Is this thing still on?

/blows dust off keyboard

Hey all! Hope all is well. Still here. I've developed terrible sleeping/exercise habits (not doing enough of either), so I will skip trying to be articulate, and give you a few pics representing the last few weeks.

1. These are the flowers LDH sent me at work today (for Valentine's Day, which happens to be the 20th anniversary of when we first got together) (goddamn I'm old). They are all those crazy colors because neither of us are really red-roses-on-Valentine's-Day kind of people; they're intended as sort of anti-Valentine's Day roses. He also liked that they're basically pride roses. On the one hand, they're kinda like clown vomit. On the other, they actually are really cool to look at – every petal is a different (and never seen in nature) color. 


Flors

2. This is the sweater I made!! That fits me! And looks like a sweater! Okay, it's not the world's most flattering thing on; the lapels curl (they're pinned flat in the picture), and because it's cotton, it's a little bulky/heavy. But I've certainly owned uglier clothing. And it is really comfortable, and it's identifiably a sweater, so I consider it a win.

Sweater

3. This is our new kitty! Our vets suckered us into adopting her. She's got three legs (one of the vet techs found her south of LDH's city, in a ditch having been hit by a car, and convinced one of our vets to take her in and give her medical care). So now our household is truly the land of misfit toys. As you can see, she likes catnip.

AM

Advertisements

Sleep well, sweetheart

We followed a path yesterday that we've followed twice before, but it never gets any easier: we put one of our cats to sleep.

Middle Cat, who was born sometime in May 1992, has been suffering from a number of chronic illnesses for some years now. First it was hyperthyroidism, then renal failure, then last January she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and this fall the vets discovered a multi-lobe mass on her liver. Any one of these would have finished off a lesser cat, but as our vet put it, Middle Cat was too stubborn to die, and so she hung around, getting skinnier and skinnier but still enjoying life. She slept 90% of the time, but she was always eager for her food and slept on the bed with us at night. She was particularly fond of sitting on LDH's chest and breathing in his face. 

But Friday night she vomited a few times, clear liquid flecked with blood. She wasn't interested in her favorite treats, freeze-dried chicken. She just seemed tired.

So we took her to the vet on Saturday morning and after consultation decided that now was the time.

It's such a hard decision. On the one hand, I always wish that they would take the choice out of our hands, that we'd wake up one morning and find the still, cool little body of a creature that had passed peacefully in her sleep. On the other hand, as the vet put it, this is the one thing we can do for her – give her an end without pain, surrounded by the people who loved her. 

There are always things to second-guess – for instance, in this case, our vets would be closed Sunday through Tuesday. And I go back to clerkship town on Tuesday. You don't want to arrange something like this around a holiday and the convenience that I'm here right now. But we love our vets, who have never displayed anything less than the highest levels of kindness and compassion, and if we waited but needed to take action before Wednesday, we would have hated to go to strangers. And I would hate for Middle Cat to have left on this final journey without being there to say goodbye. 

It was so helpful, too, that our lovely lovely vet said, "I would rather do it a week too early than one day too late."

So we sent off Middle Cat, sitting in our vets' "comfort room," decorated in warm colors with a cozy couch and a pretty rug. I sat next to her and stroked her soft head the entire time. She lay on a rich red chenille blanket. One of the vets who's treated her in the past came in to say goodbye, and we talked about how I had chosen Middle Cat out of the cage full of kittens at the shelter because she'd been beating up the other cats. The vet who administered the euthanasia keeps the supplies in a pretty little tool box, covered with antique maps and accented by bronzed hardware, something that looks anything but clinical or medical, like something you'd find holding treasured keepsakes in someone's study. 

When it was done I felt sadness, but I also felt relief. Middle Cat is a tough, stubborn little creature – typical (dilute) tortie. She was never one to sit on our laps and cuddle and demand to be petted, but she was always there – by our side, watching, wanting to be part of what we were doing. She would have dragged herself along with us to the bitter end, never leaving us till she had to. I'm sure we could have continued treating her ailments – upped the fluids we were giving her, put her on antibiotics, more pills, more painkillers. But nothing was going to cure her, or even make her feel that much better, and you can't explain to a cat that there's a reason you're poking her with a needle and shoving pills down her throat (which she hated. Eldest Cat, of blessed memory, was such a needy attention hog who loved being held that he was pretty easy to pill. But Middle Cat hated ever being confined in any way, even for the 30 seconds necessary to give her medication). Now she doesn't have to be interfered with anymore.

