Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Back From the Brink

Snowcone had been with us long enough for Floyd to have become resigned to his presence and to have discovered his value as a pillow. I had taken Snow to the vet for a checkup and even though most of his teeth, except for the ones in front, had been removed, the doctor found some inflammation and recommended that the remaining teeth come out. A couple of days later the veterinary surgeon called to say that they had taken a sample of the inflamed areas in the back of his mouth and found the presence of a deadly form of cancer, one that usually kills animals before their families even know about it. He said that Snowcone had about two weeks to live. It seemed so unfair that he'd been through so much and had finally found a home, only to get this diagnosis. But I also felt that if these were going to be his last days, I'd make them as great for him as possible. That's always the challenge, when you know that a time is ending, to make the most of what's left. Floyd was none too pleased by this development as it distracted me from my clearly established obligations to him and distracted Snow from his role as aide-de-camp and cushion. But obviously there's a happy ending because you know Snowcone has newly emerged is the star of this blog. When I took him back to get his stitches out, the inflammation had receded enough for the vets to see the cancer as a distinct spot. A different surgeon was able to remove that spot. When he called to say the operation was a success, he kept calling me "Mommy," which I found disconcerting. Nonetheless, it was wonderful news and Snow has been fine ever since. The vet has proclaimed this a miracle since this cancer is so often fatal. It may be a miracle. It may have been some force in the Great Beyond deciding that this cat deserved a break.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Early Days

Snowcone spent his first few months with me under the bed in the guest room. This was in no small part due to Floyd's reaction. My tuxedo cat-in-residence was outraged at this new addition to our home, not pleased - to my surprise - to have company. This may betray a fundamental lack of understanding on my part of the feline spirit. Floyd was too portly to wedge himself under the bed in the guest room, so Snow retreated there. After the first few weeks, the vet suggested leaving the guest room door open during the day so that they could eventually make their peace. When I got home at night, I'd close the door and sit on the bed and Snow would come out to be petted. He was very cautious and would immediately retreat at a sudden movement or - God forbid - a sneeze. This was a reaction he shared with Floyd. In the 15 years I had that cat, he never failed to react to my sneezes as if they were precursors to another, potentially dangerous, eruption. What that was, exactly, I never knew. They also shared a fear of ceiling fans. But I digress. I eventually got into the habit of lying down on the floor next to the bed in the guest room at the end of the day and filling Snowcone in on the hills and valleys of my work day. I had done something similar when there was an injured bird in my yard some years ago. After putting out water and bread crumbs, I would sit by the window during his recovery and fill him (or her) in on my day. I suspect that in both cases, the realization that I was not going to stop talking stirred them to leave their hiding places. Perhaps they found my accounts too mundane. In any event, my new bird friend recovered enough to take flight. And Snowcone eventually emerged from under the bed, able to elude Floyd until they reached some kind of truce.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Snowcone and Me

This is the story of Snowcone, a 12-year-old white cat with a gray smudge on the top of his head. As for me, my story will come out in the telling of his. In July 2001, someone dropped off a white kitten on the doorstep of a suburban Virginia home in which the owner operated a shelter for cats in her basement. This kitten, named Snowcone for obvious reasons, would spend more than seven years there. He had a disorder in which his immune system attacked the bacteria in the cavities of his teeth. His gums and throat were inflamed, as were his eyes from a blocked tear duct. The only cure was to remove his teeth, which the shelter owner was reluctant to do. In the way of living things, the other cats would pick on him because he was sickly. I started to volunteer at the shelter with my friend Kristi, who had a soft spot for Snowcone, but we both already had cats at home. Time passed and Kristi moved to Seattle. My older cat ZsaSu, who was Supreme Ruler at our house, died of cancer and I decided to adopt Snowcone, in part to keep my giant tuxedo cat, Floyd, company. In February 2009, Snow came to live with us. I did have his teeth removed and his health returned. It took more than a year for Floyd to accept him, although I suspect this may have been a performance staged for my benefit. One day I returned home early to find them eating from the same bowl and looking faintly embarrassed to see me. Cats are complicated creatures. My beloved Floyd passed away in July 2011 and now it's just me and Snow. He's a remarkable cat in many ways and has an expression that indicates he's giving careful consideration to the issue at hand. Considering that he spent all those years in a shelter, he's a gentleman and a gentle soul. At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady, I think there's a lot to be learned from cats. ZsaSu taught me about setting boundaries, which she did quite well. Floyd showed me that there is no way of showing love that's too goofy. And this white cat personifies courage and the ability to survive.