Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Declawing Cats

I wanted to write about something that I know is a sensitive subject, hence the cartoon.

Chocolate was fully declawed by whoever owned him before me.  When I adopted him at 9 months old, I had no idea of the ramifications of this declawing.

Growing up we front declawed our cats.  As far as I know neither had potty problems, although the second cat pooped upstairs the last two years of her life.  I don't know why.  I assumed it was because of the new dog.  She was used to dogs but maybe this new one was too much for her.

Chocolate used to bite me and chew on things.  He chewed on lampshades, stone cats, exercise equipment, and wood furniture.  He bit me numerous times over the years.

I finally stopped him from biting by using the same procedures I used in eliminating behavior problems in the toddlers I used to care for.  I guess cats are like toddlers!

In the last ten years of his life he had arthritis in his hips.  He peed and pooped outside his box.  The pee was just outside the box or on the edge, so I think he couldn't squat enough to make it in the box due to the arthritis.

I tried everything including changing the litter, boxes, locations, etc.  I finally gave up and put puppy pads under the box. 

Then I put another box in the second bedroom.  This was a bad idea.  Chocolate sometimes peed past the puppy pads and the urine soaked through the carpet.

I put another box outside the balcony this past spring.  He started to pee there so I thought he was trying to mark his territory due to the stray cats out there.  There had always been strays but I think being on steroids due to digestive disorders caused his testosterone level to increase, requiring him to protect his property.  He peed outside the box there too.

Added to the pee I couldn't smell it.  My nose is so plugged all the time due to a second cleft palate surgery that I can't smell many things, including cat pee.

So who knows where he peed. 

Now I have to replace my carpeting.  I decided to go with laminate so I don't have to deal with cat pee anymore in case a future cat has this problem.  Besides Chocolate puked a lot too, possibly due to digestive disorders.

Needless to say, when I realized all this, I sobbed.  I wondered how long Chocolate suffered from this pain.  Did he hate that he missed the box?  Did he hate that he pooped all over and couldn't control it? 

Did his paws hurt all his life because of the declawing?  Did it hurt to walk, sit, lay, jump? 

I wanted to write about this but I didn't want to lay a guilt trip on people who declawed their cats.  I think people don't know or don't think about it.  I know I never did until I had to deal with Chocolate's problems and learned about declawing and what it does to a cat. 

I guess having Chocolate in my life made such a difference.  I became an animal advocate because of him.  My only paid writing was about him.  I experienced God's love through him because I realized God loved me more that I loved Chocolate.

Part of the grief I feel is because of his suffering.  But it wasn't all bad.  Over the years we learned to trust each other.  He stopped attacking me and I stopped being afraid of being attacked.  We had a mutual understanding of each other.  And I miss that.  I miss that comfortableness that we had with each other.  That bond that I thought would never break.

So I write this in honor of Chocolate.  I don't want any cat to have to go through what he went through.  If his death could save a life, maybe he wouldn't have to die in vain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I am a Cat Person

I had wanted to adopt a dog since my apartment complex allowed them a few years ago.  But I knew I had to wait until my cat, Chocolate had passed on.  He was elderly by that time and used to being the only pet in the house.  My mom and brought their dog Minnie but Minnie barked at Chocolate the whole time, and Chocolate kept hissing and growling, literally scaring the crap out of Minnie.

A week after Chocolate passed, I adopted a dog.  It pooped and peed all over my apartment and barked when I was gone and at night.  I soon realized this was a bad idea.  I am not a dog person.

It's not that I don't love dogs.  I love my family's dogs.  But I also think I love that I am not with them 24/7.  I need my space.  I need my home to be my sanctuary.  And apparently, only a cat will do.

So I returned the dog and plan on adopting a cat.  I love cats.  I love their independence.  It doesn't take much to get a dog to love you.  But a cat, when you develop that trust, you know you have earned it.  You know that you have a loyal pet.

So I am most definitely a cat person.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rest in Peace Chocolate

Last Saturday night I had to choose to euthanize my cat Chocolate.  He wet his bed and then laid in it.  I realized it was time.  

That day he didn't eat or drink, only a can of tuna.  He laid in his bed and never did his business until that night.  

