Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roller Coaster Ride!

When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters!  Actually, I still do - but not the modern ones with the loopy-de-loop, hang-you-upside-down-from-your-neck kind of ride.  No, I like the old-fashioned wooden roller coasters where you sat on a bench seat and where the ride had a couple of small hills, some twists and turns, and one great climb to a huge plummeting swooping downward spiral, all to the accompaniment of the rattling wooden track beneath you feet.  Remember those?  Those, my friends, were real roller coasters.

The Comet, 
now at Lake George, New York, 
in The Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom,
has been restored to its former glory.  
It found its first home at 
Crystal Beach in Ontario, Canada
from 1948-1989.
Someday I hope to visit The Comet at its new home.

Growing up, we were lucky to live within a 45 minute drive of Crystal Beach, what was then a vibrant theme park and home of The Comet.  Awww...The Comet - my favourite roller coaster ever.  I dreamt of the day I would be tall enough to finally ride that coaster, watching my older siblings with a mixture of piercing envy and hidden fear as they tumbled wind-blown and happy at the end of the ride.  When the day finally came and I was tall enough for the "big people" rides, I was ecstatic!  And The Comet was everything I had imagined and more!  I can still remember the butterflies in my stomach as we rode that big hill, clicking and clacking up the track.  And then that brief second pause at the top, when the whole world seemed hushed and the laws of gravity stilled for just that second, before suddenly we were plunging down, down, down to the bottom, mouths open with glee, hands flung in the air, hair whipped back till we arrived breathless at the bottom, feeling somehow like we'd conquered a mountain or soared across the seas.

The problem with roller coasters, however, is that they aren't so much fun in real life.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  Days when your emotions are dragged all over the map, soaring to great heights, plunging to great depths, until your whole being feels stretched beyond repair and so very exhausted.

Right now, we are going through "roller coaster" times here in the Magnolia household.  A big part of it is the ongoing saga of our cat Tiger but of course, there are always other things going on as well because let's face it, life doesn't stop just because you are faced with a mini-crisis of one type or another.  I'm being pushed beyond my normal comfort zone to do things I wouldn't normally chose to do and that in itself is a stress.  I'm not good with "medical" things at the best of times and suddenly I am having to deal with a cat that needs medications five times a day, a bandage that has to be changed daily, wounds that have to be cleaned twice daily, a feeding tube that has to be used to feed the cat 3-4 times a day, and physiotherapy that I'm supposed to be giving her 4 times a day.

And obviously my cat isn't exactly enjoying this any more than I am!  Ever tried to give physiotherapy to a  tired, hurting little animal who has not in any way lost her ability to use her front claws?  Not fun!   She actually is being very patient, but she will growl at me with a warning and if I keep on going, she will swipe at me with her claws.  But the vet keeps insisting that it is imperative that I stretch both her back legs out 30-50 times, four times a day.  And giving her medication isn't exactly a picnic either!  She foams up at the mouth because the antibiotic tastes bitter and struggles so hard when I try to put any of her meds down her mouth with the syringe.  And all the time, I am very aware that she is hurting and I hate to hurt her any more.

Quite apart from the daily responsibilities of her care, is the fact that we have no idea if she is going to recover.  One day we have a positive day where she seems to be improving, and then the next day, it's like she's gone down hill again.  Up and down, the roller coaster drags us, from hope to despair.  And I am left questioning over and over again, if I have made the right decision to keep this little cat alive.

The thing is, when we first had to make the decision, we didn't have all the facts.  The emergency vet clinic we brought her to told us she had no fatal injuries, no broken bones, just one hip that had been pulled out of joint and some "unknown" damage to her other leg.  They assured us that the University of Guelph Vet team would be able to assess her much more accurately and since they are one of the only two spots in Ontario where vet surgery is available, it seemed logical to take her there.  At Uof G, the vets assessed her, even having a neurologist look at her, and they assured us that the "unknown" damage to her left leg was nothing to be concerned about.  Her right hip needed to be operated on, but her left leg would be fine.  They felt there was temporary swelling on her sciatic nerve on the left side and that given time, it would heal itself.

