Friday, August 31, 2012

"I know what you're thinking..."

Sadly, Mr. Eastwood, I don't think you do.

I've just seen Clint Eastwood's address to the GOP. Now, setting aside for the moment that, politically speaking, this isn't my crowd, I have to say that I was saddened and embarrassed by the performance. I like Clint Eastwood. I think he's been an epic actor and he's demonstrated himself to be, in my opinion, a top-notch director as well. I understood he was politically conservative; that's fine. More to the point, it's his country, and his president. not mine. So I can't sit here and fault him for holding the views he does.

But it was genuinely hard to watch. What I saw was an elderly man trotted out on stage, essentially as a name with a suit on, talking to an empty chair. I know it's meant to be funny. It wasn't. Watching an old man ramble through a one-sided conversation with an imaginary man, putting words in his mouth like a scene out of Cast Away, where at least Tom Hanks was playing opposite a face painted on a volleyball, had a disquieting air of something much darker, and not at all humourous. I'm not just saying this because it's the Republicans. I would have found this episode distasteful even if, say, Ed Asner had been babbling at an empty chair supposedly seating Dubya. I wouldn't want to see that. I'm kind of sorry I saw this.

And frankly, it was far beneath Clint Eastwood's dignity to put into the mouth of a sitting President of the United States the words "he can go fuck himself". What did that have to do with the issues? What did that do but make this man look like he's lost his sense of propriety, and make the Republican Party look mean, juvenile, and grasping at straws? I don't doubt there were a lot of people who got a big kick out of it. But as far as I'm concerned, it, and they, just did a big disservice to the GOP and political discourse in the United States in general.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


So I look at the clock now and I think back that a week ago, this was the morning I was in here gathering stuff to work from home to keep an eye on Max, who was clearly hurting, at least from time to time, and waiting for the results of his biopsy. I also notice that it was three weeks ago this morning I opened a can of tuna for him and was pleased to see him chow down. That was the last time, I think, I really had the luxury of telling myself his recent picky appetite wasn't anything major. When he wouldn't eat tuna the next day, I really couldn't pretend anymore. That blog post is on here, a few back, if you're interested.

Anyway, on another subject, it also occurs to me to comment on how long there can be an unplugged hole in your knowledge of something you thought you knew well. I've been using Adobe Illustrator, at least semi-regularly, since 1996, and yet it's only this week that found the answer to a long-standing complaint of mine... how to close a path in Illustrator without affecting the initial curve you drew starting out (the answer is to hold the ALT key—Option key on the Mac, I expect—down when you click on the starting anchor point to close the path). The down side of this is that it unlinks the control handles of the point so that they swivel independently instead of being locked so they control the shape of the curve on either side of the anchor as a unit. But I guess you can't have everything, and I'd rather be able to preserve the initial path. The practical solution, I suppose, is simply to make sure you start any path on a corner point, wherever possible; in which case, you'd naturally want the anchor's handles to be independent of each other. It's one of those things that seems obviously, once it's been shown to you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dying with dignity

A couple of months ago, British Columbia’s Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code dating from 1892 making doctor-assisted suicide illegal, on the basis that they violated the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Strictly speaking, the ruling applies only to British Columbia, but it’s still a precedent and has implications for other jurisdictions in Canada, and potentially beyond. It’s unclear yet whether the federal government, which is responsible for the Criminal Code, will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The cat is among the pigeons, and judging from the response, it’s about time.

Recently, a doctor chimed in with an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail that was not well received in terms of the comments it garnered. If the response is representative, then it seems that most Canadians, like me, feel that this is a matter of personal choice and that compassionate medical assistance with this undertaking, far from being a criminal act, ought to be a human right.

My comment on the article, and a response to a couple of rebuttals made to my stance.

God damn it, why is this still even an issue this late in history? A person's life is his or her own. INEVITABLY, IT MUST END. If the time comes that he or she wishes a peaceful, dignified, and merciful closure, I feel it is arrogant, insensitive, and a willful failure of compassion to deny a human being that right. To insist he or she writhe in pain until the last ounce of strength has been wrung out by the tender mercies of nature, and his or her debasement is utter and complete, is medieval in its conception. It does not belong in a modern age where we have skills and knowledge that mean it doesn't have to be so.

