Saturday, February 25, 2006

My little brother, in the news...

Hard to wrap my mind around him as a spiritual Best of luck to him.


Happy Birthday, are always in my heart.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

19 inches of snow on the ground--two new
Overcast, snow
Twenty-five degrees

It seemed more worthwhile this morning.

I could see Dinky was feeling much better even before I even got out of bed this morning. Not that she had seemed to be feeling bad but the difference in her overnight was noticeable--more bright and perky and (dare I anthropomorphicize?) cheerful. She was even showing a marked interest in food, which was heartening. I am glad she is feeling better but that didn't mean she was any more accepting of her morning injection. It didn't help that the needle seemed dull--I finally changed it out with another and got *most* of her dose of Tagamet to her. I'm glad this won't be a continual ritual...and tomorrow, Denny will be home to help hold her.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Busy Wednesday

Came home from the vet with special kidney-diet food, vitamins, injectable medication and syringes, and bags of sub-Q fluids. So it begins...

The vet wants Dinky on kidney diet but that isn't going to happen. Fred eats it (as will almost any other cat who *doesn't* have the need for it) but Dinky--at least at the moment--isn't interested in it. Maybe that will change once the Tagament kicks in but the important thing right now is that she eats--we can worry about specially-formulated diets once she is stabilized.

I was glad for the vitamins and Dinky didn't fight the dosing like she does the Antirobe. Obviously it tastes much better and I am hoping this means that giving her a twice-daily dose won't be such an ordeal.

The injection was another matter. Maybe Dinky has extra-tough skin but I had a hard time getting the needle under her skin and of course, after a poke or two, she got fidgety and wanted to leave. I finally got the needle under her skin but as I pushed the plunger, she decided to escape me by backing up and when the dust cleared, the needle was bent at about a thirty-degree angle and Dinky was on the floor licking herself with an affronted air. I guess the medication got where it needed to be and she didn't seem sore around her shoulders but I kept imagining the needle scratching across her muscle layer as she jerked free. I am going to need to polish my technique but by Friday I will have Denny home to help and the frequency of injections will be tapering off when we start to see results (in the form of an improved appetite.) Hang in there, Dinky.

So, I waited a while for things to calm down before thinking about the sub-Q fluids. Since Dinky likes to stand or sit on my lap while I am on the computer, I thought I could give her the fluid therapy there. I got the bag out and set up, trading out the big 18-gauge needle for a smaller (and I hoped more comfortable) 24-gauge one. The only problem with a smaller needle is that the fluids flow much more slowly and after I finally got the fluids going under Dinky's tough little hide, she didn't want to hold still. So I fell back to re-group.

Obviously, she is going to have to get accustomed to getting fluids as she will be on them for the rest of her life. Equally apparent was that I would have to use the larger-gauge needle to have any hope of getting the required amount of fluids into her during the length of time I could get her to hold still. I hated the thought of poking her with that big needle and she was by then skittish of anything I wanted to do with her but it had to be done. It came down to brute force--I slipped the needle under her skin and forceably held her in place despite her efforts to wriggle free. After what seemed like along time but was only a couple minutes, I let her go. She jumped down and started licking the bulge under her skin where the fluids were. I felt the bulge and noticed how cool the area was. The bags of fluid had been sitting down in the kitchen all evening and should have been about room temperature. But I could see how uncomfortable a large amount of cool fluid would feel under one's skin and vowed that in the future I will warm the bag before fluid-time. I hope that will make it better for her, poor little thing.

I'm glad I only have to do fluids every other day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Clear and cold
About a foot-and-a-half of snow on the ground

It's hard to tell how much snow is on the ground. During the warmer weather last week, it developed a very hard crust of ice that renders it semi-permanent at this point. Just eye-balling it from the second floor window, it looks like we have a ten inches or so left on the tarp over the wood pile. The winds evaporated quite a bit of it over the last two days. How much is actually on the ground would take an explorary foray that I am not up to.

