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Unexpected bad news

So today we were back at the vet again, because that is where we spend our weekends these days. Olive’s foot had swelled back up this week, and we thought it was time Cricket went back to the vet to see if there was anything more to be done for her breathing issues. The cough syrup I tried a few weeks back didn’t seem to do much (besides making her sticky and me frustrated) and a few days of her old medication didn’t seem to do much, either.

A few weeks ago, Cricket did something or another that made me laugh, and I thought about how she really is fun to have around and how lucky we’ve been that she recovered from that bad spell a year and a half ago. She’d been so ill that we actually had made an appointment to have her put down, because she hadn’t eaten in days and it seemed she was just fading away and suffering. At the time, many tears were shed and we finally braced ourselves and made peace with what about to happen as best we could… and then she recovered. As I was reminiscing about this, I thought “dammit Cricket, we prepared ourselves back then for losing you, and mourned you, and then you didn’t die and now someday we’re going to go through it all over again and you will break my heart.”

But sitting there thinking that, it was some distant future event I was thinking about, because after she came back from that bad spell I had sort of decided somewhere in my mind that she’d somehow gotten better and was going to be around for years and years. At her last vet visit about a year ago, I am sure the vet even said that her murmur was a bit better, so I constructed some version of reality where the heart issues were just temporary problems caused by her heartworm treatment. So, while we were concerned about the trouble she’s been having, I mostly just thought the vet was going to explain that it was due to collapsing trachea or some other ‘small breed dog issue’ and nothing to worry about.

That’s not what happened… in spite of how active and spunky she is, Cricket is still a very sick little dog. Her heart murmur is worse – a five out of six now, and there’s a strange area on her lungs (which look pretty crappy overall) that could be pneumonia, the start of pulmonary edema from the heart issues, or cancer. She’s on a course of antibiotics, some cough pills (same medication as the sticky pink goo but a much easier way to get it into her) and then in two weeks she goes back for another series of X-rays. If that funny area is not changed for the better, well, it’s not a good thing. 🙁 The X-rays also showed some pretty significant spondylosis in the vertebrae in her chest area.

Olive’s on Antibiotics for another week and her foot issue may be some sort of foreign body working it’s way out. The plan is to let it go and see if it can do it without surgery. Oh, and when we came home, Simon sneezed blood all over his food bowl. We’ve changed cat litter and are giving it a few days to see if that is what is causing his problem, and if not we’re not sure what the next step is for him. Scoping his sinuses? Did I mention Winter had some sort of incident in the yard yesterday and acted like she’d hit her head? She’s better today but she gave us a scare.

The Cricket thing has really bummed me out. It’s my own fault for deluding myself but I really didn’t expect bad news today.

Olive Molebane and the critterweb bird sanctuary

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Two months of vigilance on Olive’s part (sitting motionless for hours along the fenceline) have apparently paid off; she has killed 4 moles in as many days. We feel bad for the little guys… though anything that can actually get caught by one of our inept animals probably doesn’t need to be passing it’s genes along to the next generation, and we suppose we should be thinking about controlling their population, if we are serious about doing a lot of long term gardening.

We had to top our fence with another 1 1/2 feet of wire a few weeks ago to keep a large neighborhood cat out, and Winter in. It seems to be pretty secure now. As I was sitting and watching the birds at our feeder the other day, I contemplated the effect we must be having on the local ecosystem, for good or bad. The cardinals, which at first had no idea what to make of the feeder, now frequent it all day and they have a nest in one of the monster forsythia bushes. None of our cats are either capable or motivated to try and tackle the bush, and the fence keeps the neighborhood ones out, so that is probably one clutch of cardinal nestlings that will have a higher than normal survival rate.

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The catbirds, titmice, chickadees, song sparrows, starlings, and thrashers are all feasting upon the suet we put out, and we even get a blue jay here and there at our feeder. We have a pair of towhees that hang out in the yard, and lots of robins. Curiously, the local doves avoid it, not that we are complaining about that. We had to move Lindsy’s water dish because little birds were bathing in it… we’re hoping to get a birdbath for them at some point. So we’ve made a little oasis for the bird population, though the argument can be made that giving them an easy source of food is unnatural for them. Or should we look at it more as a way of balancing out negative effects on their numbers that the huge neighborhood cat population has most likely had?

