Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Cat and the Garden Meal

Earlier tonight as I shucked fresh picked peas and snapped beans, I envisioned a story here about my home-grown meal consisting of beans, peas, an onion, potatoes, a beet, and two fresh eggs. I heard my cats running around. Life was good.

Soon my food was boiling, microwaving, or frying on the stove.

I called my neighboring uncle to talk about his recent trip overseas and I walked to the picture window. I noticed drool on the floor. Curious.

Then I noticed some more and I took keener interest.

In the kitchen, I looked towards the bay windows and I see my cat Nelja looking at me, drooling and breathing quickly. Oh boy.

'I have to go and investigate this more.' I hung up the phone.

Childhood stories of rabies circled in my thoughts. My anxiety welled up and I wondered if Nelja had rabies. Instinctively, I shied away from her.

I flipped open the phone book and called the local vet. The lady who answered assured me that any animal with rabies has to have an open gash from a rabid animal. And symptoms develop over two weeks before the mouth foams. She politely explained that they were closing, but I could call the emergency vet in Manchester.

I did. The kind lady answered my questions, gave me directions, and explained that the emergency office visit was $75.00 and that included a consult with various options. She also referred me to the national animal poison control hotline. I called and for $60.00 I could talk to an expert.

I waited and investigated.

I couldn't think of any poisons that Nelja could have gotten into. I walked into the basement, and I saw that she vomited several times, but each time was simply undigested food. There was nothing unusual.

She moved around and followed me. She crouched on all fours, trembling and breathing quickly. This reminded me of the sweetest thing, when she was 6 months old and recovering from being spayed. She sat for hours trembling, purring on my chest while she bravely withstood the pain.

Memories like this welled up emotion inside.

My thoughts cycled into a series of what-ifs. What if this is my last night with her? What if she dies? What if she needs to be put to sleep? What is the best way to do that?

I approached her with a washcloth to wipe away the drool. I cleaned her. When I touched her haunches, she startled. I breathed deeply and retreated upstairs, thinking. The cat moved to the foot of the stairs.

I called my friend and his wife later called me back. I contacted someone online. I called a recent date who has experience with animals.

Briefly, I panicked.

While I talked to my friend's wife, I worked through some of the technical and emotional aspects of my situation. She bravely shared her experiences. I listened. She narrowed down Nelja's plight to a gastro-intestinal distress and thought it was good that there was no diareah or discolored vomit.

Then the simple, obvious question emerged, 'How is she now?'

I didn't know.

It had been a half-hour since I watched Nelja curl up in safety under the desk in my clutter room. My imagination had been casting her drifting peacefully into sleep forever.

She suggested that I investigate, and call her later with an update.

Nelja wasn't there.

I looked in the spare bedroom, and she sat on her four haunches, looking at me as I approached.

I extended my hand. She sniffed it. I touched her. She purred.

I left to get a plate of water, returning with it to encourage her to drink. She took no interest.

I touched my finger in the water and touched her nose. She licked the water droplet. I moved to the bathroom where her water was. Somehow or other, she followed and I started to pet her. She purred.

Eventually, she started drinking water and then later slowly walked to eat something from the food dish. And then she walked past my familiar seat and sat on a chair arm next to an open window, enjoying the cool breeze.

She seemed normal, but tired.

At some point during the concerned period tonight, I ate my meal of two fried eggs and fresh vegetables. Despite the anxiety and potential deep sadness, I enjoyed the fruits of my farming and gardening.

The circle of life nearly closed today for my dear cat Nelja, but she persists. Laying outstretched now, she sleeps on the chair next to mine as she enjoys the cool breeze pouring in the window.

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