Thursday, May 28, 2009

Namaste Sweet Ned and Bunny

I've been wanting to post about events at the Elephant Sanctuary but felt overwhelmed at the time with being sick and losing Moochie and didn't want all my posts to be so sad but sometimes that is just how life is.

The Sanctuary lost two sweet elephants the same week I had to put Moochie down.

Bunny, at 57 was the second oldest elephant living at the Sanctuary. She made her transition on May 14. She has the unique distinction of being the only elephant at the Sanctuary that has died of natural causes (old age). Here is what the Sanctuary had to say:


May 12

Bunny, true to her nature, is moving slowly in her process, spending less and less time consciously with us and more time in a deep sleep. Her fluids have been reduced to a slow drip to allow for an intravenous port for her pain meds. She continues to breathe through her trunk but also has begun to snore periodically. Caregivers are doing their best to hold silent vigil so that Bunny can slip away when she is ready. We honor her process and know that this is Bunny’s passing which will be done in her time, in her way. Shirley and Tarra (elephants) continue to remain close and are at peace. Seeing Tarra and Shirley share this experience is a gift for all of us. We know that both are helping each other and we cannot help but recognize the gift this is for Tarra, having Shirley lean on her in this emotional way.

May 14

Bunny has blessed this planet with her presence for 57 years. Her humor and gentleness has touched literally thousands of people. In Evansville, IN she was friend to three generations of families that grew up knowing Bunny. Today Bunny left us to join those who have gone before her. Her passing was beautiful to behold. Caregivers held the space for Bunny to transition in her own time her own way. Being present during an elephant's transition is indescribable, a cherished gift; always a profoundly touching experience. With a caregiver at her side Bunny took two long breaths, closed her eyes and passed. Namesta sweet Bunny. The joy you brought can never be measured; your wisdom always remembered


Ned at the very young age of 21, was with the Sanctuary a very short time, just since last November. USDA confiscated Ned from a small circus that was charged with animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act. He was a TON underweight. Just when the Sanctuary thought they had turned a corner with Ned, his stomach would act up again. Here are diary entries from the Sanctuary:

May 13

Every day that Ned is with us is a gift, of that we are sure. To look upon his emaciated body, to know that no matter what he eats he experiences difficulty digesting and absorbing nutrients is difficult to do day after day. Every day feels like a stolen one for him. This morning when caregivers entered Ned’s barn, he was lying on his side on the floor in obvious discomfort. Throughout the day he was made comfortable with fluids, pain meds and anti-inflammatory. The vet team struggled to determine how to help Ned since his condition remains undiagnosed, so we tried to mask the pain and get him back on his feet. He remains under constant veterinary care and 24 hour caregiver’s supervision.

May 15

Ned was with us such a short time and now he is gone. When he crossed over there can be no doubt that he was in the company of his sister-elephant Bunny who passed away only 12 hours before him. Although these two deaths were unrelated on a physical level, on a deeper level they could not be more related. Ned passed away at 3:47am CT in the company of a caregiver. He passed without a struggle, just two deep breaths and a sigh and then he was gone. We feel cheated by the little time we had with Ned but cherish every single moment we were allowed to care for and get to know this most amazing boy/man elephant known as Ned. We love you Ned, Namaste sweet boy.

Ned’s passing is especially difficult because of the amount he suffered throughout his young life, how much he missed out on and how little time he had in sanctuary. A part of us is relieved because he no longer will experience the abdominal pain that plagued him for so many years or worry about how horrible he might feel tomorrow. No one would begrudge him letting go of his diseased body even if it meant we never again could be so fortunate as to watch him glide through the pasture or camouflage himself in the woods behind his barn. He deserves to be free from pain.

Ned’s necropsy was performed today by the expert team from Georgia State University. Upon gross examination it was found that Ned suffered a multitude of problems, all centered on his abdomen. The most obvious of his problems lay in his intestinal tract which was seriously diseased with ulcers, much like the ulcers humans develop, and scaring in the area where most of his nutrients would be absorbed if his tract had been healthy. Although Ned did have a scant 4 handfuls of sand in his gut, sand impaction was not one of his conditions. The further into Ned’s intestinal tract the team worked, the more amazed they were by the damage they found. A full necropsy report will be issued to the Sanctuary once all of the samples are processed, but stress is believed to have been a factor in the disease of Ned’s intestinal tract, long-term stress. Another very troublesome finding was the condition of Ned’s pancreas. Before he died our vet team suspected that Ned might be suffering from a diseased pancreas and prescribed diet recommendation to address such a condition. Upon necropsy the team explained that Ned had suffered from his condition for a long time and that by the time he arrived to the Sanctuary his condition was terminal.

