYAH" and head shaking again. 

  • Springing Along

    Springing Along

    Finally, even if it's not officially spring, it's starting to really feel like it. 

    I know, at least some of you are probably thinking, "Come on, you had such a mild winter. It snowed what, twice? How can you possibly be excited about spring?"

    But there's something different about this. Warm days in winter feel like an anomaly. You can't feel fully excited about them, because behind each warm day lurks the possibility of a frozen disaster to make up for it. Even when it's warm in winter, it's still winter.

    But now the birds are singing in the morning. Little flowers are starting to poke through the ground, and stores are selling spring and summer furniture in full force. Even the warmth feels different. It feels like it's here to stay. It feels optimistic. 

    I've started taking Koo outside to sit on the swing with me. She loves being outside with every fiber of her little westie soul. Left to her own devices though, she would wander into mud and tall grass where she really shouldn't go - if for no other reason than I have zero desire to spend the rest of the day picking ticks off of her. 

    The swing is a good compromise. She gets to be outside, she gets to be close to me (trust me, she loves that) and I don't have to spend the whole time saying, "KOO, NO." 

    So I bought a couple outdoor pillows to make it a little more fun out there. It might have been a waste of money. I don't know. But I'm really excited about little things like outdoor pillows and bird feeders and pots of plants - the things I never got to have in our apartment.

    We've been doing something that resembles spring cleaning. We're re-organizing, bit by bit, finding things that we can donate or part with in another way. Dusting, deep cleaning the floors. Breathing new life into our living area. 

    It's nice. Spring has always been my favorite season. It feels like a new beginning each year, a celebration of having survived winter. Even in a relatively mild winter, it still feels like a victory. 

  • Gwen's Day

    Gwen's Day

    Today marks our first Gwen's Day, one year since Miss Gwen found her home. (Or, more accurately, was unceremoniously placed into a cage, put in a cold car with relative strangers, taken up some icy roads, and let out in a weird place with two highly curious animals.)

    We don't know Gwen's birthday, or her exact age. Based on the guesstimates from the humane society and vet, she's probably somewhere between 6-8. I tend to think she's on the lower end of the scale, because the humane society's guess (the higher one) was likely based at least partially on the appearance of her teeth. I've read stories where cats with severe stomatitis (the auto immune disorder Gwen has) can require full extractions as young as 18 months, so her teeth would have little indication of her true age. Last year, the vet said based on her bloodwork, she may be around 5. So I don't know. She has a lot of energy and is really into playing lately, so however old she is, she's pretty young at heart, and that's what counts.

    Speaking of playing - that seems to be Gwen's new "thing". Aeris is a huge snob when it comes to toys. Gwen loves to pounce and tackle things - hands, pillows, q-tips, actual cat toys. Unfortunately, all this playing is leading to a new round of tiffs between her and Aery. When Aery sees Gwen play, she interprets it as an invitation to play, and it's not. That seems to be the way of things between the feline sisters - every time Gwen opens up, Aeris hopes hopes hopes it means that they're now best friends forever, and it ends in scratches. Give it a week or two, and they'll be back to respecting each other's comfort zones, and all will be well in kitty world again.

    Gwen has not ceased to amaze me this last year. As soon as the wobbled out of her crate, she began exploring and was a thousand times more receptive to affection. The humane society told me that I could expect her to hide in my office for a couple weeks. She was out in the open in less than an hour. I was amazed, and right then I knew that we had done the right thing.

    I didn't know what we were bringing home when we adopted Gwen. She has exceeded my hopes for her by leaps and bounds. In my wildest dreams, she likes to cuddle with us, and I'm not sure if we'll ever get there. She tries the waters periodically, but generally prefers to sleep on her own, nearby. I had no idea that we would need to extract all of her teeth, and had I known that before adopting her, I don't know if I would have gone through with it. I'd like to think that I would have, but I feel like I'm spending too much if I buy a $30 purse - $1300 in cat teeth is kinda frightening.

    I wouldn't trade our little sass for anything, though. I know we were a perfectly happy family of four before her, but now I don't know how we didn't notice that Gwen sized hole.

    Happy Gwen's Day, little miss. Here's to hoping that we celebrate many more Gwen's Days with you.

    (Gwen in the crate there was the first time I saw her sit up and saw her eyes! She literally did nothing but lay in a curled up ball every time I visited her. In fact, I was a little bit paranoid that she couldn't really walk or something. She was very stoic through it all. Meowed just twice on the way home. I guess she figured it couldn't be any worse than where she was.)

  • Don't hit me

    Don't hit me

    Every once in a great while, I get a glimpse into Gwen's life before us, and I don't like it.

    We have a cat door that leads to the back room, where we keep the litter boxes and kibble. Aeris figured it out pretty well, but Gwen didn't quite get the hang of it. She could go through the flap if we taped it open, but pushing it open? No. (Oddly enough now I know how smart she is, I think she could do it if she wanted to.) One day, the flap fell down and taped itself shut. Aeris will bug us incessantly if she doesn't have access to something she needs, but especially at this point in time, Gwen was way too timid. As a last resort, she hopped into a cloth basket and peed.

    I was shocked, but not angry - especially when I figured out why she'd peed where she did. We hopped up and took care of the problem. No yelling, no stomping, nothing sudden. But Gwen's reaction was complete terror.

