Losing focus


Lexie rests after pacing through the house all afternoon.

Lexie rests after pacing through the house all afternoon.

It’s been almost a year since Lexie recognized her own name.

Slowly, her eyes lost focus.

Then she simply forgot who I am.

Each day when we meet, it’s as if for the first time. She opens her mouth wide, and gently nibbles my hands for a clue to who I could be. Some days she will lower her head onto my lap. Other days she simply walks away, to start her endless circling path around the coffee table.

Dementia has stolen our baby Lex. She hardly barks any more. A dog treat barely registers more than a mouthy snap.

For 15 years she has been my constant companion. So when symptoms of her dementia reared up this month —including her getting stuck behind our couch — I knew it was time to get her evaluated.

The vet was shocked at her appearance. Lex had lost 3 pounds since our last visit. Her eyes seemed distant. She was not friendly or open to meeting the vet tech.

During the physical exam, Lexie snapped at the vet. Before I could process the situation, the tech placed a muzzle on Lexie’s snout. She writhed and shed what seemed to be at least half of her coat. I put my hand on Lexie’s chest, and did my best to calm her. As her eyes rolled around the room, I could see the terror rise up.

The vet didn’t mince words. She said Lexie lives in a world of fear and anxiety. Sadly, anti-anxiety/depression medications would only lift her inhibitions, possibly leading to more dog bites. If Lex was her dog, she didn’t think it would be fair to keep her in this emotionally painful space.

The tears were falling into my lap before she passed me a tissue.

She offered to put Lexie down right then if I wished. I wondered if this was some sort of bad dream.

I told her Matt and I would have to talk, and that we’d get back to her with our decision.

My heart aches. I can’t imagine my world without my Lexie Doodle.

But I know the vet’s right. At this point in the game, it’s not a matter of if … but when.

FurFamHORZNTL

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Hide and seek


Lex takes a nap after a rough night.

Lex takes a nap after a rough night.

Some days it’s hard to believe Lexie is almost 15 years old.

Other days, I can’t deny it. She struggles.

I’ve especially noticed her doggy dementia has progressed. Recently when a friend stopped by, Lexie growled and the hair went up on her back. This was surprising, and new behavior for her.

As we were setting up the spare bedroom for our new cat Cora, Lex had wandered in. Moments later, I found her stuck in the corner, unable to simply turn herself around.

Then something truly shocking happened.

A few days ago, we started watching Matt’s mom’s dog. The house felt like a zoo (three dogs and a cat, oh my!!!) but everyone seemed to settle in. Lex seemed nonplussed by the visitor, and chose to slumber most hours of the day.

In the bustle of activity, I must confess to not keeping tabs on each animal every second of the day. But sometime last night Matt and I discovered something awry.

“Did you hear that?” Matt said. I did. It sounded like three thumps coming from the side of the couch. I looked behind my recliner into the little corner cave where the dogs love to hide out. Charlie was stretched out on a dog pillow, twitching to a good dream.

“I think Charlie kicked in his sleep,” I offered.

Matt peered over the end of the couch, down at Charlie. “Hmm.”

We went back to watching TV.

About five or 10 minutes later, we heard some muffled dog noises.

“Is Lexie stuck behind the couch???” we both cried out at the same time.

Matt jumped up, and we both took an end of the couch, frantically pulling it from the wall. Lex stood there, somewhat bewildered and blinking in the sudden shift of light.

We guessed she had only been back there about 10 minutes, but that was enough to scare us and, no doubt, our confused pup.

When Lex initially was diagnosed with dementia, the vet told us there’s a medication that might be helpful. I put it off at the time because it all seemed so quick; I hardly believed the diagnosis to be correct.

But now I think I’m changing my mind.

This morning, I found Lex sleeping on her throne, with her paws tightly pressed against her eyes … as if playing a game of hide and seek.

My sweetheart is slowing down. I reached down to rub her ears then softly ran my fingers down her back.

She needs her sleep.

Cat Cora: Battle Homecoming


Cora studies the front room from the comfort of her box.

Cora studies the front room from the comfort of her box.

I worried about finding Cora the right toy to comfort her as she settled into our home.

