We are fated, it seems, to mourn in this space.
A week ago my dear old best friend Beckett died. He was 12, going to be 13 sometime this summer, around early July.
It was sudden and strange and I miss him so much I can hardly bear it. He was the first friend I made here in the bad old days when I moved to Baton Rouge. He had health problems but nothing that we knew of that would have been fatal.
What happened was: Gary got up early last Thursday, took the dogs out, got ready to go to a job on the other side of the river, left me a note saying he hadn't fed the dogs or cats, started out the door and was mobbed by the cats so fed them, went back inside and changed the note to say he had fed the cats, and added at the bottom for me to keep an eye on Beckett since he seemed "mopey." I slept on, having taken Benadryl the night before. Usually I just take a half but since I haven't been sleeping well since I got back from Italy, I took a whole one, so I was more or less comatose. 90 minutes later I woke up, stumbled out to the bathroom then made coffee, saw the note, got the dog food out. Usually when that happens Beckett is right there. I called him, and Hattie and Scout kind of slunk out of the bedroom. No Beckett. I went around the corner and into the bedroom and saw him lying there, and I knew. I sat there next to him for 5 minutes willing him to move or breathe. No.
Then I got up and called Gary. I couldn't go back in the room. Just couldn't. When Gary got home 10 minutes later I had to go in there and face reality. It was clear he had been dead for over an hour--he was already not warm. We do not know what happened.
Why, why did I take that stupid Benadryl? If I hadn't I would have gotten up with Gary and I would have at least been there when he passed, been holding him maybe even. I am so angry about that Benadryl, about not waking up, I can't deal with it. And he must have been lying there dead when I got up, but I didn't even notice. I can't say I thought he was asleep, because I gave it no thought. He's always been here, I probably half registered the positions of all 3 dogs but I just got up like it was any other day.
The vet said they could do a necropsy but I just couldn't do it, I couldn't let them have his body. So we buried him in the side yard, wrapped in his old white flannel blanky, and Gary is going to make a marker and a little fence to grow vines on, and I can visit with him there. Friends have been kind, and Gary has been very understanding. He loved Beckett too, but Beckett was mine before I knew Gary, and he knows this has been the hardest damn thing.
I keep thinking and even sometimes letting myself pretend he's just in the next room napping and I'll come around the corner and his tail will thump and I'll scratch behind his ears. It is hard to be at Grey Gardens because he is everywhere here. Here's the place where he would nap in the afternoon sun; I sit in my big chair to watch the news and he is supposed to climb into my lap; we take the other dogs out and there is one too few and I keep thinking I see him back in the shadows.
Losing Edie was hard, but we only knew her less than a year. Beckett has been my dear best friend for over a decade. And Scout's. He is sad, too.
When we were preparing his body Scout wouldn't come near, but Hattie came up and we let her sniff him. They were both subdued for a few days, and Scout seems less animated. Beckett was the instigator, the leader, and they just don't quite know what to do. The last few months Hattie had followed Beckett everywhere; she licked his muzzle and he allowed her to, patiently. Now she is trying to transfer that to Scout but he doesn't want it. We are giving them both extra affection but sometimes even doing that makes me miss Beckett even more. My little B. He was such a sweet sweet guy, such a peculiar dog, so many dear things about him. He always watched me. I wonder if I am quite here since nobody is watching like he did.
I should be grateful there was no suffering, so far as we could tell. But just the last week I had taken him to the vet and everything was fine. I had felt so relieved, and although I knew he was aging I thought he had a few years left, and I remember saying to him on the way home that he had been such a good boy, and school would be out soon and I would be home writing all summer, no more trips for awhile.
Here is my little B as a puppy, the day I brought him home, and then recently, with Hattie.
Little Edie is gone. She fought very hard but I believe her immune system had been compromised from her early life, when someone abandoned her and her brother Cinclare to the elements. We agreed to an autopsy in the hope that the vets and students will learn from her and it could help other cats--her legacy.
They would not let us stay in the room while she was put to sleep. The vet and assistant were gowned, gloved, masked. All of these precautions. It was very hard not to be there. I wanted to hold her while she went. But I understood. They are still afraid of the TB. I think that is very very unlikely, but I understood. Even if it was hard. They gave her a sedative injection and left us alone with her to say goodbye.
