Shit Begins: Lymphoma Suckhole Pt. 1

poop

This is Part 1 in an ongoing series about Mortimer, Original Critter, who has been diagnosed with feline hepatic lymphoma. Read more about that whole pile of shit here

That’s how all this started: With poop. How else would it start in my house?

Technically, that’s not true. It was the absence of poop that got this ball of suck rolling downhill in highly uncontrolled fashion.

The following is as condensed a timeline as I can give, from weirdness that I now understand to be relevant to diagnosis. It’s probably very dull–it’s a goddamn timeline of my life over the past couple weeks. But if there is one thing I hope it can illustrate, it’s that the symptoms of this horseshit can be extremely subtle. I pay such close attention to my critters that you could reasonably accuse me of helicopter pet parenting and not a single (probable) early symptom couldn’t be easily explained by normal circumstance of life. So if you have a cat with lymphoma and you feel like the biggest asshole of all time for not picking up on it earlier, I am here to tell you that this shit does not play fair.

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Wimp.

You will note two things in this photo: a (completely adorable) wimpy dog, and a dog bed that, despite being laundered just one week ago, is comprised mostly of dog fur and stink.

Karmann had a 6 month checkup today, and I was glad because her presumed arthritis has notably worsened in the interim months. She often picks up her right front leg, and her rear legs occasionally shake after a long walk, or going up steps.

Right off the bat, she was a complete weirdo: hiding behind my legs, plopping herself down into tiny, shy bean and refusing to get up, generally behaving like a dog at the vet and not at all like Karmann at the vet. Most dogs realize, “Vet. Crap.” Karmann thinks it’s an afternoon social hour thrown in her honor by those minions she seldom sees. Or, at least, she did. Until today. Even the vet was confused.

So I immediately began explaining her leg anomalies, assuming that chronic discomfort was to blame for her bizarro behavior, and a check revealed pretty severely restricted range of motion in both back legs. The vet assumed arthritis, but suggested getting films “to rule out any other bad stuff.” When I asked her what other bad stuff, she lowered her voice and said, “bad stuff that we don’t want to talk about if we don’t have to.”

Take ALL THE FILMS, doc. All of them.

Vet soon returned and immediately said there was no bad stuff. She wanted to show me the pictures, so she pulled them up on the screen and said, reaffirming my very great affinity for her, “The first thing we notice, is that she really, REALLY has to poop. *points to poop* That’s a lot of poop. I’d take two bags. Beyond that, we see some arthritis but not as much as I expected, given her discomfort and range of motion sooooooo . . .  she might be a wimp.”

That is her official diagnosis: midly arthritic wimp.

I immediately recalled the time she (also mildly) strained her ACL, as a bombastic 2 year old, and limp-ran as though her leg was partially detached. So there is precedent for this diagnosis, in hindsight.

The leg shaking could be a result of her discomfort, thought it is mostly likely some nerve/muscular degeneration as a result of her age. When I asked if it was the little old lady dog version of what happens to little old lady people, I was told yes, basically.

So we are getting back on the acupuncture train for the, er, palsy, as well as the arthritis. Medicating for the arthritis is tricky, given her Addison’s, as she can’t take NSAIDs. She’s been on a level 2 joint supplement, and we will increase to level 3, add Curcumin twice daily, and she has Tramadol for days that she seems particularly uncomfortable. Actually, we’re giving her Tramadol for a day or two, to see how she does, so that I can (hopefully) see a baseline of comfort that I’ll then aim for with supplements and acupuncture and, possibly, chiropractic.

In other news, I will be selling blood plasma to pay for my dog’s holistic therapies. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not wimpy about needles.

Times When I Cannot.

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Fluffy kitten all clean and snuggly and . . . clean. Really clean. So clean–Oh gods those were happier times.

Mortimer Kitten woke me at 6:15 this fine (or so I thought) Sunday morning. That’s practically late, and so I was not particularly perturbed as I threw on a sweater and headed downstairs to breakfast the cats.

As I made the switchback on the stairs, my peace was–well, we’ll just say it was wobbled, but not broken. I smelled cat poop. If you’ve read this blog more than twice, you’ll know that poop whiff is a thing that happens with alarming frequency and so is not, in and of itself, cause for much more than a groan and the unpleasant anticipation of having to clean something. And that’s exactly what I did: I groaned, and felt momentarily irritated.