But in the end, it was something simple that brought her the most pleasure: a cardboard box.

Of course, I’ve seen the “cat trap” memes showing cats shoving themselves into shoeboxes, but it never occurred to me that Cora might enjoy one herself. Pink was never into boxes at all. So after I heard her plaintive mews from the spare bedroom, I put a small box on the bed.

She didn’t even give a second thought before walking right in and curling up.

Cora greets a curious Charlie from the safety of a box.

Cora greets a curious Charlie from the safety of a box.

We let her stay in the box as we introduced her to our dogs, Charlie and Lexie. (The dogs were eager to see what the hubbub was all about, until they realized: “Oh, it’s just a cat? Huh.” Their nonresponse was a great, unexpected victory.)

Once Cora acclimated to the spare bedroom, we brought her out in the box, and introduced her to the front room. After a while she hopped up on the couch with Matt, and watched the traffic fly by on Nine Mile.

Then she climbed on my lap, just long enough for me to count six toes on her front left paw, and seven toes on her right. I also discovered her sweet spot: right at the base of her tail. A couple scratches there started the purr machine.

At this point the dogs are operating like everything’s normal, and Cora is holding court in her box, along with a handmade blanket and toy provided by Shelter to Home, the cat-focused rescue where we found her.

Miss Cat Cora has arrived, and she’s the cat’s meow. Especially with her many, many toes.

Cora settles on on top of my sewing table.

Cora settles on top of my sewing table.

Earlier in the day, as we wrapped up our adoption, the volunteers at Shelter to Home lined up to say goodbye to Cora. She had been with them almost a year, and it was clear she would be deeply missed.

Shelley, who personally fostered Cora and her four kittens, told us about how Cora also mothered orphaned kittens once her own babies were adopted. It was a bittersweet day to see Cora leave the shelter, she said.

But just as Cora has been so generous with her love, we hope to return the favor.

FurFamHORZNTL

Meeting Cora … and her 25 toes


Cora strikes a pose in a sunbeam.

Cora strikes a pose in a sunbeam.

Cora is a cool cat, from head to toe — all 25 of them!

We met this Hemingway polydactyl (many-toed) cat on Saturday at Shelter to Home, a cat-focused shelter located Downriver.

The trip in itself was a big deal because it was my first big excursion since a hysterectomy two weeks ago.

I had spotted Cora’s profile that morning, but didn’t say anything to Matt. It was a big enough deal that he was looking at cat profiles completely unprovoked. Pink has been gone for six months, and as much as we both agreed we would never get another cat, somehow the house seems incomplete without one.

We came upon Cora when we walked up the stairs of the Victorian home that houses the shelter. She greeted us from her spot in the upper landing’s window.

We counted at least seven toes on this paw.

We counted at least seven toes on this paw.

Cora was the first cat we saw, and our hostess wanted to keep the tour going since there were at least 14 more cats to meet. But we sat down with Cora, and let her climb on our laps. She purred as we touched her feet, the base of her tail … even her belly. Oh, what a lover.

Then Matt picked her up,

I couldn’t hear a thing through the purr machine.

Finally we broke away from Cora, and continued with the tour. We told the shelter worker about Lexie, our almost 15-year-old dog, and Charlie, our energetic 1-year-old pup. We mentioned the dog door, and emphasized that any cat we adopt will be an indoor cat. The worker seemed happy with this, and even told us about enclosed tents designed for cats if we did wish to bring our cat outside for supervised fun.

Since it was difficult for me to bend down, Matt stopped to pet a few of the felines, and played with a shy calico in the hallway. But once we got downstairs, he asked about Cora.

We started out the day looking for a high energy youthful cat who likes dogs. Cora’s energy level is best described as “chill” and it’s unclear if she’s ever seen a dog. Matt usually gravitates toward big cats, and Cora is on the teeny side. She’s also a mum who recently gave birth to four kittens.

Not exactly what we had in mind, and yet she feels the perfect fit.

This has got to be the coolest animal shelter we have visited.

This has got to be the coolest animal shelter we have visited.

We took an application, and said we would be in touch.

As we walked to the car, a smile creeped across my face. This was definitely further than I got with Lola the tortie cat.

When we got home Saturday, I filled out the application.

