Mr. Sunshine missed the days of visiting new people in his Sleepypod and getting all the attention so we decided to go on a whirlwind tour of emergency hospitals over the past week. He’s okay, and though we’re still not sure exactly what he has, he’s on the mend.
He’s been feeling generally great for months now with no sign of anything that beset him in the spring coming back, except maybe his blood pressure. I had noticed in July that his pupils, which had reduced to a more normal size and shape after he started the Amlodipine in April, were once again expanding to nearly fill his eyes. I let his veterinarian know when I visited her with Mewsette in August and she recommended a slight increase in his medication with a recheck in a couple of weeks. That was around Rock the Quarry at the end of August, and his pupils were still pretty round at that point. I remembered it had taken several weeks when he started the medication so I decided I’d wait a week or two, and they were especially busy weeks too.
The next section is what happened through last week and over the weekend, then earlier this week. Below that is a little story about Kublai and this time of year and one of the reasons I was so concerned.
Several days of driving around
Last Monday, September 12, he finished the Chinese herb Dr. Elgersma had prescribed in May; that supplement helps to control inflammation and is often used for lymphoma. Pretty much the next day I began to sense a change in him, not something I could describe right away, but by Wednesday I could see he wasn’t as active as usual or eating as much as usual. Because of his history, anything is suspect. I felt him all over more than once. He was a little annoyed by that.
I had decided to catch up on his blood pressure check that week so off we went on Thursday. I thought that might show something or they might see something. His blood pressure was 148, in the normal range my veterinarian had described, his heart sounded normal, no lumps and bumps, same weight. Back home we go.
He wasn’t lethargic, just slow to get moving. He wasn’t sleeping on my desk as he usually did, he was often in the basement in a box on my worktable, which is fine, but even small changes can be something. He looked at me in a certain way and I knew something was brewing for sure.
Who wouldn’t miss this teddy bear on their desk?
Friday I took notes on his food—he’s a big eater, but was not finishing meals and just leaving the room—and other behavior, and messaged Dr. Elgersma about the herbal supplement, if she thought ending the herb might have had an impact on more than we realized.
I had an all-day local conference with the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators on Saturday and would even be setting up a gift table as examples of what I make with my art and illustrations. Mr. Sunshine would not leave the bed until I carried him down the stairs, then he acted pretty normal, for the moment. I got back home at about 10:00 p.m. with FreshPet, which he loves as they all do, and while he got up on the cabinet and had his treats, he had no interest in food. I took his temperature and it was 103.9, reminiscent of another late night this past April.
Whatever it was, I wanted to get a start on it right away. PetWellClinic and Rivers Veterinary Urgent Care were already closed and nothing was open until Monday but emergency clinics. And I don’t know what it was this past weekend but everyone was full of serious cases, like animals hit by cars and in diabetic ketosis and so on. I went to one that was close, but they were only taking critical cases, and this was not critical, at least not yet. I called PVSEC North where he’d been for his exams and imaging earlier this year and they agreed to triage him with a veterinary technician but could not guarantee he would see a veterinarian. That’s okay, I would be happy with someone more skilled than me to see him. His temp was a little lower, BP was 124, it was clear he had some abdominal pain but nothing she could palpate. I took him home and settled him in the bathroom.
Sunday morning his temp was 104.5 and that’s when I start to worry, he had no interest in moving around, and he wasn’t eating anything, not even his favorite pill pockets with his medication. I texted Dr. Elgersma an update, and also Ingrid for a reiki session any time she could fit one in, which she did right away. I corresponded with both of them considering the possibility of another internal mass, pancreatitis, and a virus or bacterial infection as well as an infected internal abscess. Dr. Elgersma would stop on Monday. And I started calling around to find an emergency hospital to take him to. PVSEC North wasn’t even answering the phone at that point, the other one I’d gone to the night before was about the same as the night before, one of them was completely closed to new intakes for the next week or so, and PVSEC South had a 12-hour wait. A few hours later I checked back and the wait was shorter, so we got there about 4:00.
