Hope is a Delicate and Beautiful Thing…

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First Eclose: May 5, 2021
Tadpole Committee Meeting

Not much in the way of time when it comes to blog posting. Since Covid, I’ve been busier now than I ever have. Lots of home remodeling and repair things, and lots and lots of gardening.

Rupert is doing well and so are the shrimp, the tadpoles, and the Black Swallowtails, who are just starting to emerge after a long cold winter. As for the Tadpoles, I had to construct a barrier to keep them safe from the raccoon and to keep the pond plants safe from the deer. Not the prettiest thing, but it works.

Things are happening. Beautiful and delicate life things. Hope in the winds and the water.

Roopie Doop Boop

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I haven’t talked about Rupert in a while and it’s time to give him some much deserved and needed attention. Attention that had been focused more on Moon for the past year as I was being nursemaid to his various illnesses. Poor Roopie boop got sidelined and so did my quest to de-feral him. I am not happy about Moon being gone, but I do have to refocus my energy back to getting the other noob in better health mentally and physically. Rupert had his own sufferings in the last year that caused him to drop from 14 lbs. to 10.5. Much of that had to do with his bad teeth, which we had the remaining removed in March 2020. Some of it was Moon dominating the food, and some of it was Rupert’s FIV, which caused him to have custardy, soft poop, a common thing in FIV cats.

This is called the sexy pose.

I’d been feeding Young Again Mature Zero and the LID Zero for many years. Moon had a lot of food sensitivities and he was prone to urinary blockages. That food had always kept him crystal free and fit. It’s a hydrolyzed Pork diet, but it never 100% agreed with Rupert. We discovered later that he has issues with pork. Moon’s was beef. We found that if a canned food had pork in it, Rupert would vomit. If it had fish, his face would get scabby. We suspect the hydrolyzed pork gave him the soft poop. Eventually, in the month after Moon passed, Rupert simply refused to eat the Young Again, no matter the variety. We tried Forti-flora, we tried all kinds of other kibbles, but most were too big for a toothless cat, and others had stuff he didn’t like: sweet potatoes, peas, etc. I swear, they can smell these things out.

I tried the Merrick Back Country pouches, and Stella Chewy Freeze dried raw, but after a week or two, he went off those was well. His poops got so liquidy, we had to give him baby food for two days. So I went back on the hunt.

I ended up going back to Wysong, which is what I had fed to my ferrets after Evo went off the market. Wysong Epigen 90 is starch and veg free. 60% Meat Protein, 22% fat. Similar to a mouse profile. I’ve read numerous veterinary articles about older cats needing more protein, not less, and the key to managing old cat kidney issues is the phos, not the protein. More high quality meat protein is supposed to stop the old skinny cat sickness, or wasting.

Rupert seemed to want more meat. He started begging at the table and would take any roasted bird we had: chicken, turkey, duck. We started giving him baked chicken breast as a treat and noticed his poop firming up. We went with the Epigen 90 for ferrets since the recipe is the same as the cat one but has smaller kibble. He started scarfing that down too. Then he began having hairballs, which he never had before. We heard that eggs were good for that, but he wouldn’t eat a egg. Not boiled. Not runny. Not powdered mixed with baby food. We ended up going with Egg yolk lecithin capsules and we mix it in with ground Epigen 90, sprinkled atop his chicken breast. So far so good. Lecithin is supposed to dissolve the fat around the hairballs and keep the hair moving.

Then, after more research, we decided to try Cat Person wet food, specifically the shreds. One might think a toothless cat would prefer pate, but it turns out, he has more trouble eating pate than chunks or shreds. Needless to say, he looooooves the Cat Person shreds. Chicken/Turkey and Chicken/Duck. Just meat and a bit of tapioca for the gravy. Now he has kibble out for snacking (to prevent bile puke) and 4 times a day he gets plain chicken breast and Cat Person mixed, then topped with ground Epigen/Lecithin powder and chicken drippings.

The doc at his recent vet visit couldn’t believe how good he looks and sounds for a 15 year old FIV cat, and his poop is small and firm now, like a normal cat’s would be if they were eating a raw diet. He’s more active and social. His skin and fur look and feel amazing, and he’s got his old appetite back.

He’s a sweet shy boy and I am hoping we can get him out of his feral shell a bit more for the time he has left with us. Hopefully that is a couple more years as well.