    Now, I've seen spazzy cats, and I've seen cats who know they're in trouble. Aeris gets that look all the time when she's caught smacking something off the dresser or desk. This is different. This is, "I am in so much trouble, they're going to hurt me" terror.

    We didn't hurt her. We never would.

    She seemed surprised when she dared to come back out and was greeted by people who were still happy to see her.

    Last week, Gwen hopped up on the arm of the couch, as she usually does. I had a plate sitting on the end table with a few crumbs leftover from hard boiled eggs. Inquisitive little girl that she is, she sniffed at the plate. I reached over to grab something from the end table, and Gwen got that look of terror again. Pleasedon'thurtmeIwasjustsniffingtheplate!

    It shocked me. I changed course and gently rubbed her cheek. The fear melted away and she climbed up next to me and went to sleep.

    On the whole, Gwen is a confident and happy cat. You can see by the picture above that she is at peace. She lets us pet her, and even more as of late seems to really relish being touched. So I don't believe for a minute that she's actually afraid of us. It's pure reflex, from a time when she didn't feel safe.

    I don't know who could be anything less than kind to this quiet, affectionate little girl, but apparently they exist, because every once in a blue moon, I see proof.

  • Great cats think alike

    Great cats think alike

    Sunday, Matt decided to do a little rearranging in our tv stand, which left us with some empty space. Gwen quickly seized the opportunity to give herself a little hideout.

    A few hours later, this happened.

    As different as they are, Aery and Gwen sure do share some of the same tendencies!

    Also, even taking into account that one photo is zoomed in more, these pictures do a decent job showing how petite Gwen is compared to Aery. Aery is not a huge cat - she's right around 10lbs, and just about average. Meanwhile, Gwen is still under 8lbs and just seems very light and delicate. She's our tiny girl. :)

  • Getting Along?

    Getting Along?

    Aeris and Gwen don't have quite the antagonistic relationship that they once had. That is to say, Gwen no longer curls up in a ball of growling and hissing whenever Aery comes within 10 feet of her. Most of the tme, anyway.

    In fact, the other day, Gwen let Aeris walk right up to her while she was waiting for me to dump her broth packet into a bowl. Aeris chirped away at Gwen, who just sat there, like "Yeah, yeah."

    It all depends on Gwen's mood, and how antagonistic Aeris is being. While they've made progress, Gwen still doesn't like it when Aeris appears out of nowhere, or decides to give her a good chase.

    One day though, Aeris and Gwen did something weird. Aeris would follow Gwen into a room. Gwen would hop up onto a ledge or stop somewhere, and they'd sit. Then Aeris would leave, and Gwen would follow her. No growling, no hissing, no fighting. They just followed each other around. It was the closest to friends I've seen them.

    That night, when we came home, I saw this.

    Both cats willingly spending time in the near vicinity of one another. It was pretty dog gone impressive. Maybe they'll be something like companions one of these days. If nothing else, I'm glad that Aeris has some company when we're out of the house.

  • Peaceful cat

    Peaceful cat

    Aeris hops up onto your lap or walks into your arms and lays down. If you try to tell her no, she'll just keep trying until you give in, or she gets annoyed and gives you a good chomp on the hand.

    Mikenna throws herself at you like a force of nature. You will catch her, she will give you kisses, and she will occupy your lap if she so desires. If you decline any of this, she will walk around whining like the sad dog you have made her, or sit at your feet and bark.

    Gwen will walk up and bonk your arm with her forehead, then look at you to see if you're going to acknowledge her. Whether you do or not, she'll soon lay down next to you, and that's that.

    She's such a low maintenance girl, and I love her for it. The other two are always demanding that we feed them, cuddle them, pay attention to them, play with them.

    Now, Gwen likes all of the above, but she doesn't demand anything of us.

    It's nice to have an animal who feels like she just enjoys my company. She's happy to just sit next to me and watch tv.

    I love my other girls, and I love to be needed and to take care of them as I do. But sometimes it's nice to share space with someone who seems happiest just because I'm there.

  • AWOT: The Toothless Ones

    AWOT: The Toothless Ones

    Among the reasons I am thankful for Gwen, is that she showed me that an animal being toothless was nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.

    When the vet told us after her procedure that she might have her tongue hanging out forever, and that she may or may not need a special diet, I thought, oh, what have we gotten ourselves into?

    But I quickly learned that Gwen didn't have it in her to be slowed down by a little thing like teeth. The only time that I'm reminded that she doesn't have teeth is when she chews on my hand. Her little gums tickle, though if she's really insistent, she can pinch your hand pretty good!

    She eats just as well as Aery does, though I think she's a bit messier with her kibble. She gets a packet of wet food as a supplement every day, but only because I love to spoil her, not because it's necessary to her well-being. I think in the eight months since her surgery, I've seen her tongue peek out of her mouth maybe twice. I think I see Aery's tongue more often than Gwen's!

    So when the time came for Mikenna to get the last of her teeth pulled (the vet said that they might be able to leave a few, but I was prepared for it to be a total loss), I had a lot less to fear. I was concerned about how she would do with the procedure itself - that part has always been a huge worry for me - but I wasn't worried at all about how her life would be afterwards. I knew she would be okay.

    And so she is.

    She's just as indecisive about whether she wants kibble or wet food as she was before, and just as demanding about having her food exactly at the moment she requests it.