When we put Youngest Cat to sleep, there was a different kind of sadness. Because he was FeLV positive (feline leukemia), we knew he wasn't likely to live very long (he made it seven years, which was pretty good). But he went downhill very quickly at the end (developing pernicious anemia, which sounds so Victorian), so we had only a few days to prepare ourselves for his loss.

When we put Oldest Cat to sleep, I felt guilty that I wasn't able to keep him alive forever. Obviously no one can do that, but he had been my first pet, and I felt so responsible for him – like there was something I could do to cure him and keep him with me always. (There wasn't, of course – he was eighteen and had hyperthyroidism, and it had affected his neurological system, so his back legs were weak and he couldn't walk in a straight line. He'd navigate a room by following the perimeter, leaning on the walls. We took him in the morning after the night when he cried the whole time because he was hungry but he couldn't eat.) Like I said, he was a needy attention hog who loved his mummy (me) and couldn't bear being separated from me – it used to be that when I took a shower, he'd sit on the covered toilet and cry – we always said he was worried I'd wash down the drain. When they took his body away there was a small incredible part of me that cried out, "Wait, I made a mistake, I want to take it back!"

For whatever reason, I didn't have that kind of sadness this time. Mostly because I had known for a long time that Middle Cat, like Youngest Cat, was going to leave us. (Of course all pets ultimately leave us, but both Middle Cat and Youngest Cat had specific terminal diagnoses that Eldest Cat never did.) Our concern had always been whether we would know when we should let her go. I think the relief was because we finally realized that she would never let us go, and that we had to let her go instead.

And so an era has ended. I got Eldest Cat right before I graduated from college, and Middle Cat a year later; I had them before I met LDH. LDH and I found Youngest Cat nine years later (he was born right around 9/11). When Youngest Cat left us, we were back to my original two; when Eldest Cat left us, I lost my first companion; now that Middle Cat has left us, there is no one left who knew me when I was a terrified grad student, living on my own for the first time, wondering if I would ever succeed at this academic stuff, get a tenure-track job, make something of myself. She saw me through a master's degree, prelims, a dissertation, two tenure-track jobs, the LSAT, applying to and attending law school, the bar exam, a first clerkship, part of a second, and acquiring a permanent post-clerkship job. She saw LDH and me through living together, living apart, breaking up, getting back together, getting married, and various stints of living apart again. He was her devoted Special Friend and she loved him as much as she loved me. 

We are not alone – we have our funny little blind bobtail cat, who loves company, and for whom we will adopt another cat sometime in the near future. But I feel old, to have outlived all my previous cats. And sometimes I'm bewildered at how I've ended up somewhere entirely different from what I imagined when I was that lonely person adopting a little kitten, mottled gray and silver and white and buff, on a hot July 3, in a Twin Cities suburb. It's not a bad place to be, just a little unexpected.


DSCN0090Little Girl, May 1992 – December 2012

Why the hell I’m up, dressed, and in the car at 6:30 am on a Sunday

Well, I was in the car. I'm back home now, writing this.

So, as I've mentioned, LDH and I are living apart for a year while I'm working this gig. However, he's one state north of me, and it is driveable in a day (not ideal for a weekend because I'd spend more time in the car than with him, but you can do it in a day, easy).

I was recently contacted by the friend of a law school friend, who lives in the northern part of my state. A very rural, very isolated part of my state, where there aren't a whole lot of resources. Over this summer, the friend had essentially adopted a cat – the beastie had wandered up to his house, emaciated and showing signs of abuse, and the friend fed him, nursed him back to health, and got him to trust people again. He turned out to be a delightfully friendly, affectionate creature. (The picture I've seen was of a very handsome long-ish haired gray fellow – that kind of Russian Blue, solid gray.) However, the friend's wife is deathly allergic to cats, so the cat couldn't come in the house. And it gets really cold up in the northern part of my state (in fact, it's currently 21 degrees F where the friend lives, and feels like 7F). The friend, being a kind soul, wanted the cat to have a proper home and not freeze in the winter. So he asked my law school friend if she knew of anyone who might want to take the cat, and she suggested me. 

Well. For a whole lot of boring reasons, we didn't feel comfortable taking the kitty. But after pondering options, I told him I could drive up there and get the cat, and take him up to the shelter in LDH's city where I used to volunteer. I'm sure the shelters here are good (in fact, I know they are, for reasons I'll get to in a second), but I just really trust the former-home-city shelter. It's huge (in a good way – lots of resources), it treats the animals wonderfully, and it will keep them as long as it takes to get them adopted, so I felt good about suggesting this.  Plus I sort of thought if I couched it as just detouring from the route up to see LDH, it wouldn't feel too much like charity to my friend's friend, if that makes any sense.

