Friday, December 8, 2023
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Purrs for Lakota

siamese cat on table
Lakota wants all the attention.

I took the photo above just the other day during Lakota’s first shift as self-appointed studio supervisor. It took him no time at all to know exactly what to do in his new position.

But the old man isn’t feeling well. After improving tremendously from the weak and unhappy cat who came here June 16, gaining weight and strength and his own personal bearings, I saw him slip precipitously over the past two days. He’s weak with anemia, which could have many origins, though with blood tests none of his blood values are good, kidneys are pretty bad. It could be a blood parasite, it could be a mass somewhere in his abdomen, but without the time to do a variety of tests to determine exactly what it was today, the veterinarian decided on a course of antibiotics for the possibility of a blood-borne parasite and prednisolone to help with appetite and energy, and we’ll check back again in a few days.

When I had brought Lakota and Jojo in I called my veterinarian and we discussed a plan of action for them. They’d most recently lived in a cage in a basement or garage or porch because they weren’t permitted into the places where their person was living. Because I didn’t know anything about their veterinary history I had no idea when they’d most recently had vaccinations or if they’d ever had FIV or FeLV tests, and they could possibly have been exposed to it during the time in the cage outdoors, we decided that I would observe them, get to know them better, for the two-month period it would take to get an accurate test and they’d have their first exam at that time, unless something else came up.

two cats
Lakota and Jojo greet me in the evening.

I’ve seen nothing but improvements since they’ve been here. Jojo was shy and timid, and vomited frequently. Lakota was lethargic and less than social with constipation issues. Both were dehydrated with tangles in their dry fur. But they ravenously ate their canned food with water and pumpkin added, and in time Jojo relaxed and Lakota began exploring the bathroom, and both of them greeted me when I entered. And they loved their catnip toys.

two cats

Once Lakota began feeling stronger he began demanding to know, in that Siamese voice and manner of his, just why he had to stay in this room. So in the heat, I blocked the top of the stairs with a baby gate and let him wander at will, exploring all the corners of the upstairs. He wasn’t able to get over the baby gate or up onto my chair or my bed at first, but after a few days of regaining his muscles he was up on windowsills, then over the baby gate.

siamese cat behind baby gate
Stuck behind the baby gate!

I set up a more permanent block for the upstairs, Jojo politely stayed in the bathroom but Lakota could wander and visit me in the studio while Mimi and her children could get to me as well, and he was more vocal with his greetings and orders all the time.

black cat
Mimi on the landing looking at Lakota.
siamese cat on floor
Lakota on my studio floor next to my computer, looking at Mimi

I was still careful they didn’t come face to face without the reassurance of the FIV/FeLV test, and relied on the unaggressive personalities of Mimi and her children to make it work, and it did. I made plans to call my vet and begin a plan of integration.

black cat and siamese cat.
Jelly Bean is ready to make friends

They were just beginning to co-exist up here without coming face to face when just three days ago I noticed Lakota was showing up for meals but not eating much though he was the same as ever aside from that. Then two days ago he was eating less and was less active, staying near me but sleeping, not interacting, and I called my veterinarian, who was going out of town. We decided I would help him with the constipation and get a few doses of fluids into his mouth because he’d quit drinking as much from his fountain and not any other changes. I let him sleep on my bed overnight too, as it seemed to help him relax.

siamese cat on bed
Lakota finds the sweet spot on the bed.

Yesterday I could see he wasn’t improving, only getting more lethargic all the time and not eating at all, and had great difficulty in the box despite my efforts at helping him, and the most unnerving thing about him was his absolute silence, a very bad sign for a vocal cat. On a Friday with my vet out of town I have limited options, but contacted Frankie’s Friends since they were having a clinic over the weekend in the same building as the HCMT clinics. They invited me to bring him up, and Jojo too just in case it was something that would affect both of them, and Dr. Morrow would see them between spays and neuters.

siamese cat gets exam
Lakota gets his exam.

