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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ms. Johnson, part 1

No, Ms. Johnson is not dead, as you may have wondered from the title of this. In fact, she seems to be recovering from what the vet said this afternoon, was probably idiopathic vestibular syndrome, which basically means dizziness for an unknown reason. Last night, I heard a crash in the kitchen; she was either trying to get into or out of her litterbox, and crashed face first into the floor. I picked her up and she couldn't walk. She took two steps, leaned her head to the right, and her whole body followed her head over. I'd noticed that she'd been hiding out in her nest in the bedroom for a day or two and heard a couple of inexplicable crashing sounds, so it may have come on anytime in the last few days.

Since she couldn't stand up or walk, and she seemed out of it, I called and took her to the afterhours emergency clinic. She had a full blood work-up which showed that all of her levels were unremarkable. That vet, who was not "her" vet, said she seemed healthy for a 16-year-old cat. Her hearbeat and breathing were good, and she seemed fully hydrated. She thought that said vestibular syndrome was the best best, or it could be a cancer or a brain tumor. Ms. Johnson got a mild steroid shot, and came home.

Although she couldn't walk, she was able to get where she wanted to go by either walking a few steps, falling down, then getting up and walking again, or crawling/slithering. I gave her her favorite food, which is any kind of Fancy Feast with gravy (although she usually eats the gravy and leaves the meat chunks unless she gets really desperate. If anyone knows where I can get gravy alone, just let me know. I tried her on canned brown gravy and she just sniffed it good.). She perked, up, walked over to the food, and fell into the plate head first. After I picked it up from under her, she did stand up and eat all the gravy before walking away and lying down again. I tried to get her to drink some water, but she wasn't too interested. I guess water has the same gag reflex humans do for water when they're ill (and what is the evolutionary sense of that?).

Anyway, I took her into the "normal" vet today for a follow-up, and she seems to be recovering a little. If it is the vestibular syndrome, she should recover on her own at her own personal rate, anywhere from a few days to a week or two. If it's a brain tumor or something, there's nothing to be done, I guess. She could go in for x-rays or an MRI, but I don't see the point if there's no treatment. I'm just going to watch her til Friday and take her in for another fluids injection (she got one today; she seemed a little dehydrated this time) if she's not drinking well by then.

I'm not sure what the point of my reciting all this is, except that it does to connect to a lot of topics that are occupying or pre-occupying me these days. Life, death, attachment, old age, sickness, love, attachment, and attachment. Sickness and death in particular seemed to be surrounding me very recently, though the tide has ebbed for the most part. The major death that will ever occur in my life occurred three years ago, and although in one sense everything else that occurs will be anticlimax, I expect the presence of death to be more and more immanent (bad grammar; you fix it). Lately I've been telling my self that I don't want any more attachments, to anyone or anything. I'm hoping that all the people whom I love die before I do, because I'd rather feel the pain myself than see them go through it. Most of the people whose death will affect me severely are a lot older than I, with one exception, so most likely I'll get my wish. Certainly, with Ms. Johnson, the 16-year-old calico, that will almost certainly be the case. Although I know it will be most painful to me when she dies, I'd rather that than for me to die and her to be alone, for she is the most uniquely bonded cat I have ever seen, and she will never be anyone else's pet. I undertook an obligation over sixteen years ago to house and support her. I failed in that obligation for a while, just as I've failed other; and I sincerely hope that she will live a while longer, but that she dies as painlessly as possible before I can ever let her down again.

In 1990, I was an attorney beginning my seventh year of practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, almost four years into solo practice. I was renting my office from my benefactor, landlord, friend, and all-around strange guy Jim Ellis. About February, Jim walks in with a couple of fresh Route 66 street orphans, Ms. Johnson and her brother, barely-weaned kittens off Central Ave. (yeah, that's Route 66). Ms. Johnson was unconscionalby charming. I took her home without premeditation. The brother was taken home by Terri the secretary, but subsequently disposed off somehow due to his outlandish temperament. True to my temperament, I made the equally asocial Ms. Johnson a permanent part of my life.

They say children are created by the neuroses of their parents (or I say that, anyway). I didn't know how to handle relationships at the time, and I certainly created Ms. Johnson. I didn't and still don't like to have other people in my house very often. Ms. Johson grew up thinking nothing ever moved but her and me.

When Ms. Johnson was a little older, Paulette used to bring other kitties over to play. Ms. Johnson used to try to kill them all. When my dad came to visit, and tried to take the vacuum cleaner back up the stairs, Ms. Johnson backed him down. She weighed about five pounds and she was declawed, but you would have backed down too. She was and is incredibly fast and incredibly smart. Her other trick was to come down the stairs and attack people sitting in the one chair, from behind and above. I think she may have scratched an eyeball or two. I just laughed.

In early 1990, I was probably in the third year of an unmedicated manic phase that crash-landed when Ms. Johnson was about eight months old. I'm probably exaggerating; maybe not. I have never been diagnosed, just misdiagnosed, and if either ever happens again, it is not with my cooperation. Nevertheless, Ms. Johnson loved me, and nobody else. Never related to anyone else. Never has and never will.

In the spring of 1991, out of the mania phase and into another destructive phase entirely, I tried to mellow Ms. Johnson out and got her a friend. Thunder was a cute littel pastel calico from a healthy home. She was the runt of the litter and I named her to make her a little bolder. It didn't work. I was never quite sure if she was a little blind or a little stupid or both, but I loved her in an entirely different way. The roles couldn't have been any clearer. Ms. Johnson tried to get rid of Thunder too, but I protected her and let Ms. Johnson know -- and she did know -- that any harm to Thunder was unconscionable. I think Ms. Johnson was me, and Thunder was the other side of some abusive realtionship that never lasted that long in my life, or maybe it did. I don't want to know. I don't want to find out. No more relationships. No more danger to anyone.

Things blew up for me in Albuquerque in the middle of 1993. Gotta go. Gotta run. I ran back home to my mom's house in Manchester, TN, and the cats came with me, against her will, and were the mistreated stepchildren til my mother died in 2003. In 1993, I told my mother I was bringing Thunder and Ms. Johnson back to her house to live until I found a better place for them. Unknown to me, right before I arrived, she went to a pet shop or something and bought a poodle named Suzette, who never got called anything but Suzy. She never told me; she never told me. My mother called Paulette to ask her to ask me not to bring the cats.

All this became known to me a few weeks before I left Albuquerque to come to Tennessee. It was too late for me to do anything else. I could abandon a lot of things, but not the only two creatures that had been consistently loving to me for these years. I paid $100 apiece to fly the cats to Nashville in late August, 1993, and arrived the next week.

I have to finish this later. It's 2 a.m. and she's still not drinking her water. She doesn't seem to be in pain. She thinks she's just sick and will get better. Don't ask me how I know if you don't haven't had a pet for a long time. Right now, I don't know if she'll get better or not. Right now, I know she's been more consistently loving to me than any human being left alive. Despite the fact that I didn't treat her right for most of her life. This is not the way it should be. This is the way it is.

1 comment:

paulette said...

Miss Johnson never liked me but I admire her deep loyality to Bobby Dobby. She was deeply jealous of me and acted like no cat I have ever met. I hope she can make it a few more years because she's an amazing kitty with an obvious purpose in life. Love, Paulette