Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cleo’s gift

“Merry Christmas!” Morgan said then leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. The two women behind the counter at the vet’s office laughed knowingly as I half-heartedly joined in. It was just the second day of the new year and we had already spent over $300 in unplanned expenses.

Cleo sat in her kennel at my feet, arms crossed, disgruntled after an hour-long visit with the vet being prodded and poked and shaved in a long contoured strip across her chest to be stuck with a needle for blood collection. Not to mention the indignity of having to pee in her own kennel on her red blanket because we’d dragged her out of the house with a full bladder.

Cleo, who had been a picture of health for the last seven months, off insulin, high-spirited and full of more energy than she had exhibited in the previous 10 years of her life, decided the last week of 2015 to stop eating. Well, she didn’t completely stop, but her habits changed dramatically. Usually a voracious eater, she picked at her food during meal times leaving half of the meat smeared around the bowl untouched, when the food was placed in front of her she sat for a few moments contemplating her dish as though disappointed with what was on offer and more than once she had come marching after me as I walked away with an expression on her face that read, “I can’t possibly eat that, what else have we got?”

Clearly she was hungry but the food she had been eating ravenously for months was suddenly off-putting. So after some preliminary proddings that turned up nothing out of the ordinary, we assumed she was just being a cat, deciding on a whim that she didn’t like this food anymore and refusing to eat it. We tried her with different things, which she would eat agreeably for one meal but the next time it was on offer she turned up her nose. I even resorted to feeding her food that I had deemed unquestionably off limits since we got control of her diabetes months earlier.

And then on the second morning of the new year, Cleo did not get up for breakfast. While Chestnut carried on for the both of them in the kitchen, stomping and meowing and pinballing across the floor in erratic arcs in desperate attempts to be noticed, Cleo burrowed further into Morgan’s brown chair in the living room.

When I gave her a poke and called her name she raised her head slowly and looked up blearily as though she had just pulled an all-nighter, and could we all just be a little more quiet so she could get some sleep. I tested her sugar, which was elevated and called for insulin, which she hadn't had since April. By rights she needed to eat something first so I stuck a scrap of turkey under her nose, to which she pursed her lips, and then some ham which she tasted but would not eat. I got her to eat a treat and then gave her a shot while Morgan called the vet.

“Judgement day,” said Morgan after he had dug out the cat carrier from under the house.

“I know,” I said in an agonized kind of way. “But she’s been perfect,” I added, trying to convince myself and Morgan that I had made all the right decisions over the last several months, that going off-script from what the vet recommended a year earlier was completely justified.

“This is what I was worried about,” I said. “That something would happen and we would have to take her in and they would question everything and even though she’s been so good I look like the delinquent cat owner because I didn’t bring her in every six months and I fed her something else than what they recommended.” And on I babbled, steeling myself to defend my actions.

But I never had to. Cleo’s history was discussed concisely on that quiet day at the vet’s with the sun gleaming brilliantly off the snow outside the window. We sipped mugs of tea while we waited for test results which confirmed her blood sugars had been good over a period of time, putting her on the “remission” part of the diabetic scale. With a slightly elevated temperature the only real indication something was amiss, they gave her some antibiotics and sent us home.

As early as that night she was back to eating her regular food with ample amounts of gusto and her sugars were almost instantly back to normal I determined as I ambushed her in the kitchen before meals.

And within days we slipped back in to a happy rhythm, both cats demanding food hours before meal times, Cleo meowing excitedly and running at breakneck speed to the spot on the floor where her bowl is always placed and then licking it thoroughly clean and asking if, perhaps, there is any more. And for a moment or two we breathed sighs of relief as our world sprung back in to its familiar shape and our days rolled along into the new year with a balanced sense of regularity until, exactly one week later, our focus shifted to Murdoch… and his tapeworm.

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