Sunday, March 30, 2008

Home Again

I know this isn't an easy subject to think or blog about, but with all the bloggers out there that are animal lovers, I thought I'd bring it up. Do you know what you are going to do with your beloved pet after they die? Some of you I'm sure living in quite rural areas will just bury your pet on your property. But, if you live in a suburban area such as myself you may not be able to bury your pet according to local laws. Or, you live in an apartment or condo...then what? With my first cat Bill, I didn't even think about it until my vet was over at my apartment preparing to put Bill down. Luckily, my sister lives in a very wooded area in Fairfax and we ended up burying Bill in my sister's family's wooded "pet cemetary."

When my 65 pound dog, Jiminy was put down, I first had decided to just have her cremated along with other animals and her ashes would have been sprinkled at a nearby farm. But, it was hard to leave her body lying there on the metal exam table so I ran and told the receptionist that I changed my mind and wanted her individually cremated. The vet's office had a contract with an animal crematorium and said they would call me when her remains had been returned to the vet's office. Okay, well I had no idea how she would come back and was surprised when I picked her up to find her in a sealed wooden box.

Then Butterball started losing weight. I had decided that I would probably go the same route as Jiminy when at the end of February, The Washington Post printed an article about another animal crematorium called Heavenly Days. They sounded so wonderful and caring that I decided to go with them. They are always open for folks to tour the facilities and you can even arrange to watch your own animal's cremation. (I declined.) I'm so glad I used them. I steeled myself to call them a few hours before I took Butterball to the vet for the last time and they were so thoughtful on the phone. Then, the next day they called and left a message letting me know that they had picked up Butterball's body and he was "safe" with them. Their website has a full listing of urns and boxes to choose from. Being of Polish ancestry I was comforted to see that all their wooden boxes were made and hand carved in Poland. I got to pick out his box with an optional plaque attached. You can get the box back sealed or unsealed. They will also do a paw print for you if you wish.

Yesterday, I went and picked up Butterball.

This is how he was presented to me. Below shows you a better view of the beautiful carved box

Enclosed in an envelope was this:

and this:

Sorry it's so fuzzy but is says that they have made a small donation in Butterball's name to the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County. What a wonderful gesture. They were a class act all the way around and I know I will be using them in the future (but hopefully VERY DISTANT future).

So, again, not something easy to think about, but better now then when you are already overcome with grief.

It's good to have Butterball home again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Main Man

I don't know when I started using that phrase but not a day went by without me saying "You're my main man Butterball".

The death of Butterball has knocked the wind out of my sails. How can I come home to a house still full of cats and feel such a loneliness of spirit? I told a friend that the house feels rudderless. Instead of a cohesive family of cats headed by Butterball, it seems like a hodgepodge of mismatched strays. I am thankful that my routine stays the same with all the other cats to take care of, but when one jumps in my lap to be petted, I stroke them without much attention thinking to myself, “yes, you are sweet and you are mine and I love you, but you’re not Butterball.”

Butterball had such a quiet dignity without ever being full of himself. He never crowded around me to be petted like the other cats. He was content to stay out of the limelight knowing he would get my full attention when it was time for bed and again when I would get ready for work. That was “Butterball’s time” and I would have to push many cats away as we would spend our one-on-one time together.

Butterball was a "cat magnet". All the other cats would seek him out when they wanted to take a snooze.

As some of you know, I adopted Butterball from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington back in 1996 when he was three. He was a purebred Manx and I must say that I’ve been smitten by the Manx breed ever since. In the late ‘90s, before I knew you could search online for Manx rescues, I even thought I would go back on my long-held belief of only getting rescued cats by going to a (gasp) Manx breeder.

Butterball and Apu enjoying a cool summer breeze last year

The Manx breed (or stubbin as they are called in the Manx Gaelic language) comes from the Isle of Man, off the coast of Ireland in the Irish Sea. (The fact that I had to have Butterball put down on St. Patrick’s Day made the whole experience even worse.) The breed has been around for at least 300 years. They believe the Manx’s lack of a tail came from a random mutant gene. Because of the isolation of the Isle, the mutant gene became the dominant gene. You can find four different variations on the Manx. The “rumpy” has absolutely no tail and has an indentation where the tail should be. The “rumpy riser” has a bit of cartilage that when you run your hand across its back, the cartilage will rise up like a tail. (Butterball was a rumpy riser.) Then you have the “stumpy” that has a tail an inch or two long—looks like a bobcat. Finally, you can have a “taily” with a normal length tail. Their hind legs are also noticeably longer then their front legs so when they run they have a hopping gait. That, combined with their small or no tail gave rise to the myth that the breed was a result of a cat breeding with a rabbit. Some still call them a “cabbit”!