The friend thought this sounded like a great idea, and I said, How about this weekend? (i.e. now.) Because it's a long weekend, so killing a bunch of time driving north and back wouldn't be so bad. The sort of ironic thing is that I couldn't make the drive yesterday (Saturday) because I had an oriention for volunteering at *this* city's humane society. (Which is why I now know they have a very nice facility.) Volunteers have to go through quite a bit of training, including a required orientation, and the orientation only happens every couple of months. This was the first one since I'd moved here, and if I missed it, I'd have to wait till January, so I wanted to attend. But that meant I wouldn't be able to leave till today (Sunday), and spend most of today driving up and most of tomorrow (Monday) driving back, which would be kinda tiring and wouldn't be that much time with LDH. But I figured, well, I'd have had one proper "weekend" day (Saturday), so driving this weekend wouldn't be any worse than doing it next weekend (and three days after next weekend I'm going home to spend Thanksgiving with LDH anyway, so driving up then seemed a little silly).

Then, of course, we had a winter storm forecast to come through the area last night, so I started to freak out about the weather, and driving 9 hours by myself (6 with a cat) through a lot of mountain roads during/after a snowfall. I spent much of yesterday dithering about the weather and whether I should do the drive, blah blah blah. However, the friend said nothing had really fallen where they were, and I realized I wouldn't get further north until later in the day when things would have probably melted, it wasn't really supposed to snow much more today, etc. etc., so I decided I'd probably go, but would get up really early to check the weather. (I'd have to leave pretty early to be sure to get to the shelter up north before it closed.)

Up at 5:10 am this morning. Various dire warnings still in place (winter weather advisory!!!!!), but no real forecast for snow and the roads seemed reasonable. I thought, if I don't go today, and by 9:30 am everything everywhere has melted, I'm going to feel really silly; worse comes to worst, I can turn around and abort the mission. So I e-mailed the friend that I was on my way, hopped in the shower, threw some stuff in a bag, tossed some Luna Bars in my purse, and headed out, stopping at Starbucks first for breakfast, then at the gas station to fill up my tank. 

Where I realized my phone was ringing. And it was the friend. And I answered, thinking perhaps he had some weather or road advice or something, not realizing he'd already texted and left a voicemail.

He told me not to come. Kitty got hit by a car last night and killed.

It's remarkable how badly you can feel about the death of an animal you've never met before. 

(The poor friend was very upset. And I can't help but feel superstitiously terrible that this happened the morning that I was heading up there to take the creature. I keep thinking that if I hadn't gone to the orientation yesterday, I could have driven yesterday and the cat wouldn't have been on the roads last night/this morning. Which is kind of nonsensical, because if I hadn't had that orientation scheduled, I'd have already bought plane tickets to fly up to see LDH for the long weekend. Since the friend lives three hours north of here, it's not like I'd have driven up there to get the cat, driven back here, and then taken the cat on the airplane with me or something – I'd have chosen to drive another weekend. But it still feels karmically sinister. There was part of me that was kind of dreading the drive and regretting how much of my free time it would take up – and I know it doesn't work that way, but it feels like that part of me had something to do with this happening.)

So. That's why I was up, dressed, and in my car at 6:30 this morning. And am up, still dressed, in my apartment, finishing writing this at 7:45 this morning. So that's what being up this early on a weekend looks like. I can live without it.

I’m here

My last day at the first clerkship was Wednesday (and I DID manage to get my last draft opinion done, yay!). I got a plaque. It's small but marble and weighs a ton and I actually love it, and plan to schlep it from office to office for the rest of my career.

My first day at the second clerkship is Monday. (EEEK.)

We (by which I mean the nice two guys we hired, with some help from LDH*) loaded the truck on Thursday afternoon, and then we (by which I mean LDH and I) hit the road yesterday morning. It was actually a pretty decent drive and I was never in danger of falling asleep while driving (unlike during most long road trips). The closest came while listening to Lev Grossman's The Magicians on the iPod for a while (during one of those stretches on the road where your options on the radio are fuzz, static, all-country-all-the-time, and hectoring religious rhetoric. I started playing a game: Name That Genre! It's kind of scary how it usually only takes about 5 words to figure out what kind of radio channel you've hit).

  • Total digression: Does anyone out there really LIKE The Magicians? I have a terrible time evaluating books-on-tape, because they go way slower than I can actually read a book, and I can't judge pacing at all. When I listened to Middlesex on tape I'd have sworn it was about 2000 pp long, the time it took. But I'm not loving The Magicians - I find it a little hard to empathize with Quentin's ennui/angst at the beginning of the book; I feel like we're supposed to see going to Brakebills as this amazing rescue from dreary mundanity, but I have a hard time seeing the misery in growing up going to whatever private school in [I think] Brooklyn, having a thing for your best friend's girl, and agonizing over which expensive college you'll go to. He's a little too privileged for me to care much about, is what I'm saying. That said, it could be that I just don't like the guy who's reading the book.