Of course once I was done, Matt got cold feet.

“I’m not sure. I’m not ready. I don’t know if Cora is the right cat,” he nervously said.

I signed my name at the bottom of the application, and let him talk. The next day, I disclosed my plan of action.

Before we make a final decision, I want to bring Charlie in to meet Cora.

Matt agreed.

So now I will send in our application and wait.

We’ll be on our toes, and ready to go.

FurFamHORZNTL

Close encounter


After thinking on it for a week, Matt and I packed Charlie in the car today and drove up to PetCo for a meet-and-greet with Lola.

The tortie kitten was sleeping in her cage when we arrived. I poked at her back through the cage bars, and the rescue volunteer came up to see if we needed help.

Lola, a sweet tortie.

Lola, a sweet tortie.

I explained we spotted Lola last week, and that we wanted to see her up close and personal. Also, we brought our dog to make sure they were compatible.

The man opened the cage door and grabbed Lola by the nape of her neck. He pulled her in close to his chest, but invited me to pet her.

We chit-chatted. I told him that we were expert cat owners. I shared about Pink, and how we lost her to kidney disease last fall. I explained Charlie loved Pink, that they often played and even slept together.

Matt lifted Charlie up in the air and gently pushed his snout toward Lola. Both of them seemed nonplussed. No big deal at all.

I reached in and rubbed Lola again. I was wondering if he was ever going to let me hold her. I pushed my hand  between her and the adoption guy, and he pulled her closer.

“How about if I put her down so Charlie can sniff her?” he asked.

I thought it was odd that he clearly didn’t want me to hold the cat, but that he was going to let Charlie and Lola interact.

He put Lola down, and Charlie hid behind Matt’s knees. No signs of aggression at all.

The man encouraged us to fill out an adoption application, or to do it online when we got home. I felt odd about filling put an application for a cat I never got to hold. How would I know if she would cuddle me??

We agreed that we would think about it.

As we walked away, we were surprised to see Angry Eyebrows run up to him. We wondered if she had told him about our dog door.

On the drive home, we discussed our options. Matt was upfront. He didn’t think we were ready for a cat.

You’re about to have surgery,” he said to me. “I have concerns about the cat jumping on your stomach, or even about the cleanliness of another animal in the house as you recover.”

I understood. I wondered if it would be too much transition right before I was out of commission for six weeks. How fair would it be to get a cat (that I wanted) and to expect Matt to care for it while I recuperated? Not that Matt wouldn’t want to care for Lola, but I believe if I’m going to get an animal, it should be a joint effort to care for it. And if I know I’m going to be down-for-the-count for six weeks, why not wait until I am healthy enough to coparent?

We would not be adopting Lola.

This decision made me sad, but in the end I felt it was the best for this sweet kitten.

I know the right cat will come to me.

And at the next close encounter, I will be ready.

FurFamHORZNTL

Smitten kitten


So we needed puppy treats. I swear.

Lola wonders what's taking us so long. "Adopt me, already!"

Lola wonders what’s taking us so long. “Adopt me, already!”

And that meant we got to see the cats on display at PetCo. Matt and I both walked right up to Lola, a 7-month-old tortoiseshell kitten. She was curled up in a ball, snoozing away. We stuck our fingers through the cage and ruffled her tri-colored fur.

Lola sleepily tossed her head over her shoulder and looked me over with one eye. She slinked her body a few inches so she could get a better look. I slid my finger under her chin, and rubbed. She closed her eyes and purred.

This was one smitten kitten.

“She’s cute,” Matt said. “I bet she’d love playing with Charlie. She’d probably keep him in line!”

I imagined Lola running through the house, maybe batting Charlie in the face then scurrying off to hide. I’m sure Lexie would be nonplussed.

It’s been five months since Pink died. At the time we swore we wouldn’t get another cat for 10 years. So much for promises. I can feel our resolve slowly giving way.

We couldn't get Lola to look straight at us for a photo, so this is a pic of the profile photo on her cage.

We couldn’t get Lola to look straight at us for a photo, so this is a pic of the profile photo on her cage.

The adoption papers indicated Lola was with a family until one of the children became allergic to her. What caught our eyes the most was the following comment: “I love to talk, as most torties do.”

