Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chicken-Flavored Prozac

That's our next weapon in our efforts to integrate Frannie into the household.

I ran Clarence into the vet clinic today to have his latest wounds examined. He is healing without infection so far but I told the doctor that we have to find some solution to the problem of Frannie's stalking of Clarence or we will have to get rid of Frannie. I am just not going to spend the next fifteen years running Clarence to the vet every few weeks. I got several Valium to mellow Frannie out while they look for a more permanent solution to her aggression. In the mean time, I am keeping her totally out of any area that Clarence has access to. She tolerates being in the back room with the boys, so that's where she's been spending her days.


There's a wildfire burning up by Skilak Lake--it has already grown to over a thousand acres since it started Sunday night. That explains the smoke in the air--I thought it might be from the huge (80,000+ acres) fire near Fort Yukon. We had a brief, heavy rainshower move through the neighborhood last night just in time to delay our cooking dinner over the wood grill out back for about half an hour. But it saved me from having to water all the flowers, so that was a good thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The winds were kicking up by the time I got home last night. Unusual for that time of night. Once I got inside, I discovered a message on the answering machine from Denny's sister. Their party had arrived in Anchorage. Great--they would have to arrive when the visibility was so crappy. You always want someone's first impression of Alaska to be when the weather is at its best. Instead, a frontal system has moved in and it looks like it will be cool and rainy for several days.

I miss Sunny every time I go into the kitchen. It was so sudden. A few days ago she was chipper and bright and now she is gone. I suppose I should be glad it was so quick for her, not lingering through a long decline like so many of the others. It just happened so fast I didn't have time to prepare myself mentally, I guess.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It wasn't as smoky today when I got up, though the sky had a bright platinum sheen to it that obscured any clouds or sight of blue.

I made some coffee, medicated the cats then went out to the greenhouse. I ended up spending a large portion of the morning there, harvesting herbs and making sure all the plants were watered. I got copius amounts of basil--maybe I'll make some pesto tomorrow. Spraying with a mild soap solution took care of the spider-mites or whatever they were that were causing the basil leaves to curl up. I also got a nice amount of catnip that I will start drying for winter. there were some aphids on the catnip--just a few--some I will see if the soap solution works on those as well.

Back in the house, I gave BooBoo her fluids. I wanted to give her a good amount--maybe 150ml--but had to re-stick her with the needle when it came out after only a few minutes. The second poke took better and I managed to get her well-hydrated, despite her fidgeting and Tommy trying to come visit me. I had to hold him off with one hand while keeping the needle in place with the other. When I was finished, I decided to put a screw up in the joists so I could hang the saline bag a bit higher next time. As is typical around here, I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a screw and a screw-gun and the proper bit. *Sigh*

I had wanted to get all the cats' fountains cleaned today but ended up rushed for time, so only got three of the five done. I did get the big water-cooler type drinking bowls cleaned--both the one in the shop and the one in the back rooms--so I only have two of the fountains to do later. I didn't get the cat boxes done but will try to do some of them tonight if I'm not too tired.

For some reason that doesn't seem all that clear to me now, I stopped by Safeway last night on my way home from work and bought 15 pounds of blueberries and eight pounds of strawberries. (They were having a sale...) I plan to wash and freeze the fruit--the blueberries whole, the strawberries sliced with some Splenda--but didn't have time to get started on that this morning. Hopefully, I can get that taken care of before the fruit starts to spoil.


The bay was full of smoke this afternoon but visibilities were much better than yesterday. The fire must be fairly large--the TFR has expanded from twelve to sixteen miles in diameter. Anchorage and the valley are reporting restricted visibilies in smoke so it may be a fairly quiet evening despite being Friday.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I was depressed last night--called Denny before I went downstairs to wrap Sunny for burial.


It was very smoky this morning. I kept the windows closed to keep the house from filling with smoke.