Over and Through the Woods…

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The loss of Moon kitty has put a hurt on me like I have never felt before. It’s been almost a month, and even though I still well up with tears periodically, I am finding ways to reconcile with the absence of him. I did a lot of cleaning for Rupert’s benefit (I’ll explain that in a minute) and while doing so, I realized that you really can’t turn and spit in my house without seeing some sort of effigy of Moon. Even so, that didn’t stop me from getting more.

The cremation place sent me a nice imprint of his front paws in a keepsake case. I also bought a pendant to hold some of his ashes so that he could be with me all the time, which is what he always wanted anyway. I also bought a fun collage from Tea Stained Madness over on Etsy because if Moon could have smoked a pipe while sitting on Moby Dick, he would have. I laugh every time I walk past it. I also commissioned a custom print from Jamie Shelman. I had one done for my husband a couple of years ago and thought it would be nice to have one for me, too. She can truly capture the silliness of any cat. And I also got a plushy from LeezaWorks just so I could have something to hug when my memories get overwhelming.

Prior paintings commissioned from Sara Pulver and The Canvas Menagerie.

Everyone has their own way of getting through a loss. There is no right or wrong way, and there is no time limit. There is no getting over it, really. There is only finding a way to get through it. I did the same with the ferrets. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but somehow, turning them into illustrated storybook characters makes me feel like I have given them a forever. I’m a shit artist, so this also gives me an opportunity to support the art community. I have to focus on Rupert now, so I need to stay in a positive space for him. He is 15 years old, with FIV, and needs extra attention. Attention I was not able to give him fully when Moon was sick.

For the past weeks, I have been cleaning in an effort to mitigate Moon’s scent around the house. Rupert does not miss Moon. Moon was a beta cat who wanted desperately to be an alpha cat. He could be mean and territorial, especially of me. He wanted everything to be his and feared usurpers. His medical issues had a lot to do with his stress level. He viewed Rupert as a usurper and treated him as such. Dominating him in every way possible. Rupert is a Gamma cat who spent 9 years outside doing his best to avoid everything and everyone. Especially other cats. Rupert does not miss Moon.

Now, Rupert is starting to relax into the spaces from which he was frequently banished. He’s making claim to things like the sunbed and the scratchy sticks. He’s eating much better now that no one is waiting in the wings to pounce on him and chase him away from the food dishes. We’ve made some changes to his nutrition plan now that he doesn’t feel he has to eat what Moon was eating even though we provided different food for each of them. He has some intolerance issues, as well, so we have moved him over to Stella & Chewy freeze dried raw and Merrick Back Country meat pouches. Duck and Goose are his favorites. He still eats Young Again mature kibble, which is left out in case I get home later than usual and miss normal meal time. He prefers moist meaty food sans the fillers and veggie crap. We are also going to try Mushroom Defense Immune Support to see if it helps strengthen up his system. Since we changed diet, he doesn’t have runny poop anymore. His entire disposition has much improved since we had his remaining teeth removed last year, and it’s improved even more so in Moon’s absence. He’s still very feral and will never be a lap cat, but he is funny and sweet in his own way, and of late, he has been finding his own voice since he doesn’t have Moon yammering at me all the time. I think he needs some undivided attention, and I can give that to him now.  

Not sure how much time we have left with him, either, but it seems like he is going to make the best of it, and we are going to make sure he gets to do that for as long as he can. It’s what we promised both of them.

Life goes on. Even when it seems like it doesn’t.

My Sweet Love, My Moon Bean, My Juniper Berry…

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You came into my life 14 years ago, and I lost you yesterday.

You were a wild cat, anxious, shy, like many of the other feral cats we were taking care of at that time. We were not cat people. You were not a human loving cat. You became one though, because it was always in you, I think, or maybe what you needed was in me. It took me two years to pet you. You needed trust, but when finally you did trust me, and you let me put my hands on you, however briefly, there was no going back for either one of us. The first night you jumped into my lap, the husband knew it was over. You were my cat and I was your human from that moment forever. Maybe our spirits had crossed paths before this. The husband likes to call it the greatest love story ever told. I would laugh, but he is right. I have never felt a love like this before. It’s different from the love you feel for your spouse, or your family, or even your children. Maybe it’s a Witch/familiar thing, or maybe we just had a connection to each other that was beyond the ordinary lives we were living. You were living hard until the day you decided to come inside and enjoy the soft, warm, and safe spaces we were able and willing to give you. Once you felt safe, we could see who you really were, and you were pure joy. A little bit funny even, like when you were always determined to “fix” the litterbox after you pooped, which often resulted in half a box of litter on the floor and the turds flung all the way across the room, or when we had to make a special water dish stand for you because you were so used to drinking out of the patio birdbath that you didn’t want to drink out of anything else.

