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April 25, 2005

Elwood the cat

When I first started getting sick in earnest, say around January (we knew I had cancer late in November but treatment didn't begin for a month or so), I remember saying a few times that I just hoped nothing happened with the pets while I was sick. Mrs. Popping Culture had enough to worry about.

Well, even though I'm in the rough day of joint pain and shall probably spend all day in bed and in various degrees of pain all day, I am thinking about Elwood the cat.

Elwood is sick. For about four days he hasn't moved. He barely eats and he hasn't gone to the bathroom from what we can tell. We know he has leukemia, which has previously been dormant. The vet gave him some antibiotics on Friday, but no response so far.

He just stays on the floor and doesn't move. Sometimes he mewls. And there I am in the bed, not able to do anything.

Elwood was one of two pets that were ever JUST mine. I grew up on a sort of mini-farm and we always had horses and a cow and dogs and cats and birds and fish of various sorts. They were family pets.

I left home after high school but came back shortly after during my first bout with cancer. Finally, I was well enough to get moving again and I took a job with a local church as their Minister to Youth. I lived alone next door to the church in the parsonage.

These were the years I was courting the woman who is now Mrs. Popping Culture and it became clear to me in short order that I wanted to spend my life with her. This meant that if I ever wanted any pets that were JUST mine, the time to strike had come, before I could do anything silly like propose marriage.

I went to the pet store and bought two identical tiny black kittens, Jake and Elwood. When I bought them, they could both fit in the palm of one of my hands. Now, in my condition, I can hardly lift Elwood, he's gotten so big (thanks to Iams cat food!). Not overweight, just big, with a beautiful black coat. Jake has since passed (in another sad story) from pneumonia, and now we have a replacement cat, Polly, who has been with us for years as well as Roxy the dog.

Still, I feel a special connection with Elwood because I redeemed him from the pet store and for a few months he was mine alone. I'm probably being over-dramatic because every joint in my body, literally, hurts as I type this, including my fingers.

But it's easy to deal with my own pain. All I have to do is suffer. Just get through each day. I can handle my own pain. But the suffering of children and animals is intolerable to me. This is a bad time for all of this.

Elwood doesn't seem to be suffering great pain, but you can't really tell with pets. They can't tell you where it hurts, and it is clear he isn't comfortable.

I keep thinking that if the leukemia has caught up with him at last, and something needs to happen to put him out of suffering, I won't even be there to say goodbye at the vets. I'll be home in bed.

Cancer is a jerk.

So, that's what I'm thinking about today.

Posted by Dan at April 25, 2005 10:11 AM

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Pets are children. Anyone who has pets knows that's true. And yes. the really awful thing is that they can't TELL you where it hurts. All they can do is be sad.

Remember, he also might be sad because you're sad. That happend too. I'm not saying he's not sick too, but his mood and his demeanor is emulating Daddy's. He knows you feel poopy too.

Posted by: Alex at April 25, 2005 12:46 PM

I feel for you. I have a very old Lab who never complains but I just know, with her arthritis, she's got to be hurting sometimes. We do what we can, we humans. I think she will let me know when it's time for her to go.

Posted by: Julia at April 25, 2005 01:18 PM

I had rats when I was young. I had three rats as pets, and if you don't know anything about rats, you may not realize that they can make damn good pets. They can indeed.

One was much more important to me than the other two, though, and that was Lisa. I loved Lisa. It was amazing the personality she had. She would steal Laffy Taffys, run under the couch and eat them, wrapper and all. And one of those damn things was as big as her head.

When she was young, she learned to get out of her cage by pushing the water bottle out of its hole and then climbing out. Two or three times she did this at night, got out of her cage (which was in my room), went to the stereo by the side of my bed, climbed on top, JUMPED onto the bed from that and crawled under the covers with me. It was freaky as hell waking up to a rat wandering around under the covers with you, but it was kind of sweet too. Eventually, though, I taped down the damn water bottle.

One time I lost her in the backyard. That sucked. She was gone for a couple days and I thought she was good and dead and was very sad about it. Except that about a week after she disappeared I walked into my room to see her perched on my garbage can. She was really skinny, but otherwise fine. It was crazy. Don't know where she was the entire time.

Anyway, she eventually succumbed to a huge tumor on her side and a stroke. I took her to the vet to have her put to sleep and it was absolutely heartbreaking. Amazing how much I could feel for a rat, but she was something special.

It sucks when pets are in pain and it sucks when you lose them. Sorry it's happening to you now, Dan. I hope Elwood starts feeling better soon.

Posted by: Joel Caris at April 25, 2005 05:22 PM

You should post a picture of him. I can send you one if you want.

Posted by: Mrs. Popping Culture at April 25, 2005 11:05 PM

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