Anyway, we made it, and we only had one real moment where we wanted to kill each other (at the end of the drive, in the apartment parking lot, before the two nice guys we hired to unload us showed up, when both of us really really needed something to eat; I just kept telling myself, "I do NOT need to do this NOW," where "this" is basically "tell partner where he gets off and why he's being completely unjust." I would imagine LDH was thinking pretty much the same.)

The nice surprise was finding out the rug and carpet have just been replaced in my unit (it's cheap carpet and flooring, but hey, it's brand new, and it's not an investment in my own property, so who cares?). The less nice surprise was that the shower curtain was not actually attached to the wall and that the kitchen sink seems to leak, but a tension rod from Target fixed the former and I put in a maintenance request for the latter, so I'm sure it will be fine.

(The even NICER surprise was meeting an old bloggy friend at breakfast this morning! She doesn't live here now, but grew up here and is here visiting her parents. LDH "checked in" on Facebook at the place we went to breakfast – which is the same place we got dinner Friday night, but hey, don't judge, it was really close and we liked it a lot and mid-move is not always the time to be all gourmet and adventurous and so on – and she saw it and realized she was in THE SAME RESTAURANT WE WERE. So LDH and I are eating away and this lovely person walks up to us and says, "New Kid?" So that was a really great introduction to this city.) 

Oh, and we did not bring the cats. First, we suddenly realized that since we weren't both moving, the cats did not HAVE to come with us, and that the actual logistics of moving would probably be easier without two cats. (Short answer: YES.) And second, after we realized the first thing, Middle Cat (the magical 20-year-old cat) got sick again (well, actively sick; she currently has hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, and a brain tumor, so sick is sort of her default state), and we really didn't want to bung her in a car and drive her 8 hours to an unfamiliar apartment where she would proceed to freak out (in a quiet, OCD kind of way) and stress for 3-4 weeks. Nor did we want to take her from her beloved vets. So the kitties stayed home. (edited: home! ha! no-longer-home. gotta come up with useful pseudonyms.]

I was an absolute wreck when I said goodbye to them, kept thinking they were in the car, then when we got here, kept thinking I heard them walking around, and when I woke up this morning, I expected to find them in/around the bed with us. I miss them TERRIBLY. But MAN, a long-distance move is so much easier without cats! We didn't have to worry about feeding them or not feeding them (we didn't usually feed our cats the morning of a drive), or how they'd handle the drive, or how to make sure they were never unaccompanied in the car, or whether they'd get out while the furniture is being moved in, etc. etc. The plan is that in a few weeks (probably at least a month, though) LDH will drive them down one weekend, so they can move from an already established place to an already established place, and avoid the trauma of de-/re-establishing. (To be perfectly horribly blunt: I am not confident Middle Cat will actually make it down here. But we'll see what we see.)

Okay, I don't really have an end to this post but exhaustion has suddenly struck, along with the realization I have to get up in 5 hours (don't worry, I plan to go straight back to bed post-airport and drown my misery in sleep, but I really should also get some sleep now). And since I will be here all by my lonesome most of the time, you can expect to see me show up in this space more frequently! So I can come up with better endings in the future. 

*LDH = long-distance husband. He was LDH, then he was NLLDH (No-Longer-Long-Distance Husband – the no-longer part applied ONLY to the long distance, NOT to the husband part), and now he's back to LDH. 

 

The problem with volunteering at the cat shelter

Is that each week I find new cats I want to take home. And Middle Cat, who is now TWENTY years old, and doing remarkably well if you overlook the hyperthyroidism, renal failure, and brain tumor, really really really likes being an ONLY cat and does NOT want any companions.

Okay then.

But I can’t help but pick out beasties at the shelter for the “if Middle Cat dropped dead tomorrow [because face it, she might] I’d take you home” lineup.

There’s the lovely white cat with brown tabby patches, who is completely blind, yet rushes to find out who you are when you enter the room, purrs like a maniac, and has this delightful habit of batting you with his (declawed) front feet to figure out exactly what space you take up. (He’s been there quite a while – not only is he blind, he has a history of housesoiling. Sigh.)