I keep thinking of a line Lillian Gish's character has in "Night of the Hunter": "It's a hard world for little things."
Somehow the other animals here know. They are subdued. Hattie has been licking at tears, the dear girl. There must be a lower frequency where they all share information, and where they converse in their own way about all the goings-on at Grey Gardens LA. Somehow this reassures.
Brave Little Edie, we miss you to pieces sweet girl.
Little Edie has become seriously ill. A week or so ago she began acting listless, not at all her mischievous self. Two weeks before we had been standing near the pier window by the door and seen Edie's little head popping--she was jumping up and down looking in the window at us. That was the kind of goofy little cat she was.
On the phone the vet ventured that it might be depression over Visiting Cat, who had indeed seemed to form an immediate bond with Cinclare upon her arrival here. That sounded reasonable, but now it is clear Edie was keeping to herself for other reasons. She stopped sleeping with Cinclare in their box, and Visiting Cat moved right in. I made another box, but Edie seemed to prefer disappearing at night. Then Gary saw her heaving her tummy on the porch. So we guessed she had hairball--she had that before--and conferred with the vet and got some remedy. I put it on her paws twice. Both times she licked it off, but she still seemed listless. Then I saw her heaving again, but this time she seemed also to be shuddering. Gary picked her up and it was clear she was struggling to breathe. This was Thursday morning. We took her inside and I took some Benadryl and held her, really for the first time, since I am very allergic to cats. I could feel her little body trembling, but she was also purring. The kitty vet on this side of the river is closed on Thursdays, so I took her to the vet our dogs go to over in Baton Rouge. On the way I was terrified she would stop breathing.
In the waiting room I held her in my lap and stroked her. She seemed a little better, her breathing not as labored. We waited a long time. This sounds funny, but for about 20 minutes there I felt like--oh Trish, you overreacted, she will be fine, and how dumb you are not to have taken Benadryl every day so you could hold Edie like this. I'm not a cat person only because I am allergic. I have adored Edie, her spirit, her daring. She's always been the instigator, the first one to come to us while Cinclare (who is now twice her size) stood behind her, the one practicing pouncing on the porch, crawling up my leg when I came out with food, leading the hunt and leaving me mice to discover in the morning. She's also the clown, popping up to look in windows, climbing into the recycling bin and clattering the cans, hopping into my lawn cart when I pull it around the yard picking up weeds and debris. A month or so ago we had a long tape measure out in the yard measuring where the new fence for the dogs will go and when Gary retracted the tape she pounced on it and made a game of following it up and pouncing that had us laughing and laughing.
We were at the vet it seemed forever. Tests, tests. They took her in the back to x-ray her lungs. Everything was negative except the x-ray, which the vet showed me. Flecks and spots of white in the lungs, mysterious. She showed me a normal cat xray for comparison. She'd never seen this pattern on an x-ray and wanted to send it to the vet school at LSU for the radiologist there to read. Meanwhile we were given antibiotics in case it was a bacterial infection and another drug in case it was a strange sort of fluke (aptly named) carried by crawfish that might have invaded her lungs--those 2 things being the most likely candidates. She got a big shot of fluids since she seemed dehydrated.
I brought her home and we made a nest for her in the little bathroom. She perked up enough to eat a few kitty treats. I held her awhile longer. In the night she worsened. In the morning she was very listless and breathing hard again and would not eat or drink. We gave her medication. The vet's office called to check up on her. We reported her condition, then I had to go to work all day. When I got home there had been no change although she had used the litter box. About 6:00 our vet finally got the news from the LSU clinic and called us.
The news was very, very bad. Whatever she has is fairly rare, and the only was of diagnosing it definitively is a procedure where they inject saline into the lung and withdraw it to obtain a specimen. The procedure is dangerous to the pet, and it has to be done under a general, from which in her condition the vet feared she might not live to emerge. There were two suspected pathogens: Blastomycosis and Tuberculosis. Because the latter especially can infect humans from cats, the procedure would have to be done under special conditions, and as well the vet was very concerned for us. We were to wear gloves and wash thoroughly after handling her (I had been anyway because of the allergy). If it was TB prognosis was poor and with the risk to us and the other animals here the vet would recommend putting her down. If it was Blastomycosis the prognosis was not good either but there was a treatment. 2-3 months of an expensive drug, and even after that odds are the condition would recur. And with her fragile state, the vet thought she might suffer quite a bit during the treatment.
