Thursday, April 5, 2007

A wooly week

Please god, no more animal-related traumas and stress this week.

Beginning this past Friday (OK, so it hasn't been quite a week yet), the Virago-Bullock household has been struck with one hairy trauma after another, the first and the worst involving dear Wiley. As a result I've now been to the emergency vet four times and really never want to go back there again (no offense to the wonderful people there).

On early Friday morning, while I was in the bathroom, I heard Wiley follow me, excited to be let out for his morning pee, and then all of a sudden I heard what sounded like him falling, and when I came out, I found the poor thing collapsed on the floor in his own pee, unable to rise steadily. I thought it was a bad case of an arthritis flare-up and gave Wiley a peanut-butter coated aspirin. But as the morning progressed, and as Bullock and I tried to coax him to his feet to work the kinks out, Wiley didn't seem to get any more confident or better. At best, he stumbled, legs spread wide, to get from room to room or across the large bedroom. He wouldn't even attempt the stairs, which meant we had an 85-pound dog trapped on the second floor of our home, who was having multiple bathroom accidents from fear and an inability to control himself any longer, but who couldn't make it down the stairs on his own, and also wouldn't consent to being lifted. For some reason Bullock and I persisted in thinking it was arthritis, so we took turns staying with Wiley while the other saw to work-related obligations. But by the afternoon, I realized It was something else when I noticed Wiley's eyebrow twitching rapidly and his eyes darting back and forth from something more involuntary than fear. We had to get him downstairs and to the emergency vet.

By that time Wiley was freaked out enough -- and perhaps desperate enough to go out and pee and poop where he knew he was supposed to -- that he let Bullock carry him down the stairs, while I held Wiley's head steady and kept him calm. As soon as we got him downstairs, he stumbled wildly towards the backdoor, and once out, he peed and pooped immediately, but also walked in circles and arcs. Clearly this was no arthritis. But the good news was Wiley's brain function was fine, because as soon as I said, "Wiley, wanna go on a car trip?" he staggered over to the car and jumped right in, tail wagging. Later, when things were calmer, Bullock and I laughed at this.

To make a long story short, it turned out Wiley had an ear infection that had caused a sudden onset of vertigo. Hence the inability to walk and the staggering in circles. He's been on antibiotics since Friday night, and now he's much better. He still lists to one side a little bit, and when he shakes his head or looks up, he loses his balance a bit, but he's eating, playing, going for walkies, and barking at other dogs, so things are pretty much back to normal. It took a day to convince him he could walk normally again, however, and at first he'd only do it on the leash. I don't know if he'll ever again come up here on the second floor, though.

The second trauma in this wooly almost-week was far less dire, but still not exactly what we needed. Wiley was still in the vet hospital (they kept him for 24 hours) and Bullock and I were eating breakfast, when all of sudden Bullock exclaimed, "Oh god, a mouse!" I turned around and there in our kitchen, perched on the edge of a drawer like he didn't have a care in the world, was a fat -- and rather cute -- brown mouse with a white belly. As cute as it was, however, it was in our utensil drawer! Ew! So traps were purchased, drawers cleaned out, items washed and disinfected, and the very next day there was a dead mouse in the same drawer where we'd first seen it. We got the old-fashioned snap traps and it seems to have done its duty breaking the little creature's neck and, we hope, ending its life quickly and humanely. I felt bad though, because it was pretty cute for a home invader.

But I felt much, much worse tonight on my last trip to the emergency vet. The first three were for Wiley -- Friday and Saturday nights, then a follow-up visit on Monday -- but tonight's trip was for another poor creature. Wiley and I were out in the back yard when suddenly Wiley started off on a run towards the front (a run! see -- he *is* getting better!). I called for him to Stop! and Stay! because he's not supposed to leave the backyard and I had no idea what trouble he was headed for. He's a very good dog and did as he was told and that's when I saw the most heart-wrenching sight I'd ever seen of an animal in distress. Moving across our driveway was a buff-colored cat dragging himself by his front paws. I took Wiley inside, got a spare towel we use for Wiley-related things, and went after the cat. When I approached him, he stopped and looked pathetically and weakly up at me and then put his head down on the ground. Picking him up and wrapping him in the towel was no trouble. He didn't cry, hiss, or fuss, and when I had him wrapped up and cradled in my arms, he seemed, in a word, grateful. I've never met a sweeter, more compliant cat.

I pretty much knew the outcome of this story the minute I saw the creature up close, and the vet confirmed it. The poor little thing, a grown male cat weighing only 6.4 pounds, had a broken pelvis, massive dehydration, the signs of long-term neglect, and possibly also one of the three fatal but common feline diseases. He was already near death; I just saved him from a slower one in tonight's snow and cold and gave him a little human contact, compassion, and affection in the end. Poor thing.