The winds were strengthening by the time I got home last night. Once darkness fell, I could hear the wind howling and shaking things outside. I haven't yet gone out to see if I need to collect the garbage cans or various buillding parts from the yard.

Last week, Dutch Harbor experienced sustained winds of 100 mph for over six hours, resulting in a lot of damage. Did this make any national news? No, of course not. People just expect Alaskan weather to be horrific, I guess.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It's Friday!

15 inches of frozen snow on the ground
30 degrees, clear skies
Southwest wind at ten-fifteen knots

Yeah, yeah...I know. For most of you, it's Monday but for *me*, it's Friday and not only Friday but the Friday of a seven-day work week and a holiday (yay holiday pay!) to boot.

So pardon my little happy dance.

I am feeling better, as predicted, about Dinky's situation. She is so bright and cheerful, it is hard to feel too depressed around her. I remind myself that I need to enjoy these moments, participate in them fully and not let my response to Dinky be muted by foreshadowed grief. There will be time enough to miss her later.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I Can't Do This...

The feeling of hopelessness is heavy with me tonight. I am researching kidney disease and chronic renal failure so I will know what to expect. I was reading in lisaviolet's diary about her recent loss of DeeJay. She had a photo taken on the morning of the last day of his life. It was so sad because it reminded me of my last photos of Rosie and Newt as thin, tired cats, those pictures I took in an effort to hang on to them just a while longer. Now I look at those photos and know that I did the right thing in letting them go. But it was so hard.

I can't do this--I can't watch Dinky who is so vital and bouncy turn into a worn-out old cat.

Maybe I should say I don't want to do it ...but I have no choice. As much as it breaks my heart, I will stand by and support and love her as she faces her final journey. It's just that it happens again and again--the bright little kittens turn into old cats and fade away, seemingly before my eyes. Johnny and Lucy and Newt and Rosie...on and on in a chain going back to Kisa. Their lives are like flowers, so ephemerial as to be gone in a flash.

The hardest thing is knowing that I have a houseful of cats--each one an incipient heartache--and I will face this again and again and again. Dinky and Punkin and Molly and Bunny and Frieda and Cissy... I want to freeze time and live forever in this moment, untouchable by age or decay. There is no help for it. It is the price I pay for their love. And I am glad to have their love and their light in my life. I wouldn't trade any of them for the world (well--maybe Twitch...) Tomorrow I will feel braver, better. Tomorrow I can face the day.

But it's just--sometimes it is so hard...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Just Saturday

I feel a bit guilty that while I was aflutter about Punkin's upset stomach, imaging the very worst, I was comforting myself with the idea that even if the worst *did* happen and I lost Punky, there would be Dinky to help me through my grief and make the bed a tad less empty at night. Now I have to turn that thought on its head. Dinky is such a constant (one could say relentless) companion during my sleeping hours, her loss would leave a gapping absence. I try to guard my cats against every threat but there are some I am defenseless against.

I know, I know--don't borrow trouble. Invariably, things do not happen as we anticipate. We lost both BooBoo and SunSpot last summer. I had resigned myself to losing Boo back in 2002 when she showed signs of advanced kidney disease. Inexplicably, she rebounded (we think now she just had a kidney infection) and lived on for three more years. Sunspot, looking great for her age, dropped dead from a stroke with little warning. We thought Lucy Sue's surgery was successful in removing all traces of malignancy, but six months later, it returned, while her sister Frieda had a rapid-growing tumor removed from her tail four years ago with no sign of reoccurance or metastasis.

So it is impossible to say with any certainty what course Dink's health may take and there is nothing to be gain by beating myself up because I wasn't worrying about Dinky getting kidney disease while I was worrying over Punkin's digestive problems. If nothing else, Dinky's problem has been very gradual in its onset and a few days delay in detection makes no difference in the course of the disease.

As Rosanne Rosannadanna would say, "It's always something..."