    She gives kisses just as enthusiastically as ever, though it's a little bit sloppier these days, and for whatever reason, her tongue seems to come at you from more of an angle. I think she's realizing that she no longer has the force to try and drive her tongue up your nose, which is good for everyone involved. (Trust me, there's nothing quite like getting sweet westie kisses and then suddenly having this dog tongue ram up your nose. It's not pleasant.)

    I do think that she's more of a beggar than she was before the surgery - one real drawback. I'm starting to see that she had lost some enthusiasm around food, presumably because it didn't feel good. But I'm only realizing it because this little force of nature is now trying to steal everything I eat!

    I really thought that Mikenna was slowing down, getting old, and I would just have to accept it. Well, now that her teeth aren't slowing her down, she's quite the dog. It's a bit startling, to be honest. She's cuddling more, being more animated and forceful, and dare I admit it? Obnoxious.

    My toothless girls are happy, really happy. I wouldn't have believed it before, but I can see that they're both happier now than they were before. It makes me wish that animals could really tell us when something is bothering them - I'd have gotten Koo's teeth taken care of much faster if I had realized how much it was actually bothering her!

    As an added bonus, it's one thing that I know I won't have to take either of those two back to the vet for. One possible expense off the list.

    Surely it's better, if possible, to help your animals retain their teeth and to have the healthiest lives possible. But if the most humane and hygenic thing to do is to have their teeth removed (whether all at once or a bit at a time), then do it. They may not have the words to thank you for it, but trust me, they will think it in their own way.

    I'm very grateful for these two healthy, happy girls. In a weird way, I'm glad that they have each other in this, and I'm glad that they've shown me just what a full life they can lead.

  • Your Leftovers

    Your Leftovers

    I remember when my husband (then boyfriend) told me that they had adopted their family dog from their local humane society.

    A thought ran through the back of my mind: oh, nobody wanted that dog? Must not be that great.

    Because once upon a time, I thought that the humane society (and other shelters) were where you got animals that nobody else wanted. They were the broken, used animals, that people couldn't stamp "return to sender" on.

    It's not that I wasn't an animal lover, because I always have been. But I had never been to a shelter, had never spent any time with animals there. I thought that the idea of shelters were great - but I just couldn't see myself adopting from one. I really, truly thought that adopting from a shelter would be a bad idea for me, because I couldn't see myself loving an animal as much if I hadn't raised it from puppy/kittenhood.

    Even as Matt and I talked about adding another cat to our family, I thought of it as a "mission of mercy", of sorts. I may not love this animal as much as my other two girls, but I was sure that I would feel affection for it, and be glad that I had given the animal a place to live.

    Obviously, my reservations turned out to be completely wrong. I'm not sure I could love Gwen more if I tried! She is just as loved as Mikenna and Aeris, and now that we have her, I can't imagine our little family without her.

    Now, most animals come to the shelter because of a change in life circumstances for their owners. They're moving somewhere that doesn't allow pets or that number of pets. They've decided that their children cannot get along with their animals, and it's in the animal's best interest to be rehomed. Or, the owner has died, and the family cannot or will not take care of the pet. Most animals aren't put in a shelter for behavioral or health issues, though some are.

    Still, the odds of finding an animal that would work for you are good! If not on the first visit, then eventually. In fact, I highly recommend taking your time and finding a pet whose size and temperament would work well for you. The last thing you want is to promise a pet a forever home and then take them back to the shelter.

    I have mentioned before - Gwen has an auto immune disorder that causes her body to attack it's own enamel. So shortly after we got her, we had to have all of her teeth pulled because her mouth was a mess. But the little miss had been in the shelter for two years, and had been a stray for some amount of time before that. (I believe she had a family at some point, but that's another story.) It's likely that nobody knew about her health problems before we did - she probably wasn't abandoned because of them.

    The odds of getting an animal with a health issue like Gwen's aren't very high. I believe that most shelters will have their animals looked at by a vet before adopting them out, so you should have some idea of what you're getting into. You should take the age of the animal into account - animals a few years old will probably be less likely to have a pre-existing problem than a senior. (However, this is not a guarantee, and a health issue does not mean that the animal will be a bad pet!)

    It's also likely that Gwen's mouth was not nearly as bad when she was brought into the shelter as when she left it. She was there for 26 months, which is really unusual for an animal. Shelters often have high intake and high turnaround - because she wasn't super obvious about her distress, she just slipped through the cracks. Even then, our shelter has a clause in their contract that allows you to return an animal if health issues are found that you can't care for. I believe that Gwen would have qualified, and we could have taken her back to the shelter. BUT, I don't think the shelter would have wanted (or necessarily been able) to pay $1200 to fix her mouth, and unless another big hearted adopter was found, she probably would have been euthanized.
    All that to say, Gwen is not your average shelter case! If you do choose to adopt from a shelter, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you will be faced with huge vet bills shortly thereafter. But, if you are, and you choose to treat and keep the pet anyway, you may very well be rewarded with the happiest, goofiest and highly affectionate animal.