We were busy at work this afternoon. The restricted visibility keeps me on my toes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Sunspot was gone when I went downstairs at eight-thirty this morning.

She was semi-stretched out under the telephone table--virtually in the same spot where we had lain together Monday night whle she was going through her ordeal with the blood clot. She was already cool to the touch and stiffening.

I can't say this was unexpected. Monday night had put a tremendous strain on her. Still, I had hoped that after coming so close to death and survivng, she would be with us for some months to come.

I hope she didn't suffer. I hope she hadn't sought out that spot where I had comforted her on Monday seeking comfort this morning. I had gone downstairs to get a cold drink about four-thirty this morning and she had been sleeping curled on the floor. I had petted her had said something to her. She hadn't been in any distress then. I have to wonder why she went to that particular spot--maybe she sensed that was where her death had begun...

She had seemed so well, so content, yesterday. In the car, coming home from the vet's office, she was purring, sitting beside me on the armrest and looking at the world going by with interest. When we got home, I fed her some baby food chicken and then she spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening sleeping. She got up while I was cooking supper about ten pm. She wasn't interested in eating but did go over to the water fountain. Afterwards, she went and lay on the carpet between the woodstove and the sofa, before moving over near the telephone table later. If she seemed restless, it wasn't enough to do more than raise subconscious concerns in my mind.

Dots thinks that she may have thrown another clot that went straight to her brain. I hope so--I hope it was quick for her.

I have to take comfort that she had a nice last day and that she went quickly, without a long, painful decline. She kept her faculties and was very much her own cat right until the end. She was never demonstrative nor did she actively seek out attention, but she was appreciative. She was with us for only two years, and our relationship didn't always go smoothly, but I came to appreciate her quiet strength and dignity and her understated affection. Someone else had named her and raised her from a kitten; someone else had enjoyed her youth and maturity--only to abandon her to the animal shelter when she was sixteen years old. I regret that I didn't go downstairs last night and spend time with her, but I was so tired and sore. She knew--in the end--that this was her home. She knew she was loved.

Inseparable from the fire
its light
takes precedence over it ..
In the huge gap
between the flash
and the thunderstroke
spring has come in
or a deep snow fallen...
in an eternity
the heat will not overtake the light.

from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower
by William Carlos Williams

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I have never seen an animal come so close to death and then come back.

Last night, about ten-twenty, I was in the kitchen fixing dinner for myself after a long day of cleaning house. Sunspot was sitting on the counter near the telephone, having turned her nose up at a small piece of hamburger I had offered her. Her appetite had been slack all day but most of the cats weren't eating very hearty due to the hot weather.

In an instant, as if hit by lightening, Sunny was sprawled on the floor, eyes wide and staring, claws dug into the carpet. She was breathing shallowly and fast.

I ran into the laundry room and got a soft blanket to place under her and moved her near the telephone stand, positioning her on her side. She mouth was open, gasping for air as her sides worked rapidly. Her back legs were limp and cooling. I didn't know what happened but I knew it was some sort of cardiac/circulatory accident. Cats don't have heart attacks as such but she was showing symptoms very similar to those Rosie did as she went into heart failure during her last moments.

I lay down beside her, trying to speak comfortingly to her, stroking her and telling her it was alright--she could leave if she wanted to, that she was a good kitty. Every now and then, Sunny would give a deep gasp and I would think, "That's it--it's over," but she kept breathing, struggling for air. After about a half-hour, I called the emergency vet number and talked with Dots. She agreed that it sounded like heart failure. She was going to be at the clinic in a half-hour to handle an emergency case from Ninilchik and said that Sunny would probably pass before then but that she would be there if I wanted to bring her in.

Okay--I had that option. Did I want to stress Sunny with that final car trip? Would she linger on for hours, struggling for breath, until she was too exhausted? I hate these decisions. I hate having to say to a veterinarian--make my cat dead, please. Was she suffering? I looked into her eyes. So far, she hadn't made a sound, but I noticed her pupils were less dilated, her eyes moving, following the motions of the other cats as they passed through her field of view. She looked at me with awareness. Her mind was still there--still intact. Are you ready to go? I wondered. Do you need to be released?