On the other hand, as I already mentioned above, we have apparently made survival harder for the moles. We’ve not had much negative impact on the ant population, though not for lack of effort on our part.
#wren
Speaking of the large local cat population, we’ve also apparently aquired a part-time fourth cat (she has made it clear she’d be happy to make the situation full time if we’d let her in) who is on the back doorstep waiting for her dinner as I type this. She’s one of the white cats from next door, a tiny little thing that unfortunately also just had kittens, and she’s kind of attached herself to us since we moved in. She spends more time over here than at her house, and they don’t seem to care. We call her “Wren” because she’s got so much spunk for such a tiny little thing. It’s probably a good thing that her and Winter hate each other’s guts, making letting her in the house or yard impossible.

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I don’t know why we waste money on cat toys

Sack-O-Trouble:

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Winter takes the bait…
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…and Simon realizes he’s made a tactical error as he doesn’t have room to mount a defense and is bitten through the bag.

“Hey! that wasn’t fair!”
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And then Simon stomps off indignantly.

“Haha, I won.”
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The evil princess claims her stolen sack.

The end of yet another year fast approaches

We took down our few holiday decorations today (actually just a few holly branches, a string of purple lights, and our cards) and I was struck again how quickly this entire year has just flown by. Each one seems to go faster than the last. We’ve had a lot of changes this year and lost a member of our critter family when we put Wednesday down. Chances are that we will probably lose Cricket some time soon (honestly we expected her not to last until the end of the year but she’s hanging in there) and we are also looking for a better home for Maggie. It’s not fair to her to live such a constrained life because she came into a house already full of broken pets, and we just can’t afford to keep going further and further into debt to take care of everyone.

Not having a fenced yard with a dog who likes to run like a gazelle is nerve-wracking but there’s no way we can justify spending money to fence yet another place that isn’t ours. The fact that some of the neighbors don’t take the care that we do in keeping their animals in their own yards causes us a great deal of stress. We don’t necessarily think that Maggie would start a fight, but she would certainly be able to finish one and would get the blame for it regardless. Especially at this time of year, when we get up in darkness and come home to darkness, it’s scary letting the dogs out the door when we can’t see what is out there. We just have to hope that there isn’t a cat, or a 100 lb German Shepherd standing outside the house somewhere.

So 2008 is rushing towards us and we have this feeling that this is going to be another year of changes for us. Partly because of the animal stuff mentioned above, but maybe more than that as well. We’ve cut down so much on the clutter around here and are still working to clear out even more. There’s no reason to lug around all this junk that we have no attachment to. This year we made even more of a point of recycling everything we can and we now take our own bags into the grocery store, and are buying much less processed food. We’re trying very hard not to buy cheap “made in China” products but quickly discovered that this is harder than it seems. The important thing is that we are trying, and over time it gets easier.

We aren’t sure what the future will bring with our jobs; the small-town computer shop where we work has had to contend with a brand-new Staples store opening in town, with a super Wal-Mart and a Best-Buy soon to come… at the very least, the shop will have to change the way things are done to stay afloat. I’ve had this growing feeling that I am perhaps not quite on the path that I am supposed to be on, that there are talents of mine that are going to waste spending all day running here and there and fixing computer catastrophes, and being in a perpetual state of having to be reactive without ever having the time to think proactively and put my creativity to use is just wearing me down. By the end of the day we are so beat we just come home, feed ourselves and the critters, and go to bed. There doesn’t seem to be any time for ourselves, let alone for writing, working on the website or all the other little projects I used to do. I guess we’ll see what the new year brings.

We’ve settled in comfortably into the house… we’ve made it a very homey, cozy place and really enjoy having the big living room with those patio doors overlooking the mountains. The landlord had a screen door put on the patio and we put up a crystal that makes rainbows dance all over the room when the sun hits it. We have a huge assortment of wildlife that comes to visit every day, titmice and chickadees and cardinals, several squirrels that give the cats a fit by coming up on the deck, and our resident pair of wrens that like too hop around on the deck and peer in the windows. There’s also blue jays, crows, doves, and tons of assorted finches and sparrows. Nadine the chipmunk has been absent for a few weeks, we assume she is hibernating.

We hope that this new year brings good things for everyone and some needed positive changes in the world.

Site updates

I have been working on getting the Critters section of the web site back up and functional over the past week or so. The ‘Contact’ link at the top of the weblog has been replaced with a ‘Critters‘ link and that link goes to a page that in turn links (or will, eventually) to pages for all of the current and past critters.

Most of the pages only go to photo gallery links so far but I finished the story about Wednesday I had started shortly before her death, and have posted it on her page.

There have been no further blow fly plagues or other weird incidents at the house, and we re-cleansed it properly the weekend after we posted about that stuff. The cold weather got rid of the ants and I plan on caulking around all the little nooks and crannies they were getting in through, before spring comes. I am not going to temp fate by making any statements about things improving, but they’ve at least calmed down a wee bit. 😉