To present doctors solely as "healers" is to blithely abdicate what every human being ought to be, even more fundamentally: compassionate. If human beings were immortal, there might be something to this position. But we're not. At some point, for each of us, "healing" becomes an unrealistic goal beyond the reach of our knowledge and technology. At that point, to make a fetish of the "healer" role is to sentence those entrusted to one's care to real, literal torture. This is not to wash one's hands like a surgeon. This is to wash one's hands like Pontius Pilate.

Not even a week ago, I faced the awful decision of having to euthanize a cat who'd been part of my life for ten years. He had inoperable cancer of the larynx, and he had reached the point where he could no longer hide the pain he was in. There were two options: consign him to death by slow starvation and the torture of his own body until his heart finally gave out because I didn't have to guts to face the inevitability of what was happening to him, or else to have the courage and humanity to give him a quick, easy, graceful end to his life and spare him the agony now closing in on it without relent. I did the latter. And while I was there and watching him pass away so easily, I wondered about my own end, and why my government and my society are too squeamish to allow me, or anyone else, to have what even a cat or a dog can have: human mercy and deliverance.

If it's a sin, that's between me and God. You let me worry about it. But don't condemn me to pointless horror because you can't face reality, or admit your limitations. Let's grow up, and bravely end the foolish taboo on this topic; put some provisions, procedures, and safeguards in place, and start making it possible for the inevitable to take place with dignity and meaning.

The responses here of Ailina and Ann Ig Norant reflect, I think, the attitudes that have held sway for too long. On the surface of it, they sound reasonable. But they're not thought out. What are the practical upshots of this "DIY" attitude to death? How exactly does a human being facing his or her own demise undertake the research to do it properly? Gunshot to the head? Drink drain cleaner? Hit the streets and try to score a sufficient amount of heroin to overdose? This attitude also opens the door to just anyone showing up to "help", and some of those people just might be self-interested... like those who stand to inherit; and let's not kid ourselves. That's been going on for thousands of years. Please, people. Think. Show some compassion, and really think about what you're saying.

I had a friend down in Texas who died in his mid-20s about ten years back of a horrible connective tissue cancer. But he held onto hope and fought it till the day he died, finally poisoned by his own liver. That was his choice to make, and I certainly respected and admired his courage. But he was young, and he had his whole life ahead of him. His father, substantially older, died two years later of throat cancer. His attitude was different. He was at the other end of his life, and once he knew there was no stopping it, he refused further treatment as pointless. His death came fairly quickly, but it was also needlessly ugly. He wished for, and ought to have had, the ability to choose his time, and to be able to say his good-byes on his own terms, with dignity. But people like Ailina and Ann saw to it that was an impossibility. The bills piled up, and he died miserably. And for what?

This needs to be job of professional people who understand pharmacology, know how bodies and brains react, understand dosages, and have experience with what chemicals have what effect in the body. The people chosen to administer, or, if a relative is chosen to perform the act, advise the administration of lethal agents, should be trained and licensed. There needs to be oversight, and it needs to be transparent and done in the light of day, not in dark corners.

It also needs to be said that murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, done against his or her will, just as the act of lovemaking becomes rape when done without consent. The key word here is consent. It's not murder if someone is asking for help to end his or her own suffering. It's merciful assistance. Getting hung up on abstract labels and ignoring the realities of what we're really talking about here has ruled the roost for far too long, and millions of human beings have suffered slow, torturous, lingering deaths at the whims of healthy people who put their own philosophical verities before the actualities of human suffering.

People Like Us

Something of a minor triumph last night. One of the long-standing hobbies of my life, unintentionally, has been tracking down "lost" songs. Some of them were so obscure I didn't know the artist or even have the right title... sometimes just a haunting snippet of melody. I think my two biggest wins on that score were "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice" by The Lovin' Spoonful and "The Circle Is Small" by Gordon Lightfoot. Honourable mention goes to "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" by Donovan, "Something Better to Do" by Olivia Newton-John, and "Heavenly Blue", which I knew I knew I knew just from the voice was by Burton Cummings -- who else sounds like him? -- but could not for the life of me find any reference to for years (the album it was on, Woman Love, was out of print for a long time, as I recall).