You loved the snow. You loved the rain, especially the light rain just after a storm. You loved eating crickets and a bunch of other nasty things that gave you worms. You never got that snake, though. You might have. You thought you were a mighty mongoose, but mommy snatched the snake away from you because she didn’t want you to be mean.

You also had a love/hate relationship with towels, but you could not be without one. I used to call your human man daddy “the towel boy” because he spent a good many years fetching you clean towels, inside the house and out. He loves you too, in his own way, from your morning butt scratches to all the afternoons you both sat on the patio staring off into the woods and the sunset. He had your back too, when he chased away all the other feral Toms so that you would think you were braver than you actually were. He will miss you mooing at him all day for your favorite foods, and I will miss you biting my elbow or pinning my boob when I was not as attentive as he was when you wanted too much tuna.

Me, I will never stop loving you. I wept an ocean of sorrow for you that day. The day I lost you. I will do so for a long time to come. Right now, I think I might cry forever. You were sick. You were scared. You fought it the entire time, and I felt like I was doing the most horrible thing in the world. Yours was a light like no other, and I feel like I snuffed it out.

You have been my shadow for well over a decade. Chasing me around the garden. Greeting me at the front door every day when I got home from work. Being a cuddly lap cat, and sneaking into my bed at night to press in next to me in the dark. The way you would just stare at me. I feel a phantom of you all around me now, but when I wake, and you are not there snugged into the blankets next to me, I feel a suffocating emptiness.

My whole body aches for missing you. I love you. I wish your body wasn’t broken. I wish the medicine had worked. I don’t feel that my love was enough, and I wish I could have done more for you. I did my best. It was not enough. That’s the way life works, it seems.

You were the light of my life. My foundling. My pure and sweet little love. You came to me by the light of the moon in a garden dark. I hope you find your way back there. I hope your new wings are as strong as your heart. I will see you soon, my friend. Until then, I will scatter your ashes in the woods where you hunted, played, and grew up to be the beautiful soul that wound up on my doorstep all those years ago.

Proof of Life

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Not that anyone even reads this blog anymore, but I thought I would reach out and let everyone know how things are holding up for me during the year of Covid. I hope those who still do catch any of my posts are also doing ok.

My State pretty much shut down in March, and I was working from home for a few months. It was weird and then it became very frustrating. I used to enjoy working from home occasionally, but when I was there all the time, it felt like there was no work/home separation. I was lucky enough to keep my job, and I got to live a bra-free life for a few months, so complaining didn’t seem appropriate. I worked – a lot – and kept myself busy with the garden, the cats, the shrimp tank, and now the butterflies.

As for the cats, we are continuing to battle Moon’s persistent pancreatitis. He’s on daily steroid and an appetite stimulant. He has mostly good days, which was the best we could hope for at his age. He put weight on and is keeping it on, but it’s a struggle to find food he will eat consistently.

Rupert had another dental surgery in March in order to remove the remainder of his teeth. He’s like a completely new cat. Doesn’t hide under the bed anymore. Has claimed the back of the sofa as his spot for most of the day. The Vet says it’s amazing the shift in him. He had some wonky liver values on his regular checkup in February, which alerted us to the possibility that his remaining teeth might be going septic. It could also be his FIV kicking in, but the teeth we could do something about. He will have his liver values re-checked in September. Aside from that, he’s a sweet sassy thing.

20200726_125258With regard to other pets, I had an empty fish tank, as the last of my tiny fish lived out its lifespan, so I decided to try to learn how to take care of dwarf shrimp. It’s been a learning experience. A lot of reading and a lot of failures. Even as a 30+ year aquarium hobbyist and fish keeper, I found the beginning stages quite difficult. That said, I am very persistent when I want to know how to do something, so after about 4 months, things have settled and now they are having babies like it’s going out of style. I went from 15 to 9 to well over 25. I used to be a big tank little fish person. Then I shifted to little tanks, little fish. Now shrimp and snails. I do love snails. Have had many over the years, but bladder snails, wow, they are funny and great, but a real nuisance with regard to replicating themselves. The pick above is a re-scape I am working on in order to create a biotope similar to what the shrimp live in in the wild. Have some additional plants to add this weekend. (Those two gear ties are holding the new wood down until it becomes waterlogged.) I like a minimalist style and this one uses mostly wood and botanicals. Leaves and pods, etc. to simulate what would be in a stream bed.

