Last fall sometime I brought Blur to the vet because she had a runny nose and she was sneezing. You know how sometimes something just overtakes you and you sneeze multiple times in rapid succession? That's the sort of sneezing she was doing. She's pretty much never been ill in her life, so this was an unusual occurrance. I figured maybe she caught some germ the kittens brought into the house with them and it had taken this long to manifest.
I saw a different vet – our usual Dr. C was off that day – a Dr. H. He pointed out that the discharge was only one one side (mucus only coming from one nostril) and that could mean something more than just a cold, especially in older cats. He ran his fingers gently along the front and sides of her face – a forwardness she did NOT appreciate at all – and looked in her mouth. No abnormalities, which was good. He prescribed an antibiotic and sent us home. If the discharge didn't clear up, we'd maybe have to come back and have her head x-rayed or something. You know, in case there was a tumor. Great.
Fortunately the discharge cleared up by the time the round of antibiotics was completed, and that was that.
Until, of course, recently.
She's been sneezing again. And she's been sounding kind of snuffly. Congested. It's especially pleasant when she sneezes on our heads in the middle of the night. So not only have I had small children who don't think to RUN to get a tissue until AFTER the grossness is running down their faces post-sneeze, now I have a cat who sneezes grossness on our heads while we slumber.
I didn't bring her to the vet at the first sneeze – or the second. I didn't want to, truthfully. I was hoping it would just subside. My kids had been sick – heck, we've ALL been sick – and I was hoping – irrationally, perhaps – that with the warmer weather (HA!) and windows open and fresh air flowing throughout the house, all those ucky germs from the past couple of months would just BE GONE and we'd all be breathing clearly through two nostrils and not sneezing all over each other any more.
Well, that "not sneezing" part hasn't happened yet for Blur. Oh, yeah, and the discharge is just coming out of one nostril again.
Yesterday morning I noticed that there was a tiny bit of blood on her fur right next to that runny left nostril. Not a lot – just kind of a little smear. I called the vet as soon as they opened and got an appointment for that afternoon.
Then I spent the day thinking the worst. And looking up feline medical symptoms on the internet. Because that's how I roll.
I thought about…well, about how old she is. She's eighteen now. I've had her eighteen years, almost exactly. She's had a very good life….on and on…that kind of thinking. And to make it worse, she stayed next to me on the loveseat while I attempted to write up my Tuesdays with Dorie post. I tend to read WAAAAAAAAAY too much into things like that, so in my mind, she was acknowledging that yes, it had been a long and good life, and she was content, despite her yucky nose. She curled up in such a small and lightweight little ball beside my legs.
Of course, the fact that she does this ANY time I'm sitting on the loveseat, typing on my laptop, meant nothing. I was busy looking for signs.
The other thing I thought about was the great WHAT IF possibility. What if I had to make some sort of final decision TODAY? I knew, if it was a question of her being in pain, or having a greatly diminished quality of life, I could do whatever was best for her. Words like "dignity" and "peace" and the like were whispering in my mind. I've had to make the decision before, and it's horrible. Horrible.
Worse, though, was my worry that I'd have to go through that IN FRONT OF THE KIDS.
Bill wasn't going to be home til after we'd left for the vet, so I couldn't leave the kids with him. I thought about calling up my friend across the street and explaining the situation and asking her to watch the kids for the half hour or so til Bill got home, but that didn't pan out. And besides, when they heard I was bringing Blur to the vet's, they wanted to come.
So, for better or for worse, the kids came along.
I was already gearing up mentally for worse. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing to do, but habits are hard to break and I've had this habit for a long, long time. I suppose it's a control thing. If I imagine all the ways something could turn out, and gear up for the very worst of them, then I will be able to handle whatever comes my way without embarrassing myself. It's a lovely theory, isn't it?
I told the kids that they would need to be VERY GOOD while we were at the vet. It wasn't the zoo – they needed to just SIT DOWN and WAIT PATIENTLY until it was our turn to go into one of the exam rooms.
Yeah, that worked. Well, it worked with Alex. Julia? Not so much. We walked into the office and right in front of us in the waiting area was a man with a dog on a leash. The dog looked kind of like a beagle, but bigger and longer, and more like the size of a bassett hound, only without the bassett face. The man was apparently waiting for something or someone. I turned the cat carrier so that Blur wouldn't see the dog and freak out, and so that the dog wouldn't see Blur and freak out. I sat on one of the benches and told the kids to sit with me.