It seemed clear when we hung up that we were losing her. We agreed to get an Rx for a stronger antibiotic in the morning on the off chance the diagnosis was wrong, and decide on Monday what to do. I think that antibiotic was the vet giving us time, and a straw to clutch.
Last night she had a dreadful time. She is struggling to breathe and scarcely moves.
I don't think we can wait. I can't watch her suffer like that. She mewed at me a little early this morning and I think she was saying, help.
I think it's Blastomycosis. I've been reading and reading, trying to understand this. I'm no vet but we live in conditions and in an area where that fungus thrives, the rich delta soil near the Mississippi river, and Edie always has explored every inch of our land. You can't eradicate this fungus--it's everywhere. Evidently some immune systems won't tolerate it. People who have AIDS are susceptible. The deep tissue kind she has is not particularly contagious. She does not have the skin lesions which are. Edie was dumped here as a small kitty and probably her early life compromised her immune system. She has always been small.
Poor Little Edie. Someone dumped her here with Cinclare like so much garbage. I've never actually punched anyone, but I'd like to blacken both the eyes of that person. Edie never asked for the hand she was dealt, and she gave back nothing but sweetness and courage and her inimitable personality. She is beautiful with her wood-grain markings and her big white sock back feet and her dainty white-tipped front paws.
The vet opens in half an hour, and we have to call and take her. It is time. We've both been crying and trying to go about the business of the morning, feeding the other animals, making coffee. I decided to try to write this all down to get some distance on it, but it appears to be having the inverse effect.
Here is Edie, our brave sweet funny little girl, to whom we must say goodbye.
While I was typing this, Edie ate a bit of food! She has perked up the tiniest bit. So we decided to go get the clutch-at-straw antibiotic after all and see how she does today. She's so weak, and her breathing is still very labored, but we discussed this and decided she's such a fighter, if she has a chance we need to let her try. Taking it an hour at a time, vet on standby.
Gustav derailed this blog. Looking back over those entries, I am reliving it all, and it wasn't that long ago but I've resisted looking back. So--onward! I am bound and determined to finish my Copenhagen post-blog, and then get on with the next trip (Italy, early April), and also tie up some loose ends. I just added to the Copenhagen entry I had left half-done and published it, and will finish that narrative soon.
Since last blog we are up to 3 cats. Edie and Cinclare have become Great Hunters of Rodents, parts of which they leave on the porch for me, thanks. A new cat showed up one night; we are calling her Visiting Cat but I think she may be here to stay so we might need a new name soon. She's a gorgeous tortoiseshell and very friendly, also very vocal. She appeared with a collar so she did belong to someone, but nobody's answered all my ads and notices.
The third dog, Hattie, has been here a year. On Feb 1 we will celebrate that with a tea party, since we found an old recipe for tea cakes and she loves them to distraction. Guests are requested to wear hats, in her honor.
Since last blog the bathroom is still NOT FINISHED but in January it has gotten most of a floor and the walls now exist, ready to be painted, which we started this weekend. Progress!
Since last blog Addison turned a year old, and her parents relocated to Baton Rouge so we get to spoil her from much closer range. and now another grandchild is on the way: Gary's son and his wife are expecting their first.
Since last blog there are still piles of Gustav debris on our land, waiting to be burned. The yard in fact kind of looks like hell, but it's winter, and we'll get it back, in time.
Since last blog it snowed here, several inches, one night, and we woke up to find everything transformed so breathtakingly. That's the third time since I've been here that it has snowed, but the only time it has ever really accumulated so the world turned white.
And since last blog the economy went into a death spiral, old wars keep going, we elected a new president, and I've gotten back into politics and volunteered.
A lot, in a few months, has happened. Out of these I will choose one image, of the snow.
December 11, 2008: Snow in southern Louisiana!