Strange thing:  No one ever talked about the bite wounds themselves.  No one explained that dog bites could be so deadly, that the small 1/2 inch punctures on the outside of her body could hide huge damage done by the way a dog shakes it's prey.

So, we authorized the surgeons to operate on her hip and clean up her wounds.  Then in the middle of the operation, they called us and said:
a) the hip operation went very well!
b) but the bite wounds were much more extensive than we realized and her stomach has been punctured,
c) but we can sew her stomach up and it will be okay, we just need you to authorize more money to be spent.

So, we thought YES!  sew up her stomach.  I mean, they had already done the expensive hip surgery and it was a success!  And they said if they sewed up her stomach it would be okay.  So why not go for it!

It wasn't until AFTER the surgery that the vet called us to explain that she had extensive wounds on her back, part of her tummy had to be removed, part of the abdominal muscle had to be removed, and they were very cautious about whether or not she would even survive the night.

So, the good news is that 12 days post-surgery, Tiger is alive!  But the harsh reality is that we have a little cat that has 20 staples in her stomach, about 10 regular stitches where they weren't able to use staples on part of her belly, a feeding tube, four staples under her chin where they attempted to put in some type of catheter but weren't successful, and two large stitched wounds, one on her hip where they did the surgery, and one on her back where they had to clean out a particularly bad bite wound, and plenty of little wounds that are about 1/2-3/4" in length all over back and hind legs.

According to the vet at U of G, she should be up and walking by now but so far, she is not doing much other than sleeping on her blanket.   Our own vet feels that is ridiculous and that with normal abdominal surgery they usually don't expect the cat to be up and walking for 12-14 days and then when you consider all the other trauma the poor cat has endured, it is no wonder she wants to stretch out on her blanket and sleep the day away!   But hearing such varying reports on her recovery is confusing and yet another part of the roller coaster.

My husband talked me into taking her outside today on her blanket.  It was a great idea!  She perked right up and began squiggling all over the grass, watching every bird as it flew by, and sniffing the grass with obvious delight.  But it became clear to us that she doesn't seem to be able to use her left leg at all right now.  She does stretch it out regularly when she is lying on her blanket, but obviously she can't hold herself up on it at all.  And the right leg that was operated on doesn't seem to be much better at this point.

So we are on the roller coaster still - wondering from day-to-day what kind of a long-term prognosis there will be for this little cat.  I spoke to the vet in Guelph yesterday, just clarifying a few details about her care.  One of my questions had to do with her medication.  The antibiotic and the stomach buffer have a specific end date on the labels, but the pain killers do not, so I wasn't sure how long I'm supposed to be giving them to her.  He explained that she might need to be on painkillers for the rest of her life!  This was one of those plummeting moments for me, because if she is going to be in pain every day for the rest of her life, I don't think it's fair to her to prolong her life.

Tiger is sitting up properly now on her blanket for a few hours every day. She is obviously getting stronger and feeling less pain every day.  The bandage around her neck is where her feeding tube is attached to her.  You can just see the orange feeding tube tucked behind her head in the picture.

My husband and I have talked this over extensively in the last week and have decided we will do everything to give her the best hope she can have for the next four to five weeks.  But after that period of time has passed, if she is not able to walk on at least one of her back legs, or if she is still in constant pain, we will have to make the difficult decision to put her to sleep.  In the mean time, I am going to do my best to take care of her medical needs, as well as spending lots of time cuddling her.  And she certainly hasn't lost her purr!  She stretches out beside me, tucks her head under my chin, and reaches one paw out to hold me, as if she is so thankful to know I'm there.