We had been lying on the floor together for an hour. The rapid breathing had passed and Sunny no longer had to gasp open-mouthed for air. Her back feet were less cold than they had been and she even raised her head a bit and looked around. The phone rang--it was Dots, checking to see what was going on while she waiting for her emergency case to arrive. As I spoke with her, Sunny stood up and moved a few steps away before lying down again. She looked almost normal--just weak. Whatever it was had passed for now. Dots agreed and suggested that I dose Sunny with a children's aspirin, if it didn't stress her too much. I told her I would check in with her in the morning and went to tend Sunny.

She took the aspirin fairly easily. I washed it down with a spritz of water from a syringe.

She was too weak to jump up to her usual resting place, so I settled her underneath a chair in a quiet location and watched her for a while. She seemed settled, so I took my long-delayed supper and went upstairs for a bit. When I came back down, she had moved to the foot of the cat tree, ignoring the fresh sheepskin and clean woolen blanket I had made available to her. Strong-willed as always. So, she was apparently moving around alright under her own power. I went back upstairs for a while. When I checked her again, she was on the second shelf of the cat tree. By morning, she was up in her favorite spot in the window.

So, I took her in to see Dots this morning. Her blood pressure was good and there didn't appear to be any enlargement of the heart. Dots couldn't hear her heart very well as she wouldn't quit purring. Dots thinks that she "threw a clot" that blocked the femoral arteries and caused a drop in blood pressure and all the symptoms that I observed. Such events are usually fatal but somehow the clot dislodged or dissolved and Sunny bounced back. I have never seen an animal so obviously dying turn around so dramatically, but Sunny seems to be feeling pretty chipper today. She is tired and a little weak from the ordeal but she was alert and interested during our car trip and when we got home, she jumped up on a chair and then onto the desk to eat.

This is the first salvo of her last battle. She will be nineteen if she lives until October and she won't survive for more than another year or so. She is very lucky and very strong--I hope her recovery means she will be with us for some time yet to come.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A New Cat

She's about six years old with a shaggy white coat and blue eyes. She's deaf. And her name is Frannie...

Oh, wait--that's my *old* cat named Frannie. But that old Frannie was anxious and aggressive and so stressed-out that she pulled her fur out. Even after four years with us, she would flinch when we made a motion to pet her. The new Frannie lies peacefully at the foot of the bed and looks at me with such affection and tranquility in her eyes--it can't be the same cat.

But it is. At our wits'-end in trying to treat her aggression with Clarence, the vet suggested that we try putting her on Prozac. It has been just a week and already it is like having a whole new cat. Well, not entirely new. The old Frannie is still there personality-wise but it feels like the fear that must have been a part of her life since her youngest days has receded.

We are her fourth or fifth home--she passed through a lot of fear and neglect before she was even a year old. The world can be a confusing, frightening place for a deaf cat, especially one who is growing up on the street, and Frannie came to us with a whole complex of psychological baggage. She was destructive, aggressive (stalking poor shy Clarence to distraction,) and self-mutilating. But we could also see that she loved us and was very devoted to us. Even when she was being corrected by a well-aimed squirt of the water bottle (from chasing Clarence,) her response was not to run away from us but toward us. (As long as it got her away from Clarence, that was fine with us. When she was sitting beside us, she wasn't stalking him.) I told Denny one night that I had the feeling that if we were living out in the woods in a tent with all our cats, Frannie is one that wouldn't wander off. We are probably the only love she has ever known.

It was heart-breaking that she was socially crippled with her fear-driven behavior. I couldn't give her up--not after all she has been through--but she was just too disruptive to our household. After Clarence's second vet visit in a month to treat Frannie-inflicted wounds, we knew we had to do something.

