1. The Dream

It never fails, this kind of crap.

I think I dreamed it after the sky had begun to lighten, after a miserably fitful night (pollen is covering everything in a grimy yellow veil, my sinuses are trying to break out of the front of my head, the Cute Engineer snores). Torvald had an appointment at the cardiology practice at eight-thirty in the morning — after years of finishing work at nine several evenings a week, I don’t do eight-thirty AM very well — and I was already nervous about the traffic, even if the Engineer was driving.

In the dream, I woke up and it was already seven-forty, but the Engineer was still sleeping. I struggled up and pushed myself to get dressed, finding that somehow we had changed our geographic location to the part of Maine where he grew up, and we were going to a veterinary practice in the nearest town. If you’ve ever been to Maine, you know — it’s my most vivid memory anyhow — that everything is a half hour away from everything else. Trying to wash my face, I was interrupted by an old woman who was apparently part of a senior living facility that had been set up in the house. She wanted some kind of service. I got rid of her and asked when, when were we going to leave. Enter the Engineer’s dad, who was apparently coming with us, and decided to get naked while we were waiting for his son — not, I hasten to add, in any lecherous way, but because “we’re going to wait a while, so let’s be comfortable.” Finally we got into town, while I said despairingly “Do you want him to die because he was Al’s cat?” My late and ex husband had been gone two years before Torvald was even born, but by this time he was Bob, who in life had been the Engineer’s cat anyway, though by the time we opened the carrier at the clinic, it was a little female cat with tortie markings – there are two in this house now, but she didn’t seem to be quite either one — that had faded from her ailment like the colors in an old photo, her eyes swollen shut.

They went in the exam room with the doctor, and left me outside. And as I tried to peer into the small window let into the room’s door, a trenchcoated creep of the classic vintage approached and began trying to maul and kiss me, his eyes hidden by heart-shaped children’s sunglasses with opalescent blue plastic frames. The Engineer looked out, saw what was going on, and ignored it.

When I wake up from these things it feels as if there is a building on my chest.

His first visit

His first visit

2. The Real Clinic Visit

The reception area mugged us with warmth. A little dry-erase board at the desk said “Welcome Torvald!” (When we left, an hour later, it said “Be well, Torvald! Welcome Bobo!”)

“Kind of a bold statement having this many Oriental-style carpets in an animal hospital,” said the Engineer.

The receptionist asked if I would we willing to have Torvald’s photo and story on their Facebook page. He is rather the glamor cat so I signed off on it. They said they would contact me for some pictures and a bio.

The ultrasound room was equipped with a slotted table so the vet could reach under the cat with the probe. Torvald put up with being flipped on his side and the stinky ultrasound gel remarkably well. Right atrium and ventricle, then left. Rainbow-colored eddies showed backwash and turbulence in his feisty little heart, a constricted ventricular outlet, a floppy mitral valve. Torvald started to say Fuck You during the last image of about twenty.

“The median survival for cats with heart failure is nine or ten months,” said the vet, neither kindly nor unkindly, just filling me in, as he drew on a laminated heart graphic to show where the problems were. He listed a roster of familiar drugs: a beta blocker, a platelet inhibitor, low dose aspirin. I listened and cross-questioned him and broke out all my clinical chops. So the hypertrophied ventricular wall would reduce stroke volume? The contractile and relaxation capacity of the muscle are both compromised? You don’t get nephropathy with this aspirin dosage?

Torvald’s fur looked a little dreadlocked and rough. When cats feel crappy, they don’t groom, and he was only starting to perk up after Tuesday night’s meltdown. I made a note to use the Furminator on him, but tomorrow; sufficient unto the day is the fuckery thereof.

He learned to be a proper housecat

He learned to be a proper housecat

3. Home

“Are you okay?” said the engineer as we got in the car. I told him yeah. We’ll just take care of him as long as he is still having a good time. “He’s still climbing up his cat tree and he ran for breakfast this morning,” I pointed out. “And it all depends how he handles the meds.”

The classical station programmer is very fond of Franz Liszt’s transcriptions. The Ave Maria is probably the Schubert song you know if you don’t know any other; the text is a German translation of Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake (the Germans could not get enough of Scotland, for some reason — cf. Mendelssohn and Max Bruch).

Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden’s prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild;
Thou canst save amid despair.

I have not been a Jungfrau these forty-three years, nor have I religion, but neither is required for the primitive wish that there be someone, some Artemis to draw the arrows or Kuan Yin to have compassion, and that was when I lost it in the back seat.

Torvald, uncorrupted by stupid human grief, put his paw through the mesh of the carrier.

Love And [Unprintable Profanity]

Torvald has congestive heart failure.

He doesn’t know it, as such. He’s out on the porch right now, chilling in his cat platform, after a night at the veterinary hospital that he must have found unspeakably obnoxious — though the vet techs apparently all came and cooed over him, with his regal kiss-my-ring way of sitting and gorgeous flokati-rug coat. He is full of Lasix, like a human heart patient. He sees the cardiologist on Friday.

You may kiss my ring.

