Sunday, 16 November 2014

#NaNoWriMo - Chapter 4: and now for something completely different (or not)

I don’t process emotions that quickly. I’m the type of person who, should you tell bad news to, will respond with an oh, ok and calmly go on about my day. This goes for good news or exciting news, too. Congratulations, I’ll say. Well done, I’ll say, showing little emotion or excitement. It’s two hours later, or a day later when news hits me. Recently a friend told me she was getting married. I initially was very calm and congratulatory. A few hours later, though, I was grinning madly and texting her in excitement. So when my brother told me the dog had died I wasn’t really sure how to feel. Surely I should be bursting into tears or something? Instead I just sat there in confusion for a few minutes. The dog hadn’t been ill to the best of my knowledge. She wasn’t the type to run away and get hit by a car. Perhaps it was something sudden?

The phone rang again. This time it was my mother. The dog hadn’t died, it was just my family’s rather strange and a bit sick sense of humour. She had been very ill, though. She had found a peach pip in the garden, which must have been thrown there by the previous owners, or a visitor to our house, because my family wouldn’t just throw things out in the garden. Instead of chewing it to pieces, which was her normal way of doing things, she swallowed it. It got stuck in her oesophagus. My parents noticed she hadn’t been eating or drinking as much, and that’s what the vet discovered had happened. She underwent an operation to remove it. Right from the start my Dad in particular wasn’t sure that everything was fine. He was working from home at the time, which, in hindsight, was a very good thing. Her wound wept a lot. When my father mentioned this to the vet he dismissed my father’s concerns and told him that sometimes that happens. My parents have had 3 children, all of whom were active and therefore got cuts and scrapes of various depths. We’d had plenty of animals requiring operations either because of neutering or because of cats getting in fights. They’ve cared for them and seen what a normal healing wound looks like. My parents remained concerned, the vet remained dismissive.

Remember when I talked about those doctors who ignored my mother when she was in labour with me and then when I was young? It seems vets can be just as bad.

My father was working from home, Tia by his feet as per usual. He noticed her stitched had come loose. They got worse and the way my mother described it to me, her stomach was practically falling out. I’m sure it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do know my father had to carry her to the car, drive quickly to the vet and carry her into the vet because he was terrified that all of the stiches would come apart. She had E.coli and peritonitis. Part of her stomach had to be removed. Her wound went from half way down her stomach all the way to the top of her throat. On a human the equivalent would be a wound that goes from the belly button up to the chin. She was in a pretty bad way and for a while it was touch and go whether or not she would make it. It took her a long time to recover from that. There’s some rather funny pictures from that time of her wearing a Tshirt of Jamie’s, put on her in order to cover up her wound and stop her from licking. We tried to put a cone on her before when we had her spayed, but she couldn’t get through the dog flap with it on and it just added another layer of distress to the situation, so a tshirt it was. She also stopped eating for a while. My father discovered that the only way she would eat is if he ‘accidentally’ dropped food on the floor from the dinner table. She very quickly learnt as a puppy that begging was a no no, but that if she stayed under the table she could quite often munch on food that fell on the floor. As Jamie was quite young at the time, this happened a lot. Come to think of it, it still happens a fair bit. So Dad would drop food on the floor on purpose and she would eat it.

As my mother told me how ill she had been, I realised just how much a dog becomes a part of your family. I was very sad when Pimms got ill and finally died. I still miss her sometimes. But Tia is so much a part of our lives that when she eventually does go (we keep calling her a puppy in the hopes that she doesn’t realise she’s getting old) it will leave a massive hole. I can’t imagine turning up to my parents’ house and not having her greet me. Or be in the house alone and have her follow me around from room to room. She’s so excited to see you, whether you’ve been away for a while, been away for an hour or just been asleep. We love our cats, but a dog is just always very present, a dog loves you back in a way cats just aren’t capable.