And then I hit the first floor.

It dawned on me then that the poop whiff was strong. Much stronger than usual. And my irritation turned into trepidation which then quickly gave way to absolute dumbstruck horror as I made the corner into the dining room to discover the floors absolutely painted (in an unexpectedly symmetrical–dare I say rhythmic–pattern) with cat diarrhea.

And then Nigel walked past, his llama pants caked from asshole to . . . knees? . . . in said cat diarrhea.

And he led me into the kitchen, which had also been turned into a midnight poop canvas.

And more poop in the living room.

And everywhere I walked, Nigel followed, looking like a semi-melted Hershey Kiss that had been rolled in orange fur. And he kept sitting. Everywhere, poop and sitting and deposition of more poop and poop and poop and poop.

I had two immediate thoughts:

1. Call Tim, the real estate agent and tell him to list the house because there is nothing to be done and moving is the only viable option.

2. This is not a thing I deal with alone.

I quickly dismissed option 1 because we’d obviously have to burn the house down, which seemed imprudent, and hiked the stairs to fetch Schmoop, whom I roused from slumber by flicking on the lights and announcing that Nigel had painted the house in cat shit and the B team was required.

I told him what had happened. It wasn’t enough–words aren’t enough. He wasn’t prepared when he finally saw. You can’t prepare for something like that. You just can’t.

After a pregnant pause for hand-wringing and gaping and me wandering around with antibacterial spray and paper towels trying to figure out a starting point that didn’t involve arson, we decided to tackle Nigel first.

Literally. We tackled him. Schmoop held him down and I soaked his ass end as he angrily flopped his tail around in a puddle of poop water, flinging it everywhere. Once he was reasonably clean, we moved on to the rest of the house, hitting it first with antibac, and then going over it with the Swiffer.

As I was putting away the cleaning supplies, I heard a series of thumps from the second floor, followed soon after by the telltale whine of the steam cleaner that I purchased at 7am several years ago after Nigel turned the living room into a vomitorium.

There was stair poop.

And also puke. You know. For good measure.

At this point, dear reader, I am sure you are concerned for the welfare of the kitten that produced such copious and creatively-delivered emesis.

Nigel, grumpy and very soggy and still sitting all over the place was in the kitchen. Begging for breakfast. Which is to say, he’s totally fine and probably feeling a hell of a lot better than he was about 30 seconds before all the carnage started.

And so, merry fracking Christmas: the lovely smell of our tree has been displaced by the reek of cat poo, and in addition to the immediate trauma of discovering and then cleaning up after The Incident I have what I can only assume to be a permanent paranoia about hidden poop streaks on furniture, presents, unspotted floor areas, dog beds, cat beds–ALL THE THINGS COULD HAVE POOP ON THEM. NOTHING IS SAFE.

Cards and well wishes can be sent to me, care of whatever sanitarium this lands me in. I’ll update as I can.

No, Seriously, I Really Mean it This Time.

Teetering precariously on the edge of the step. Just like me. Except replace "step" with "sanity."

Tiger teetering precariously on the edge of the step. Just like me. Except replace “step” with “sanity.”

It’s been almost two months. My goodness. I actually feel slightly awkward about this because if you did get any kind of kick out of my blog then you know that two months could not possibly have elapsed without incident.

Nay.

The past two months have included the following (just to catch you up):

  • A Calvin/Karmann near escape on Halloween, which resulted in me unleashing a torrent of questionable language while trying to shove bouncing puppies back into the house as legions of six year olds and their horrified parents gawped. I gave them extra candy.
  • A Karmann poopstrike.
  • Suggestions that Karmann may be developing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.
  • Denial.
  • Barking. A lot of barking.
  • Running for Critters hustle.
  • Extreme Nighttime Naughtiness.
  • PLAGUE OH MY GOD.
  • Knee injury.
  • Mort parachuting from the kitchen counter onto Karmann’s back, in the middle of a dog snit that started because Calvin had the gumption to smell a smell that should have been her smell ENTIRELY.
  • Nigel being pretty benign.

