Category Archives: CRF

A less than auspicious start

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It’s official.  The holiday season is over.  Thank Buddha.

Hmmm.  Maybe that is one of the things I like about Buddhism is its conspicuous lack of big holidays.  I mean, think about it.  During the winter months, Muslims have Ramadan, Hindus have Diwali, Jews have Hanukkah and Christians have Christmas.  What do the Buddhists have?  Bupkis, we got bupkis.  I suppose it all comes down to equanimity.  If we are truly trying to practice equanimity, why make one day more important than another?  Besides, shouldn’t giving and love be practiced everyday and not just when it is cold and dark and we have nothing better to do?

Anyway, I’m relieved the official holiday season is over.  It’s just a hell of a lot of pressure on someone who really doesn’t celebrate in general, and who wasn’t into it at all this year.

My geriatric cat, Alaska, has been having a tough time the last week or so.  He was just seeming more frail than usual, and then he started stumbling when he walked.  Never ever a good sign in an older cat.  I was pretty well convinced it was the end, complete with premature mourning crying jags.   I figured there was no need to rush him to the emergency vet since they would just tell me the obvious – end stage rental failure – and suggest I put him to sleep then and there.  I know that decision to euthanize may be in my near future, but I want it done at home.   I feel very strongly about that.  I don’t want his last mind to be that of  fear.  I want the other cats to be able to see and sniff his dead body so they understand what has happened to their friend.  There is nothing more plaintive than an animal who wanders around the house looking for their buddy because they don’t understand what has happened.

Fortunately, I don’t have to make that decision quite yet.  His blood-work  showed he had an infection and as that is being treated he is getting back to his old 17 1/2 year old self complete with his impaired kidneys, GI issues and heart murmur.  But, he’s stopped stumbling and seems a lot stronger, and I’m very grateful.  But, this episode really hammered home the possibility of losing him, and it hurts my heart.

And while I was on this mental path of shedding things I loved, I really started to question my long relationship with the boyfriend.  I’m not sure that is going to last out the year either.  It’s hard when all I can see are the faults in the relationship and he is perfectly happy, and sees no reason to change anything.    On New Years Eve out having dinner at one of our usual haunts (sigh), I asked him if he had any resolutions for the new year.  His answer:  “nope, I’m good.  I’m on the path I need to be. ” Sure, one view of his answer is that he is a very sensible man oozing with contentment.  Or another view is that of a highly delusional man who is complete denial of his various areas of improvement, including his relationship with the person sitting across the table from him.

Maybe I’m still feeling kind of cocky having the thrill of accomplishment from NaNoWriMo and getting a new job that I’m really enjoying.  I mean, I did that, who’s to say I can’t dump my longtime boyfriend and free myself to have this exciting new life? But, would it be?  I’m turning 50 in exactly a month.  And the outlook for finding someone else at my age is, frankly, not promising.   So, do I trade the problems with being in a relationship for the problems of being single?

I don’t need to figure this out this week.   As my friend John reminded me last night on the phone, I’m just suffering from a case of the New Year’s blahs.  This too will pass.

I wasn’t cut out to be a nurse

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Perhaps I shouldn’t make kitty clinic time right before my bedtime when I’m tired. The results haven’t been pretty.

Alaska hates having his thrice-weekly subcutaneous fluids therapy. Hates it. He wiggles and squirms and eventually starts yowling as if I were trying to kill him. Of course, this makes an already challenging procedure even more challenging. Half the time he manages to squirm away before I able to shut the flow of fluids and water ends up squirting out of the needle, and out of him. Tonight we had the added bonus of me somehow ending up getting poked by the needle. So, while I’m cleaning up water and blood, Alaska continues yowling as I am yelling at him in frustration, and then decides to take a dump in the rabbit’s pen. Gee, Alaska, tell me how you really feel.

When I go into do Tangerine’s wound treatment, she shows me how much better she is feeling by dashing about the room hiding in places that are near impossible for me to reach. Finally I have to break out the broom to corral her back into the kitty condo. Fortunately her treatment with the warm compress is much less traumatic than Alaska’s treatment, so once I get her in the right position everything is fine.

Her wounds look nice and clean and the infection seems to have cleared up, so I’m tempted to let her drainage incisions heal, but the vet told me to keep them open until this Saturday, so we have a couple more days of this.

So, my hat is off to the caretakers of the world, be they professional or amateur, or take care of animal or human. Since I never had kids, nor dependent parents, I don’t have that much experience taking care of humans. Which is probably good since I’m not good with blood or other bodily substances. I do better with people’s emotional wounds, but bloody, pus-filled, oozy physical ones? Not so much

Small victories and great annoyances

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Depending on with whom I’m speaking, Mr. Binkles is either a real firecracker, or little mother fucker.  I’ve read that aggressive bunnies also tend to be smart bunnies.  Well, if that is the case I’ve got a real Einstein on my hands.