Two months before Tia got ill my mother had downgraded her pet insurance as she was a young dog and she couldn’t see her needing the extensive coverage she had. This meant that when the two operations had to happen the insurance didn’t cover everything. There was a large amount that still had to be paid. The vet also insisted that they pay for the second operation. He argued that this was unforeseen. My parents initially argued that they had told the vet of their concerns, he hadn’t checked her out and so it wasn’t unforeseen. However they didn’t really have much fight in them after what they’d gone through. They were just happy that she had come back to them safe and relatively healthy. They gave up fighting and had to pay an extra £1,500. Before this experience she didn’t mind going to the vets. My parents changed to another vet soon after she had gotten fixed up, and she loves going to that vet. But we can’t drive past the old vets, or stop anywhere near it, without her shaking, whining and generally being very, very distressed. The whole experience was horrible for my family. It can only have been so much worse for her.

I’m very glad it was my Dad who had to deal with her stitches coming loose. My mother, while capable of dealing with stressful situations quickly and well, is likely to dwell on it afterwards. A few years ago, during my second gap year, our next door neighbour knocked on our front door with our cat Brady (the cat we got after Pimms died). She was found clinging to their fence, trying to get through to our fence, and she’d been obviously hurt. Her left leg was bloodied and she was unable to move it. Dad and I were the only ones home. He opened the door to the neighbour. I rushed to get the cat box and a towel to put her on as Tia nervously darted around us. Once placed in the cat box, we headed off to the vet. We had no clue what had happened. We thought she’d been hit by a car or something and that she was more seriously injured. The vet whisked her away from us and took her to be x-rayed. She had no internal injuries. Her left paw was broken in two at the bottom and shattered at the top. We could either amputate it or we could have it pinned and hope it healed. As it as shattered, though, the vet told us there’s a strong chance it will have to be amputated anyway. All that pinning will do is cause her months of pain and discomfort. And so we went for amputation.

Brandy is an interesting cat. She’s a tabby cat that’s got the fluffiest, softest fur. You look at her and you want to hold her. She won’t let you, she hates being picked up and will go crazy until you let her go. The only time she holds still is if she’s wrapped in something and held like a baby. That she seems to find soothing. The dog is her surrogate parent. While she doesn’t like to be cuddled, held or even really petted by people, she absolutely adores the dog and cuddling up to her. She will snuggle up to the dog and fall asleep. The only time she purrs is when she’s kneading and grooming the dog. Mom was upset that the amputation might mean that she could never do that to the dog again.

She was picked up from the vet the next day, and we were told to keep her as immobile as possible and as warm as possible. She was placed down on a blanket and left to sleep. She would not stay still. Of all our animals she’s probably the one with the most stubborn personality. She’s determined and will get what she wants. She did not want to stay on the blanket. She did not want to stay still. She also looked pretty angry at the fact one of her legs was missing. I stayed with her that night. I was woken up by a massive crash. Brandy had decided that she did not want to sleep on the bed, she wanted to get to the top of the wardrobe. It was one of those canvas wardrobes that is open on one side. Grabbing onto the side of the wardrobe she tried to climb and couldn’t. She slipped off and took down half of the clothes that were hanging up with her. She was up and walking around the house the next day, very quickly getting used to the fact that she only had one front leg. When we took her to the vet a few days later for a check-up he gave us the biggest smile. This man is brusque and blunt, never rude, but he doesn’t really have the best manner with people. I’d never seen him smile until that day. He was so pleased with her progress telling us that he was worried she wouldn’t be able to cope. It is more common for the back legs of animals to be removed and harder to learn to deal with one less front leg. There Brandy was, hopping up on furniture and running around with almost as much speed as she had before. He thinks the fact that she was so young when it happened helped a lot. I think the fact she’s as stubborn as all heck helped even more.

She now walks with her right leg placed centrally under her body. I watch a lot of Bones and I wonder how her skeleton has adapted to it. For the most part she’s a perfectly normal cat. Occasionally we look outside as we hear a clatter and see her falling off the fence. She then looks around and glares at any onlookers as we giggle at the sight. As for her and the dog, about a month after her operation I saw her hop up to the dog as Tia lay on the floor. She tried to knead her as she had done before, but it obviously didn’t work and she kept over balancing. She decided to go with it, flopped down on her left side, cuddled up close to the dog and started kneading her as the dog looked a little annoyed. I called Mom and saw the relief on her face. It didn’t matter that she was perfectly healthy and happy, Mom was convinced that she wouldn’t be completely happy unless she could cuddle up to the dog.

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