Whisker Kisses and Secret Keepers
May 29, 2020
My sweet guy, the giver of whisker kisses and the keeper of secrets. My sweet guy.
A very long time ago, probably before my mother left for Ohio, my first husband was incensed, lived, outraged, would NOT shut up about it, mad about something my mother said.
I wasn't mad about it. I was heartbroken. I got over it eventually and eventually I emphasized completely because I felt and still feel to some extent, exactly the same way.
My poor mother said something, probably in a fit of despair that may have sounded very much like anger (despair tends to mouse-hole; enough hurt already). Paraphrased:
'I'd rather spend time with my animals than my children; they don't talk back.'
In retrospect, Joe's emotional response explains a lot of the years to come. Joe needs to be angry with someone and it's best that it's someone outside his immediate family which is where those hot embers of pain and rage ate him from the inside out.
Explains a lot about Lucia as well.
This cat was born in March, 2009. We brought him home that July. He belonged to Elizabeth. She claimed and renamed him immediately. He was kept apart from the other cats and kittens because he was the Tasmanian Devil in a kitten suit. He hung by his paws from the top of a large dog's crate. He was called Moulin. Thibault Moulin's football career didn't truly launch until 2011 but in 2009, at age 19, he was just about to catch on fire. The name was a good call.
Elizabeth chose a lovely little calico for Lucia and we left the Westport Humane Society with two cats in a cardboard box. A year later, Lucia had abandoned the nearly feral cat she called Ellie and appropriated the cat called Martin. Quite honestly, after having shut him in her dresser drawer for the day so she would know where he was when she got home from school, Elizabeth was not ready to be the mother of a cat.
At night I slept on my right side with that kitten in my arms, spooned up against my heart and to this day, except maybe just this moment, he has done just about anything he can to convince me that I really do want to sleep that way. I do not. It's too damn hot and he helps himself to my water glass far too often.
At the start of her senior year at Southern, Lucia moved in with the man she married in 2018 where she acquired more cats and a hedgehog and eventually two ferrets. A wall slammed down with enough force to trap the witch but leave Dorothy and Toto in one piece. Dorothy never went home again, I don't believe there was ever a Toto, and Martin returned to Elizabeth.
I don't know exactly when Marty became Kilmouski but it stuck and eventually he was just Mouse.
He scared the crap out of a 170 pound St. Bernard, climbed the chicken fence the first day we let him out, and without a second thought, appropriated whatever he thought might be actually be his.
He was scrappy. While most small animals, including cats, were coyote and fox snacks, this guy came home with battle wounds. He didn't really slow down until we moved to Chappaqua which is when both he and Ellie inexplicably started barfing their food up on a regular basis. Ellie left home after yowling at the windows and pushing at the screens to get out. One day in the spring I opened the side door and out she went. I thought maybe she'd come home but I wasn't counting on it. I wasn't going to keep the windows closed through the summer and I wasn't willing to have her take a screen out. I'm not going to hold a cat hostage. She did not return.
In the fall I opened the front door and Mouse cautiously stepped outside. Eventually he crossed the property line and I let the door close, crossed my fingers, and cried when my daughter couldn't see.
He was gone for the night but on the front steps in the morning. In Weston he was gone for five nights, immediately following Lucia's departure for Europe. I had a great deal of faith in that cat. In Chappaqua it didn't make sense that he'd be out more than one night. There is no forest. Eventually I realized he was having trouble finding his way home. There were many nights that I stood on the steps or in the driveway whispering, Marty, Marty, Marty, pssst, pssst, pssst, until I heard the jingling of his collar bling followed by a plaintive, and quite honestly pathetic mmmmrrrroooowwww.
Yesterday, Elizabeth and I were filling boxes and distracted and when he walked in the open side door and Mmmmmrrrroooowed to no one in particular, I called out, Mouse! I know perfectly well you have food and water, so what is it?
I stopped on the second or third set of mmmmmrrrrroooooowwwws because it sounded wrong. That wasn't the sound of my cat asking for something or just bitching in general. Distress is clearly distress. I found him lying on his side in the Harry Potter room, mouth open, chest heaving, and I called to Elizabeth.
I thought we were going to lose him right then. I was sure we were going to lose him when I moved my hand from his chest to his neck and shoulders and I heard the saddest purring in the world.