He’s also proved himself to be a true Houdini too.  When I leave the house, I make sure that he’s securely sequestered in his pen. At first I merely pulled the enclosure over the door opening.  That didn’t last long.  So, we installed hooks with which to secure the pen. That seemed to work.  Until last night.

Normally when I come home in the evening, I expect to see a cat in the window.  Usually Alaska, but Sasquatch has been known to haul his lazy ass off the bed and look out the living room window when he hears my car drive up.  Last night, however, Mr. Binkles was sitting on the window sill seemingly waiting for me to come home.  Ahhhhh, you might say. Isn’t that cuuuuute.  Sure, it is.  However, it also meant he’s had free reign of the house, and I’ll be cleaning rabbit pellets off the couch and bed.  Ahhhhh, isn’t that sweet?

I found out how he had escaped – through a window between the sun room and my bedroom – and now that is part of my security check before I leave the house.  So, imagine my surprise when I come home tonight from work and the little varmint is once again in the  window.

So, with my arms full of groceries, I’m trying to dance around a hungry Tangerine O’Feral, while trying to prevent Alaska and Mr. Binkles from running out the front door.  My first order of business is always to put some food out for the O’Ferals, but Mr. Binkles disagreed strongly with my priorities and started nipping at my ankles.  Fortunately, in the bag of grocery is some nice fresh parsley so I toss some in the dining room so I can make my escape and feed Tangerine.

With Tangerine fed (and the local raccoon family who eat her leftovers) getting Mr. Binkles back in his pen is my next priority.  Last thing I need is a hungry rabbit nipping at my ankles while I unpack my groceries.  I grab more parsley and walk in the direction of his pen. Since he’s very territorial and throws a fit anytime I get near his pen, he comes racing after me.  I throw the parsley in the pen and in he goes.  I notice that he had apparently lifted the enclosure off the hook and then pushed it out of his way.  He had also jumped up on where I kept the banana chips and had helped himself to his favorite treat.  Little bastard.

Next priority is to feed Alaska who was meowing incessantly.  I’m worried about my old boy.  He’s got the kidney failure thing going on, but he hasn’t been very symptomatic until recently.  His appetite hasn’t been good and he’s been pretty listless lately.  So, I got him a treat at the grocery store tonight – baby food.   I was thrilled to see him eat it with such enthusiasm.  It felt like a small victory.   I’m just not prepared to lose him just yet. Nomie only died a little over two months ago.  I can’t go through that again so soon.   So, tomorrow we go to the vet and get a reality check on his condition.  Let’s hope the old boy still has a few months left in him.

A complete mess

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I woke up at 3:00 am to find Nomie making little mewling sounds as if she were in pain. I took her to bed with me in the hopes we could both find comfort in each other’s presence. It was a fitful night, but at least it seemed she was able to sleep. Me, not so much. It was the first time in months that she has slept with me.

The vet was kind enough to squeeze me in first thing this morning. There are two theories: a) her electrolites are off b/c of the kidney disease which would explain why she can’t walk or b) she’s had a small stroke which would explain the sudden onset, the inability to walk, and her dilated pupils. However, he’s not clear why she is in pain. She’s at the vet hospital today – he’ll give her fluids and see if that doesn’t help things. If not, he’ll do some more test$.

When I come home from my half night and early morning cat vigil, I call my boss to take the day off, which I’ve wanted to do for some time now, but keep getting turned down. And, despite operating on no sleep, quasi-hysterical over my cat and deeply depressed, he still wants my ass at the office.

Then I get a message from my teacher that completely set me off. She’s back now, so she’s got her list of things that need to be done and she wants to meet tonight. No fucking way. I’m not sure how to respond. Instead I just wept on the phone to the boyfriend.

Hey, but at least I can rejoice that I’m purifying, right? Right?

A long night

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So, I’m back to holding my breath with uncertainty that Nomie will still alive in the morning. She’s got a fever and is a total rag muffin. She was making grunting type sounds when I was holding her which was something new. As much as I hated making her more miserable, she got another dose of antibiotics and fluids. I’m hoping these will kick in tonight and she’ll feel better in the morning. It was sweet, for a while Sasquatch joined her on the chair as to keep an eye on her. I hope he goes back. Should she die in the middle of the night, it would be very comforting to know she was not alone.

Cuddle buddies

This isn’t starting well

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Little Nomie has taken a turn for the worst. This morning she didn’t come out for breakfast, and when I went to pick her up, she felt warm and weak. When I place her on the floor, she crumpled. Food did not interest her.

Since she had been showing so much improvement I had taken her off her fluids and antibiotics, thinking that she was at about 90% of her previous self before the dramatic episode of last month. Well, back on fluids and antibiotics she goes. Let’s hope she can turn it around again.