You may kiss my ring.

Yeah, there are kitty cardiologists. Getting an exam from one is not as expensive as I was afraid it would be, though I would have found a way. When they know why exactly his heart isn’t pumping hard enough — whether it’s a bad valve thickened wall or what — they’ll have a better idea what drug to give him. Apparently there are several ones that help, depending.

What happened was, he had been a little slow for a couple of days — not running to his usual cues as briskly (like the sound of the door to upstairs, which might allow him to harass other cats), not quite as eager for food. He’s only about six, best guess, but they do get arthritis and hip dysplasia sometimes, cats, and that was what I was thinking — Apricat’s arthritis showed up when he was around seven. But no. Yesterday afternoon he got up out of the cat bed about five, close of the day’s business of marathon napping as I figured, walked across the carpet four feet and just plunked down again.

Not like Torvald. I went over. His ribs were pumping sixteen to the dozen,  like the movements of someone working a hand pump to inflate a tire. I picked him up and set him in the chair. He looked a little dazed, stunned, farblondjet.

I called the Engineer to see if he was on his way home, and then I called the animal hospital, and shortly a technician was asking if I would authorize x-rays and then a slightly louder-than-life, handshaking, apple-crunching vet was explaining that there was fluid in his lungs and what could cause heart failure. I always end up talking shop with these people; I may sound like a jerk pitching in with my clinical stories (the time I diagnosed a deep vein thrombosis, because unlike a heart failure patient, the client had edema only in one foot), but I notice it makes them cough up more complex medical information, which I want.

They let us go in to pat him goodnight before he settled down to a long agenda of Lasix injections and peeing. There was a big orange CAUTION card on his cage. His expression said “Damn straight I’m a caution.”

By the time they let him go at ten this morning, after a five-thirty wake-up call to tell me how he was doing, which followed getting to bed way late last night because I had to eat something, dammit, I was the one who was farblondjet. I had already made a date with a coked-up receptionist at the cardiology practice, who in my groggy ears sounded like the guy in the Fed Ex ad. Too much espresso, my guess. I am sure she thought I was a crank asking her to please slow down, and NO I would not drive to their other location, over unfamiliar high speed roads with a sick cat in the car, to get to the appointment she had today. The cat has meds, I am beginning to think I need meds, we can make it till Friday. He got up in his cat platform, about thigh high on the porch, under his own steam, and has been hanging there with Aggie since early afternoon.

Just a few weeks ago when he had crystals in his pee — the first thing he’s ever ailed for in his life — the vets told me to keep his water intake up with plenty of water dishes and wet food, they gave him extra fluids to keep the crystals in solution, and here this cardiac thing has been keeping the fluid in his body rather than flowing out, and I asked if that could have precipitated the one-two punch of crystal attacks since his urine volume was bound to be low as a result, and they looked at me like I had two heads. Oh well. It makes eminent sense to me. At least as much sense as “stress,” which Dr. Cohn kept invoking in a glib way that made me want to stamp my foot. I mean, GUILT, plus even if stress is involved it’s going to take the low road home through whatever metabolic process is faltering.

Wish me luck getting the pills in him. Goddammit. I mean, goddammit.

Back home, chillin' in the cat bed

Back home, chillin’ in the cat bed

Rat Tales

I spent most of the day out of sorts, on account of the artificial rat.

It seems to be the season for disturbing and vivid dreams. Perhaps the Spring and its attendant barometric chaos. What it was, was I dreamed that I was somehow involved in a matter of corporate skulduggery, in that I knew that an artist/inventor, who owned a patent on a lifelike, artificial rat, capable of a convincing and quite terrifying snarl, was on the hit list of corporate profiteers who schemed to bump him off so that they could keep all the proceeds from the sale of the rat(s) to themselves. His name was Nick something-Italian-in-M, and he was basically dead meat from the get-go; all I could do was all I could do, trying to warn him before it was too late, while feigning to believe the arguments of some libertarian theorist explaining that anything done in pursuit of profits is A-OK in the sight of God.

The rat was a pretty impressive, fearsome effigy. I still have a vivid sense of its teeth-baring rictus, held as it was in the grasping lunch-hooks of some balding CEO in a three piece suit.

I awoke feeling as if a couple of filing cabinets or a small commuter vehicle were pressing me into the mattress, and the feeling persisted throughout the day. I can’t explain this. I’ll cheerfully entertain any speculations.

Cats With A Gambling Problem

We seem to have evolved beyond the era of the toy mouse in the water dish. A few nights ago there wasa noisy session of bat-bat-bat in the small hours, and in the morning a curious little keepsake of the Cute Engineer’s — a small metal cage meant to contain a pair of miniature dice, which look like real bone or ivory — was empty on the scatter rug. A little hunting on all fours yielded one of the dice, but the other was nowhere to be found. The topography of the upstairs made it unlikely that it went down the floor register (though admittedly, once upon a time, my late and ex doomed the last job he ever managed to get by adroitly dropping the key of the business down it). I figured sooner or later it would surface, or force me to do extreme dustmopping.