Luckily he was able to live his last few months under the attention of caregivers and veterinarians and savor what little time he had left. Ned was one lucky boy to be surrounded by so many people who sincerely cared about him, including the thousands of supporters who loved him unconditionally from afar. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Something to Put a Smile on Your Face

I know I introduced folks to the Alaska blog "the mudflats" last fall during that very scary time of the announcement of Sarah Palin as the VP candidate.

While we are all marveling at new life in our yards this spring, baby squirrels, birds, raccoons and possums...well, you just need to check out mudflats today.

Monday, May 18, 2009


You know when you are recharging your cell phone or lap top and it seems to take FOREVER? Well, that’s how I feel trying to recharge and regroup after the death of Moochie and trying to get over a bout of bronchitis.

I finally went to one of those walk-in clinics last Wednesday night and was quite impressed by the professionalism of it all. They took down all my vitals (all wearing masks, of course), and took a swab of my nose to check for the Bacon virus. The doctor listened to my lungs and thought he heard some crackling, along with wheezing so they sent me to get my chest x-rayed thinking I might have walking pneumonia. Luckily, I didn’t but they did diagnose me with bronchitis and sent me home with some strong cough syrup (just being able to sleep through the night made a world of difference). I was planning on going into work on Thursday, since our new board members arrived for meetings that day but my boss insisted that I stay home. (He did apologize for being a jerk and for me having to work while I was feeling so sick. He thought I was just suffering from allergies!!)

Pretty much slept through the entire weekend. I realized yesterday morning that part of my problem was that I just wasn’t eating very well. A few grapes and mango slices here, some hummus and crackers there, just did not amount to much. I decided to look through some of my Cook’s Country magazines for some easy recipes and found a wonderful roast chicken with lemon dish, and a broiled asparagus with Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

Made myself presentable to the public and went food shopping. Who knew that could be so tiring! After I got all the bags into the house I had to take a nap. The chicken is roasted with the zest of three lemons (along with sugar and salt mixed in) massaged under the skin. A sauce is made of chicken broth, lemon juice and more lemon zest and poured into the bottom of the roasting pan. Oh, it was so tasty. I have to say that making the dish and cleaning up after exhausted me so I never did make the asparagus. That will be tonight’s dish, along with leftover chicken and sauce.

5-19 Update:
Well I arrived home from work last night to find a cooler on my front porch. My sister had dropped off a care package of tulips, homemade soup, homemade bourbon balls (my favorite), oranges, and my most favorite olive oil, Ravida! What a treat!! What a sister!! I don't call her Mama Mia for nothing!

I just had to add this as it made me laugh out loud. Reminds me of Apu and Woody. Apu being the contemplative one and Woody....well....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And just like that....he was gone

I had Moochie put down yesterday around noon.

He was eating less and less and his activity level was going down too. When he started having trouble with his bowel movements I decided it was time. I called the vet on Monday and made the appointment for Tuesday. I can’t think of a more traumatic, gut wrenching decision than to make that phone call to the vet. On top of that, I’m still pretty sick, running a fever off and on, feeling light headed and basically awful. At work I have been getting ready to have board orientation meetings that start tomorrow so have not been able to take any time off. On Monday afternoon, I told my boss that I would have to be out on Tuesday morning to put my cat down. He paused and said “are the board materials going to get done in time?”

I lost it. I told him that of course everything would get done in time (doesn’t it always!!). Then, I said “Just for the record, I feel awful and if it wasn’t for the board coming to town I would be home in bed. I know it’s not convenient for you for me to be sick and to have a terminally ill pet but that is my life right now and you are just going to have to accept it.” He then mumbled something about getting me some help and I told him everything was taken care of (as usual).

