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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ms. Johnson, part 2

As some of you have doubtless noticed, my blogging has slowed down again. I just haven't been inspired lately. But I got a lot of feedback in my email about Ms. Johnson and her recent problems, and on reviewing where I left her story, I realized that the surprising number of people who seemed concerned about her were left hanging, with her health in doubt.

So don't worry, for now, Ms. Johnson is eating and drinking and using her litterbox just fine, and walking around the best she can. As I left it last, the vet thought she had idiopathic vestibular syndrome; I still think she had a stroke. She can get around the house just fine, though she's learned she can't depend on her hindquarters to get her up onto the furniture dependably any more. She has less energy than she used to and sleeps more, but she doesn't seem to be in pain. In short, she's old. According to some web site (, she's 84. So I imagine she'll get by as she is until some other event takes place. So thanks to all of you for your sympathy, but be assured: Ms. Johnson is dying, but no more so than we all are.

So I believe I paused her life story at the point at which she and Thunder were flown to Nashville from Albuquerque in 1993. At that point, Ms. Johnson was about 3 1/2 years old, Thunder was about 2. This was in late August, and I had to pay extra to fly the cats because it was too hot to let them sit on the ground, especially since they had a changeover (in Texas, I bellieve). My plan was to have my mother, who was 71, pick them up at the airport in Nashville and take them to her house in Manchester, where I would join them all as soon as I wound up some things in Albuquerque. Before the airline would take them, the cats had to go to the vet to have their shots caught up and be certified healthy for the trip. I also asked the vet for some kitty downers to sedate the cats during the flight.

Have you ever tried to get a cat to take a pill? They don't even have the minimal cooperation that dogs do. In the course of trying to get Thunder to take a pill, she clawed the hell out of me, so I decided both cats would have to fly unmedicated. They arrived in Nashville kicking and having screamed themselves hoarse, to be picked up by someone they barely know and taken to a house to live with a spoiled poodle puppy for a week before I arrived. Needless to say, in the months they spent in the house in Manchester, they did not adapt well to their environment. Thunder in particular became so neurotic that she basically licked all the hair off her body. The cats didn't like Suzy the poodle, so my mother didn't like the cats. Chaos.

When I finally got moved to Nashville in the spring of 1995, I was in a very small apartment with no place for the cats, so they had to stay in Manchester. To defuse the inferno in the house, my aunt covered up an old beagle pen at my mother's house and adapted it for the cats to live in. Bear in mind these were inside cats, declayed and spayed, who had really never been outside. But outside they went, into two renovated doghouses, later adapted with light bulbs for heat in the winter. Their health improved dramatically in the poodle-free environment. Thunder got her hair back and they both seemed much happier, confronted with the wonders of nature for the first time.

And here's where my neglect of Ms. Johnson comes in. I mean, she was always fed well, but never wanted anyone but me to pet her (Thunder basically ran from everyone). So I never made it a priority to move the cats to Nashville; my apartments were too small, or shared, or too chaotic for me to bring them into it. My excuse to myself at the time was that they were happier and better off where they were. When I'd visit my mother's, I'd always go out to see them, but rarely went into the pen except to feed them (it was a very low-roofed pen), and when I did, neither cat really came out to be petted. So by the time my mother died in 2003, and I sold the property and the cats had to be moved, I figured they barely remembered me and no longer thought of me as their owner. By the time I finally got myself resettled into Nashville in February, 2004, and was ready to bring them to live with me, they had been forcibly evacuated from their pen (when the house was sold in November, '03) and taken to live in a well house at my dad's place, with no real protection (at my mother's they had the pen, and although the gate was usually left slightly open but locked, they had the protection of the small opening and then the doghouses).

Tragically, in the weeks when I was preparing the move, Thunder disappeared. She never could stop exploring; Ms. Johnson had gotten conservative and stayed under cover. Probably something took her and killed her. Thunder was always a little dense or couldn't see well, I never knew which, and she was declawed and defenseless. So my negligence really led directly to this death. My dad didn't know anything about cats and didn't care about them. Purely and simply, I neglected this obligation I had assumed. Between all the inevitable guilt feelings about my mother's death, and then the death of this cat, my position about assumed responsibilities has changed. Although people and animals will continue to die "on my shift," inevitably, they will never be neglected again.

So in late February, 2004, Ms. Johnson moved into the duplex in Nashville where she lives with me today. She gets just what she wants to eat and will get all the medical care she needs. Regretably, the one thing she can no longer do since her medical event of last month is get up into the recliner with me where she always came to be petted while I watch DVD's. If I help her, she just jumps down. She's just like that. Her favorite food in any brand of Fancy Feast with gravy, although she just licks the gravy out and leaves the meat. I don't mind, even though hard times are coming financially. She will get what she needs in her old age.

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