Very anemic, yes, lethargic, yes, likely kidney issues and the beginning of jaundice, meaning his liver is involved. I mentioned that his breed normally has blue eyes and while they do fade with age I’d told my veterinarian that his eyes looked rather green when he arrived. We’d talked about jaundice and in a few days his eyes faded to a gray-blue, but that and the lethargy and weakness might have been an early indication of this current condition. They took blood and ran blood tests, and the results were pretty poor. The only positive was that he was not dehydrated, and negative for FIV and FeLV.

siamese cat in carrier
Lakota in his carrier at clinic

I also discovered that sweet little Jojo actually has a poorly-healed broken jaw. I had notice her mouth was misshapen, her lower jaw and chin very narrow and her upper incisors at odd angles, but Dr. Morrow opened her mouth and pointed out even a portion of it apparently missing. Dear little girl, how did that happen?

black cat gets exam
Jojo gets her exam.

So was he slowly fading but perked up when he came here with a more stable environment and just the excitement of change? Likely so. For both humans and animals our intellectual and emotional selves respond to change as we acquaint ourselves with new surroundings through sensory perceptions, it’s part of our survival instincts. Oddly enough I’d seen that happen with my parents as they moved through the system of personal care to skilled nursing, suddenly alert and aware on arrival at the hospital or when they’d arrived at a new living place, even conversational though each, in their own ways, were falling ever deeper into dementia, then falling back to their weakness, confusion and silence.

siamese cat with envelopes
Lakota approves of these envelopes, from just three days ago.

Right now Lakota is sleeping on my bed after his first doses of medications. I will try to force some baby food into him after he’s rested; for now he’s had enough. The antibiotic and prednisolone will help him feel better but it will likely be a temporary wellness based on the medications because his organs are also involved, and I know it’s time for a decision. Another veterinarian may have looked at his numbers and his age and advised me to euthanize him now. I considered it, even yesterday when I knew intuitively what was likely an end-of-life condition. He is accepting of where he is, I could see in his expressions, and we will give it this one try, but I don’t feel he’s interested in any prolonged ranks of medications and treatments.

siamese and black cat in tub
Lakota and Jojo in the tub during the heat wave.

This is not a surprise. I knew their health was perilous when I took them in, and was glad to see both improve. But I also know they are 19 and 20 and most of their lives are behind them. It’s part of what I agreed to when I said I’d take them in, knowing our time together would likely be brief in comparison to other cats.

On the way home, Jojo was softly meowing in her not-very-pretty rusty gate meow. At a stop light I reached back and put my fingers through the door on her carrier, and the little girl who’s not terribly demonstrative grasped my fingers in her paws and vigorously rubbed her face on them. Thanking me? Encouraging me? Perhaps both.

siamese cat
Lakota instructs me in how to compute my framing dimensions.

We never know how long a life will be, we never know exactly what we’re getting or how it will all end up, but that’s part of what we agree to when we adopt or foster or rescue, knowing their lives are shorter than ours to begin with. And when it’s a geriatric cat, I’d be a fool to think I have a lot of influence over the outcome when they’ve got all those years of living that’s made them who they are—and not to underestimate the fact that part of the reason they achieved that long life was through their own will to live and thrive. I learned with Peaches to just let her find her own comfort and she would take care of the details, and to make each day important. So I did with these two. Lakota has been very, very happy and I have been looking forward to his company in the months to come, big fuzzball that he is and so affectionate, a little concerned about his possessiveness but I knew we could work that out. But if this is all we have, it’s certainly better than nothing at all, and I’m glad to have been able to make him happy for his last few months.

You only avoid the pain of loss by never letting yourself fully love, and the pain of my guilt at not allowing my love for these two to grow as it should would be far worse than the pain I will feel at losing them.

I will give updates on his condition, and in the meantime, send him lots of purrrrrs.

(On Sunday morning, the day after this post, his condition and manner are unchanged. Once you’ve started the “antibiotic and steroid route” as I call it when we pull these somewhat desperate measures at then end, there really isn’t any place else to turn, but perhaps a few more days will make a difference.)

siamese cat on table
One happy Lakota, very pleased with himself.