My own mind had a similar set back this morning. I thought I was starting to pull myself out of this depression, but again, rumors of my recovery have been greatly overstated. Everything feels heavy. Everything is an effort. I feel like I am moving through molasses.

My teacher is coming home today. I don’t want to talk to her. Part of me want to tell her own hurt I was by her lack of empathic communication for the last month or two. Yet, I know that she is not a warm and fuzzy person, so it’s not realistic to expect that from her.  I need distance from her, but I don’t know how to interact with her without falling into old patterns.  It feels easier just to cut loose the relationship.

Fuck.  I have to go into the office today.  Fuck.

Purring contentedly

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Little Nomie continues to do better.  Yesterday morning I heard and felt her purr for the first time in weeks.  Our morning bonding time – in the sun-room in the comfy chair – now no longer seems like she is humouring me, but that she enjoys being quietly held and stroked. These are small victories.

I just have to realize it is all very short-lived.  It’s easy to fall into the illusion that everything is going to be fine – she’ll live forever, right?  Until I can be free of this attachment, I’m setting myself up for pain.  Yet, the love and attachment are so intermingled, I can only see glimpses of having pure love without the stain of attachment. It’s a practice, for sure.

I spoke briefly with one of my dharma buds who is in England at Festival.   Yes, it’s rainy, and yes, the housing situation was, er, challenging.  I kinda thought that that house would be fraught with drama.  One of the women staying there is very emotional, and tends to be a bit dramatic.  And the other woman just buys into it, and probably helps amplify it. I was not looking forward to spending a lot of time with them.  But, he said the teachings are, of course, awesome.   Perhaps before everyone comes home, I can make some progress on reading Mahamudra Tantra, so they can fill in the blanks for me while their memories are still fresh.

Hiding from the Witnesses

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It’s beautiful mid-July Saturday morning. The skies are clear and temperature is pleasingly warm. The kind of morning that would inspire a nice bike ride or hike, if one were so inclined. For myself, it inspires reading a book in my sun-room and maybe nodding off to sleep.

But, where am I instead? I’m in the dark, back bedroom hiding from the impending swarm of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If I’m anywhere in the front of the house, I could be spotted and then out of cowardliness be forced into rudeness by not answering the door. Sure, I could answer the door and say “no thanks, I have a perfectly good religion I’m happy with.” Sure, that would be the adult thing to do. But, instead I’m hiding.

I read recently that the JWs had made a pledge to knock on every damn door here in the Bay Area. Good for them. I admire that persistence. But somehow I didn’t think that it would include mine. Yet there they were walking up my street. At first I thought it was just a group of well-dressed black folks on their way to a party, or perhaps on their way home from church. But, it’s Saturday. And they were not all heading in the same direction. And they all appeared to be carrying a stack of pamphlets. Run! Hide!

Yes, it’s silly. But, I think I’m happy back here in the back bedroom for a while.

On another topic: rumors of my cat’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Last Sunday I was a complete and total wreck. I feared the worse. She was giving me that 1,000 yard stare and I felt that look was saying “enough is enough, mom.” So, I contacted a vet who does home euthanasia to discuss scheduling and rates. $200. Cash. She said she has done over 5,000 home euthanasia procedures. Damn! She has made a million bucks in cold hard cash putting animals to sleep. Talk about making a killing. Anyway, she seemed perfectly nice and suggested some things I could do now to make sure I can properly memorialize her when she is gone. But, when she asked when I wanted to do it, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

I also consulted my landlord, who is a medical intuitive who works with animals. She was just outside my place and I decided to see if I could get a freebie reading (and she’s actually a very sweet and empathic person). She saw no more than 4 more days for the little one, and that continuing the antibiotic treatment was going to be futile.

She is walking again and seems to regaining some joie de vivre. I was thrilled this morning when she actually made an effort to jump up into my lap while I was reading. Sure, with all the kidney damage, she may not have much longer even after she recovers from the infection. But, for now, I’m happy.

Geez, where are those damn JWs? Maybe the garden Buddha scared them off.

Grasping

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A few days ago, I was resigned and ready for Nomie’s death. But, with every small improvement, I start grasping again at “it’s going to be OK, it’s going to be OK”. The vet called me today with the results of her bloodwork. The results? Not good. Her kidneys are shot, and she has a raging infection. I’m guessing kidney infection.

We’re going to try some antibiotics with her and see if there is any improvement. Otherwise, we’re back to The Decision.

I hate this. I really and truly hate this.

No regrets

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The trip to Festival in England is off. Why? Because one of my cats has taken very ill. In fact, for a few days there I thought she was dying. She has made some improvements in the last 12 hours – she can actually transport herself from one spot to another. Wobbly, yes. But, unlike the previous two days where she couldn’t stand, this was a huge improvement.