A cat's purr is not all about us. We like to think so, but it isn't. A cat's purr is a self-soothing device, an act which releases calming kitty hormones and relaxes the body, sometimes relieving pain, often times the equivalent of a kitty binky. That sound last night was the strangled purr of cat weeping and he kept it up for quite a while. I sent a message to the kids with this photograph, believing death was imminent.
A few minutes later he stood up, walked three feet to his food bowl and had himself a snack.
Mouse has dropped ten of his twenty + pounds in the last six months. He is always hungry, most times he cannot keep anything down. We meter his food during the day so that he cannot gorge himself. That helps a bit.
Now you are wondering why this cat has not seen a vet.
You can think about that for a bit. Some of you may already know why this cat has not seen a vet. Some of you will know and be horrified. You will see no justification.
I know. I know you can't and I thought about this a good bit last night, trying to figure out what had happened in this country (I cannot speak to anything outside our borders) to put an animal on the same level as a child and in some cases, above person status.
Do you know, and maybe you do, that dog and cat dialysis is $15k out of the gate? That's the first couple of treatments, three or four the maintenance treatments to be sure they've got it right and the hospital care during that first phase. If your animal is eligible for a transplant...
Stop right there.
ELIGIBLE FOR A TRANSPLANT?! WHAT?!!!
In 2010, when I really did NOT have any money and our budget was divided into cash envelopes each month, when our primary staple was bread and rice and beans, coming from the stockpile of flour, rice, and dried beans, my daughter called me at work. Choking through her tears she told me about a giant hole in Marty's tail.
Mommmmm!!!! It's enormous! I have to take him to the vet.
It's going to fall off!
At the base of his tail.
Fuck. OK, go then. If it's got to be amputated I don't want him to die of it.
When I got home I found a cat with a smallish hold through his tail which had a rubber ring threaded through to keep the would open enough to drain and scar tissue to form around the damage.
$700. I wanted to kill her.
Lucia. Next time he dies. Am I clear? This is an animal. Yes, we love him very much but he is an animal.
When Homer was poisoned with no shot at recovery aside from a process that began at $8,000, I paid the $400 to have him put down at the animal hospital.
I was shamed all the way out the door. I had already been very clear that the $400 was going to make feeding my kids a bit tight. Not relevant.
Can you hear this? Do you feel the same?
Here we go. In the age of the Peta wars where Border Collies are stolen in the night, right off the farm while running the fence line to keep the livestock safe, when animals are best kept inside and you will not be permitted to rescue an animal if if the rescue people don't like your vet or you admit to letting your cats out of the house, in the time when we will do nearly anything to extend the life of a pet, in this time we have become literally, not figuratively, literally delusional.
Last night after having been shamed by my older daughter for not taking him to the vet, this same child who requested $1,000 to save a cat which may or may not have consumed a few pills that would probably kill her (and I GAVE HER THAT MONEY BECAUSE I AM AN IDIOT AND A VERY BAD PARENT), this child was aghast that I'd just let him die this way.
Elizabeth told me, Mom, what are we going to do, stick a knife in his neck? I don't think I can.
Oh my fucking god, what is wrong with all of you?
Elizabeth, I get it, sweetie. You think it has to be done and by us. No, it does not.
People are kept on life support for years because as a society we will not let them die. While suicide is technically legal, it isn't really. In the sixties it was considered more or less standard operating procedure for the local doc to hand over the required medication to just be done with it.
No one and no thing is permitted to just die. We need a reason, we need a treatment, we need to make it stop.
Listen, at least one of my three children would happily ignore any actions or words on my part that might suggest imminent suicide. This child who is a nurse on a psychiatric unit and aghast that my cat my lie prone on the cool tile with my hand on his back. I can't really reconcile it.
When my dad found out that David walked out the night of the day my dad and S left for Vermont, he, my dad was astonished.
How hard would it have been to have told us so we could have stayed with you?
How hard would it have been for Lucia to make a phone call the day I told her I was not safe?
I got myself safe, but I've never been able to reconcile.
Have you worked out that this post is about death, not just about the cat?
Fear. Last night I thought entitlement and that is part of it, but this morning I think, fear.
I am not afraid, not so much as all that. I am afraid of other things, but not so much as all that. I have just enough money to get through the month of June and all the way to July 15 which is when my first invoice will cough up however much I've managed to bill in the month of June which is dependent on a supply chain issue. This is almost enough to make me laugh. Almost.