. . . . . . .

On this rainy summer morning as I considered Lakota’s condition and what decisions I may need to make it seemed eerily familiar; it was a rainy summer morning almost a year ago that I lost Kelly, and I’ve been deeply remembering her as this anniversary approaches.

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29 thoughts on “Purrs for Lakota

  • Hi Bernadette, I had to answer your email from Facebook here because I was blocked from contacting people I’m not technically Facebook “Friends” with; I apparently contacted too many people who I guess don’t remember me from high school. I can’t say I blame them, I graduated in 1974; and I was pretty quiet then. Nice to meet you too,. Sorry to hear about Lakota; especially near the anniversary of losing another one. We lost our Blondie a few weeks ago. I know it can be hard to go through.

    Your IE problem might be with your host for your Web site. I’m only guessing though. My knowledge of Web design is somewhat limited. Both Lakota’s and the orange cat print links would not work on IE; but, worked on Google Chrome. As far as I can remember, I’ve never had IE block a page and give me a blocked error message. When it gives the message it also states the link. However, in the message it only gives the link up to the pound sign. It leaves out the pound sign and puts in a period instead; but, does not show the rest of the link. The message at the bottom of the screen says, “Website Found.” Waiting for……; but, then IE aborts the operation and gives the error message. I thought it might be because the “www” is missing from the link. But, when I put it in myself, I get the same response. Plus it goes to not even though I typed it with the www in the address. Unless maybe your files are stored to the wrong directory. Anyway, try calling or emailing your host for your site. I hope this all has helped in some way or another. Best wishes for Lakota.

    • Save Five Cats, so sorry about your Blondie; a few weeks is still very fresh.

      Lakota is a recent entry to the household, only six weeks, and we were just getting to know each other, but I’m glad I had the chance to know him and give him a chance to enjoy a few more weeks conquering a new household.

      I recognize the name in your email–I am class of 79! For some reason you also ended up in my spam folder, but that shouldn’t be a problem with one comment approved. The issue is with my template, it has never worked well in IE, here and there I’ve fixed it, then there’s another update. I’m looking for a new template. It’s very frustrating!

      • Yes Blondie’s death is fresh still; she went through some very traumatic times with us. Her death made me very vulnerable to trying to save the underweight and straggly mom and four kittens in 100 degree heat with no water or food. I spotted them five days after Blondie died.

        I think I must have lost my mind or something for trying to save them. I bought a trap; not the cat one (trying to save $15). So far I’ve been scratched and bitten which got infected and prompted a trip to the doctor for antibiotics today. I’m still waiting to hear from the Health Department nurse regarding if I need rabies treatment. My primary care doctor says rabies isn’t usually contracted from kittens.

        I’ve only managed to catch three of the kittens. I think mom might be too smart for the cage. I have some very mixed emotions over this whole project
        . On top of that, my attempts to sell products to raise money to save them and get us moved back to Kentucky due to life-threatening medical problems is going no where.

        Did I make a mistake in trying to save this furry family? I’m pretty sure animal control would have killed them within a couple of days if caught by them. I’ve heard they are quick to put animals down due to lack of space. Our little city is so small it doesn’t even have a library and shares a zip code with at least two other cities.

        Facebook gave me a message they blocked me. Most likely because the email to people came across as just any unknown person trying to save five cats rather than it being someone they knew. I didn’t have my picture there on the initial send.

        Web site building in general can be very frustrating. I hope it works out better for you with your next template.

        That’s cool we’re almost the same age. And, awesome that you’ve been able to give Lakota several weeks of happiness.

        I hope he is doing better. Hang in there,

  • Bernadette,
    I am so sorry, Lakota knew he was loved and safe when he was with you and that is all that counts, I will say a special prayer for you both. He was very lucky to have you.

    • Sharon, it’s just like your kindness to Penny, thank you.