I haven’t yet told my teacher I’m not coming. I fear her disapproval. Others have already questioned my decision, and acted as if I were forsaking my spiritual path for a mere object of attachment. Everyone has stories how people have forsaken loved ones at critical times so they could sit at the foot of the guru. Great. Good for them. But, it’s not the decision I’m making.

If as a Buddhist, I am expected to develop this mind of bodhicitta, a mind that would gladly take the bullet for any and all living beings, I would think that I would be supported for sacrificing my spiritual vacation to care for a helpless creature who needs me. If she is to die soon, I want to be there to help her and keep her mind peaceful. If she is not on her way out, I still want to be there to help recover from whatever it is that is causing her to not be able to walk. I want to hold her and sing OM MANI PAME HUM to comfort her in the night when she’s confused about why her little body no longer works.

She is my main practice right now. Trying to separate the love from the attachment in my mind. To use the suffering I’m feeling myself and turn that into the mind of renunciation. Watching my mind swing from deep suffering to excitement with every small improvement she makes. I’m trying to stay calm, peaceful and loving when I am around her, and keep my attachment-based crying jags for my friends and alone time in the car.

She has always been “my girl”. From the moment when I found her as a sickly, abandoned kitten who had less then a 50% chance of making it through the night, we’ve had a connection. I look into her eyes and there is such a recognition. “Mom?” (Yeah, believing your cat is an incarnation of your mom is not something I share with the folks at work). She’s the cat who just sits quietly by my side. Content to be near. Never in my face, or demanding of attention. Whatever room I settled in, that’s where she wanted to be.

This state of not-knowing is a very uncomfortable state to be. I was preparing for her death. Praying that it comes quietly in the night, and that I don’t have to make The Decision. Teachers in our tradition have told me that you simply do not euthanize animals. You make sure they are comfortable and you let them go in their own time. And I agree with that, if you can indeed keep the animal comfortable and out of pain, and they are failing anyway and their time is growing near. However, in this situation, her mind is alert, her pain is managed, she simply cannot move. What to do?

If it comes to it, if her life becomes too painful for her, I will have someone come and put her to sleep. She will be in my arms being comforted and loved. That to me is the most important thing. I want her to go to her death with a peaceful and happy mind with mantras being sung into her ears. Her body will remain untouched for several hours, and I’ll gather some friends and do powa for her. This is the sort of death that I would want, and she deserves no less.

Close call

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About 9 months ago Alaska, my 15 year old cat, was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), an all too common disease of older cats.  Most everyone who has had a cat reach a ripe old age has had to deal with this.  It’s not fun.  You start to see your beloved pet and friend shrink and shrivel up before your very eyes.  Alaska, in his prime, used to be 12-13 lbs.  Now he is barely 8 lbs.  

Alaska has always been a very lively cat.  He has a hard time staying still, unlike his feline roommates who can sleep in one spot for hours at a time.   If he were a person, I’d probably suspect he had a touch of ADD.  He’s the popular one, the one who will come out and charm the guests.  Who cares if he leaves a trail of white fur everywhere he goes,  he’s so damn charming people don’t mind. 

He’s been sick twice this year.  And is befitting his big personality, he does “sick” in a big way too.  He doesn’t hide or become withdrawn.  No, he puts on a big show of his misery.  He stays close and his movements become very deliberate as if he feels so fragile that any abrupt movement will cause him to break.  So, of course, I rush him to the vet expecting the worse.  I love my regular vet – he’s very common sensible.  His first take is usually -“huh.  I don’t see anything serious, let’s just watch and wait for a few days before we order tests.”  And 9 times out 10 he’s right.  Last month he did hospitalize him for observation and hydration and to run a test or two.  I expected the worse.  But, nope, the tests came back that it wasn’t his kidneys, so let’s just wait and watch.  And yes, within a few days, Alaska was back to his old self.  Yesterday, however, poor Alaska seemed to be getting worse by the hour, so I managed to get an end of day appointment, but not with my guy, but with the other guy.  I should have known better.

This vet goes for the worse case scenario everytime, complete with medications and expensive tests.  He said it looked to him as if Alaska was going into end stage renal failure.  To me, it looked like he had a sore throat or maybe mouth ulcers, but I don’t have a DVM after my name, so what do I know?  He wanted to run some expensive tests to confirm his diagnosis.  I was reeling so I just agreed. 

Today I get a call from my regular vet with Alaska’s results.  His kidneys are weak, but otherwise fine.  His bloodwork is normal for a cat his age.  When I described Alaska’s symptoms to him, he said “huh.  Sounds like a sore throat.  Let’s just watch and wait – if doesn’t improve by Monday, let’s talk.”  Of course I’m greatly relieved, but I am slightly annoyed at the other vet for his alarmist diagnosis.