My medical issues improved since my surgery last year, but I continue to have sporadic back problems, which resulted in a recent fall and the breaking of my nose. It costs as much to have a dent banged out of your nose as it does to have one banged out of a fender. Our healthcare system is absurd.

Other than that, I am back in the office, and beyond the office, the nature preserve, the grocery store, or the drug store, I go nowhere. My husband and I are basically hermits, and if we do go out, we mask up. I am required to wear a mask at the office, as well. Vista print has some nice ones, so I am treating them as fashion accessories. No need to bother wearing makeup either. Can’t see it under the mask. That’s a win win.

I haven’t been writing either. Finishing up an anniversary re-edit of one of my books, but I don’t feel right about hawking my books since so many people are having financial difficulties. I give them away occasionally, but marketing just doesn’t seem important right now.

Connecting with nature, spoiling the pets, and annoying my husband are what seem most important to me now. I’ll be feeding Monarch babies for the next two months, as usual, because releasing even the smallest miracle into the world right now seems paramount.

I hope all of you are managing. If you aren’t, please talk to someone.

It’s been a Silent Struggle

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20200216_144222I know I haven’t posted in a loooong time, but Moon’s struggles with his IBD and pancreatitis make for a lot of sleep deprived nights. I think we finally got his medication cocktail right because he’s having more good days than bad at the moment. He’s on a quarter dose of Mirataz in the morning and 5mg of Pred divided in the morning and evening. The steroid seems to make him nauseous and unwilling to eat, so we found that the mirtazapine helps mitigate that. He goes back to the vet in March for a 6 month check and I am hoping we can successfully get him down to a 2.5 maintenance dose of the pred, which he will have to be on for the rest of his life, though we fear that won’t be long.

After trying just about every canned cat food on the market, we found that pate with brown rice in it seems to be the best tolerated, thought they are difficult to find with low enough carbs not to aggravate his constipation. Every time we get one, the asshats change the formula to potato starch or some other species innapropriate crap and we have to start all over again. Eventually, I will just add brown rice myself. Don’t believe our processed pet food makes our pets sick, think again.

Anyway, now we have to deal with the remainder of Rupert’s teeth, and he may be starting end stage FIV, so we are not even sure he will make it through the dental procedure. We have to do it though, otherwise infection will kill him just as quickly. That’s next month as well.

In the mean time, I have just been trying to keep myself busy. That proves quite difficult in the winter with no garden to work in, so I decided, after 15 years of not having one, to get a small fish tank. I haven’t been entirely fishless since we got rid of the 55 gallon tank. The aquarium hobby is hard to quit, so I have had bowls set up for the past many years with a variety of nano fish: betta, guppies, white cloud minnows, celestial pearl danios, etc. Small fish only live about two years, so when the last of my guppies passed on, I decided to give some freshwater shrimp a go. I have been successful with 3 in the bowl and fell in love with them so much so that I decided a larger playground was needed. This happened for my birthday.

I didn’t want same old same old, standard tank like I had all of my adult life. I decided on the Ultum Nature Systems 6 gallon long and I purchased it from Buce. It really has a big tank feel for the small footprint. Didn’t even have to buy any furniture, which I have no room for anyway. It fit nicely right on the hutch in my dining room.

I am running a Dennerle Eckfilter on it with an ONF flat nano plant light. I kept the plants simple: Java Fern Trident mini, Marimo moss balls, Salvinia, and Christmas Moss, which came with some bladder snails for free (sarcasm.) I do love snails. Was planning on some nerites, but one snail variety is enough. I’ll probably regret the decision to leave them alone, but I just love snails. They are so damn squee when they are tiny.

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I’ve got this week left to finish the water treatments and cycling and will be moving the shrimp to their new home on Saturday. Hopefully, I won’t lose them. They are easily stressed, and the first batch I got perished within a week. I have a better grip on the water parameters now after two months, so I feel confident this time around.

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Better Days to Come, Hopefully

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I’m telling you, this year has been one huge barrel of suck when it comes to medical shit. I was down for the first half of the year, and the past two months have been miserable for Moon kitty.

I’ve spoken before about accepting the fact that feral cats often come with medical issues. Moon was no exception, and they were generally manageable, until now. It seems as he gets older, his bouts with irritable bowel and the herpes virus get worse and worse. Each time the fight is harder and recovery takes longer.