Nothing like that at all this time. Knew the band, knew the writer, knew the singer. Just couldn't get hold of the thing. The song is "People Like Us" by Talking Heads... but it's the version sung by John Goodman, who played Louis Fyne in the movie True Stories, where he sings a shorter, different version of the song. I had this song in the late 1980s accidentally, as the B side of a 45 featuring some other song (oddly enough, I don't remember which, despite the fact it would have been the song I bought the record for). But it immediately struck a chord with me. It was one of the songs I listened to on the way to school on my Walkman... and I'm not talking USB-rechargeable, solid state digital Walkman here... I'm talking AA-powered, mechanical drive, chromium-dioxide cassette tape-playing first generation portable music here.

Time passed and my turntable died and I handed all my vinyl over to a friend's brother. I had moved on to CDs like everyone else in the universe and didn't think I'd miss what I couldn't even play. And to be honest, by and large, that's been true. Pretty much anything I've had a hankering for has been online, or on YouTube, or re-released on CD, or sold for a buck to download.

I was pretty fond of the stuff Talking Heads did in the 80s... still am... and I wanted to hear that song again. So I bit the bullet and went out and bought the True Stories album. One of the biggest musical disappointments ever. The version of People Like Us on the album isn't Goodman's lively and compelling version. It's David Byrne's version. Now, I like David Byrne. A lot of his Talking Heads lyrics really punch my buttons. But his version of People Like Us sounds like it's sung by a guy just waking up from a heroin coma. Sorry, Dave, but it doesn't hold a candle, a lighter, or a matchstick to John Goodman's version. And that's the one I wanted.

A few years ago Talking Heads released a CD called Bonus Rarities and Outtakes, and it does feature the version I've been looking for for, what, about 20 years now? But it's been remarkably difficult to get hold of. Every time I find it online, they'll let you listen to a snippet of the song, but when you go to buy it... to BUY it, kids; you know, hand over your money? -- you always get this "oh, sorry, we can only sell this in the US" bullshit. What the hell is that all about? Hollywood's been dumping its product all over the planet for 70 years, but I can't buy a song in Canada today I bought in Canada 25 years ago? Piracy isn't always about saving 99¢, you idiots. Wake up.

Fortunately, another portal was willing to sell in Canada, and for $14 I bought and downloaded the album (along with another I've been trying to get on CD for a long time, the soundtrack of 1984 by The Eurhythmics; $9). So finally, for the first time in decades, I was able to listen to John Goodman testifying last night, and it all came back... the lyrics, the feelings, the memories of "yeah, I get this" and the gratifying and relieving realization that "yeah, I STILL get this". David Byrne just cannot carry this song. Delegating it to John Goodman was 100% the right call, and it should be the version on the True Stories album, too.

I'm quoting from memory here, so forgive me if I blow a line. Sing along if you know it.

In 1950, when I was born
Papa couldn't afford to buy us much
He said be proud of what you are
There's something special 'bout people like us

People like us
Who will answer the telephone
People like us
Growin' big as a house
People like us
We're gonna make it because
We don't want freedom
We don't want justice
We just want someone to love.

I was called upon in my third grade class
I gave my answer and it caused a fuss
I'm not the same as everyone else
And times were hard for people like us

People like us
Who will answer the telephone
People like us
Growin' big as a house
People like us
We're gonna make it because
We don't want freedom
We don't want justice
We just want someone to love.

Well now
What good is freedom?
God laughs at people like us
 I see it comin'
Like a light comin' down from above

The clouds roll by and the moon comes up
How long must we live in the heat of the sun?
Millions of people are waiting on love
And this is a song about people like us

People like us
Who will answer the telephone
People like us
Growin' big as a house
People like us
We're gonna make it because
We don't want freedom
We don't want justice
We just want someone to love.
Someone to love.
Someone to love.
Someone to love.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How it all comes together

Yesterday was like one of those long ago days, back in 2005 or 2006, when P-Doug and I really just started our wanders. It was close to home and about exploring.

He picked me up about 2 and we headed over to Satay On the Road on Bayview Avenue. It has a good, inexpensive lunch menu. As usual I had the green chicken curry with rice. From there we wandered up the street a bit to an antique shop whose name I can never remember where he picked up a couple of framed prints and I bought an autobiography I'd seen the last time I was there, that of Melvin Belli, a well-known American lawyer whose varied career included defending Jack Ruby, having a guest starring role in an episode of ST:TNG [edit: oops, TOS, I meant to say], and being contacted by the serial killer Zodiac (and no, I don't mean that's how and why his career ended).