More trivialities: I finally got around to doing some work on the cats' webpage--uploading recent photos and starting pages for Twitch, Bart and MeToo. I am sad that I can only find one (blurry) photo for Sally to put on her memorial page. I will go through last year's photos again but suspect that the one photo I have is the only one to mark Sally's passage on this earth.

I have also been transferring my blog archives from the old endcredits site to livejournal. It is a slow process--I don't have 2002 done yet though I am in October 2002 now. I will post when I have a whole year done for any intrepid souls who want to venture back into the dark recesses of the past...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dinky Update

Just finally heard from the vet about Dinky's bloodwork.

Her liver and thyroid are fine--it's her kidney function that is low and she is also slightly anemic, which can be a side-effect of decreased kidney function. I will get together with Dots early next week to find out exactly how to go about treating Dinky's condition. I found a great website about CRF (chronic renal failure) and have set about educating myself. I am glad I learned how to administer subcutaneous fluids--that is a major part in managing this condition. I guess I'll know more after I talk with Dots. She seemed more concerned with Dink's anemia at the moment.

Dinky herself seems totally unconcerned with anything. I have had a couple days now to adjust to all this. This is the way that Dinky will age and she will probably succumb to kidney failure or a related problem in time. But for right now, she is looking great--her usual bright and active self--so I will roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to support her. Older cats are prone to hyperthyroidism, diabetes or kidney failure, so I need to know how to treat this condition. Assuredly Dinky is not the last cat we have who will face this problem.

"All you have to do is decide what to do with the time you are given,"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I hauled two cats into the vet for checkups this morning.

The original plan had been to take Dinky and Bart. But someone must have told Bart what it means when the cat carriers come out and I walk around the house with my coat and boots on making friendly, come-here noises. Since he has been a housecat only about six months, there is no way he could have known, so here's possibly more evidence for feline ESP. Anyway, no dice with getting anywhere near him, much less being able to cram him in a cat carrier. Okay--he has a cough and one eye that bothers him, but both conditions have been around pretty much since he came inside with no sign of getting worse. He didn't *need* to see the vet. So he won this round.

But I had an appointment for two cats, so I looked around for another possible victim patient. Tommy, in the shop, has been sneezing and showing signs of a cold for the last two days, so I figured, given his positive-FIV status, he could probably stand a check-up. So, out to the shop I went. Toby was lying on the sheepskin, relaxed and happy. Frieda was in the cat tree and greeted me. Molly chirped underfoot. But Tommy saw me coming and vanished into the morass of junk engine parts, jack stands, air compressors and lumber that take up the front area of the shop. No amount of sweet talk would convince him to come out. Feline ESP strikes again.

So, there is always Fred. We don't know for sure how old Fred is, but he was at least a year old when he came to live with us in the winter of 1990. So he pretty close to, if not older than, seventeen years. With typical hybrid vigor, he keeps on keeping on and the years seem to have little effect on him. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to have the vet look him over. And he would be easy to grab. So it was his lucky day.

Fred is the originator of The World's Saddest Meow, and Dinky can make pathetic little noises when the occasion (in her opinion) calls for it so the trip into town was a pretty miserable-sounding affair. The only thing that makes it bearable is that I know everyone will be in a much better mood going home. They always know when we are Going Home...

Dinky has been feeling thinner to me over the last month or so. When we put her on the scale, it was obvious that she has lost nearly two pounds since last summer (and she is a small cat to begin with, hence the name...) She has some inflammation to her gums in the back of her mouth, which might cause her to eat a bit less, but when Dots drew some blood to check for possible thyroid problems, she was concerned by how thin and anemic-looking the blood was, signalling possible kidney problems. She sent the blood out for analysis but it will take a couple days. Dinky also has a slight heart murmur, significant only because her brother Sparky died of heart failure. But that didn't seem problematic to Dots.

Fred is doing well for his age but may be in early-stage kidney failure. His gums are also not good, so I came home with a course of oral antibiotics for both of them and a special diet for Fred. Fortunately, Fred is very much an eager eater and enjoyed a snack of kidney-diet when we got home, so he won't be hard to treat in that respect.

