Thursday, January 10, 2013

I have a cat with a heart murmur, and I'm a nervous wreck

Advent and Christmas were a rush of adventures, giving and receiving time and love. I'm sure I'll write more about these things soon. But that title is a good summary of what is weighing on me most right now.

I am cliche'. I am both Christian and bleeding heart liberal, shaken by any and all suffering and pain in the world, and doubly so by that of the innocent. I'm a vegetarian*, a graduate student in public health, and for years, I have been wanting to adopt an adult cat from a shelter. Because animals wind up in shelters through no fault of their own- because someone gave Susie a bunny for Easter because it was cute, and they didn't realize that bunny was going to eat and poop and chew through electrical wires. Shelters are hard places to live. You're usually trapped in a cage under harsh lights, or crowded into a room with 15 other animals. Strangers are in and out at all hours, picking you up and judging you, and new animals with germs are constantly coming in and making you sick. The well-meaning staff are stretched thin and have neither the time nor skills to ensure that you are healthy and cared for. Kittens and puppies are cute, and often quickly snatched up. But adults tend to languish.

Anyway. J and I have discussed this for as long as we've been married, partly because he frequently travels for conferences/research collaboration meetings/etc, leaving me alone for weeks at a time in a too-big apartment.We finally agreed that it was time, and decided that this pet adoption would be our Christmas gift to each other. The small, Southern city I live in has two no-kill shelters that charge a reasonable adoption fee that covers shots, spay/neuter and microchip expenses - we ventured to one of these almost on a whim on our first Saturday back in town. And there he was, in a room full of wire cat condos holding squirmy kittens and bored or terrified grown up cats: our little black&white cat with giant green-gold eyes and funny whiskers. He fearlessly introduced himself, and promptly informed us that we were perfect and he'd be going home with us. A few minutes later we were signing papers granting us possession of a living being (and wondering "who on earth names a cat 'Sweetums'?"). We made it home, J and I shaking a little bit at how fast and simple the process was.  Soon, our little cat was dubbed "Sage". Little Sage explored the house, and eventually took up residence under our bed. Six days after being adopted he managed to launch himself into our bed at midnight, and since then he's spent most of his time purring in our laps.

2012-12-29 17.01.39

On day 9 we managed to get little Sage to the vet. (Mostly because the ear infection the shelter staff had informed us was "probably just stress" wasn't clearing up, and was making him claw at his poor ears til he yowled). The vet told us that the poor little guy had earmites, bacteria, and yeast in his ears (see previous comments about shelters). And then, he pulled out his stethoscope and discovered a heart murmur. All of a sudden we were talking about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the possibility of coming home one day to find our sweet happy cat dead or paralyzed. Within a couple hours we had a cardiologist appointment scheduled for Monday. Not cheap...but we've got to find out what we're dealing with. There's a chance that little Sage is fine, and there's a chance he's very sick. Which is not an easy thing, since we planned on spending around 15 years with this little guy. But regardless, he's been rescued- for however short or long he's ours. And he's better off here, in our peaceful apartment, where he's getting at least some decent vet care and lots of snuggles.

* I know there are conscientious meat eaters. My own personal choice to be a vegetarian is about many things - health, environmental impact, food source sustainability, and animal maltreatment by the major meat producers in this country. For now, for me, this is the best way to respond to these concerns.  I don't proselytize about eating veg, but I do about eating local.