    I've heard that adopting from a shelter is a great experience because the animal is so incredibly grateful afterwards. I didn't believe it was possible, but lo and behold, it's true. Gwen is not anything like the cat who lived at the humane society. She is vibrant, social, and seems to love us very intensely. She is not affectionate in the same way as Aeris, but if push came to shove, I think Gwen would be the animal who sent anyone packing who tried to hurt me. For many months after we brought her home, Gwen seemed so surprised when we would remember to feed her wet food, give her a new toy, or pay special attention to her. She doesn't look as surprised now, but she still seems very happy. In this respect, Gwen seems like she's a more average shelter case - maybe more grateful because of the length of her stay. I don't know, since I don't have any others to compare her to.

    If you want to help animals in shelters, but don't have space in your own home, there are things you can do. Shelters always need help financially, and appreciate donations - whether it's in the form of food, toys, or even old blankets. If in doubt, contact your local facility and ask what they need. Shelters can also use volunteers. But if you can't do any of that, making some time to go and visit the animals is an incredible blessing.  They get lonely, and living in a shelter is very stressful on them. You can help them ward off depression and keep them looking "more adoptable" by visiting and lavishing attention on them.

  • You are my sunshine

    You are my sunshine

    Gwen really likes to play with me. She'll run into the bathroom, hide behind the door, and wait for me to drum my fingers along the space where the hinges are. Then she leaps forward and smacks at my hand with her paws. If I did this with Aeris, it would be a disaster, because Aeris has never learned that claws hurt. But Gwen is so gentle and playful that it's fun.

    She waits for me to fall asleep at night and then slips onto the pillow next to the bed. There she'll stay until I get up for the morning, and then she does too. She only sleeps on that pillow at night.

    When she's not feeling stressed out by Aeris (which we're working on), she is such a happy-go-lucky cat, but not obnoxious. She doesn't get in your face, but looks delighted and kitten-like if you initiate some play with her. Here and there, she decides that running is far superior to walking, and runs everywhere. I think she acts like a much younger cat than I've been told she is, without the behavior problems associated with young cats.

    Gwen makes me so happy. So much so, that I feel a little guilty sometimes, because I do have two other sweet, loving girls that I really do love just as much.

    There's just something special about Gwen. Maybe it's that infectious happiness, or that when she gives her love, she gives it so fully. (And in a uniquely Gwen way) I have this feeling about Gwen that she is the type of cat who would run after someone who was threatening me and tear them up if she had to. It's like she swore a wookiee life debt to me.

    I love that quirky little Koo, who snuggles with me so contently on the couch. I love Aery Bean, who will throw herself on my arms and expect that I'm going to let her cuddle me. (And I do) I don't like imagining us without any of these girls, as they are all my family.

    I think what it comes down to is that I'm in a better place emotionally with Gwen. When I got Mikenna, I was deep in grief for Max, and paralyzed with anxiety from day 1 that she would die. With Aeris, I was deep in the trenches of untreated anxiety about just about everything. I had forgotten what cats were like, and found this crazy little ball of fluff to be overwhelming.

    With Gwen, I understood (mostly!) what we were getting into. I expected the worst and have been pleasantly surprised with how she's blossomed and become so fun. I'm in a stable, supportive environment, and despite my qualms with my medication, it does keep my anxiety in check. I'm able to enjoy Gwen without worrying about her life span or what else may come. It's a new experience for both of us, and I'm immensely grateful.

    Gwen is my little sunshine.

  • Sweetie Pie

    Sweetie Pie

    Gwen is by far the most playful cat I've ever had, and she's pretty happy to play by herself. She will stare down a toy, tackle it, flip it in the air, catch it, chew on it, and then repeat until the toy gets too far out of reach or she's otherwise satisfied that the toy has been maimed. Her favorite is this little crinkly butterfly. I think it's the easiest to throw because it's crinkly and not plush, and it probably feels funny in her mouth.

    She still likes to be around us most of the time - as I write this, she's been walking back and forth on my desk, taking turns sitting at each end. She does, however, enjoy a little bit of solitude. This privacy usually involves her curling up on a sweater of ours, so even when she's not near us, she apparently likes our scent. Cute little weirdo.

    She still doesn't really ask for things - not like her sisters. If she happens to catch your eye while you're feeding the other two, she'll give you this inquisitive look, "Me too?" but that's it. In my opinion, she seems more grateful for any bit of attention or special food you're willing to give her. The other two expect it, she still seems pleasantly surprised. In a way, it's kind of nice.

    Quirky is one word that would definitely describe her. When she's feeling playful, she's happy to grab your hand, nom it, and then jump away. She also enjoys running after you and tapping the back of your legs in an infinite game of tag. She doesn't always do that, but probably once or twice a day. But she really loves hanging out in the bathtub lately. Part of it, I think, is that she seems to enjoy the 'fresh' water that drips occasionally out of the faucet. But I've also seen her wrangle a bug or two and shove them down the drain. I do appreciate that - she's a better hunter than the other two, and she cleans up. It's not uncommon to think you've gotten to the bathroom by yourself, and then a little Gwen head pops up from inside the tub.

    Gwen is also starting to dabble with the idea of sitting with us - sometimes even on our laps for little bits of time. It's not something I find that we can coax her into. We can make the invitation, but it's all up to her. However, whereas last month she was pretty sore with me when I'd pick her up, she seems to be okay with it now. She just doesn't want you to pick her up because you feel like cuddling her - it has to be because you're putting her somewhere. But one night I carried her from the back room into the living room, and she didn't seem fazed at all by it. So she's either understanding that we have her best interests at heart, or she likes us enough to put up with us.