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Quality Time With the Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

I am an architectural historian. 

I can finally say that without wincing just a little, because in addition to seven years of school, more loans than I care to think about, and a dogged determination, I finally have my first freelance project documenting non-contributing structures at a National Historic Site waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the country. Until today, I had been there exactly one time, during which visit I made three critical observations. 1) it is remote; 2) it is very large; 3) it is practically empty. From these observations, a formula was created: 

(remote wilderness + empty estate (huge land area))^2 = (City Girl freaked the hell out)^1,000,000 

I don’t even know if that’s a real equation. I’m an architectural historian.

Suffice to say that this urban explorer does not feel particularly safe in large swaths of empty wilderness. And I mean, we’re talking hundreds of acres. To reach the furthest flung structure, my round trip is a couple miles of trail. To hit all the structures we’re approaching six-ish miles, during which time I may not see another soul. So I’ve been kind of terrified of getting started, on account I’m fairly certain I’ll either be eaten by a bear, or accidentally shot by a hillbilly. In the very least, I had already confirmed that a lot of nature–bugs most especially–was going to touch me. 

As it happens, however, I came up with solutions to these problems. For the bugs, I purchased a DEET product so strong it warns me not to apply it to skin or synthetic fabrics. For the risk of nature contact, I wear pants, my Doc Martins, as much shirt as I can handle without incurring heat stroke, and a hat. 

And for the scary carnivores and hillbillies, it turns out that anti-social, shrieky beagle-ish I have comes in handy. 

So, armed with pesticides, a lot of clothing, and Calvin, I set off to get some work done in the desolate rolling hills of southwestern PA. 

But Fate, she is a cruel mistress. 

As soon as we turned into the parking lot, I realized I was being bitch slapped by Fortuna. There were, like, ten cars in the lot. Which is a metric fuckton of cars for a place that is literally twenty miles from nowhere. And all of the cars were full of people with dogs and babies. Babies placed into absolutely enormous and very threatening (to a beagle) strollers. Strollers the size of Hummers, as far as the eye could see, being pulled by dogs. I’m sure that was Cal’s first impression of the place. 

Yesterday, somebody dribbled liquishit around the bedroom while the humans were gone. We didn’t know which puppy. Today, I discovered it was Calvin. Not thirty seconds after popping out of the car and into a post-apocalyptic world where dogs and babies conspire to end us all by mowing us down with their twelve ton prams, Cal had several bouts of explosive diarrhea. 

Where I had expected peaceful desolation and an exhausting pupwalk, I was now faced with congestion and a digestively unsound, and increasingly anxious, wee hound. 

For the record, given all the ridiculous disasters around which I routinely tap dance in a performance I call “My Life,” I would eventually like for something to go as planned. I don’t want to be a hose beast but I really, really feel like I have it coming to me. 

Cal’s intestinal disturbance immediately removed the most distant structures from the realm of possibility, as I had no intention of marching him around in the heat with belly troubles. So that meant we had to stick close to the main structure which, of course, is where all the people and their giant, ravenous babies and hellhound-drawn carriages were. We knocked out an entry gate just before a stroller threatened, and then made our way to an old road trace before being chased into the woods, twice, by hikers with dogs. We set out to pick up a grave site, but were cut off by a meandering couple and a hoard of shrieking children who, I’m made fairly certain by their behavior, are parent-less and living, Lord of the Flies-style, on the property. 

All things being equal, Calvin really did pretty well. There was some barking, but no real screaming. And toward the end of our mostly futile afternoon, he seemed pretty well desensitized to ordinary, ambulating people and ceased expressing opinions about them altogether. 

I called it a day and we drove off the get fuel. Inocuous, no?

No. Because WHY ARE ALL THE GAS STATIONS IN RURAL ALMOST WEST VIRGINIA FULL SERVICE?????

I pulled up to a pump, was shutting down and locating my wallet when Cal suddenly lost his shit. I didn’t attempt to calm him down because, frankly, a stranger walking up to my car and fiddling with my gas cap is not something I really want him to be retiring about. I stared in horror, for a moment, before I thought to ask if all the pumps were full service. Gas guy confirmed and I said, over beagle-ish shrieks, that I’d just hit the next station. He laughed and carried on and said it didn’t matter because it was all the same price. 