  • Paulette Smith

    Bernadette, don and I both send our love, prayers & lots of purrs to Lakota& JoJo . I can’t tell you how much we admire you for being willing to open your home and your heart to these two sweet kitties! They are so very lucky to be able to end their days with you. You will always have a special place in our hearts

  • I am so glad that Lakota has you at this critical time. Sending lots of purrs!

  • I am just happy they found you. Whatever the outcome, and as sad as it may be, I hope you will always find comfort for having them as long as they can stay.

    • Thanks, Jobi, just the fact that they settled in and came to trust me was all I’d expected, all that’s come after that has been a joy, even if it will be brief.

  • Cynthia Savitt

    What a big heart you have to take care of Lakota & Jojo in their twilight years. Having just lost my 15-year-old cat to lymphoma, your story resonates deeply. Sending love & prayers.

    • Cynthia, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, and lymphoma can be especially hard and confusing in the last days and weeks. These old ones deserve peace and love in their last days.

  • I’m so sorry to hear that Lakota is not doing well. Unfortunately, you know when you take in an older cat that their time is limited. But even if he is only with you a few more days or weeks, he will cross the Rainbow Bridge knowing he was loved and cared for.xo

    • Vicki, I knew what I was getting into after losing so many of my own, and the hard part was not to steel myself against their loss before I got to know them. I’m glad to have given Lakota a few weeks of health and happiness.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    dood. may St Francis watch over you, and jojo as well, offering you his blessings of love, contentment, peace and health.

    • Tabbies, I think St. Francis has been with them for a while, and hasn’t left their side. We’re trusting it to him now.

  • How great that you took Lakota and Jojo in and got them the care they needed. We purr for Lakota…and Jojo too.

    • Thanks, Island Cats, remembering my own geriatric cats at their age, I just couldn’t let these two go to a shelter. That would hurt worse than losing them.

  • Oh, Lakota. Many purrs for you, and for Jojo, too. You’ve done such a wonderful thing to take them in for their “golden years”, whatever length they may be. We read here but rarely comment, but we’ll be purring loudly for them and for you, too.

    • Gang, thanks so much for our purrs, Lakota may be much the same but they may be sustaining him, and I don’t think Jojo has had so much attention in her whole life. Thanks for taking the time to comment today–I do the same and it’s fine, it’s a choice between reading everyone, or only some and taking the time to comment.

  • Even though Lakota is declining, he got to have these last few weeks with you, and he will know he was loved, no matter how much longer he will be with you. I can’t say it any better than Sparkle did in her comment above – it’s all about this present moment.

    • Ingrid, I think he rebounded and worked as hard as he cold to enjoy these few weeks because he was here, and I’m so honored to have shared these moments with him.

  • Lots of purrs flying outta here for Lakota… and Jojo! Their tale is so sad but how wonderful to see in their eyes that, at the end of their days, they only know the peace, love and dignity you are giving them. Sparkle is right. It’s not the past that they’ll take with them to the Bridge, but the now, the right now with you.

    • Thank you, Lynda, hard as it may be, I’ve been trained by the best in how to walk this path. Jojo has really come out of her shell and has been extra sweet to me. They know so much.

  • We’re purring loud and hard for Lakota. He and Jojo are lucky to have you to care for them.

    The Florida Furkids

    • Thank you, Florida Furkids–I’m so happy they are here with me.

  • I am sending lots of purrs Lakota’s way – you know and I know that what is really important is not his past, but his here-and-now, and how he is coping with it. And I see the kind of grace that transcends time and I know you will do what is the highest good for him. He and Jojo came bearing gifts that have nothing and everything to do with the years they have behind them.

    • Oh, Sparkle, your words are so beautiful and so fitting. Loving and caring for them and celebrating each day, knowing our time would be relatively brief and possibly not full of health, I only want to see them gracefully through their days, and I happily accept their gifts. Thank you.

  • This is one of the few times I’m glad animals can’t talk. I don’t want to know what these poor babies went through!
    How any one could possibly treat any living creature like they were treated is beyond me. We’re
    sending prayers and good thoughts their way!

    • 3ringcircus, you are right–knowing what happened won’t help a thing. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.


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