Here''s a short video of a couple of weeks ago so you can see Butterball's rumpy riser and long back legs.

I found this description of the Manx temperament on the website “here kitty kitty kitty” and it describes Butterball to a T:

Temperament: The Manx's temperament is one of a kind. They are cool, calm and collected. Very rarely will they become angry like a standard cat. Friendly and affectionate, they are suited for just about everyone. Manx owners also refer to them as a "dog-cat" because of its strong desire to be with its people. Manx cats will follow you around the house, watching and learning everything you do. They are very inquisitive and therefore, are very intelligent creatures. Manx cats are protective of their homes and any unusual disturbance (even someone walking up the driveway) will cause a low growl much like a guard dog. Manx's are even known to chase after dogs that come into its property. The Manx are also well known for their "kissing" and constant head-butting if you put your head close enough. They will kiss corner walls, tables, chairs, shoes, their human family, just about anything with an edge. The head-butting is a sign of friendship, and sometimes they don't realise their own strength when doing so! As soon as you touch your Manx, give her a scratch on the head etc, it sends them into a purring frenzy and then the butting and kissing starts. They are very loving cats. Manx's make wonderful indoor cats, provided that they have plenty of toys to stimulate and exercise them in the house. When the cats' people are out at work all day, she will just curl up and go to sleep until they arrive home.

I never got a chance to see Butterball’s protective qualities when I lived in Arlington in a second-story walkup. So I was quite surprised when I moved into my house in Maryland in 1998. Butterball would be looking out the window and see someone walking up the sidewalk towards the house. He would get all huffy and puffy and emit this low growl. On another occasion, something woke me up one night but I couldn’t figure out what. I looked and saw Apu sound asleep but Butterball was sitting up keenly looking towards the side of the house and again emitting this low growl. You can imagine I was a bit frightened until I looked out and saw that a raccoon had knocked over my garbage can and was rummaging through it.

This photo brings tears to my eyes. I adopted Apu with Butterball in 1996. Butterball was 3 years old and Apu 4 months. Butterball has always been Apu's big brother and security blanket. Here they are sharing one last snuggle on Monday morning.

While all my cats are very loving, they have also at one time or another hissed or swiped at me. I mean, they are cats after all. But, in the 12 years I had him, Butterball never, ever hissed, growled or swiped at me. I even heard my vet talking to a vet assistant about Butterball. He mentioned what a great cat he was and that he could draw blood, poke and prod but Butterball never got upset. I have a sister who was visiting from Minnesota years ago. She is not a cat person at all. But she fell in love with Butterball and even picked him up to put him on her lap. She said she would get a cat if she could have Butterball.

When I would come home from work to find someone had yet again thrown up on my bed or urinated outside the litterbox or knocked over and broke a sentimental knick knack I would start fuming “I am SO tired of never being able to have ANYTHING nice. What is WRONG with all of you” as I huff around cleaning up whatever mess they made. By this time all the cats would have scattered to the four winds—under the bed, into the tv room or jumped out the cat door into my back porch. All, except Butterball. He would slowly pad his way to me, talking “ar, ar” then rubbing against me back and forth “kissing” me trying to calm me down. And he always did.
I honestly don’t know what I will do without him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Goodbye Sweet Gentle Friend

Born 1993--Adopted 1996--Passed on March 17, 2008
"Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you....
I loved you so......
'twas Heaven here with you."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Delhi has passed on

In the early morning of Tuesday, March 11, Delhi, the oldest elephant at The Elephant Sanctuary, peacefully passed on. I'll post the last few diary entries and photos, all courtesy of The Elephant Sanctuary


February 28, 2008

Misty spent a long time with Delhi today and Delhi seemed to enjoy her company. Misty is a big girl who often has difficulty being gentle but when it comes to Delhi, Misty makes sure that she is soft, gentle, and extra careful about where she puts her feet.

February 29, 2008

Delhi, pictured here with her dear friend Misty standing protectively over her, is savoring her multi-species hospice care. Pampered by caregivers and elephant sisters alike, Delhi continues to be calm and comfortable. In the past two days we have noticed that she is slowing down, eating slower and sleeping for longer stretches of time. She especially favors her long baths, free choice produce banquets and cushy pillows provided by ITW Shippers of Mt. Pleasant, TN.