Today, on the stairs where Fergie prefers to dine, I found this.


Go figure. My cats can throw a boxcar accurately into a food bowl.

I’m amazed Mystery didn’t eat it.

Voices Of The Night

It was one of those marathon melange dreams that I tend to have, and as too often happens, it involved my being overextended professionally — that is, I had left a client waiting “a few minutes” while I did something which turned out to be touring the whole floor of a factory or warehouse operation in which a foreman or union leader was working to organize the employees at great personal risk: a pleasant, nebbishy guy who wouldn’t have looked out of place as a section manager at Target or Best Buy. I was so impressed by what he was doing that I offered him a free session. Then I thought of the freeway trip (as it seemed) that now stood between me and the client that was back at my office waiting for me and told him we should schedule a time at our earliest mutual convenience rather than do it then and there.

At which point I found I was settling into an upper-floor apartment in a medium-old building, one in which a heating duct common with the unit next door was conveying my neighbor’s crappy pop radio station like a purpose-built speaking tube. I was about to go bang on the wall when the DJ spun an old-fashioned crooner number, the sort you used to hear on evening variety shows in the Fifties and Sixties, all about the gross things guys can do that turn women off and therefore spare those women the pain that would follow falling in love with them. In Perry Como-like tones the lyric ran: “If it’s really true that beans are a girl’s best friend…”

I woke up so determined to capture the melody, which seems to be another Sleeping Sled Original, that I surfed up and downloaded a thing I should have hunted down ages ago, called MuseScore 2.0, and figured out at least how to inscribe the notes on a piece of virtual choral scorepaper.(The word “beans” is on the high D natural.)

Beans Melody

Oh, I’m going to be having some fun now.  New toy, and no one from Porlock has called yet.

Lap Therapy

As I was fixing food for Mr. Ferguson, boiling some eggs for my own dinner, and listening to Mystery vomit loudly on the sun porch, I realized that my life has become a George Booth cartoon.

Booth Load of CatsIn fairness to myself, I have to state that my house is actually as tidy as it ever was and the only annoying smells come from the rank “kidney food” that little Seven has to eat. It’s food for her kidney condition, not food made of kidneys, but you could fool me; it has a pungent, pissy aroma that wafts up the staircase until it’s all gone. Which, with Mystery around to police up what other cats don’t eat, is usually quickly. Of course he throws it up on the porch. But that’s a ventilated space, and that’s why God made Nature’s Miracle in gallon jugs. The biggest change is probably that I had to install, unprofessional as it sounds, a litter box in the back of my business office, behind a purdah screen.


It was the only recourse. Sometimes I have to have cats shut in on the first floor and it was the only place I could get away with it — the clients’ bathroom, the massage studio, the kitchen, dining and living rooms were out. I sit here at the keyboard while companionable digging and tinkling sounds issue from behind the little color-coordinated shoji neko.

The worst problem, really, is that big as the house is (I swear I once was walking through the upstairs and found myself in Narnia) it’s the attention of two people divided by seven cats. And cats need attention. Mystery and his sisters have each other, Mr. and Mrs. Catmium-Ferguson are inseparable, but I think Torvald — of all the cats — has been feeling the lack of time with humans, since he can’t get along with any cat except Aggie and she’s more oriented to humans than other cats.

The vet said his bladder problem is at least 50% stress — first the stress of some furniture being moved out of the house with much clomping and stomping on the day it hit him, then the stress of a vet visit the second time.

I can’t “get rid of” the new cats. I can’t change much about the distribution of cats in the house. But I can, and did, heave him up into my lap and say “You get pats now.” I can’t remember when the last time was that I just did that.

I did it yesterday, and again this morning, and he seems much better. He sits there, great fluffy antisocial bastard that he is, and looks up into my eyes while I knead his scruff and stretches his forepaws around my midsection and purrs.

This is what I do for a living, after all, but sometimes you have to learn it all over again.



A Good Dangle

Torvald loves nothing more than a good dangle.

Printer kitty

Click to biggify. Really, you want to.


He spent a bit of the morning dangling from my printer; for variation, he’s out on the porch now, dangling his hind legs off the U-shaped cat tree. He doesn’t really fit entirely on anything, I suppose.

I give him license to dangle from the printer or wherever he wants, for the moment. After his last gritty vet episode he got on for a couple weeks with no obvious signs of distress, so I expected his follow-up appointment — a lab test and another expensive ultrasound — to come up more or less clear. Which it did; the ugly glob that the first ultrasound showed in his bladder was gone, leaving only a scattering of debris. Only an hour after I got him home, he started squatting in all the laundry baskets and peeing blood again.

The vet admitted it was probably the stress of the visit. That didn’t stop the practice from charging me $30 for another round of anti-inflammatories. Business is business. And people ask me why I avoid doctors. Human doctors are not one-tenth as nice or conscientious as my vets, and here we still are.

He seems better today, with one dose of the drug to go. That means only one more episode of rolling him into a Purrito ™ and forcing a pill between the fangs that tried to tear off my face.

And I still love the little bastard.