I had cried, worried, and been in pain so long myself, that I was wore out.  Emotionally, physically, and mentally.  

It was the hardest decision I ever had to make.  I didn't feel like I had the right to make that choice.  

But after he peed in his bed, I realized that God gave me the answer.  It was time. 

I was so sore in my head and shoulders the last few weeks, I despaired of suffering from a sore shoulder for the rest of my life.

But after I made that choice and said good-bye, the pain was gone.

It was as if I was experiencing his pain.  

Chocolate felt what I felt.  And I felt what he felt.  

And it was time.  Time to say good-bye.  

The Rainbows Bridge Poem

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This One is Special


My parents and I drive on a blustery day from Minneapolis to Moorhead. I sit in the backseat, reading a book, as my dad drives and my mom keeps him alert and aware of his surroundings.  As usual, it is a long, boring drive, made even more so with the cover of snow over all the land along the interstate.  We make our usual halfway stop in Alexandria, gassing up, grabbing a snack, and using the restroom.  When we step out of our SUV, we are assaulted with the blowing snow.  I race to and from the car, having shed my coat in the overheated vehicle. 
            As I ride, listening to talk radio and the hum of the motor, I think of my grandpa, Bill.  The scrapbook I made of his time in the South Pacific during WWII is next to me.  He was the last grandparent of mine to die.  He had dementia for 10 years, and lived the last two in a nursing home.  Bill did not know anyone, or remember anything.  Except for one time, the last time I visited him, he motioned to me and said, “This one is special.”  For a fleeting moment, there was a look of recognition in his face as he peered at me.  Indeed, he was special to me.  My only grandpa, not even related.  Yet, he always treated me as his own.
            We finally get to Moorhead, and slither through the snow packed streets to the funeral home for Bill’s memorial.  Since he was a war veteran, he had a folded flag on his casket.  I fondly remember when he would show me his scrapbook of photos from his service in the South Pacific islands.  He was a Navy mechanic, stationed in New Guinea.  He loved to regale me with tales from his time there.  Bill took many photos: of the natives in their grass skirts and afros, of his band of brothers, of the bombed out buildings in the Philippines, and of the airplanes that he fixed.  He was so proud of his service, and so was I.  When he was admitted to the nursing home, I received his scrapbook, since I was the only one who showed any interest in it.  The book was falling apart, so I moved all the photos into a newly decorated one.  Even though he couldn’t remember his time in the South Pacific, he had marveled at those pictures. 
            I bring this book to the memorial so everyone can look at it.  Bill never had any sons or grandsons, but he did have a great-grandson, Dusty.  As Dusty is looking at the pictures, my dad, a WWII buff, is explaining them to him.  I suddenly become inspired to give Dusty the book.  I believe that grandpa would want him to have it. 
            The next day is yet another cold day, but at least it isn’t a blizzard.  In the morning we have the funeral, and I give the eulogy.  I talk about his life, his service to his country, and how his was the greatest generation.  After the funeral, we drive out to Halstad, where my grandpa was to be buried next to my grandma.  It is a little country town centered on miles and miles of fields, all of which are covered in snow.  I feel trapped in a sea of white.  We drive up to the little country church, which looks so picturesque surrounded by all the snow.  The cemetery is well cared for, tombstones scattering the ground; mostly family plots.  As we get to my grandparent’s plot, the casket is under a tent, with the folded flag on top.  The minister gives the flag to my aunt, and we hear the 21-gun salute and “Taps” being played.  This song makes us all cry, some for the first time that day.  My cousins and I get the casings from the bullets. 
            I think of how proud I was that Bill served our country, and all the times he was proud of me.  He taught me to fish, and laughed at how much I could catch.  My grandpa also taught me how to play cribbage, and he would tell anyone who would listen at the Piggly-Wiggly how smart I was. 

            We drive home later that day.  Again, it is long, boring drive. All I see are miles and miles of snow.  It gives me time to remember my grandpa, a great man, a great friend.  I still miss him.  I am still proud of him.  He was dedicated to his country, and dedicated to his family.  As I said during the eulogy at his funeral, his was the greatest generation.