He was triaged and his temp was 105.7, getting into a pretty scary range, though he was still alert and responsive. She took him to ask the veterinarian if she wanted to examine him, and he was in “the back” until about 9:45 p.m. I didn’t leave that lobby but for a quick bathroom break and a very refreshing enjoyment of the sunset.
I finally got a call from the veterinarian who’d had a chance to look him over at about 9:45 p.m. I felt bad she was so busy stitching up other animals and handling many serious cases that she didn’t have the time to come out to the lobby and hoped she was at least having a coffee. She said she’d need to do blood tests and some imaging, but she might not get to that until the next morning. I said I might be able to get him into my regular vet or a place closer to my house in the morning as other options were open on Mondays and we agreed she’d give him fluids and a dose of cerenia for the little bit of foamy vomit he’d given out.
Monday morning he was feeling pretty good when I opened the bathroom door. His temp was 104.9 but he had eaten a little overnight and proceeded to walk down two flights of steps to the basement to use the litterbox, but it was clear his abdomen was pretty painful and he would not eat anything else, and slowed down as time passed. I emailed notes and records and called my veterinarian.
Dr. Elgersma stopped mid-day with fluids and B12, a laser treatment for abdominal pain and an electromagnetic pad to help ease whatever was happening, and we decided to get him back on his supplement. Of course, this was a family affair as everyone loves Dr. Elgersma—Mr. Sunshine greeted her at the door—and he obviously needed some purr therapy from his siblings and mom to go along with all the other alternative therapies Dr. Elgersma packed in.
He licked a half of a squeezy and licked some wet food of all the things I offered. My veterinarian called a little later and said she’d like him to have an ultrasound and a full blood panel. I started calling around about ultrasound opportunities, which are few and far between around here right now, and darned expensive, between $1,000 and $2,000. I decided we’d go to Rivers first thing in the morning—that’s where I’d taken Jelly Bean a few weeks ago.
We were there until mid-afternoon Tuesday, but he got a full exam and we discussed his history all the way back to his cancer diagnosis in April, and no doubt I’ll have information to share from that conversation as his condition moves on. He had his blood tests which showed a high white blood cell count indicating an infection but all else was normal, so he got a shot of convenia to get a start on taking down the infection until we might determine what it was. Since we’d discussed pancreatitis and the only way to truly diagnose it was with an ultrasound, the veterinarian at Rivers could set up a referral for one for only $600, still a lot for me, but way more affordable than otherwise. I would give him a dose of fluids when I got home. About three hours later he was walking around and obviously more comfortable, even with a bit of an appetite for a whole squeezy and a little more wet food.
Today, Wednesday, he had eaten a small amount of food overnight again, and once again walked down two flights of steps to pee in a litterbox. I got him on the cabinet for the pre-breakfast treats, which he ate with gusto, then left. A little later he headed back up to the bathroom to drop a normal looking stool sample in the litterbox in the bathroom. I didn’t realize he’d eaten enough to produce one. He settled in his bed in there and I decided I’d let him just rest in there. I called Rivers with an update and a few questions including toxoplasmosis testing.
I’ve been giving him his medications in butterballs since the pill pockets aren’t working for him, and I don’t want to turn him against them. For the butterball, I crush the medications with a mortar and pestle and mix enough butter into the powder to hold it all together, flatten it into a little round disc shape, then put it in the refrigerator to solidify. It’s much easier to handle that way, and though it starts to melt a bit on the outside when it’s handled it’s fairly easy to stick it to a fingertip and slip into the back of his mouth where the surface melts a little more and it slides down his throat, but because it’s butter it can easily conform its shape and it’s easy to swallow. Butter is not good for long-term dosing, but it works when they have no appetite and may seem to have trouble swallowing pills.
About mid-day I was riding my exercise bicycle and Mewsette had been there with me, I thought she had returned, but on closer inspection it turned out to be Mr. Sunshine coming down the steps and having a drink at the fountain, then coming over to the chair next to me to jump up and supurrvise me. Now that is some progress! Later I cooked up a chicken breast and gave him as much as he wanted, about a tablespoon and some broth, then shared some with his siblings.