Otis Elevator has separated from United Technologies as has Carrier. United Technologies has merged with Raytheon to become the publicly traded entity called Raytheon. Otis and Carrier are in the process of a massively painful separation. Both have become, are becoming, private entities. On or about April 15 I signed something called a Letter of Agreement with the recruiting/resource company that has placed me at Otis to take on a significant chunk of the technical project management. The start date on that letter is May 4.
The chaos at Otis caused a delay, one week, two weeks, and then a major layoff. Everything fell to the floor except the consulting dollars. They have not lost that. What they have lost is the infrastructure to put a Master Services Agreement and a Statement of Work through the proper channels. We had them in place but they were signed too fast and the process started over again.
Last week I got the background check green light. Last week I had a Drug Screen form for Mt. Kisco Quest. Mt. Kisco has been shut down. Eventually I crossed the state line and found one open in Danbury, CT. Tiff, who is the operations director at the resource company agreed when I told her this was going to cause a problem. Tiff is a terrier. When her teeth are sunk into something, she doesn't let go until she's got it.
Tiff can't get it.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a company in Florida. I'm really glad I picked it up. A woman verified my identification, said a doctor would be on the line to discuss my test results, and I was promptly put on hold for a bit more than five minutes.
He is old and he is truly from the South which made it difficult to understand why he was yelling at me, or what he was yelling. That part in itself was surreal. Eventually I got this:
SO WHAT KIND OF AMPHETAMINE IS IN YOUR SYSTEM?!!! I'M BETTING METHAMPHETAMINE, AM I RIGHT?!!!
What? Excuse me?
AMPHETAMINE!!! JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU'RE ON AND WE'LL GET THIS OVER WITH. IS IT METH?!!!
Oh! No! It is NOT meth! It is Amphetamine salts!
It is Amphetamine salts. You know, Adderol?
Oh! Do you happen to have a prescription number for that?
Of course I do.
What is it?!
Well, it's not at my desk so we'll just go upstairs and get it.
When I had my hands on the bottle I got another top of the lungs lecture:
IF YOU EVER DROP ONE OF THOSE PILLS ON THE FLOOR DON'T YOU EVER TRY TO REPLACE IT WITH A STREET DRUG!
That went on for a while. When he took a breath I informed him that I was too old for that sort of thing.
Oh. You don't sound old.
Well, thank you.
It took nearly five minutes to get him to repeat back the correct numbers for the script and the pharmacy number.
Later I called the original incoming number and got an original person and explained that I needed my lab results exactly as they were because the client had agreed that the lab results plus the script and phone number and validation by the recruiting firm would be enough.
I was told no. Legally they could not turn over the results.
But they're mine! No. They're not.
I went to the Quest site. Nothing.
So this is what we're waiting on. My labs should have been in and I should have received that phone call by Monday at the very latest.
We are discussing just doing it again but are afraid it will be one more week. Today we'll make another decision.
We had the same problem with the education check. Because there was no place on the electronic form to add a note, there was no way for me to tell them that Fairfield University would not have kept records for an un-matriculated student for thirty years. Tiff is not worried about that. They can't get to a person at the school because the school is CLOSED. That one was chalked up to COVID-19 and checked off as permissible.
I remember telling Chris that I had to bill at least one week in the month of May so that I could invoice something for a June 15 deposit. They're offering to pay my my standard hourly rate if I have to get bloodwork done again. I couldn't imagine why they would do that except it would put money in my pocket in June.
I'm still not scared, at least not between the panic attacks which have a lot more to do with getting the hell out of here.
I have a plan. Elizabeth and I have a plan. We have pooled our hoarded cash, looked at the credit card balance and the bank balance and done the math. We can get to July 15.
We have a good supply of flour, rice, and dried beans. We aren't going to go hungry any time soon.
But Kilmouski? I think he'd be in the same spot regardless. Given what I know, I'm going to go out on a limb and say congestive heart failure. I've switched him over to our supply of wet food because I watched him struggling to breathe eating the dry food. That he is very, very hungry is a good sign. If we can get him through this, put a bit of weight on him, he might make it a bit longer. He may also have been poisoned. I can see it happening but there isn't much I can do about it. It is not rat poison. His throat would have closed by now.
While last night wasn't the first night without him, it was the first night I believed he'd never be back. This is who I found this morning. He is tolerating Elizabeth's lap right now because he wants to be touched but mostly he is flat on his belly with his tail sticking out.
He clearly does not want to crawl in a hole and vanish, and he is clearly suffering.
And we move forward.