    She really is such a sweetheart, and every day I feel lucky that she's ours.

  • Gwen's Scars

    Gwen's Scars

    I'm enamored with this little cat. She's five and a half pounds of love and sass.

    There is no doubt that tiny Gwen loves her humans. She talks our ears off all day with her trills and chirps. She appears to be testing the waters of lap cat, hopping on the couch now and then and sitting near us. Even if she doesn't sit on us, she is almost always near us, sometimes climbing on Matt's pillow in the wee hours of the morning, or sitting next to me on my desk.

    Gwen is also more than happy to gnaw and lick fingers on a regular basis. She is a very affectionate cat, in her Gwennie way.

    And yet, sweet as our little sasspants is, it's easy to see that she's been through things - and not just by her little visible scars. (Such as the one on the bridge of her nose, above)

    Some of her actions are subtle; she is a lot more cautious about jumping and walking on things than Aeris is. Things still get knocked over periodically, but I've watched Gwen double and triple check where she's about to jump. Generally, she won't jump on anything that she hasn't seen the top of and knows is safe. I think the only exception is my office window, and I think the only reason she tried that out is because she watched Aeris do it safely a number of times. Aeris, who has never truly known harm, is willing to fling herself at anything. Gwen is a curious girl, but very cautious.

    But hey, her cautiousness keeps her off of the counters. I appreciate that.

    Gwen's largest baggage is that she doesn't exactly trust Koo and Aeris. I think she would be perfectly content if she were an only cat, but that ship has sailed. On the one hand, she can sleep a few inches from one of the other girls, and she's fine. She'll even creep up on them while they're sleeping from time to time and try to give them a good snif. But as soon as she gets caught, she gets defensive and growls. She doesn't mind when the girls walk by her (for the most part), unless they look at her. Every once in a while she'll be a little bit playful with one of them, but she has to instigate it.

    Even when Gwen gets upset with her sisters, she clearly isn't out for harm. Aeris has learned to give as good as she gets from her scrappy sister, but nobody uses claws, and when the spat ends, they're happy to sit a foot apart and sleep. I genuinely think that the other girls make Gwen a bit nervous - she's probably encountered her fair share of unfriendly animals in her life. Koo and Aery, having lived in comfortable and loving environments their entire lives, don't know what Gwen's problem is.

    That doesn't mean that they don't love her ... mostly from afar. I can't remember what started it, but the other night, Gwen was really upset at something (I'm thinking Koo), and sat huddled on the floor, growling. Aeris came out and crept up as close as she could without setting Gwen off, and just sat there with her until Gwen calmed down. Today, Gwen leapt off the desk without looking as Aeris was walking into the office, and collided head on. She wasn't particularly happy about it, but she just gave an annoyed growl.

    I don't know if they'll ever be best friends - I think the trust that Aery has with Koo is unique to the fact that she was a teeny kitten when they were introduced, and Aery believed Koo her surrogate mama - but I hope that over time, Koo and Aeris will show Gwen that they can be trusted, and she'll let them into her bubble.

    Either way, I strongly believe that little Gwen is one of the best cats in the world, and every day, I find myself extremely lucky to be on the receiving end of her gummy nibbles.

    I love my trio of troublemakers.

  • Gwen hearts food

    Gwen hearts food

    Koo and Aery are our vocal, highly opinionated girls. They are not afraid to tell you what they want and, most of the time, just claim it. Gwen watches from the sidelines, doesn't ask for anything, and looks a little surprised when she's given anything.

    Gwen is now just beginning to ask for something - food. The vet told us that she might have a decreased appetite this week while she heals, but she's been eating like a small horse. She's so hungry, in fact, that after finishing off her portion of wet food, she'll try to eat dry kibble, even though she's sore and not having an easy time of it. She dives into each bowl of wet food with the enthusiasm of a person who has not eaten in weeks.

    Frankly, I'm surprised I don't see "OM NOM NOM" floating above her head.

    This is how Gwen asks for food - she follows me out to the kitchen and watches from a distance. If she smells food, she starts tiptoeing closer. When I acknowledge her, she begins brushing around on anything and everything, almost dancing around the kitchen.

    Today, as I carried her food back into her room (so brazen Koo can't steal it), Gwen swished between my legs, looked up at me, and went, "Meoow?"

    She's vocal so rarely that it surprises me every time.

    Unlike Aeris, who will often leave wet food behind, Gwen eats every morsel and licks the bowl clean. I've never seen a cat enjoy food as much as she does. She's so much personality wrapped up in a tiny, quiet package. She is such a treat.

  • How can we do better for them?

    How can we do better for them?

    I'll say up front that this is going to be a little long and rambly. My apologies.

    Yesterday, we took Gwen in for a dental appointment. I knew something was off, but I didn't know to what extent. She had flailed violently when the vet tried to look at her mouth during her physical, which led me to watch her over the next couple of weeks. Chewing seemed to bother her from time to time when she ate, and she would leave little pieces of the already little kibble scattered around her bowl. She also drooled a lot - occasionally I'd catch the drool looking darker, but I didn't know whether it was blood or food. I mean, come on, we've all eaten a piece of cake then brushed our teeth - your spit looks pretty gross. Even though Mikenna also needs dental work, I decided that we had to get Gwen in there first.