So, I won't know anything firm on Dinky until Friday at the earliest. I have to wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse to know that she has a time-bomb, in the form of incipient illness or organ failure, ticking inside her. Right now she is happy and apparently healthy. I know that we are going to lose each of our cats eventually. I know that it will be before I am ready to let go of them. This is the sadness that makes our interactions bittersweet. But I don't want the future to overshadow the present. I would love to embrace the day and live in the ever-present now like the cats do, with no worries or fears about what may come. True, if I am aware of potential problems or early-stage disease, I can take steps to prolong the healthy portion of Fred and Dinky's lives and keep them comfortable when the end comes nigh. I suppose that is reason enough to embrace the knowing even if I dread it.

But part of me feels there is a lot to be said for ignorance being bliss.

Dinky is one of the cats that is particularly close to me. She sleeps with me every night, either perched on top of me or nestled beside me under the blankets. Over the last year or so, I have come to recognize and appreciate her devotion. She has a friendly, out-going personality, a cat that is a joy to be around, to interact with. I hope we can keep her healthy for many years to come.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Snow On The Ground

15 inches of snow on the ground
15-20 degrees overnight, warming to 36 during the heat of the day
High thin clouds

Last week's snowfall has condensed itself down to about a foot-and-a-half and grown a hard crust. So walking across the deck to the wood pile, I only sink down about two inches into Sunday's snow and that's it. But just because those snowy crusts have a way of breaking beneath your weight at the most inconvenient time, I wore my mukluks while bringing in wood this noon. Just in case.

I love my mukluks. Despite their name, these are actually Air Force surplus, so instead of being beaded and fur-trimmed like proper mukluks, these are an olive-drab green with felt liners. But I do love them, because once I get my feet snuggled inside and the two sets of laces and the long zipper close, my feet are impervious to snow and cold and they are wonderfully comfortable. No snow down the leg to melt around my ankle--just a cocoon of warmth from tow to knee.

On Sunday, Denny showed me how to use the backhoe to clear the driveway. By the time he got home late Saturday night, we had over a foot of slush in the driveway and getting in and out with the two-wheel drive vehicles was an effort. I am glad for the lesson--it feels empowering. I had thought--when the snow was coming down last week--that I *should* go out with the snow blower and clear a path to get in and out of the place but since most of the snow fell overnight, by the time I woke up to it, there was too much of it to handle with the snow blower. If it had been dry and fine, maybe but this stuff was heavy and wet and would have clogged the chute with long tubes of ice.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

31 degrees
snow, wind
20-22 inches of snow on the ground

Argh--more blizzard weather this morning. Light snow was threatening last night when I drove home but I wasn't expecting to look out this morning into--white. Denny had mentioned plowing out their facilities in Cold Bay yesterday and that it had been zero/zero that morning, so I should have suspected something like this. As they (Cold Bay) are considerably west of us, they get weather before us.

I guess I should have brought more wood in last night. I cerainly wasn't itching to haul wood this morning, but finally forced myself to don my mukluks, wool cap and gloves to brave the wind and snow.

Actually, it felt Spring-like--if you idea of Spring can co-exist with knee-high wet snow. Rather than dig the last row of wood out of the wood box by the back door, I went to the source and hauled a couple of loads right from the wood pile to inside. I loaded the stove with what had been left in the house, so the fresh wood can dry out while I am at work. Wood stove management doesn't really take a lot of time but it does take some planning. Of course, since it is some forty-plus degrees warmer than it was two weeks ago, the wood stove, while nice, isn't essential.

Since I was all dorked-up, I went around to the front of the shop and hauled out a couple bags of garbage, shoveled the front steps and cleaned the night's accumulation of snow off the Suburban. Yes, this was definitely a day for the four-wheel-drive.