I went home from work on Monday to find Moochie chipper and following me around the house. I let him outside and he went and had a lie down in my front yard. He ate well that night and Tuesday morning was also acting better then he had in a number of days. I sat on the bed and he walked over to me rubbing up against me and I started crying. “Moochie” I said “what are you doing??” “I’m getting dressed to take you to be put down and you’re acting like your feeling better?” I opened the crate and he just walked right in. At this point I have to disassociate myself from the task at hand and just drive to the vets.

My vet squeezed me in between surgeries yesterday. He was very sweet and when I mentioned that Moochie was acting better and eating more, the vet assured me that he felt it was the right time. Yes, maybe Moochie could have gone on for a few more weeks, but, he said most people wait until they can see visible signs of suffering in their pet and by that time, the pet is REALLY suffering since they do their best to mask their pain. After it was over, the vet took my hand and moved it around Moochie’s abdomen where I did indeed feel the very large tumor. I then used their restroom where I splashed water on my face, blew my nose and drove to work.

Truly a miserable day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The past few weeks have passed in a blur. The only word that keeps coming to me as I think about how I’ve been feeling is--frazzled. My association’s governing board came and went. The three day meeting ran pretty smoothly with no glaring errors. Even with the many early mornings and late evenings at work, along with the neighborhood cat sitting, I always made sure all my cats were accounted and cared for. As soon as the board left, I finally was able to spend some time with my brood.

Moochie is one of a few outside strays that I have been taking care of for over six years now. As black as coal and full of spit and vinegar, Moochie is a force to be reckoned with. A very aggressive cat, he would often chase the more timid ones, much to my aggravation. If I ever heard a cat cry out I would run outside and most likely find Moochie chasing Chloe or Toby up a tree. So, I was taken aback when about two weeks ago, I saw him slink past a couple of the more timid cats, almost like he was afraid of them. I bent down to pet him and was amazed at how thin he had gotten. How long had it been since I last pet him? It couldn’t have been that long ago? I kept my eye on him and saw that he was indeed moving quite slowly and while he would run to his food plate when I put it down, I saw that he would only take a few bites and then lie down. I starting bringing him in at night and throughout the evenings and mornings try to get him to eat. He was almost totally off of both wet and dry cat food. I took out the Nutri-cal supplement that I used with Butterball and luckily Moochie liked the taste. I knew that he LOVED chicken so I bought one of those roast chickens at Whole Foods thinking he would get the dark meat (that I don’t like) and I could eat the white meat. I cut up the meat of a leg and brought it to him. He picked up a piece and then promptly spit it out. Wow, he won’t even eat roast chicken. Hmmm, I then cut up a few pieces of white meat and put that in front of him. Wouldn’t you know, he chowed down on that--so much for my chicken dinner. I knew that roast chicken wasn’t nutritious enough for him so I thought I would try some white fish and tuna wet cat food. I NEVER serve this to my cats because it is just SO stinky. But, that might be just what he needs to stimulate his appetite.

(Moochie, lounging in the brush a couple of years ago.)

It worked. He is still not eating his usual amount but he is eating the wet cat food and will even crunch a few pieces of kibble at a time. I also bought some vitamin fortified cat treats that he loves. His energy level has also improved. I almost canceled his vet appointment for yesterday but I thought better and took him in to get checked out.

Very bad news. The vet felt a large baseball sized mass in his abdomen--most likely gastrointestinal lymphoma. My vet was very sorry but he said he wouldn’t even refer me to a specialist. That might sound harsh, so I need to point out that my vet knows me, knows all the cats I have, knows my finances. Even if this were my beloved Butterball, I wouldn't put him through a series of poking and prodding tests and/or surgeries. At this advanced stage and size, the vet said it would be a matter of weeks, if not days, before I would need to bring him in to be put down. I asked about his increased energy level and my vet said it was because of two things, 1) I was getting food and supplements into him. Without coaxing, he would have probably (and indeed almost) stopped eating all together a few weeks ago; and 2) I was spending a lot of time with him.

Here I am, back at this familiar juncture. I was so hoping that I wouldn’t have to deal with another cat illness and death this year. Moochie is now inside and getting lots of TLC.

(Enjoying the breeze on the front porch early this morning)

...Yes, I am still frazzled.