    They pulled every single tooth yesterday. Her teeth were rotting, exposed, and her mouth was infected so badly that otherwise halfway decent teeth had to be pulled because of infection and abcesses.

    That didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen in the three weeks we've had her.

    As I held a heavily medicated, towel wrapped Gwen last evening, the vet told me that, as much pain as she was currently in, she wasn't worse off, and may even feel a little better than she'd been living with. The cats they see in her condition are mean and very anti-social - Gwen was exceptionally sweet for how much pain she had been in.


    Let me show you the description of Gwen as a shelter cat.

    This is not the description of her that I'd have written based on how she was at the shelter. Even living with us at home, she let me pet her, and she was fond of following us around, but she wasn't much for being held, let alone hugged. This description was written at least a year before we adopted her.

    That means, while living at the shelter, her disposition changed. I know people noticed, because someone who declared herself a frequent visitor warned me away as Gwen was mean.

    I want to stress this - I don't blame the shelter. I know they do the best job they can with what they have. They rely on generosity - volunteers, and donations of items and money. This particular shelter is working towards being a no kill shelter. They helped over two thousand animals last year - and so, you know, I can't really blame them for not having the time/resources to sit with every cat and figure out not only if there's something wrong, but what it is.

    And yet - with the infection as severe as it was, and with Gwen not crying out in pain, I have to wonder, how much longer did she have before that infection spread throughout her body? Would they have caught on before it was too late? Or would they have found her dead in a cat bed one day, having had no clue that anything was wrong?

    How many animals has this happened to already? Suffering in silence because shelters don't have the resources to keep close watch over their residents - especially the long term ones!

    I don't know how to begin to advocate for change. You have to have people who can and want to notice physical and behavioral changes in the animals. That means they have to come around regularly. It's probably ridiculous to make a paid position out of someone sitting with animals to check their physical and emotional welfare. It's a huge thing to ask of volunteers.

    And even then, even if there were people who could spot change in an animal - what to do about it then? How can you determine whether the change is from depression or a physical ailment? Shelters can't afford to be taking every animal in for vet care every time there's a twinge.

    Something is broken, and I don't know how to fix it. I just know that no animal should be in that amount of pain for an extended period of time with no one noticing. There has to be a way.

    I want to do things better, for you, Gwen.

  • Solo Animal Parenting

    I do not like being the only caretaker/person of affection for our animals. You wouldn't think that two little animals would be much of a problem, and truthfully, they aren't. It's just that I'm so used to having someone else around.

    When I come home in the evening, assuming I didn't have Mikenna with me, Aeris comes running out and dances at my feet because she's out of food or water. Mikenna, meanwhile, is desperate to give me kisses and needs to be taken outside. When I finish that round of attention, then Mikenna will start barking because her food bowl isn't full enough, and I know that Aeris needs her litter box cleaned.

    I used to be able to divide and conquer. I'd have Matt go feed Aeris while I dealt with Mikenna - or the other way around. Trying to explain patience to these two isn't really working.

    Today, Mikenna had the misfortune of stepping in poop outside. So, I had to drop her in the bathtub with the faucet running and try to fetch a spare towel, while trying to make sure that she didn't take off running with a poopy paw. In hindsight, I should have just shut her in the bathroom while I looked for the towel - but I didn't think of that. Let's just say, I ended up sprinting back and forth between dog and linen closet, and the bathroom floor ended up pretty wet.

    I really missed Matt, then. When one of these mini-crises pop up, he's the one who runs and grabs the towel for me.

    I've taken to putting Mikenna in doggy diapers because I can't guarantee that I'll be able to wake up for her in the middle of the night. It actually works out better than I'd planned, because she refuses to use the diapers, and either holds her bladder all night, or fusses at me until I wake up to take her out.

    There are some benefits to being their only caretaker right now. When there are two affectionate animals who want to be loved up, I get twice the love. It's not uncommon for me to have Mikenna curled up at my feet and Aeris snuggled up on my chest or shoulder for a little while each day.

    Yes, I know that there are people who have more animals than I do, and have cared for them alone for years. But I'm realizing how much free help I've taken for granted. Sometimes, that extra person to grab a towel is the difference between a contained westie and one who escapes to thrash around on your bed.

    For those of you who take care of your own animals every day, and even more so those who have to take care of human beings on your own - major kudos from me. I'm just relieved that I'm not responsible for making productive members of society, because I'm kinda afraid these two would just end up with a lot of therapy bills from living alone with me.

  • The Quiet Life

    The Quiet Life

    Right now, the girls and I are living a pretty quiet life down here in Virginia.

    I've been battling a cold for almost a week, which definitely causes life to slow down a bunch. The last few days, I've been pretty pleased when everyone is fed and has access to proper bathroom facilities.

    Right now, Aeris seems content to snuggle under the blanket comforter when she's not near me. Knowing her, it's not so much a fear reaction as that she just really likes snuggling under blankets. (Even more so without the inconvenience of a human that might kick her by accident) I don't know how much that will change once we have more rooms furnished and set up. Right now, the living room is the best off, and the room where we spend the most time.