Friend. Dear friend. Stretch the limits of your imagination and try to consider that cost is not my greatest immediate concern, here. I’m losing six decibels of hearing per second and I don’t have that much to spare NOW STOP TOUCHING MY GAS CAP AND LET ME LEAVE. 

I had to pass three more service stations before I found one that would let me pump my own fuel. And in that time, my GPS lady, apparently uncharitably disposed toward my frequent redirects to check gas stations, decided that I had some geographical comeuppance due in the form of patently refusing to take me to an interstate. So despite 1.5 uneventful rounds trips to the site, I was paraded all through the countryside to the tune of an additional forty-five minutes on the road, and threatened with a toll road (what even is cash?) before I finally overrode her with Google Maps on my phone. 

From beginning to end, Cal pup and I had five gloriously dysfunctional hours of adventure today, and the little guy is now sacked out at my feet. So hard to be Calvin, even on Small Hound Road Trip days. 

 

 

Yesterday I . . .

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Pooping everywhere is exhausting

– Had a tour, for which I was getting ready assuming that Schmoop would be taking the pups out while I did so.

– Did NOT adhere to my standard Calvin Anxiety Mitigating Routine because see above.

– Discovered Schmoop had NOT taken the pups out, but rather decided to go get bagels.

– Departed the bathroom to discover stoop poop.

– Proceeded downstairs for cleanup materials and discovered hallway pee.

– Suspended personal preparations in order to clean up two anxiety-related accidents, worked up a sweat, cursed Schmoopie and his damn bagels, became grumpy.

– Ate a bagel after initially refusing bagel out of spite because if it weren’t for the damn bagels I’d have had a lot more than 15 minutes in which to eat a bagel.

– Went to work while contemplating bagel-related Möbius strip of suck.

– Came back eight hours later and began critter feeding preparations.

– Opened kitchen door to take puppies their food and was whacked in the face with poop stench.

– Discovered dining room poop.

– Cleaned up dining room poop and fed puppies.

– Enroute to living room, noticed hallway had dreadful smell, still.

– Discovered stoop poop AND pee.

– Questioned, deeply and profoundly, what my life had become.

– Cleaned the third batch of inappropriate excrement OF THE DAY.

Today I . . .

– Went for a ten mile run having only eaten a spite bagel, 2 meatballs, Cheeze-Its, and a bacon burger the preceding day.

– Spent 7 miles wishing for death.

– Sat passively on the couch while Schmoopie cleaned up YET MORE STOOP POOP WHAT EVEN IS HAPPENING HERE????????

* * *

An epilogue for anyone who may be thinking: House train your freaking dogs, lady!

They actually are.

They were? I don’t even know what to think anymore.

Both pups were fabulously house-trained. But we moved out of the south last summer, and apparently if my dogs had cars they would have those stupid “G.R.I.T.S.” and “American by birth, southern by the grace of god” bumperstickers. Since they are bumperless, they lodge their cultural dissatisfaction through wanton household elimination. This explanation is also known as THE SOUTH WILL HAUNT ME FOREVER, DAMMIT.

Thats one explanation.

The other is that the move caused some stress, which coincided with Karmann developing arthritis, which led to some mobility-related accidents on the stoop, which led to more stress, which caused some anxiety-related accidents on the established-as-potty-zone stoop. All of which coincided with the traditional layout of the new-old house (i.e. not the Househunters preferred “open floor plan perfect for entertaining” type of soul-sucking new construction that we lived in while in Georgia, where asking a perfectly able-bodied Augustan to walk upstairs to the master bedroom is–PERISH THE THOUGHT, but I digress.)

All that basically means that we can’t see the front door, where the pups were trained to sit for potty notification purposes, from any other room in the house. More importantly, I think, they cannot see us. I believe this has caused a notification crisis. If we happen to be present in the front hallway (unlikely) or kitchen when the mood strikes them, they will sit at a door. If we are not, I think they just think, “oh well hey, we have that section of carpet on the landing so . . . ”

We’ve been trying since the fall to teach them to ring a bell on the door, but for reasons I cannot fathom they don’t seem particularly interested in learning this new skill. Probably because the stoop is so much less work.