I wanted to stop off at the store to see if they had some sandwiches and more salads. Working this shift, I don't cook much. Unfortunately, time was getting short, but I figured I had enough time to dash in and out in the ten minutes before I had to be at work. Typically, the store didn't have any new salads and I had checked out what they had last night. There were a couple sandwiches and wraps out in the deli case, so I got one of each and a container of soup and was back out on the road in five minutes. The selection was poor but decades of living in Alaska have pretty much wrung the desire for perfection and instant gratification out of me.

MH hadn't talked to a single airplane all day. Nary a strip in the strip bay. This is the second day in less than a month that we haven't talked to a soul on the radio. He had, however, been issuing NOTAMs like crazy, updating the runway and ramp conditions for the local airports. After he went home, the snow and rain tapered off and the clouds lifted enough that one local air taxi pilot started flying. The last few scheduled flights from Anchorage came down, so MH will have a few strips to count when he logs the day's traffic tomorrow.

Now, at 9 pm, the temperature is nearly forty, so it will be sloppy driving home. I don't imagine it will drop below freezing overnight. In Fairbanks, they warn folks not to park in the puddles of meltwater during the Spring Breakup, because your vehicle can be solidly frozen in place come morning. I don't think that's going to be a concern for me.

Thursday is normally my first day back to work, but with PD on leave, I moved over in the schedule to take his days off and cover his shifts. So this is my Wednesday. Denny should be home late Saturday, so we can have two days together before he travels Outside again.

I spend entirely too much time alone in a house full of cats....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Bangs seems to have two lengths--too long or too short.

It,s logical, of course, because if you trim them just right, they are only going to be just right for about ten days before becoming too long. Too long is infinitely better than too short; short enough to puff up over your forehead, leaving your eyebrows sticking out there lonely at the edge of the vast plain of your forehead.

Additionally, when they are just right, they are too short to be pulled back into a pony tail, so flop loosely around your face and get into your eyes. The effort of constantly trying to tuck them out of the way behind the ears or under the longer hair apparently doesn't burn enough calories to make it anything but a nuisance.

Anyway--even though it is the wrong phase of the moon to cut hair--I trimmed my bangs and neatened up the ends of my hair today.

As for fat, gassy cat seems more herself today. She ate with gusto last night and slept with me on the bed, something she hadn't done for more than a few days. A visit to the vet always seems to stimulate her. (They draw blood, then *she* draws blood...I don't think Dr. Mersch has learned about the complimentary nail trimming Punkin usually

I feel that we have her--and her problematic innards--back on course for now.

Monday, February 06, 2006

14 inches of snow on the ground
32 degrees

We have just gotten back home after Punk spent the day at the vet. She had blood work and x-rays. The blood work had a couple values (BUN and glucose) on the high end of normal but the vet says he wasn't concerned given her age and stress factors. There was nothing there to indicate kidney or liver problems involved with her symptoms.


Okay, the x-rays showed her gut full of gas. He says it looks like the peristosis(sp?) is slowed and recommended trying to get her to eat more to stimulate her GI tract. For a fat (okay--obese) cat, she doesn't really eat a lot. He gave her an injection to stimulate her appetite so we will see if that helps. She already seems much more herself, though maybe that was just the stimulation of getting out and seeing the folks at the vet clinic. She certainly doesn't seem in pain and now that I know that she needs to eat, I can encourage that.

Feeling much, much more confident about her tonight.

What a day it was! I got up at 7:30--uncommonly early for one of my days off--just so I could clean the snow off of my vehicle, make coffee, get dressed and get out of here with Punkin before 8:30. I dithered over which vehicle to drive. It was warm (freezing) and snowing but I didn't know what conditions would be like down in town. Did I want the Suburban with its four-wheel-drive but not-so-good studded tires? Or the two-wheel-drive Chevy pickup with the good studs? Was I going to be driving through snow and slush or trying to stop on rain-polished ice?

Decisions, decisions....

