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
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!)