I wondered what this meant, so I Googled it. Apparently, tortie cats are known to be especially verbal,  through meows, purrs and hisses. I looked at Lola in that cage. I couldn’t elicit any sort of sound from her. I was curious about what her meow sounds like.

I also found out that tortie cats are believed to be good luck, and sometimes are referred to as  money cats. Seriously. Can anyone give me one reason why we shouldn’t consider this cat??

I thought about her curled up on my lap, especially as I recuperate from my upcoming hysterectomy. She looked like a total snuggle bunny. Since I’m guessing the dogs most likely won’t be welcome anywhere near my lap, a little kitten sounds like the perfect recovery buddy.

As Matt took dozens of photos of Lola, I scribbled down the contact information for the adoption agency. I leaned in close to take a video and … oh my, WHAT’S THAT SMELL???

Lola casually gave us a look that reassured that it was not her. She did not just take a humongous poop while we were fawning over her. The tenants downstairs are an embarrassment, she said with her green eyes.

We peeked down below, and the black cat seemed pleased with himself.

Once we got in the car, I looked up Lola’s profile on the adoption agency’s website. I’m nervous about possibly adopting another cat. But I am curious about this one.

It looks like the next step is to fill out an application to set up a meet-and-greet.

We’ll keep you posted.

FurFamHORZNTL

Lexie loves salmon!


Lex gobbles down a bowl of salmon kibble.

Lex gobbles down a bowl of salmon kibble.

I’m proud to report Lex is not only eating regularly, but she’s eating with gusto!

When our wee pup Charlie recently grew old enough to become a dog, we graduated him to big boy food. We studied our choices for months in anticipation of the switch.

We made our final decision at Costco, when we found Nature’s Domain: Salmon meal & sweet potato formula for dogs (Kirkland Signature brand). It had never occurred to us to feed fish to our dogs. But Matt had heard fish oil was good for a dog’s coat, so his eyes locked on the bag of salmon kibble.

After we brought it home, we filled both dog bowls up with kibble. We decided to include Lexie at least on the first bowl to see if she would give it a go. Every since she was diagnosed with kidney failure last summer, her appetite has been fickle. We finally settled into a routine of feeding her wet holistic dog food (sometimes by hand) and occasionally supplementing with a kidney-friendly can of dog food. It wasn’t a kidney-perfect diet, but most days she would entertain us and eat a bit. She no longer was skin and bones, sitting at death’s door.

Lex has a ball!

Lex has a ball!

So we filled her bowl to the brim with salmon, and watched. She quickly sniffed something new in the air, and checked out her bowl. Lex grabbed a piece of food and thoughtfully chewed it up. She looked back over her shoulder at us, then lowered her face back into the bowl. She didn’t resurface until it was empty.

Lex now repeats this ritual twice a day, almost like she’s a normal dog again. When we forget dinnertime, she’s quick to gently bite our hands, or rambunctiously whine until we feed her. In full disclosure, we still dress up the bowl with dog treats to get her started, but once she’s eating she finishes the bowl on her own.

Could there possibly be a negative in this joyous situation?

I rarely get to sing the “Eat your nummies!” song anymore.

Now that Lex is eating regularly, the physical transformation is undeniable. Her eyes are more alert and her fur is super shiny. She hops up on the couch and her special chair with ease. This after months of me lifting her up.

Lex STILL has a ball!

Lex STILL has a ball!

And best of all, her energy level is at an all-time high. This means she gets to play, and play hard with Charlie. She trots out into the back of the yard, then rushes back full-tilt, running like a puppy.

Not bad for a gal who will turn 15 in a few months.

She’s also started playing with toys again. In particular, she loved these teeny tennis balls made specifically for dogs. She plays catch in the house, and races Charlie to retrieve the ball from the hallway. She also will carry the ball around the house, rolling it around in her mouth.

She also recently developed an affection for Charlie’s deer antler. She’s taken it from him a few times, but then has no idea what to do with it. She’ll sniff it and mouth it, but she’s really lost the dexterity to actually have a chewing session.

Still, it’s cute to see her try. I do believe Lex has got her groove back.

FurFamHORZNTL