We then did the main the thrust of the day... a trail hike in south Scarborough, not too far from where he lives. We parked in pretty much the wrong spot and were puzzled not to be able to find the trail. He did find an ad hoc trail into the woods down a steep embankment, and as in years before, not slipping and breaking my neck on the way down was my excuse to take off my sandals, and thus to keep them off for most of the walk afterward. It seemed to be a new trail. The asphalt was smooth and not pitted under my feet. The bridge we came to that crossed Taylor-Massey Creek looked as though it had been in place for a year or less.

We made it about half way and turned around because there was a movie P-Doug hoped to see downtown. We called G, his wife, but she seemed to be still sleeping so we headed downtown on the subway from his neighbourhood. The movie we went to see was Easy Money (which I'm intending to write about later). By the time we got out, it was about 9, so we crossed Yonge Street and dined on burgers at Fran's. It was there, when we were on our way out, that P-Doug stopped me and directed my attention to the screens, which told the news that Neil Armstrong had passed away. I couldn't believe it. One of the few genuine heroes in my life was gone, and with him, an era that had defined my whole life so far, aside from the first year or so. It was a kind of sad ending to an otherwise bright, enjoyable day in Max's wake.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thinking about Max in perspective

It's been nearly two days now since Max drew his last breath. I've been thinking today about my feelings.

I'm not as affected as I expected to be. I don't know if I'm sublimating or if I'm just actually okay with things. I mean, I miss him. I look over at the empty cat bed at my knee that, most of the time, he'd be spawled out in, and my eyes keep flicking to the corner of the couch he ought to be coming around at any moment since he's NOT sitting here beside me. My home doesn't really feel like home just at the moment. There is a hole, yes. But at the same time, I'm not finding myself aching and unable to think of anything else. He comes to mind, I feel sad, but it's not all-consuming, and in a way, I feel bad about that. It feels like I'm cheaping his life and what he meant to me. It feels wrong not to be shattered.

But I kind of had a realization this morning, getting into the shower. I've heard others say the same thing: I seem to do my best thinking in the shower ("wrote" most of yesterday's post ruminating in the warm spray). A cat's life is a pretty simple thing. They eat, sleep most of the time, and when they're awake, they like to interact a little with the other beings in their lives. They're company. Max was a happy presence who, for ten years, kept me from feeling lonely and often delighted me with his attention and his antics. No one lives forever and cats live a nice while, but not really all that long, in human terms. He wasn't going to live forever. Twelve years wasn't enough, but I thought, you know, the average is, what, 15 these days? He got short-changed, but not colossally so. I don't know about his first two years but his last ten were full of a safe, warm place with food constantly available, several litter boxes, umpteen places to sack out and catch sun beams, and the company of (over the course of it) three other cats and two other humans, as well as various occasional visitors, something Max, as the kind of cat he was, always welcomed with happiness and curiosity. There really wasn't all that much more that could have made life better for him, other than maybe having his 'nads and getting to use them a bunch, and me indulging him as a lap cat more often than I did. But I let him crawl all over me at night most of the time he wanted to so I don't feel too bad, I guess. And, when the time came that his life was irreversibly ending, he was in the care of beings who were willing and capable to relieve him of the lingering torture of death by the final exhaustion of unimaginable pain over weeks or months. He had a few bad weeks at the end, but could still eat, still sleep, still get around the day he died. So, really, I think the only regret I can realistically have is that he's not here with me anymore. It's the realization that that was the time we were going to have together, and it was probably written in his genes the day I brought him home nearly ten years ago. We had our time, and it was good, and that was due in large part to me. I got him out of that cage and into a comfortable loving home, where he didn't want for much. Not even a quick, easy, dignified passing from life. Nature would not have been anywhere near so kind.

So here I am, on the second day without him, and to be honest, I haven't cried or lost too much sleep. I did the right things, and I did all I could, and he lived well while he lived. All that's left is the loneliness that's the real, genuine tribute to my friend.

Okay, NOW my eyes are wet. :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Giving it a try

I've always been impressed with the dedication Jim over at Down the Road has for his blog; the discipline of posting twice weekly. I'm not sure I have much to say but I suppose I should just try and say something so the years don't just slip away and leave me wondering what I was doing all that time. The years 2005-2009 or so are fairly nicely laid out here... more recent years, not so much... cat deaths notwithstanding.

