Sunday, October 9, 2011

Remembering Oliver

We lost our cat, Oliver, to cancer early Saturday morning. I don't usually make a big point of blogging about our pets. And you'd be pretty annoyed if I blogged about every guppy or goldfish we'd killed. But the cats are different. Both of our cats had been members of our family since Smunch was just six months old. So, they're his contemporaries, in a way. As much as the kids have taken over my life, it still hard to believe how difficult it is to lose a pet.

When we got them as kittens, Oliver was the little one. He was quickly nicknamed "Smalliver". He was such an adorable little kitty.He had a neat little patterned nose...part tabby, just like his coat. And on one of his first nights with us, he declared his love for Scott by crawling up on his shoulder and falling asleep.To some extent, he was Scott's cat from that moment on. But as Smunch got older, he also became Smunch's cat. I guess sometime more recently, he became Mam's cat too.He had a magnificently expressive, long tail that always waved around to greet us. And he was the cat who was always on my office chair or in my face while I tried to work. His claws have pulled loops out of the thighs of many pairs of pants. He talked a lot, but was very sweet. He also liked to run from window to window when he spotted another cat roaming the backyard. And although he was always an indoor cat, he took every possible opportunity to slip out an open door, sometimes not turning up again until morning.

We'd sometimes find him in unlikely places...on top of the armoire, on top of the kitchen cabinets, upside-down and stuck down behind the furnace. He was a great jumper...most of the time.

And he was the only cat I've ever known who was obsessed with access to the sock drawer. He managed to figure out how to open at least two of them, as the claw marks on Scott's dresser drawer will attest. He would open the drawers while we weren't around, so that there were often clean socks strewn about the house. At his most lovable, he would saunter into the family room in the evening, while we sat on the sofa, and deposit a sock at our feet. He was so proud to be able to deliver us his kill for the evening. And it was so, so funny.

He loved to hang out on the back of the sofa in the evening (or any other time, really) when we watched TV, too.Back in April, he was vomiting a lot and we took him to the vet. They ran some tests that looked like he might have lymphoma. But we changed his diet and his follow-up bloodwork, just two months ago, looked normal...or so they said. And although he lost some weight (which was a good thing, I thought), he seemed fine.

When Oliver stopped eating on Wednesday night, I didn't think much of it, but by Thursday night he still wasn't eating and he was getting lethargic. I took him to the vet first thing on Friday. Smunch was really nervous about it and asked a million questions as we walked to school.

Oliver was at the vet all day being poked and prodded, running up an astronomical bill. Each call from the vet sounded more dire...his white blood cells were through the roof, his bilirubin was high, it looked like he also had leukemia. But the vet was also very positive about the treatment options for lymphoma. I was secretly skeptical. We were looking at months of chemotherapy to extend his life for...months.

Scott was out of town. I asked plenty of questions, but under the pressure of losing our cat, I approved everything the vet suggested. When I picked Smunch up at school, the first words out of his mouth were, "How's the kitty?" I told him the truth...that Oliver was very sick and we'd need to make some really difficult decisions about him. And that he was going to die. It was awful.

The vet gave Oliver steroids, a first dose of chemo and some anti-nausea medication before I picked him up around 6 p.m. I brought him home. He stumbled out of the carrier and laid down on the floor. He still refused to eat. He drank a little water and laid back down on the kitchen floor.

By the time Scott arrived home around 9:30, he was sleeping in the laundry basket in our closet. And he looked bad. The night was miserable, Oliver was more lethargic, he cried in pain every half hour or so. I sobbed while he suffered. And by the time I realized he'd been quiet for a couple of hours, I already knew he had died in the night. At least he didn't have to suffer anymore.

I'm grateful that we were spared difficult decisions about chemotherapy and euthanasia, but it was such a hard, hard night and a harder day, watching my sweet little boy absorb the news that his favorite cat was gone. He was so sad and it made it so much more difficult.

So, now we are a one cat family. Although Skimble sniffed at Oliver's lifeless body before it was taken back to the vet, he appeared to search for him for the rest of the day...looking as though he expected to be pounced on every time he turned a corner. Since then, however, I think maybe he's realized that this means he's the only cat to bestow attention upon and that he's getting a LOT of it from his sad family members. I'm pretty sure he's going to embrace this new role with gusto.Rest in peace, Oliver. You were well loved and will be dearly missed.

Girls Getaway

I can't say that I'd ever spent a weekend away with just my girlfriends...not since high school anyway. But a couple of my high school buddies decided that since we're all turning 40 this year, we should celebrate by getting away from our families for a while and hanging out together somewhere...anywhere, really.

After much deliberation, we decided to take the cheaper option of staying at my friend K's father's house in Sausalito...and just for one night. When there are seven of you and there are nine young children under the age of 10 among you, it's hard to schedule anything where you can all make it for more than a single night. But you take what you can get.

I took off right after Mam's soccer game. It's easy to get to Sausalito from here, but it turned out the house was a little harder to locate. And no big surprise with a view like this:We hung out for the rest of the afternoon, then went out for a fun dinner on the water.And although we're no great partiers, we were still up 'til 2 a.m. yakking about one thing or another. When you've known each other as long as we have, it doesn't seem to matter much that we don't get to see each other all that often or that we've all taken different paths in life. There's always something to talk about.

We had a mellow morning around the house...before taking a nice walk down many, many stairs into town for brunch.

We'd prepared for a foggy, chilly time, but the weather couldn't have been more beautiful and the walk back up the hill was actually kinda hot!The whole trip was far too short. Fortunately, there were more birthdays and birthday parties to come. It's been a great year for getting together! We're hoping maybe we can make this an annual thing...Who wouldn't hope?

Blue Angels

Around these parts, when someone mentions the Blue Angels, most people think of the performing team of fighter jets operated by the U.S. Navy. These aren't those Blue Angels.But they don't look like anything you'd want to mess with either, do they?

Mam had a fairly lackluster soccer season last year. Somehow, the fiestiness she showed during her first year of playing soccer had worn off. This year? It's back.She's right in there, taking the ball up the field and taking shots on goal when she gets them. It's a lot more fun to watch this way.

Truthfully, her team is struggling a little. They're a great team with a lot of girls who have Mam's spunk, but each Saturday, they seem to lose by a single goal. Last weekend, that goal (the only goal of the game) was scored during Mam's tenure at goalie. Fortunately, that wasn't the case this weekend...although they lost 1-0 again.

They'll win one of these Saturdays, I'm sure.Mam certainly isn't giving up. She's just refueling.

September Garden

I know. It's not even September anymore.

After lamenting that things grew so very slowly this cold year, my garden did finally grant me some yummy fruits and veggies. And, as usual, I couldn't help but photograph them. Why not, right?

Our little apple tree did well in its inaugural year of fruit bearing and produced four different kinds of small, but delicious apples.And after the pear tree was raided by squirrels last year, it had a pretty good crop this year, thanks to some bird netting. The pears are always fantastic. The tree now as some sort of blister mite infection that I can't seem to et rid of, so the pears turned out bumpy and mutant-looking, but they tasted great anyway.And although my tomatoes clearly don't thrive in whatever kind of soil we've got (I'm thinking it's probably infected with something that tomatoes can't handle and I need to stop planting for several years or find some seriously disease-resistant plants) we still got at least a few tomatoes off each of the plants.There were a few dinners worth of beans and three or four cucumbers as well.

And here it is October. There are just a few apples left out there and summer is already feeling like a distant memory. Guess I'll look forward to some lemons and grapefruit!