And that is why I bitch incessantly about the out-of-control indoor elimination. I am not used to it, it is not normal (though it is frequently hilarious, because if I didn’t laugh I’d cry) and my dogs are not just totally untrained ruffians.

At least, not in this specific situation.

Schmoopie’s Critterful Moment

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So, not infrequently, my critters get up to shit. And by shit I literally mean they usually do so in some inappropriate place, at some particularly inconvenient time, and the household devolves into madness as humans scramble for cleaning products/cats/dog/etc. Mercifully, this usually happens when we are both around, though I think I can claim without a martyr’s complex that when it happens with one person present that person is usually me. It’s just statistics: I’m with the critters all day, so I’m more likely to be the lucky one. This should not be a surprise, since I basically started this blog to record all the daily and apupcalyptic weirdness in which the critters are perpetually ensconced.

Yesterday, I went for a run while Schmoop hung with critters. The general mood, at the point I left, was increasingly bizarre, so I skipped out the door (and into the rain) gleefully, knowing that I would have a bit of a reprieve. Tra la la!

When I returned, a scant half hour later, the smoke alarm was blaring, a beagle was tearing through the house, and Schmoop was in the kitchen yelling at Karmann to move. From the strained timbre of his directive, she was noncompliant. I froze, wondering if my entrance had been heard above all the excitement, and calculating the likelihood that I could slip back out silently for “another run” by which I mean a trip up to the bar for “a beer” by which I mean many beers.

Just as I was slowly backing away, Schmoop came dashing out of the kitchen and up the stairs, grumbling as he passed that Cal had shat on the stoop and he’d just come in from a doggy potty break wherein Karmann had pooped and then, upon returning to the warm, dry indoors, parked herself right at the top of the basement stairs, indicating that she, you know, needed to go out, and could I deal with at least one situation. Apparently this all went down while he was in the middle of making me dinner.

I took the dogs out while Schmoop dealt with the smoke detector, which had no good reason for going off save that Calvin had pooped right beneath it. So either our smoke detector is a poop alarm, a sentient and malevolent device that seized upon a moment of human frailty, or the batteries died. WE MAY NEVER KNOW.

This episode came at the end of a very nutty few days of twice-daily prednisone for Karmann’s Addison’s. Said therapy clearly helped her, with the super added bonus of turning her into a kinetic pee machine, and thus the household hominids were especially delicate.

Nutter is feeling boatloads better on the once-daily dose, and is finally capable of doing something other than staring at us, pacing, and peeing–she can now rest comfortably AND ALSO be frisky when the situation demands it. And she’s convinced that most situations demand it. Going to the kitchen? PLAY! Going to the bathroom? PLAY! Going upstairs? PLAY! Brushing teeth? PLAYPLAYPLAY! Which leaves me to wonder about how long she’s been feeling under the weather. Because the dog I have now is the Karmann of two years ago: high energy, insanely affectionate, ready to go in .005 seconds. For those of you who have only spent time with Karmann in the past year, and are inevitably thinking, “but that describes the Karmann I know, so what could have changed . . . ?” I can say only that you have seen nothing. NOTHING. This Karmann–2 years ago Karmann–is nuttier than you could possibly imagine. She is indefatigable. She actually bounces. She is made of such raw energy that you can almost see her molecules vibrating. Come see her now. Better yet, come take her for a weekend. I’m exhausted.

Her improvement has also had a, um, wonderful (?) effect on Cal, who was so stupendously happy last weekend that he spent Sunday leaping for kisses and wagging his butt and dancing for grandma before all the amazing excitement made its way to his colon, where it was transformed into another round of frantic liquishitting. Even bouncing, kissing happiness causes systemic skepticism in the beagle. I have no idea how to maintain a perfectly unexciting yet casually pleasant household, which seems to be the only state in which he can function normally.