Every fall he gets very stressy with the windows open and the smell of other cats. In the past we have been able to manage it with calming chews and prescription calming food so that he doesn’t spiral from mild cystitis and watery eyes to a full blown blockage coupled with kitty flu. Last year, the kitty flu almost killed him, and while we thought we had things under control, his issues took a turn in an unexpected direction this time.

When the vomiting started, we stopped giving him the calming treats, thinking one of the ingredients must be bothering him now. The vomiting continued. Partially digested food. Sometimes just foam, and instead of a couple of times a week, it got worse and worse. So we stopped feeding him the prescription food too and made a vet appointment.

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We suspected a hairball, even though Moon had never been a hairball guy. Age changes things, so we couldn’t rule it out. I had the vet do x-rays, and it turned out Moon was constipated. Badly constipated. We knew the grain in the prescription food did this, but we thought we could mitigate it with extra canned food. It didn’t work, so we had to have the vet give him an enema.

He should have been feeling much better afterwards, but that night, every time he tried to eat, he just vomited and vomited and vomited.  Next day, he stopped eating all together, so we admitted him to the emergency hospital.

His GI tract was so inflamed that he had developed pancreatitis and his liver and kidney values were way off due to the dehydration and whatever else was going on in there.

Constipation and food intolerance are very serious business. We knew this, which is why he’s been on special diets for years, but we had no idea how it could spiral into multiple organ issues so fast. Moon spent 4 days in the hospital so they could get him stabilized and eating again. We took him home with an appetite stimulant and a prescription for steroids that he would have to be on for a month to reduce the inflammation in his GI tract. Unfortunately, his second day home, his kitty flu kicked in from all the stress, so we couldn’t start the steroid straight away. That said, the appetite stimulant kept him eating and drinking so that he didn’t go flat out like he did the last time.  He was recovered enough in about 2 weeks that we could start the steroid treatment.

He’s got one more week to go and then we go for a checkup. He went from 14 lbs to 10 lbs in a few weeks, which is a dangerous drop in weight and he felt like a bag of bones. He hasn’t gained much of the weight back yet, but he is starting to feel more muscular across his shoulders, so hopefully that will improve with time.

If it’s just his irritable bowel, we should be able to manage it with allergy meds and miralax along with hypoallergenic foods. If it has turned to small cell lymphoma, the steroids will help slow things and make him comfortable for a while. They didn’t see any obstruction or tumors in the x-rays or ultrasounds, so that’s something at least. they could do thousands of dollars worth of biopsies to confirm cancer, but at his age, it would be so stressful and chemo only buys them a few years anyway. I can’t torture him like that. Intermittent steroid treatments will net the same in the end.

He is brighter, eating better, and acting like his normal self, so we’ll just continue on and see what happens. As long as he’s happy and not throwing up, then we’ll take it one day of love at a time. Hopefully I’ll get some sleep too soon. On the steroids, he keeps me up all night begging for food and attention.

Note: It’s difficult to find food for a cat who is intolerant/allergic to just about everything. So right now, he’s still eating his Zero Carb LID diet from Young Again, and for canned food, we had to switch him to Purina Beyond because they are no grain, no by-products (beef makes him vomit violently), very low carb, and don’t use carrageenan (an intestinal irritant). All the foods have fish, flaxseed, and egg in them though, which makes him itch like crazy, but he loves fish and eating is good, so the steroids are keeping his allergies at bay at the moment. Once he goes of the steroid, we’ll have to see if Zyrtec will work long term. We’ve used Benadryl before, but it makes him so sleepy. Rupert has food issues as well and we are trying zyrtec for him now, so. We had to stop the Rayne Kangaroo food because they don’t want to eat it, and the carb load is too high for Moon right now. I need him pooping.

Inundated by Flying Buttworms…

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Haven’t posted much because this year, after adjustments that we made in the fall, our garden is bursting with flowers. This might explain why we have upwards of 70 Monarch caterpillars right now versus the 8 I had last year at this time. It’s so overwhelming, I had to do a little roadside scavenging this morning.

It’s not just Monarchs either. We raised 30+ Black Swallowtails this spring, and we are seeing a lot more Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, Skippers, Red Admirals, and Sphinx moths, which are a rare site and the reason why I decided to grow Dogbane from seed this year. We have never seen both species together on the same plant, but here you have it: A Snowberry Clearwing and a Hummingbird Clearwing. Sorry for the blurry pic. They are a challenge.

This fall we are going to continue with our pollinator plant conservation project so that eventually, hopefully, I won’t have to do roadside recon for food plants.

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