    Mikenna, meanwhile, is making the most out of sniffing around her yard. She hasn't found any exciting wildlife to stare at, but that's okay with me, because with a cold, I'd really rather that she did her business and let us go back inside. But I've noticed how much quieter she is here. Back in our Michigan apartment, there were a lot more things for her to bark at, whether it be a noisy neighbor, dogs outside, or her daily rant at the mailman. She's never been what I'd consider a 'yappy' dog, but she's so much more peaceful here. She barks for a minute if I leave the house, because she's upset at being crated. She barks when she wants to play, or lets out a protest bark if I leave the room and she doesn't feel like following. But that's it.

    I can't really speak for her, but my best guess is that she doesn't miss all the things she was barking at before. She's calm, playful, and oh-so-snuggly with me.

    It's a quiet life right now. I spread out my errands such that I'm not gone for too long of a stretch. We go visit my parents, and we take afternoon naps while I'm waiting to feel better. I like it, and I think the girls do, too.

  • When the dog won't sleep

    When the dog won't sleep

    Mikenna is, and always has been, a very opinionated dog. There have been many nights that she has decided it is time for bed. Rather than going to bed, she'll sit at my feet and stare, followed by soft whine, and then pacing and letting out short, demanding barks. This dog looooooves her sleep.

    Except, in the past few months, she's had more than enough rough nights for me to be, well, annoyed.

    There are, of course, sleepless nights where I certainly can't blame her. If she eats the wrong food or drinks way too much water and winds up with an upset stomach, well, all you can do is wait that out. She had a couple rough nights this summer because she'd caught an upper respiratory infection. And if I forget to fill her water bowl before bed, well, that's just my fault.

    I still can't decide how much of her night behavior has been my fault, and how much is on her. At eleven years old, it's certainly not unheard of for dogs to get their days/nights mixed up, or to have aches keep them awake.

    However, it seems like the overall trend started when I switched her dog treats to something she really liked. I usually give her a treat before bed, because with her stomach issues, it helps if she isn't completely empty. Well, one whiny night, I got up, gave her a second cookie, and then stumbled back to bed. That seemed to catch on, and in a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum, I'm not sure whether she was restless, or she started waking herself up and thinking, "COOKIE TIME!'

    Usually, I can figure out what Mikenna wants. But when getting me out of bed once for a cookie started becoming two or three times for unknown reasons*, I began to panic. I'm not a person who does well on consistently bad sleep! (*She would sit in her 'cookie' spot, so I tend to think that's what she wanted, but she's never been an incessant cookie beggar before. I refused to believe she was trying to get me up 2-3x a night for cookies.)

    I ended up deciding to give her melatonin. I did research before doing this, and I STRONGLY recommend you do yours, as well. Mikenna is in good health, but don't do this to your dog without verifying that your dog is, too.

    She's cleared for a dose of up to 1.5mg, but right now, I've got her on 1 mg per night, and that is working well enough, so I don't see any reason to up it. I can't tell you what happens from her perspective, but it seems to help her settle down, without noticible grogginess.

    If her feline sister decides to misbehave at 3 am, Mikenna will react. If Mikenna can't find her ball and thinks she needs it, she has no problem hopping out of bed to go grab it. But, giving it to her 30-45 minutes before I go to bed has her hopping into bed and zonking out pretty fast.

    I don't like 'drugging' her, and I'm not sure whether I'm going to continue this for an extended period of time, or take her off of it in a few weeks and see how she does. But I appreciate the uninterrupted sleep, and she loves getting her piece of cheese at night. (And she hasn't seemed to notice that I stopped giving her a cookie right before bed)

  • Have some animals

    Have some animals

    I've taken thousands of pictures of our girls over their lifetimes. Mikenna in particular, after almost eleven years, is pretty tired of being a photo subject, and tends to look away when the camera comes out.

    However, apparently if you sit on the floor to play with your camera settings, you'll attract attention from even the most camera shy.

  • But she won't sleep!

    But she won't sleep!

    Recently, I had to switch Mikenna's food, because we found out that there's oatmeal in what she's been eating - oatmeal being the one thing I can actually pinpoint her being allergic to. Dog food not being required to tell you when they change their ingredients is the bane of my existence. Discovering the oatmeal was a really good "aha!" moment, because she'd been having a lot of pukey days in the last couple of months, and I was scratching my head as to why. I chalked it up to her mysterious sensitive stomach and/or allergies and/or stress. Those could still be relevant, but the oatmeal seemed like a big culprit.

    So, we picked up a new food for her, and I even attempted to wean her for a couple of days.

    Then the whining began.

    Now, I'll be honest, our dog is weird. She's also kind of clingy. Sometimes she decides that she needs to get up in the middle of the night for water, and that she can't go alone. So she whines until I wake up and follow her to the kitchen, she drinks, and we shuffle back to bed. But this happens maybe a couple times a month.

    So the first night she got me up every half an hour for five hours, I thought, man, this dog has too much energy, this is terrible. I've got to start wearing her out.

    I started taking her for walks again, which is a good thing for both of us. I stopped last summer due to anxiety. I know it sounds counter intuitive. But I got it in my head that she probably had westie lung disease, so taking her for walks and seeing her pant was terrifying. Anxiety is horrible.

    When she conked out the first night, after her walk, I was thrilled. Problem solved! But then she got me up in the middle of the night for food. I can deal with that. But about an hour after that, the whining started, and at one point, I woke up to Matt holding Mikenna, attempting to burp her.