So speaking of which, this being the first full day since Max died (right about exactly now yesterday, as I look up at the clock), and one of my last summer Fridays off, I didn't want to just sit around doing nothing and sitting next to the empty cat bed beside my chair... which, of course, is what I'm doing right now. Just before 11 I got out and headed down to the city archives. I took a new route this time, down the Don Valley Parkway to Rosedale Ravine Road and along to Davenport. Probably no faster, but it was change from creeping down the last quarter mile of the Allen.

When I got there, they'd moved everything around. The light table for viewing slides was right out in the open (so much for sneaking close-up photos of them) and completely lit. Does this seem like a good idea when the idea is too look at something dimly bottom-lit? Not to me.

Also, all the glorious old aerial photos from the 50s on up have been scanned at last and put away, because they were falling apart. Sensible, I agree, but it really takes all the fun out of going down there, hauling them out, looking back in time across a 4'x4' image. Now you have to go on their site, there in the building, and view the photos in a browser. They're nice enough to make it possible for you to make screen caps and email them to yourself, gratis, which is some consolation... but it's just not the same. All the charm of spending a few hours down there has just bled away.

I wandered over to their book section and just kind of browsed. One thing I found was the memoirs of Leslie Saunders, a guy who was mayor of Toronto briefly in the 1950s. I knew he was an Orangeman, and it was kind of a big deal to him, but I had no idea how big. The book is called An Orangeman in Public Life, and its cover is a crudely-done Union Jack. Since it's a reference book (as, it turns out, are all the copies held by the Toronto Public Library), I couldn't borrow it. I flipped through it and was just appalled. The man seemed consumed with Catholicism. I knew he blew his chance at re-election by blowing off some speech about how the Battle of the Boyne was the most important thing to democracy ever, alienating even the voters in 1955 and opening the door for, of all things, Toronto's first Jewish mayor, Nathan Phillips... but that seems to be mostly what Leslie Saunders was all about. The book was published in 1980 or so, and includes a 1978 clipping from The Toronto Sun in which Claire Hoy pours scorn all over then-Mayor David Crombie for not attending the Orange Parade, and asking why it's okay for everyone else to celebrate their heritage but not WASPs. It seems to have escaped Hoy that when Chinese guys are doing dragon dances, or black people are dancing in Caribana, or Italians are in procession with the Virgin Mary, what they're NOT celebrating is the subjugation of another group and the transplantation of those sentiments to the New World. I can see why a mayor in the last quarter of the 20th century might want to stay home from something like that. Hoy and Saunders, not so much. There were photos in the book of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis accepting a ring from a cardinal in the 1950s. How obsessed was this guy? Well, Nathan Phillips was "mayor of all the people", and has the square in front of City Hall named after him. Saunders was mayor of the Orange folk. Don't know if there's anything named after him.

This is not to say I don't understand and appreciate the importance of the Reformation. To put it in perspective... my own immediate heritage, technically speaking, is Catholic. My parents are each the product of "mixed" marriages of Protestant men and Catholic women, and each was raised Catholic, and so I was baptized Catholic. I went through adult catechism about ten years ago, partly out of spiritual yearnings and mostly out of cultural interest. For a while I attended Mass. But there were a lot of things I didn't like about the Catholic Church. The sacrament of confession, for one... I don't see why God should be unwilling to forgive a contrite person, and even send that person to Hell, on the basis that he or she didn't actually express it to some other mortal human being, designated though he (and it must be "he") may be. I don't like that the clergy can't marry. I don't like that priests must be male. I don't agree with the Church on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, and when they pressured us during the liturgy to sign a petition in the foyer to demand Parliament use the notwithstanding clause to overrule the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the opposite-sex provision of the federal definition of marriage, that crossed a line for me. In fact, at that point, I believe that the Catholic Church technically disqualified itself from tax exemption in this country. I've rarely attended Mass since then.

I'm not religious, not really. I never really was a sincere believer, though I did sincerely go looking. I did enjoy the fellowship of the Mass, and the liturgy, and singing and the recitations. That was all moving, and it's probably the only thing I really miss about church. But something changed in me. I suppose I went from being a "cultural Catholic" to a "cultural Protestant" like my non-observing grandfathers. In this culture, most of us grow up at cultural Christians in a general sense; we hear about Jesus and pick up the broader strokes of the Bible, at least the good things in it. Those things resonate with me and they always will; they're in the bone. But if I felt compelled to begin attending services again, I think I'd either be Anglican or United Church (my dad's dad was UC). I kind of like Anglicanism because its worship is similar to what I was used to as a Catholic, but I think at heart I'd be a little closer to the line of the United Church. But in either case, those are progressive churches whose stands I agree with. I think a guy like Leslie Saunders would have found them a little soft, though.