Remember my daughter, Julia? Yeah. She obediently sat, hands folded in her lap, and waited quietly until our appointment. Hahahahahaha! No, she ran some kind of fake-out play, meandering over to the two fish tanks across from us but then crossing quickly and purposefully to the man with the dog. "May I pet your dog?" she asked first, and when he said yes, that was it. She wasn't sitting on any bench anywhere any time soon. She was busy.
And okay, fine. No harm in that. I need to relax about her sometimes. She wasn't doing any harm, she wasn't causing any sort of disruption, she was just saying hi. She and the dog became buddies, and then a few minutes later ANOTHER dog came out, dragging our vet along for the ride. The two dogs were almost identical. Julia was overjoyed. "Ohh!!!!" she chortled, "you've got TWINS???" The man chuckled and said they weren't even brothers, but yes, they do look a lot alike. Then he turned to discuss dog #2's condition (or lack thereof, from what I could hear) while Julia introduced herself to the other dog.
And then we were summoned into room number three. Come on kids, time for fun.
OH – I forgot this part. (It's twenty past three in the morning – I don't know why I'm awake, but I am, or at least I was. I seem to be a third asleep now.) On the ride to the vet I casually but pointedly reminded the kids that Blur was pretty old and so MAYBE and HOPEFULLY this was just a cold, but we needed to bring her to the vet to find out for sure.
And Alex said "I hope she doesn't have leukemia!"
Yikes. He's very aware of this now because of the Pasta for Pennies fundraiser at his school earlier this month.
Julia asked what leukemia was, and Alex sort of explained to her what it was, mainly by listing symptoms…you get a lot of bruises…your bones break easily…you're tired. And he also told her that "when you take the medicine for this sickness, it makes your hair fall out."
We all agreed we hoped Blur didn't have leukemia.
So back to the vet's.
First in was the tech, a nice girl who may be relatively new there, as I haven't seen her before. She was a loud talker, a trait she'd probably developed to be heard over barking and yowling dogs.
I told the kids to SIT in the two chairs while I put the cat carrier on the exam table and opened the little door. Loud-talker-tech peeked in and oohed at Blur and was incredulous when I confirmed that Blur was eighteen. "She doesn't look eighteen! She doesn't have an old lady face!" Nope, just a bloody, drippy nose.
We got Blur out of the carrier, and the first order of business was to check all her vitals. Starting with her temperature. Out cane the little jar of vaseline, the thermometer, and, as I held Blur and Loud-talker-tech did the deed, out came the sound of my kids' horrified voices. "EEEEW!!!"
And then Alex: "You put that RIGHT IN HER BUTTOCKS!!"
Loud-talker-tech and I both attempted to hold our breath and then gave up and burst out laughing. Yep, that's where she put it. Right in Blur's buttocks. Thanks, Forrest.
The kids kept up a commentary through the rest of that preliminary exam. They didn't stay in their seats, either (the thermometer incident pulled them to their feet pretty fast), and Julia in particular was all over the place, first on one side of the exam table, then on the other ("what's THAT?" it's vaseline. "can I smell it?" um NO.), while I tried to have a conversation without actually saying THE MAIN WORDS of the topic. Loud-talker-tech and I managed just fine, with nods and eye contact and words that danced on the outskirts of unpleasant paragraphs. She knew I knew what MIGHT be happening.
She left to go get Dr. C., and while I had the chance I directed the kids back to their seats and asked them to please SHHHHHH when I was talking to the vet.
A few moments later Dr. C came in and we had another of those conversations without having a conversation, and she checked Blur out…listening to her heart and her breathing…running her fingers over Blur's face to feel for any lumps or bumps that hadn't been there before…checking her teeth and inside her mouth, too, for those bad lumps or bumps. Nothing. So maybe there's something else in Blur's nasal passage that is getting irritated and infected and causing the drainage. Hard to tell. For now, we agreed on antibiotics (a two week dose) to see where that got us. And then, after that, we'd play it by ear.
Blur happily went back into her carrier and pretty soon we were on our way home.
It's kind of funny – once we were home, Blur became a little more active than she usually is. She ate some food…wandered around the kitchen sniffing things…explored the dining room…ate a bit more…maybe she was just glad to be home. Maybe she was energized by her little adventure, such as it was.
Maybe she thought that by appearing extra perky she could avoid another incidence of that greasy thermometer in her buttocks.
Let's hope so.