So that’s where we are on Wednesday night. He’s still not anywhere near 100% but it’s clear that he’s improving and feeling well enough to participate in daily activities between long naps. The convenia is effective for up to two weeks, so hopefully that will keep working on his infection, whatever it is, while we arrange the ultrasound and some other tests.
This time of year…
Ironically, September 19, 1996, was the day I lost Kublai to what we later presumed was toxoplasmosis. I gave Mr. Sunshine his fluids in the bathroom on Tuesday and then he headed out of the bathroom and right for the stairs, a little unsteady. It reminded me of that very same moment with Kublai 26 years ago.
On September 18, late afternoon, I had given him fluids with the assistance of a young neighbor girl from across the street who wanted to study veterinary medicine. He was done with the fluids but got away from both of us, ran down the steps but stumbled and rolled down the last few. He was very frail by then, about 4 pounds down from 12, but still with life force.
The next morning he seemed especially weak, and in retrospect I realized he may have been been injured by his fall and bleeding internally; he was already anemic and I really didn’t know any other way to tell at that time. Or it may have been his time, as we knew that time was coming. I was still working my day job, but I ran back in the house twice after I’d left and checked him in the studio, he lifted his head and clearly told me it was okay to leave, one of the messages I actually heard as words in my head. I remember feeling a sense of happiness at one point while driving to work along one of my favorite back roads on a sunny early autumn morning, and he had told me it was okay to leave.
When I got home his spirit was clearly not in the house when I opened the door, in fact I began wondering how he’d gotten out because he was famous for escaping. He was on the floor in the studio, and he was not in his body. Perhaps he wanted it that way, or perhaps something happened that he didn’t anticipate. But that sense of happiness I felt on the way to work, I think that was when it happened and he was happy to be free of his body, and to enter his next adventure, and he was not leaving unwillingly or unexpectedly.
Mr. Sunshine is in far better shape than Kublai was by that time, but I think the fluids in the bathroom, Mr. Sunshine—another black cat, heading unsteadily for the steps and looking at the back of his head as stopped at the top and looked down, the light, the temperature, even the September afternoon quiet and hushed sounds of crickets and birds, I’m pretty sure it was a clear message to me, maybe pulled from my memory, but I wouldn’t put it past Kublai to guide me once again.
Just before this I spent time getting caught up on things I’d fallen behind on while going to the markets and other shows. I had fully intended to start posting again last weekend, but spending whole days following Mr. Sunshine around or hanging out at animal emergency hospitals was really time-consuming, and I actually wanted to wait until I had found some care for him and knew a little more. I promise I’m going to keep up with posting now, I have so much to share I don’t even remember some of it!
Again, if you’d like to help me with Mr. Sunshine’s care…
I have been able to keep up with Mr. Sunshine’s care, aside from the recent emergency hospitals, along with starting Mewsette and Jelly Bean on their senior panels using the donations from July for Mr. Sunshine’s cancelled surgery. I am very grateful for that because market sales have not been as good this year as last. I have some larger design projects that typically come around in September and October that had been postponed in 2020 and had been smaller last year, but they are fully back this year, and that will be very nice! I am rebuilding parts of my e-commerce website and finalizing a freestanding website for animal professionals for my Custom Pet Memorial Votives and am hoping those new opportunities along with a few other smaller tweaks will help to build that income back up and increase website income generally.
Visit my website, www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net, and do some shopping! I will not be attending markets any more this year except possibly in November so I’ll be posting my handmade gift items on my updated website, plus artwork and photography for yourself or for gifts. Also consider a portrait, or a portrait certificate for the holidays! It would make me very happy to pack and ship things to you in return for money.
As always, thanks for following us, and thanks for caring! I always appreciate hearing from you, no matter how that happens.
And if you did want to donate, my Paypal address is bernadette @ bernadette-k . com and my Venmo is @Bernadette-Kazmarski. And thank you for caring, whether you buy something or donate or not.
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Mr. Sunshine is on three out of these four dishtowels! Read more and purchase.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Tuesday: Rescue Stories
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