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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cardinal on the east side

For me, one of the hardest things about moving is leaving behind the bird community that I established. When moving from the west side to the east side of Tucson, I left a cardinal that I could always count on to be one of the first visitors at the feeder in the morning, and the last one at the fountain at night.

After moving, it took about two months, but finally a pair of cardinals arrived. When not snacking at the feeder, the male likes to hang out in the staghorn chollas (a type of cactus) in the back yard, and he's stunning in the midst of the desert colors. I've been trying to get a good picture of him in the cholla because it's such a nice juxtaposition to the "traditional" shot of a cardinal in an evergreen. (Think Christmas cards.) But this is the desert, baby!

Cardinal in the back yard - Tucson, AZ
Male cardinal in the cholla against the late afternoon sun.

When I snapped this picture, I was so focused on getting the cardinal in the shot, I hadn't realized there was also a house finch and a lesser goldfinch in the picture!
Cardinal in the back yard - Tucson, AZ
Male cardinal in the cholla in the morning light.

Early morning visitor in the backyard

Deer in the back yard - Tucson, AZ
One of three roaming the hillside out back.

The first step in saying "Goodbye."

Even before I got "the news" I knew in my heart that something was wrong. I tried not to imagine the worst, but I was already stringing together the words I would need to write to help me deal with the highs and lows that loomed ahead. I don't consider too many things critical to my well-being but spending time with my cats and writing are near the top of my list. I suppose then it's only fitting that I write during these last weeks or (hopefully) months, of my cat, Galen's, life.

Galen, on the catio - Tucson, AZ

Veterinarians will refer to most cats as "companion animals," and I find that a fitting description. I have lived with cats for most of my life, and my entire adult life, and I can never recall a time when I've been lonely. (Ever!)

As I write this, Galen is peacefully slumbering on my lap. The laptop is perched on the arm of the chair so that he can fully stretch out, and I am twisted to the side and a bit uncomfortable. He is not.

His breathing is deep and rhythmic, and if I stroke his glossy fur he'll start to purr. He's not really asleep yet. He's cat napping as only cats can do.

Although it's been almost three months since he had an untrasound, the fur on his belly still hasn't grown in all the way. At this rate, it will probably be another three months before it does.

Somewhere along the way I lost track of how long Galen has been sick, but after sorting through the papers in his medical file I realized that it had been almost two years since the vet had made the first house call.

The once in awhile bloody stool had turned into a once or twice a week event. (Yes, I knew it was HIS despite the fact there are two other cats in this house!)

Because a trip to the vet usually required anesthesia to conduct any type of meaningful exam on him, I opted instead for a house call. However, without the benefit of more complex diagnostic equipment, there was only so much that could be ruled out with a house call. The vet told me to monitor things, and said his symptoms were most likely caused by stress, and/or eating things he shouldn't.

Months passed, and then the vomiting started. Or more specifically, increased. By their very nature, cats will sometimes vomit. (Not to be gross, but they get hair balls!) Finally, his vomiting became so frequent he was losing weight. So off to the vet, anesthesia be damned!

Then the tests began. Finally after a few weeks and thousands of dollars of exams Galen was given a diagnosis of inflamatory bowel disease with cell abnormalities most consistent with lymphoma.

Even after three months, I still get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think "cancer." Galen is only ten. That's middle age in cat years.

I'm not ready for this. I suppose no one ever is. But I will write so that I can capture the time that we have left and cherish the memories. I don't want to forget a thing.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why it's called the catio

Galen, Londo and Micro on the catio - Tucson, AZ

Galen, Londo and Micro on the catio - Tucson, AZ

Why the patio is called the "catio." Galen, Londo and Micro outside enjoying the January weather in Tucson, AZ. And of course, Galen is the most photogenic of the three!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Galen posing as a step basket

Galen in a favorite perching position
Galen in a favorite perching position. When he sits this way, he reminds me of one of those step baskets--junk collectors for people too lazy to climb steps. (I would never own one!)