This past week we also (finally) managed to feed whole, bone-in pieces without initiating doggie world war. Usually, feeding whole chicken wings or thighs–the pieces we’ve previously tried–results in World’s Sweetest Puppy Karmann turning into a crazed and evil hellhound who resource guards THE WHOLE ENTIRE HOUSE from Calvin. So we stopped trying. Goddess knows we have plenty of inherent crazy in this house without having to bring it in from outside. And then, this week, we found the answer: duck necks. Karmann likes duck well enough to eat it, but not well enough to commit beaglecide. Score! The only downside is that Mort patently refuses to eat duck in any form, and we have to cut them into large chunks for Karmann, lest she redecorate the living room with duck necks. I will roll with these challenges if it means I have a non-murderous form of zoobie cleaning available to the puppies.

In Running for Critters news, I ran 9 miles last Sunday and I ran in the rain yesterday–and probably will have to do so again today. I don’t want to brag but that pretty much makes me a super heroine.

Small Victories

There are two things in particular that I love about dogs:

1) Every day is a bright and shiny new awesomeness. No matter what may have happened yesterday, a new morning is always happy and exciting. They do not understand ennui, and leave the kittens and I to suffer our existential angst without them.

2) They have–and thus force me to have–a very narrow definition of victory. For Karmann, victory is finally enticing Calvin to play for 15 seconds; for Calvin, victory is a walk in which he does not see another living thing. For both, victory is securing the green bed, because the green bed is the hotness.

Right now, for example, I am mightily victorious. I am celebratory and wild with achievement because it has been four hours since Calvin has had a bout of explosive liquipoo and that is twice as long as the interval that preceded it. Prepare the champagne!

I was awakened at 11:30 last night by an unsettling THRRRRRRRPPP-burble noise, immediately followed by a foul, paint-peeling fog of sulfurous horror. I didn’t immediately link the noise to the stench but it didn’t take me long, either, and it is a uniquely awful thing to lie in bed, warm and half asleep, and contemplate the propulsion of shit that will await you when you flick on the light.

But I put on my big girl pants and confronted it.

And I gagged–quietly! So as not to wake Schmoopie, who apparently turns his nose off when he goes to bed.

And then I laughed–quietly!–because despite the fact that I am the go-to human for late night potty emergencies, Calvin persists in his awestruck worship of Schmoop. This apparently led Cal to his side of the bed in search of assistance. But if the sound of poo being forcefully ejected from a dog, and it’s accompanying reek, cannot wake the Schmoop, then Cal’s notification system–stoicly standing and staring until you figure out he’s in distress, stood no chance. So the poop touched down about three feet from the slumbering Schmoopie.

The following ensued:

More gagging
A trip downstairs for cleaning supplies
The rustle of poop bags and garbage bags and paper towels as I picked up, wiped up, sprayed down, wiped again, and sanitized
Much spraying of various cleaning chemicals–wood floor cleaner, Lysol
Another trip downstairs for Febreeze
Copious Febreezing of wood floor
Decreasing concern about waking Schmoop because Christ on a cracker how is sleeping through this?!??
Another trip downstairs for Febreeze Air Effects
Loud sighing
Copious Febreezing of the air
Another trip downstairs to hermetically dispose of the waste (by putting it on the back balcony where it is freezing and could be forgotten about for an as yet to be determined period of time)
The sink-side equivalent of a Silkwood shower for me

By the time I returned to bed, the entire cleanup had lasted about 20 minutes and made the bedroom smell like a lemony-Pet Freshy-clean lineny sewer main.

And yet there Schmoop lay, blissfully unaware of the decontamination procedures that had taken place a mere meter from his head–where both his ears and nose are located–softly snoring and peaceful.

HOW DO YOU SLEEP THROUGH A POOSPLOSION AND THE SUFFOCATING APPLICATION OF SANITIZING AND DESTINKING SPRAYS??? My nose hairs were melting and running down my face and he looked like something off a box of Sleepytime tea.

And thus passed the remainder of our evening–with Schmoop sleeping, and me not sleeping even one little teeny minute on account I had to take Cal out every 45-90 minutes, all night, without fail, until 6am when we finally made it two hours. And now here we are approaching five hours and I’m very sincerely considering a small party or, barring that, a really epic nap because I am far, far too old to be pulling all-nighters.

Cal is mostly fine. At no point has he acted sick; I believe this is the part where I realize that his little gut can’t quite take multiple all-beef meals in a row. Poor Pookie.