When we took Wiley to the vet on Friday night I was terrified that it was something life-threatening and that I'd have to make a decision for him and his mama. But Bullock, Wiley, and I were lucky that night. Instead, tonight, I had to make a decision for a poor stray who might have once belonged to someone, although he wasn't one of the neighborhood cats, all of whom I know well. Or maybe he was always a stray and just happened to be unafraid of humans. I just hope someone isn't out there looking for their lost pet.

9 comments:

Another Damned Medievalist said...

How sad. I'm so glad you took the cat to be put down, though. Poor thing.

medieval woman said...

Oh god - that's horrible! It is a good thing that you were there to pick the poor thing up and take him to a place where he could at least be treated kindly for his last little bit. It sounds like he'd been hit by a car (with the pelvis). But I'm also so glad Wiley is okay - and that he's quickly on the mend!

Here's hoping you don't have any more furry problems!!

squadratomagico said...

Poor li'l kitty! This made me very sad, but you did a good work by offering him some comfort in the end. This poor neglected thing deserved a little love, even if only for his last moments.

History Geek said...

I'm glad Wiley is alright. But that poor kitty. Poor thing he was probably abandoned.

What Now? said...

Oh, how awful. The poor, poor kitty. I'm glad that Wiley is doing okay now. Sounds like your entire household needs a few days of no adventures at all of any variety.

Bardiac said...

I'm glad you were there to help the cat, even if only by shortening its suffering. And I'm glad to hear Wiley only had an ear infection; while it must have been terrifying, we're lucky to have antibiotics and such.

Anniina said...

Oh my god (;_;)

I'm glad Wiley is okay.

Hey Dr. V., there's a cheap mouse trap that captures the mouse unharmed, and you can then release it on a field some distance away, without ever having to touch him. I caught 5 last year (my house backs into a field, so they like to visit). It's called "The Smart Mouse Trap"

Wishing that the rest of your year is animal trauma free.

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks everyone for confirming that I did the right thing with the kitty. I was feeling a little guilty that I didn't invest the time, money, and hope in trying to bring him back from the brink and giving him a home. The vet didn't seem too optimistic, but then I wondered later if she would have offered more positive options if this had been my own cat and not a stray.

As for the mouse, I'm still feeling guilty. Annina -- I thought about cruelty free traps, but Bullock pointed out that setting him free in the wooded parks around here would probably end up with him being eating by a hawk, especially since he wouldn't already have a nest to run to. And giving him to a pet store would mean he'd get fed to the snakes. So in the end I decided the snap trap death was the quickest. It did get him right on the neck and it looked like he died in mid-nibble, so I'm pretty sure it was quick.

As for Wiley, he's doing better, but not totally himself yet. There's still the list and our walkies are shorter than in the past. And he doesn't bark as much, which is something we weirdly miss, if only because we know it's a sign he's not totally himself. But hopefuly we'll get him back to full health before we give him back to the Pastry Pirate at the end of the month. We're sure going to miss him.

The Pastry Pirate said...

That poor cat. Reading about it broke my heart. But from what you said was wrong with him, I think you made the right decision (even if they could have saved him, the broken pelvis probably had started to heal, and "fixing" that, or letting him live crippled, would have been painful for him as well.)

I am, of course, glad I was incommunicado, out hiking, and didn't get the real-time play-by-play of Wiley's crisis because you know me, I would have quit my externship just three weeks shy of completion to get on a plane and hold his paw through it all.

Thank you, thank you, thank you again for being there for him. I know you did everything you could logistically, but I also know you offered him every bit of emotional support, which makes me happy.

Re: not noticing he was developing an ear infection, don't think twice about it. He was walking around with an exposed tooth root for months, chewing aluminum cans, for crissakes, before the vet noticed and said he must have been in terrible pain.

But what I really want to say is: living in the woods of downstate NY, I had a similar problem with mice. I was using one of those humane traps and releasing them into the woods some ways from my apartment, though that was highly unsuccessful. Recidivism was so high that I named the repeat offenders: Pretty Boy, a lovely brindle, Fat Boy, a freakishly large one who would actually get stuck in the trap, and Stumpy, who had chewed off or lost half his tail at some point.

With my NY apartment vacant now while I'm in Las Vegas, I shudder to think about the colony they've established (I don't trust my landlord, who is "looking out" for the place while I'm away, to even notice), but when I move back later this month, I plan on investing in the snap n crack traps. I think the humane ones have their own cruelty: the mice would be in them for hours while I was asleep or at school, and when I opened the trap to "liberate" them, they would be covered in their own pee and poop. I think Stumpy may have chewed off his own tail from the stress of being held captive.

Oh, and I'm sure you've already noticed this, but Wiley is useless when it comes to catching mice. Pretty Boy once actually ran over his paw, on the way from under the fridge to into the utility closet, as Mr. Barky napped on the kitchen floor.