Monday, January 21, 2008

Gruesome (not for the faint of stomach)

I don't have the energy to proofread this. It was hard enough to write it.
My husband seriously wounded my cat. It was an accident that happened during an act of caring, which makes it even worse.

My cat, the one mentioned in a previous post, gets terrible, gnarly dreadlock mats in her fur on her underside. Sometimes, they get really big and pull on her skin and hair. She is wiggly and strong for an eight-pound bit of fluff, so trimming her mats is a two-person job.

On Friday, my husband decided to trim the cat's mats by himself. He came into the living room to show me the massive dreadlock mass he had cut off of the cat's side and underside. As he held it out we both saw that there was blood on the fur and a significant chunk of skin attached. My husband was horrified and ran down the hall to the bedroom crying out, "What did I do? What did I do??"

I heard him in the bedroom talking to the cat in a strained, panicky voice. "Oh, baby, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I was trying to help. What did I do?"

I was frozen on the couch, petrified of what might come next. Outwardly, I appeared calm, really calm, but it wasn't even close to how I felt. We have two cats, Jake and Sophie. Before Jake and Sophie, the were Gus and Bill. I adopted Gus and Bill (Gus was a she) in 1985, shortly after I got my first apartment. They were incredibly quirky, even in cat terms. Everyone who knew them loved them, mostly because they were both so weird. They were loyal and devoted pets--very good friends.

Gus and Bill were with me for 18 years, pretty much my entire adult life. We went through a lot together--more than I can tell here. They saw me through my post-BA anxiety, through a series of bad jobs, bad roommates, and bad boyfriends. They moved with me six times, including three interstate moves and one cross-country move, each coming out with me on a separate flight so neither would have to travel in the belly of the plane. They made it through my long, long journey through graduate school, and Gus died, at 19 years of age, a month after I got my MA.

I was beyond devastated. The rational, logical part of me went over all of the platitudes about her wonderful long life, her extraordinary spunk, and the fact that it was definitely her time. The vet reminded me that when I adopted her, she wasn't expected to live through the year, and yet she defied all expectations and lived to an exceptional old age. Still, she was my best friends, my buddy, my girl. I thought I would never recover, but I still had Bill, and he needed his people.

Bill was a character. He was one of the weirdest cats I had ever met. He had a love-hate relationship with Gus, and he became very depressed and subdued in the weeks after her death. Bill's decline was rapid and dramatic. He became frail and sick within months, until finally it was time to let him go. We asked the vet (a mobile vet!) if he would euthanize Bill in our garden, a comforting place for me, and a favorite place of Bill's. When he administered the injection, he was choked up, his vet tech had tears spilling down his cheeks, and my husband and I both wept silently.

The first injection didn't work, but Bil was too exhausted to complain. He was so sick, his veins were fragile, and the first one to receive an injection collapsed. The vet tried again, and this time, Bill went softly into what had to be a welcome relief from his suffering.

Two pets in a space of nine months. It was a lot to process emotionally, especially since my previously latent Bipolar Disorder was becoming more obvious and I was rapidly losing stability. Life hurt. A lot.

I said I didn't want anymore pets, but we only made it a month until we both agreed we were incomplete without them. We went to PetSmart to adopt one of the shelter cats they had there, waiting for a home. The first store we went to had a lot of cats in a single room without cages. I squatted down to pet a calico girl, when seemingly out of nowhere, a tiny long-hair Siamese leaped over two other cats, pushed past the calico, and softly licked my wrist. She purred. I scratched her head, and she rolled her cheek sideways for more. She was one of the sweetest cats I had ever met. My husband was adamant about getting a tabby, though, so we left and went to another store outside of town.

That's where we found Jake. He was a massive tabby who warmed up to my husband immediately. We took him home and I looked at my husband and said, "I want the firs cat, too. I have to have her." And so we set off, back to the first PetSmart and adopted Sophie.

Sophie has always been my cat, and Jake is my husband's cat. The cats know this, we know this, the dog knows this. Sophie sits with me on the sofa and sleeps with me at night. She licks me incessantly in a determined act of friendly grooming. I call her "Fang" because she is missing a lower canine tooth, and it looks funny when she meows. She also is sweet and gentle, and if you roughhouse with her, she won't bite or scratch, at least, not with any sincerity. I love this cat.

When my husband brought Sophie out of the bedroom to inspect her wound, I couldn't look. I am not squeamish at all. I do not get faint at the sight of a compound fracture or of blood, or of most any kind of wound. However, I couldn't bear to look at Sophie's wound. I knew it was bad, and I knew that if I saw it, I would lose my composure. MY husband was already in a full-blown panic and on the verge of tears. I couldn't look at this injury because it was on Sophie, my friend, my comfort after losing Gus and Bill. The thought of her suffering was too much for me to take

The wound was horrific. I thought my husband was going to die from the anguish of knowing he had inflicted it. I remained calm and asked him to describe it to me. He did. I got up and walked to the bathroom. I opened the medicine cabinet and took out Polysporin, gauze, and Bactine. I got a towel and washcloth from the linen closet, and soaked the washcloth in warm water. I asked my husband to bring the cat into the bedroom.

Once the cat was on the bed, my husband rolled her on her side and I surveyed the damage. My stomach clenched with a mixture of anger and fear. The wound was about three inches in length and about an inch-and-a-half wide. The skin was gone and the flesh underneath glistened with blood and fluid and had the texture of a skinless chicken breast. I washed off the wound and applied Bactine, and then, staying as stoic as I could manage, applied the Polysporin. Sophie had been quiet up to this point, but at this point, the pain was too much for her to bear in silence. She howled with pain and I tried not to show my own distress.

The next day, my husband called the vet. A tech took the call and told me to keep applying antibiotic ointment and to dress the cat in a cotton onesie so sh couldn't lick the wound and so the ointment would stay on the skin. My cat now looks like a rhesus monkey.

Today is Monday, and I've had three days of dressing my cat in a cotton t-shirt after tending to a red, raw, bleeding wound that obviously causes Sophie excruciating pain. I have tried not to cringe while looking at the oozing, bloody goo coming through the cotton onesie. I have tried to calm a husband who is beside himself with guilt and remorse, anxiety and self-berating. Tonight when I changed the bandage, my husband stepped back and said, "I'm going to call and make an appointment for the vet now. I know you've tried to hide how bad this really is, but tonight the look on your face, the look in your eyes, well, I can see that you don't think this is going to be OK."

Sophie is going to the vet tomorrow. I fear what the vet is going to say. My stomach hurts when I think about it.

1 comment:

corruptpixie said...

OMGosh, that's horrible. I dearly hope that Sophie's trip to the vet went well today (as well as it can anyway) and that she makes a speedy and complete recovery. My heart is with you and her, I know how much important animal companions are and how special they make our lives. I wish you both the best.