    Let me say again - our dog is weird. She does, occasionally, get burps 'stuck' and requires some assistance. But even in my sluggish sleep state, I thought, huh. she's been needing to be burped a lot lately. And then I smashed my head into the pillow and that was that.

    The lack of sleep started to take a toll on everybody - and Mikenna was having a difficult time jumping up on things that normally aren't a problem for her. We've got furniture that's pretty low to the ground to be westie-friendly anyway, so the fact that she was having problems with those concerned me. But she is almost eleven, so it wasn't outside the realm of possibility that her joints had caught up to her.

    Through a couple more rough, sleepless nights, I figured out that Mikenna didn't seem to be getting up just for kicks, she seemed genuinely distressed. So I started running through the list of everything that could possibly be wrong with her, and fixing what I could. The room wasn't too hot or too cold, and the fan wasn't blowing on her. She had food, had water, didn't need to pee, but had peed recently enough that she wasn't dying from not being able to pee. Wasn't constipated. Had her favorite toy with her.

    I remedied everything I could possibly think of, and still she whined. Then we had the really bad night. She whined. She needed to be burped. She still whined. She paced. She drank water. She sighed. She panted. She whined whined, whined. There was nothing I could do for her, she looked so uncomfortable, and I felt so helpless, exhausted, and depressed.

    Then, in the wee morning hours, the room began to smell. Mikenna was conked out on her side, breathing normally. I poked her belly, which was soft.

    It all clicked.

    Usually, when food disagrees with Mikenna, we see it in puke or poop. It's the reality of caring for a dog with a sensitive tummy - you get real friendly with both ends of them. This food wasn't just making her need to burp, it was making her bloated and gassy. She was not feeling good.

    Sure enough, when I switched her back to her old food, she calmed down. She started running and jumping, hopping up on the bed with no difficulty. Most importantly, she slept comfortably through the night. No whining.

    She had a vet appointment to bring her up to date on her shots, and the vet praised her health. Her heart and lungs are strong, her hips are great, her eyes are cataract-free, and she looks much younger than her age.

    I know this is far more doggy information than most of you will care about. But I hope that someone, somewhere, can relate. Parents of small children get to bond over their kids keeping them up at night, so I want the animal parents to know - you are not alone.

  • Seven years!

    Seven years!

    I can't believe our teeny tiny ball of mischief is seven already.

    She rounded out our little family, and I can't imagine us without her. She's our comic relief, our stubborn challenger, cuddle fanatic, and Mikenna's feline fan club.

    Best impulse move at a grocery store, ever.

    Happy birthday, little Aeris.

    Fun fact: Aeris shares a birthday with musician Barry Manilow. It has nothing to do with anything, but amuses me greatly.

  • Love


    This is basically what Mikenna does when Matt comes home from work. She bounces around until she is allowed to give him kisses. If he lays down on the bed, she'll snuggle up with him for a little bit. (Time determined by her mood. Sometimes it's a couple minutes, sometimes it's quite a while.)

    I love my goofy girl, and I love that she loves Matt.

    I've been super busy lately writing letters, cleaning like a fiend, and trying to bounce back from a lingering cough. Hopefully there will be somewhat intelligent content sometime in the near future.

  • Camera Shy

    Mikenna really likes my office chair...well, all the office chairs, actually. Lately, I've been coming home to find her snuggled up on there, rather than in the bedroom. I don't know why, because the bed is so much comfier and easier to get to. I decided that she must like the view from my chair better, since she can watch people.

    In her first year or two of life, Mikenna had about a bazillion pictures taken. Somewhere around year four, she decided that she'd had quite a lifetime of pictures already, no more, thank you. I don't blame her, exactly, but any time she sees the camera now, she turns her head in such a way that it looks quite coincidental...until you realize it happens every. single. time.

    Sometimes by accident, sometimes by luck, sometimes by amount of weird noises, I get her to look at me at the same moment the camera fires. But I'd been playing with my camera for a good half an hour by this point (not all pictures of her, in my defense), so she looks like a sad aspca ad here. Can't you hear Sara McLachlan now?

    Save this dog from her terrible, camera-wielding owner today.

    I wiiiill remember yooooou .... Will yooou remember meeeee?

    {Mikenna's turning 10 this month ... so to celebrate, I'm taking some pictures.}

  • You are my sunshine

    You are my sunshine

    Mikenna really likes sunshine. If I would live outside with her, I think she'd be perfectly happy.

    Our current apartment doesn't do much for sunshine, except in the bedroom. If I pull back the curtains in there though, it's not uncommon to find her sitting or sleeping in whatever patch of light she can get.

    As I write this, she's sitting behind me, whining at me because she wants to go sit in the bedroom, but doesn't want to be alone. That's Mikenna - very stubborn, lacking independence in almost everything.

    {Mikenna's turning 10 this month ... so to celebrate, I'm taking some pictures.}

  • How much is that doggy in the window?

    How much is that doggy in the window?

    Mikenna is a window sitter. We had to give the animals our cheapie storage ottoman to sit on, because otherwise, Mikenna would jump on our subwoofer to use as a seat. She still does, sometimes, but we try to block it off.

    She got an 'all over' hair cut a few days ago, but she doesn't like to sit still to get her paws/butt trimmed up, so I have to do that separately. I need to trim up her face, too...Always with the hair in her eyes.

    {Mikenna's turning 10 this month ... so to celebrate, I'm taking some pictures.}