There’s also a sweet long-haired gray and white girl, who tends to sit with her face to the corner. She came in all matted so was shaved from the neck down, and is fat enough that she looks terribly silly, her gray and white mane next to her white-fuzzed pink piglet’s body. People would walk by and laugh at her. But she’s awfully sweet and likes nothing more than for you to rub her ears, and she’ll fill the kennel with her purring.

Last week there was a delightful portly long-haired calico. She was sitting in the windowsill, hiding from the other cats in the room. I petted her and she rubbed her head against my hand. Then I sat down on the floor across the room, and was working with other cats, when suddenly thump! she jumped down, raced over to me, and plopped herself in my lap. There she sat, purring and purring, until you could see it dawn on her that she was surrounded by other cats and had no idea how she would ever get off my lap. Poor thing, she was so sweet, but not the most forward-thinking.

And then this week there was a doppelgänger for Youngest Cat. It was a girl, not a boy, and she was a tiny little thing with a sleek triangular face, unlike Youngest Cat’s big thuggy square-jawed maw. But she had the same dark orange stripes and golden eyes, and she used her front paws to give hugs the same way Youngest Cat did. She even made the same little noise chewing on things that he did – gnar gnar gnar. It’s a good thing she was being held for someone, or I’d have snatched her up and made off with her. NLLDH and Middle Cat would have forgiven me, right?

Yeah. Honestly, it’s a good thing Middle Cat us a crotchety old lady who loves her solitude, or we’d have twenty cats by now.

I love courthouse security

For it is because of the sign-in sheet at a certain courthouse that I know who two of my competitors are for a job I interviewed for today.

(No idea how the interview went. It felt decent, but who the hell can tell? Good thing I have bar review – in particular, an ALL DAY SIMULATED MBE tomorrow – to distract me from worrying about it. Oh, and a cat with a urinary tract infection to distract me from the ALL DAY SIMULATED MBE. Best. summer. ever!)

Why, yes, we DO treat our cats like children

We took Middle Cat to the vet earlier in the week, just for a basic checkup (she hadn't been in a while, and she IS seventeen). The bloodwork came back today, and they said that there are very mild changes in kidney function, so they recommend putting her on cat food designed for management of renal disease.

The thing is, in the past Middle Cat has had some serious food allergies (they began after I gave her some cat food designed to prevent hairballs). What we were told at the time was that cats with this kind of irritable bowel problem are reacting to the proteins in cat food, which are overwhelmingly from chicken, so one solution is to give them food made out of more unusual proteins, which they haven't yet developed a reaction to. So for a time, Middle Cat was eating food made from duck, rabbit, and venison. (Which I don't think she appreciated as much as she should have!) Also, so many pet foods are bulked up with corn, and cats have a hard time digesting corn, that we were advised to avoid it as well (so she was eating exotic meats with rice).

Over the years, she's had no problem being transitioned back to non-exotic meat foods, so now she eats stuff made from chicken, beef, turkey, and fish with no problem (in fact, she looooooves tuna, which often gets put in cheap cat food, and is so strongly flavored it can make cats unwilling to eat anything else).

But the biggest thing is that we've ALWAYS bought really good quality food. Stuff made with human-grade ingredients, without corn, and WITHOUT BY-PRODUCTS. For instance, these are the ingredients in the food we currently give her: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Natural Chicken
Flavor, Sweet Potatoes, Squash, Zucchini, Cranberries, Blueberries,
Guar Gum, Dicalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium
Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Iron Proteinate (a source of
Chelated Iron), Beta-Carotene, Zinc Proteinate (a source of Chelated
Zinc), Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Cobalt Proteinate (a
source of Chelated Cobalt), Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate (a
source of Chelated Copper), Folic Acid, Manganese Proteinate (a source
of Chelated Manganese), Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium
Selenite, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin
Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Potassium
Iodide, Biotin. And I have had really healthy, long-lived cats. NLLDH swears that Youngest Cat (who was feline leukemia-positive) lived as long and as healthily as he did because he got such good food.

So now I've been looking these renal diet foods up online. They ALL have meat by-products — ALL of them! And not just as a component — in some cases, as the first ingredient listed after water! Now, a few of them name specific by-products (e.g. "pork by-products"), which is supposed to be better than the generic "meat by-products," but I really dislike the idea of feeding her by-products, given what can be in that crap. IAMS is also chock full of corn meal — yuck. (Hill's Science Diet has some cornstarch, but I don't know if that's quite as bad, and it's not one of the very first ingredients, so…)

It's surprising to me how much this bothers me, but it does. I don't WANT to give her messed-with by-product crap — I want to give her the good stuff we've always given her. But I guess we'll get some of the prescription stuff from the vet and see how it goes. Blechh.