Thursday, December 13, 2007

On Borrowed Time

[Click on the photo for a larger image]
In every sense, Sheba is one old cat.

At almost nineteen and one-half years of age in human years, she is not nearly as magnificent looking now as the picture here shows. Her fur is a bit scruffy. She limps a bit when she walks and spends most of her time on her blanket by Mr. AOW's recliner.
For a few years now, Sheba has been showing signs of Feline Cognitive Disorder, also known as "Kitty Alzheimer's." When I look into her eyes, I see my grandmother's eyes — the look of senility mixed with a silent plea for undefined help. And, yes, Sheba is forgetful. She gets lost easily and even forgets she's just eaten (so eats some more). But she still recognizes Mr. AOW and me, and gives us adoring looks. She still plays when we drag a ribbon in front of her. She still purrs and licks our hands.

In the past several months, Mr. AOW and I have noticed a further decline in Sheba's physical condition. She has gone almost totally deaf. Because she's learned our improvised hand signals, however, her deafness doesn't trouble her much. Besides, her eyesight is as good as it's ever been, obvious nearsightedness, but the norm for her. Also, she's experienced an inexplicable loss of weight, some three pounds — not a bad thing because she had been carrying too much weight over a decade.

Last weekend, Mr. AOW and I took Sheba to the vet, not for a regularly scheduled visit. For a few days, she had been showing signs of urinary-tract problems, including inappropriate urination and bloody urine. In fact, on the morning of the appointment with the vet, she passed a blood clot, followed by a normal stream of urine.

Mr. AOW and I knew that our old girl was in trouble. We were hoping that her ailment was uncomplicated cystitis, something treatable and curable, a problem similar to the one she had in October 2006.

This time, the problem is different, neither treatable nor curable.

Sheba has bladder cancer.

The vet assures us that our old girl is not suffering and that we can keep her comfortable until we have to face that final decision, the inevitable day every pet lover dreads and the final responsibility of the commitment to love animals which are members of the family.

With proper care and palliative doses of medication, to which she is so far responding, we might have Sheba with us this Christmas. Maybe. The vet can offer no time frame. Just as with human beings, nobody knows how much time any of us have.

Right now, everything with Sheba is just as it's always been. Alert and happy, she's lying on her blanket and purring so loudly that I can hear her motor running all the way across the room. She's demanding to be fed at every turn. Sheba, malnourished when Mr. AOW rescued her as a kitten from an alley, took Scarlet O'Hara's vow: "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." That vow is standing her in good stead right now so that she doesn't lose too much weight.

We know that the bad day is coming. But the bad day is not today!

One last Christmas with Sheba — that's what we're hoping for — and even more borrowed time, if possible.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 12/13/2007 09:41:00 PM