I opted for the Chevy. The driveway and road were inches-deep in wet snow. By the time I got to the highway, I was thinking maybe I had made the wrong choice but I was committed and could only hope to get my errands run and get back home before too much more snow had fallen.

What a Monday for the gals at the vet clinic. The first three of us through the door had no appointments. Well, the lady with the young cat had an appointment, but she had it screwed up. Her cat's appointment had been for next Monday, but they told her they could take her cat in today anyway, since she was there. The other lady had a dog that needed blood drawn and like me had just shown up. One of the vets was out sick so the fill-in vet, Dr. Mersch, had just driven in from Soldotna. He is normally a bit hyper and after that drive, he was bouncing off the walls. We chattered back and forth while he examined the Punk and asked questions. I told him that I was worried about possible pancreatitis but he assured me it she had pancreatitis, I would have been into the clinic on Thursday. So at least that was ruled out. I left her at the clinic for x-rays and bloodwork. He said to check back about two pm. I hate leaving any of the cats at the clinic but with Punkin, it is like tearing my heart out. I know that I certainly won't have her with me for as long as I want. Being as she is my favorite, she'll probably die young--or at least younger. Denny and I sometimes morbidly joke that our last two cats will probably be the nasty ones, like Frannie and BeBe.

But I am not ready to say good-bye to Punkin yet. Not my hard-headed, fat, opinionated empress. She has such a strong personality, life with her is just too much fun.

Later, we celebrated Punkin's homecoming by taking a half-hour nap, just me and her, on the bed downstairs. She crawled under the blanket, curled up next to me and purred--happy to be home.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm Worried About Punkin...

She's been feeling poorly for the last couple days. She vomited a couple times on Thursday but she nibbled on some chicken when I had my dinner so I wasn't too concerned. She started Friday off by vomiting so I gave her some metoclopramide that I had left over from a similar bout a couple years ago and her stomach was quiet the rest of the day. Also, because her vomiting can signal constipation, which she has had a problem with on and off, I administered (and that sounds so easy!) a Baby-Lax glycerin enema to her and got results in about fifteen minutes. The stool wasn't hard or dry, so I don't feel she is plugged up. I figured we could weather the weekend. (Why does this stuff always happen on weekends?)

She started off this morning by vomiting again, so today I gave her a quarter-tablet of Pepcid that I had on hand from Rosie. I don't know if it helped much because she spit half of it out. Because it takes a long time to be processed by the liver, I can't give her any more for two days. From her attitude, I can tell she is still uncomfortable and although she has taken in some water, she hasn't shown any appetite.

Punkin is my darling and I am worried about her. I know she isn't in the best health--overweight and out-of-shape--but she is under twelve years of age. You know when you look up symptoms on-line, you find all this scary stuff: CRF, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.? But with cats, sometimes they vomit for no reason at all. While I was sick, I had it in my mind to take her in to see the vet as soon as I felt well enough. It's not only her wheezing and the persistent limp she has, but I just had the idea it was time to check her bloodwork.

So I will obviously have to take her in to the vet come Monday to see what's up with her. It would be nice if she could get herself to rights by just fasting a couple days and be back to her old self by Monday but I know in my heart that isn't going to happen.

Please keep my little fatty in your thoughts.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Snow tapering off mid morning

A steam cloud originating from the from volcano was cutting across K-Bay like a curtain, keeping the south and east side in IFR conditions while Homer enjoyed sunshine

The volcano has made the winter a bit more interesting. It has been spitting out steam and ash pretty steadily since mid-January. We have had several ashfall advisories but what has fallen has been encapsulated in snow and not readily appparent. Because of the large amount of steam being released from the volcano, we seem to be getting a lot of what I'm calling "volcano snow"--many days of fine snow crystals that are localized to the lower Kenai Peninsula.

If the volcano has to blow, this is the best time of year because the snow keeps the ash from having too much impact on us on the ground. The aircraft operators are cautious and won't fly in reported ash, so we have had one or two days that we never talked to a single plane but by and large the vlocano hasn't been too disruptive to us.