March 9, 2008

Delhi has been soaking in the loving kindness of her caregivers and sisters. She remains in her stall which has taken on the feel of a sacred space. Soft music flows from the front of her stall. This has become her focal point so that is where her gifts have been placed; burning candles, vases of fresh cut flowers, and figurines—all loving arranged with her Tibetan prayer flag suspended above. Delhi continues to eat but with less vigor than before. She is also drinking but her intake is greatly reduced. She savors her daily bath which has become a sweetly anticipated ritual, a deepening of connectedness for Delhi and her caregivers. It is the greatest gift to experience her calmness.

The past three days we have noticed a shift; Delhi is sometimes less present, she is somewhere else while still being here. Her less present state does not feel bad, it just feels different—like she is somewhere else. When she is with us she is incredibly soft and relaxed, light as a feather, floating and filled with joy. As we recognize that it is possible that Delhi’s time is nearing we are thankful for the guidence we have received; helping us to understand how to support Delhi’s transition without burdening her with our fears. Reciting Delhi’s prayer brings us peace and reassurance.

Delhi’s prayer: Delhi, I pray for your safe journey; unencumbered, light-footed and protected. I pray for your safe journey to where your spirit needs to go to.

March 11, 2008

In the early hours of the morning while her sisters and caregivers slept, Delhi made her transition. Her passing was silent and peaceful, she passed without waking. We are all spending the day honoring our last precious hours with her; caregivers are still fussing around her, whispering quiet goodbyes. Misty carefully touched all over Delhi’s body and then gently stepped over her, sheltering her dearly departed friend. We are honored to have been Delhi’s caregivers, thankful to be loved by such a kind and wise being. The gifts that Delhi has bestowed upon all of us have been immeasurable. We are ever grateful.

Namaste, dearest Delhi

Monday, March 10, 2008

Riding the Butterball Rollercoaster

Sorry for the delay in posts. These past two weeks have been emotionally draining. I took off Friday and today to try to get some spring cleaning done but it has pretty much been spent taking care of and watching over Butterball. At least once a day in the past two weeks I've watched him and thought I should really call the vet and bring him in to be put down. He has pretty much stopped eating any of his cat food. He does eat the occasional Greenie cat treat and actually ate almost an entire jar of turkey baby food between last night and this morning. He continues to lose weight but I'm supplementing his diet by syringing Nutri-cal into his mouth a couple times a day. He really dislikes it so it is an ordeal that I try to get over as quickly as possible. Nutri-cal is a high calorie supplement for cats that are off their food. It is supposed to be great tasting, but tell that to Butterball as he gags on it while I'm trying to get it down his throat. I then syringe a bit of water into his mouth as the Nutri-cal is very sticky and oily. I follow that up with a warm washcloth to his face.

Here he is on Saturday enjoying the sun on my enclosed back porch. Yes, it is a mess. Since it is unheated, in the winter it is basically left to the cats.

But, he then has moments where he takes an interest in watching the other cats play. He has also walked to the door every day these past four days to be let out on the front porch. Being an indoor cat, Butterball has never really shown any interest in the outdoors, but for some reason he has recently taken to exploring the front porch, with my supervision of course. On Sunday he walked down the stairs off the front porch and explored the side yard. Birds were in the bramble and he found a nice sunny spot and watched them intently. So then, I let out a sigh of relief and think he's still enjoying life and he is just not ready to go yet.

Watching the birds in the bramble.

I'm thinking he is a bit dehydrated today so my neighbor will be coming over in a while to give him an IV of fluids under the skin. It won't harm him and I'm hoping it will make him feel better.

So, my mind has been muddy and foggy of late. Pretty much tuned to the channel "all Butterball, all the time". I've not been to anyone's blog for while either so I also apologize for that. Please send good thoughts and prayer to Butterball and myself so I can make the right decision at the right time for Butterball.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

How to Spoil a Cat

I worked out a good post in my head this afternoon but, now at 8:30, I'm just too tired to write it. Hopefully, I'll get it done tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a short video of Butterball. How can you spoil a 15 year old cat in rapidly declining health who doesn't have much of an interest in anything anymore?

Hopefully a more interesting post to follow tomorrow. Although I have to say, Butterball is pretty darn cute.