Last Sunday morning, I dragged myself to church feeling emotionally raw.  I couldn't believe it when the soloist for the day opened her mouth and began to sing.  She had selected one of my favourite hymns, one I hadn't heard for many years, and one whose words were particularly meaningful to me this week.  Knowing that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and loves each little animal He created, is giving me strength as I ride this crazy roller coaster called life.  I hope the words minister to you as well.  (I've been singing the song all week long, replacing the words "the sparrow" with "my Tiger" - it has helped cheer me up considerably!)

  1. Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
    Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
    When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    • Refrain:
      I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
      For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

  2. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
    And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
    Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

  3. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
    When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
    I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Matthew 10:29-31 (New Living Translation)

29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.


  1. I am not a cat person (HIGHLY HIGHLY allergic), but I do have two beagles. The little one (just over a year old) got REALLY sick last year. Truly, our vet didn't think she was going to recover. We had to take her to the animal hospital, where she stayed for 2 nights and 3 days ($$$). They did all kinds of tests, hooked her to IV's, etc. In the end, she recovered, but there were times when it didn't look like she would. All that to say, I KNOW how you are feeling. Our animals SO become a part of our lives, and we love them. It hurts to see the ones we love sick or in pain.

    So, I'll be praying for your little guy...and for you as you ride the roller coaster of emotional ups and downs.

    I understand those as well...we had an adoption fall through in April. There's excitement and rejoicing one minute and then hurt and heartbreak the next. How thankful I am for God's grace and strength.

    Blessings...and a happy Sunday to you,

  2. Poor you and poor, Tiger. I had a cat, Alexander. He had cancer and had to have one of his back legs removed. He got along fine. If Tiger can get one good back leg, Tiger will do fine, too! Hang in there. Wishing you and Tiger well.

  3. So, so sorry to read about your troubles with Tiger. Any animal emergency is so difficult, and those emergency places really try and do SO much with our pets that I have left there wondering at times what the right choice really was. You are doing the best you can for Tiger, and what a sweetie he is!

    Hang on for the roller coaster, but you are so right that it's not as fun as it sounds.

  4. I am a cat person and I know how you feel. I had a cat named Madison who lived to be 18. He had diabetes and I gave him insulin 2x a day and for a year I gave him IV fluids in his neck and I'm no nurse! It was pure dedication because I loved him so! He started out at 20 lbs and when he got down to 6 lbs I said to myself that I wasn't being fair to him. I didn't want him to suffer and that the hard part of owning a pet. They can't tell you...we have to be the voice for them.

    I had a vet come to the house where I held him on our couch where he quietly drifted off to sleep to kitty heaven in the comfort of his home...he didn't know any better other then he was on my lap...and now no longer suffering.

    He now sits in a small creation box on my dresser...I miss him dearly.

    I am hoping and praying for Tiger to get better!

  5. Our pets become so much a part of our family life and to see them in pain is so distressing, especially when we cannot explain to them what is happening. My love, thoughts and prayers are with you and Tiger for 'whatever' the future holds.

  6. Please don't give up on Tiger yet. I think about you and your family every day and pray that you can get through this.

  7. Rollercoasters are exhauting and overrated. Why can't life be more like one long bumper car ride?
    Sorry about your Tiger.

  8. It sounds like Tiger is improving. If he can regain the use of one of his back legs, I think he will be okay (according to what I have read above). I certainly hope that happens. What a tough little cat. He looked alert in the photo you posted (that is a good sign). I do think tht sometimes we can actually love an animal through a crisis. That happened with a dog we had when I was a kid. The vet said she wouldn't make it. The vet was wrong. Don't give up on Tiger yet! ((Hugs))

  9. i think that for your peace of mind as well as seeing if Tiger will get better in thenext no. of weeks is a good idea. after that you have have a better feel of what direction to go.hopefully yor child will improve. it sounds like doing an outside"walk"helped Tiger. cats could get depressed, i think my dogs get that way. consider taking her outside with you to see how this affects her. i think it's terrible that the doctor's who did the surgery didn't tell you"all". if you trust your reg. vet you might want to get info. from him. best in your decision.



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