...Wow, did this really start off as just a short, do-it-to-do-it post about how bored I was going to the city archives? Maybe I should write about being bored more often.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Max, February, 2006

Belong, originally uploaded by Lone Primate.

Wonderful cat.

Max is gone

Well, Max is gone now. My dad came in and went with me. Max had been suffering; I could see it. I read the biopsy report that came in and it sounded ugly. Very fast, very aggressive. He was probably fine just a month or so ago. It came on that fast. And where it was, operating really wasn't an option; he would have lost half his jaw, and there was no way of knowing that would have gotten it all.

So, we took him in at 2:45. They gave him a sedative that made him nauseous and he threw up a couple of times. After he got settled, they laid him down, and he and I stared into each other's eyes while they gave him the needle. I have no idea at exactly what moment he died, but I watched him relaxing almost from the moment the doctor started to inject him. My guess is he was gone before the shot was over.

I'll get his ashes back sometime in a week or two. Right now, I feel pretty even about it. I didn't lose composure during all this... I feel a little guilty about that, like I owed it to him... but the reality is there was nothing else to be done and giving in to desperation and wailing wouldn't have helped any of us. So, now I just have to get used to his not being here after ten years. No more climbing over me at night when he's sure I'm not really asleep. No more kneading me. No more of his little "oowww" of a meow. He was a wonderful cat, almost more like an old hound dog. Loved people. Laid back. Never cross. Never sick, till now. Just about perfect. I could have done with seven or eight more years of perfect, though.

I just had a quick, brave look at his adoption papers. "Morris", crossed out, replaced with "Max". I adopted him October 19, 2002. So right around now, ten years ago, is when I lost Jenny. Ten years between their deaths. They never knew each other. Bonnie knew them both. I wonder what Bonnie's thinking. I think Bonnie and Ally both knew something was wrong with Max. Ally's been picking on him, trying to chase him out of my bedroom when he tries... tried... to come in. I guess she won't have to do that anymore.

And now I just get on with things, I guess. Thank you, Max. You were a wonderful little pal, and no one will ever replace you. You were unique.

It's cancer

Max was in for tissue samples on Monday and I just got the results. A very aggressive cancer. He's been showing signs of real discomfort and actually pain on and off since last night, so I realize the only responsible thing to do is to end this. I've made an appointment to take him in at 2:30. By three, he'll be gone. My poor little wee fellah. You deserve so much better than this.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Max again

It's been a week of fighting this antibiotic pill into Max, and he's not really any better for it. He hasn't really been eating. His eye has been less weepy, but that's about it. I took him in again last night and two doctors are reasonably sure he has cancer. He's lost nearly half a pound in the last week and a half due to not eating. They took some actually tissue samples this time instead of just a swab, and now I'm waiting for results again, but, like last time, not really hopefully.

To be honest, I think, soon, I'm going to have to take him in and, you know, not bring him back. Can I actually say it? Have him put to sleep. Maybe as soon as this weekend. I don't know.

The one bright spot was they gave him an appetite stimulant last night that was like Popeye eating spinach. Max was all over me when I got back from the store about an hour after we got home. Over the course of a couple of hours, he ate just about two cans of tuna. He really perked up. He even stood his ground when Ally was trying to pick on him and put the run on her. I don't remember him doing that even when she came to live with us. So I've asked for more of that. If I can keep him eating well, so much the longer he'll be with me.

I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that it's cancer, though I still hold out some faint hope it isn't. I don't know how long I have with him and that's what's got me anxious. I mean, if I already knew there was a set date, I could at least enjoy the time till then. But really, now it's down to watching him for signs of chronic discomfort, or the day when even appetite stimulants don't do the trick. It's no way to enjoy a pet, but on the other hand, I can't bring myself to hustle him off the planet any earlier than compassion requires just so I don't have to deal with it. Ten years together, not quite, just seems like awfully short change, especially in a cat who was never sick a day in his life before.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Max


The results of Max's tumor swab came back on Monday and it turns out they didn't confirm cancer. Now that doesn't mean it isn't cancer... but it does mean, at least, they didn't confirm it is. The report suggested infection, and so my vet, while still professing to have "a bad feeling", put Max on a 20-day regimen of Baytril.