So it filled my heart with warmth when I woke up the other morning to find Frannie looking peacefully out at the world that has so often in the past been a source of fear for her. I am going to keep her away from Clarence for a while longer--hoping to break her habit of chasing him--but I am optimistic that we have found some relief for her from her inner demons.

Like I said, it's like having a whole new cat. Or re-discovering the better side of an old one.


I jumped in the S10--all set to go to the dump this morning--when I spotted a parts box on the dashboard. It was labeled as being part of a "fuel delivery system." Hmm. I *thought* that Denny had replaced the fuel pump. I know he said he had bought one... I decided that I had better check with him before I twisted the ignition key--wouldn't want to start an engine fire. So my efforts of last night were premature, I guess.

Anyway, I *did* need to get some straw or hay for the cat run and to deposit some checks, so I crawled into the faithful old Dodge and cranked her up. Apart from dump runs, she doesn't get driven much except when I need a 4-wheel-drive to get to work. So a trip to town in the summer must have been a treat for her. I even stopped and filled the gas tank.

Apparently, I got the last bale of straw in Homer. Good thing I went today.

Monday, July 04, 2005

I got up this morning and looked out the bedroom window to see Mama Moose and one calf working their way up the path to the back lot. Two weeks ago, she had two calves, so I have to wonder if something got one of them or if I just didn't see it. There has been a brown bear (grizzly) in the neighborhood so it could have been that, or traffic, or free-roaming dogs. So many people seem to never give a thought as to what their dogs are up to when they are away at work all day. I am hoping the second calf was just in the brush or off the path where I couldn't see it.

An eagle has been after a snipe nest at the airport for the past few days. Saturday, I saw the eagle flying off from that area with something in its beak....

People think that the winter is cruel but summer can be just as cruel. So many babies are born never to grow up. Nature is unsentimental. This is why animals are born in litters; just so one or two might survive. When a bird gets into one of the cat runs and doesn't get out in time, I have to tell myself that the species is better off without the contributions of an individual who would fly into a cage full of cats...but I'll save any bird the cats find if I can get to it in time.

On the plus side, we finally put up three more birds houses for the swallows this year. More and more seem to show up each spring and they were scoping out any available hole as a possible nest-site--including the exhaust pipes of some of our heavy equipment, the ceiling of the sauna, and other unsuitable places. I thought I was late in getting the birdhouses up but three couples were happy to move in. It's funny, but I could sense their excitement and happiness at finding good nesting places. When I combed the cats, I took the hair outside and tossed it in the air in little clumps and the swallows would swoop down and snatch it up to use in their nests. So I guess this year's babies were raised in fur-lined I think the young are starting to leave the nests--the sky is full of swallows the past few days. Soon they will vanish on their long flight south--they are usually gone by mid-July.


I found out yesterday that I may have been the last person to see a Cessna that left our field on Friday. The airplane had been rented to some out-of-state tourists and yesterday the pilot's wife called the State Troopers to try and locate her husband. The plane was last seen at Homer on Friday. I recalled it because the pilot had been operating in a manner that got my attention. On Thursday, it had taxied down to the far end of the runway, which is invisible from the main ramp, and spent so long warming up down there that when a second plane taxied out to leave four or five minutes later, we thought the first plane had already left. The second plane had to abruptly leave the runway when the first announced that he was departing. So, on Friday afternoon, when it took to the runway again, I made it a point to watch and make sure it departed before someone else taxied out.

Well, the plane is missing now and because--for whatever reason--the pilot didn't file flight plans, get weather briefings, or talk to the FAA facilities, no one is really sure where he was going or where the last place he landed was. Search and rescue airplanes and the CAP are combing the area but I suspect they are two days too late. There is a lot of cold, dark water out there and I would bet that the plane is in Cook Inlet and may never be found. Some pilots seem to think that filing flight plans is for pussies but it is free life insurance in my book.