I got the news at work. The funny thing is, when the vet told me he thought Max had cancer, I was quietly horrified and very sad, but I managed to hold onto it. When the news came it might be just an infection and they were going to treat it, for now, as such, it nearly overwhelmed me. I felt weak and I had to struggle to maintain my composure in the office. A co-worker suggested I work from home that afternoon, which I did, after picking up Max's pills.

I also got Pill Pockets, in which you hide the pill. I got a bonus first pill free down the hatch from Max. Afterward, he's suddenly decided he's not interested in treats anymore. After repeated attempts to pill him by stealth during the day, I had to fight the second one into him last night. No dice tricking him this morning, either, even ground up in salmon (wasted salmon, wasted pill). I'm so not looking forward to giving him this pill. I'm thinking of biting the bullet and calling the vet for some oral liquid. He might manage to spit some of it out, but at least some of it'll have to go down, too. If it's an infection strong enough to make a vet think it's cancer, it's not going to get better on its own. It's going to be chronic unless we knock it out. And the little bastard is not cooperating.

None of them are. Bonnie doesn't like tuna. Bonnie doesn't like salmon. Bonnie likes the crappy goo off Friskies canned cat food. I've got umpteen opened cans on the go now. A month ago, I opened a can of Friskies, made three meals out of it twice a day, and boom, I was done. This weekend I was using the Magic Bullet to puree tuna so Max could eat it, having to open a can of something else because Bonnie wouldn't, and having to chase Ally away before she sucked up the food Max needed to stay alive.

Things are a little better now. Max's appetite seems more reliable; he's been showing up again in the kitchen at breakfast time and I don't have to puree things. If it weren't for the fact he favours the right side chewing and sometimes shakes his head while eating, at the moment I honestly wouldn't know there were anything up with him. Even if we get no further than this, it's pretty good. If only he'd make life easy and eat the Pill Pockets with the Baytril in them...

I'm not sure what to think but after a weekend of expecting I should number my days with Max on my fingers and toes, or even just my fingers, I'm honestly grateful to have the luxury of thinking that fighting pills down his gullet might mean our time together opens up considerably again. Who knows? But no matter what happens, just having that has been pretty sweet.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Doesn't seem like I'm around here much these days. I guess I'm busy elsewhere. Funny how central the blog used to be to my life. I hardly stepped outside without coming back here to record it. Now it's just things get real.

Max, my grey and white male cat, has cancer. They're virtually sure of it. I knew something was off with him, though he's been largely normal. He's been losing weight and unenthusiastic about food. This morning even tuna didn't jazz him so I figured time to take him in. I was hoping it was just a bad tooth. Turns out it's a tumor in the back of his mouth. There's really nothing they can do. The doctor says two months.

I got Max just about ten years ago. It was two months after Jenny died, just about ten years ago right now. By their reckoning, he was two at the time, which makes him about 12 now. While I've been reminding myself that he and Bonnie are getting on, still, 12 seems too early by three or four years to me. Jenny, for all the trouble she had with her thyroid, made it to 13.

Max has for a long time been "my little wee fella". He's never been sick. He was never the cat to pee on furniture. I don't think he's ever gotten mad at me and lashed out, not ever. He was fairly quiet, calm, tolerant of being held and cuddled, gentle, and a lap cat... something I'm sorry now I rarely indulged him in. He's been far more like an old dog than he ever was a young (or old) cat. It's strange to think that soon he won't be bothering me if I make the mistake of waking up briefly during the night, wanting to purr at me, drool on me, sit on me and knead me. Even now, with the tumor, he's largely the same guy he's always been. Still gets around, jumps up on things, still interested in some kinds of food, still calm and happy to swap blinks with me. How can it be that soon, all that will be gone?

But, at least for now, he's still here, isn't in discomfort, and seems to be just riding it out. That's his right and his due, like anyone else. I'll have to watch and if there's just no more interest in food, or he's clearly in pain, well, that'll be when I'll have to put my feelings aside in favour of his. I dread having to make that call. I've never had to. Jenny passed away one morning before I woke. Twinkle, well, died very suddenly on me while we were fighting to bring her back to health. I don't think Max has any real hope. And that means, sometime in the next couple of months, deciding to take him out of this suite and not bring him home. Except, later on, in a third urn to sit beside Jenny's and Twinkle's.

But not just yet, thankfully. I can still look over at him in that chair and just for a minute, pretend it's all normal, and everything's alright.