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I’ve talked a lot here and on social media about our dogs but there’s another member of our family that isn’t mentioned much. Our crazy, black cat, Collins.
So why an unbirthday? That’s because we don’t know exactly when his birthday is, or even how old he actually is.
Here’s the story: It was ten years ago, in 2006, about a week before we were supposed to leave for Christmas in New York City. I was putting garland and bows up on the fence around our property and I happened to glance down and see this black cat watching me. I spoke to him and he meowed back at me. It was the beginning of a conversation that hasn’t stopped.
The next thing I knew, he was purring and rubbing against my leg. I petted him and told him to go home but he proceeded to follow and talk to me. This went on for a couple of hours. He followed me completely around the fence and then into the yard.
Over the years, we’ve seen many feral cats in our neighborhood and not one has ever approached us– let alone let us pet them. He obviously belonged to someone and must have either gotten out or was abandoned.
I finished what I was doing, told him to go home again and went in the house. I checked again later, before letting the dogs out but he was no where to be seen. I just figured he wandered home. Actually, he was still there but he was smart enough to hide. He was here and he wasn’t leaving.
A little later I went out and he came running down our back stairs, purring and meowing for attention. Concerned he hadn’t eaten recently, I put out some wet cat food for him but he wasn’t interested. So I still figured he was just visiting. (He must be eating somewhere!)
This became a pattern over several days. He was always there. He’d see us coming or going and as long as the dogs weren’t around, he’d follow us. If we went in the house, he’d sit in the driveway and wait.
I tried not to give him too much attention because I get attached too easily and he was just too friendly to be a stray. Still– worried he hadn’t eaten, I tried putting out some dry food and he devoured it in minutes. (He’s a finicky eater! He will not eat wet cat food.)
We felt like we had to do something. He wasn’t leaving…. and we couldn’t stop worrying about him.
Michael happened to mention the situation to our friend Tony, at work. Tony happened to be considering the idea of getting a cat but he thought he have might have allergy issues. Michael told Tony we hated that we were leaving town– and worried about leaving him all that time in the snow and the cold. (Nasty weather was in the forecast.) Tony said he’d take him (on a trial basis) and at least he’d be safe.
For us, that was a relief. While we were gone, Tony took him to the vet and had him checked out. The vet guessed he was probably about three years old and was perfectly healthy. He also suggested that he should be neutered. So Tony took care of it all but his allergies were bothering him and he didn’t feel like he was going to be able to keep him.
That’s the story. When we got home, Tony brought him back to us and we had a new member of the family.
We had been adopted.
We named Collins after the character Tom Collins in the musical RENT.
For anyone wondering, we did check the available resources at the time to make sure whether anyone was looking for him or not.
Collins always seems to get along with the other kids just find. Except, dogs play a little too rough so Collins always knows when to make himself scarce.
Some Collins facts/highlights from the past ten years:
- Collins goes crazy over cheeseburgers and melted cheese from pizza. He smells it and come running and begging!
- Like many cats, Collins is nocturnal. He sleeps most of the day and plays at night.
- We tried letting him sleep with us but after one broken lamp– he’s pretty much banned from the bedroom.
- If we happen to leave the bedroom door open, no matter if it’s day or night, Collins will be found sleeping on the bed.
- After Roxie died and after years of pretty much ignoring each other, Cash and Collins became regular snuggle buddies.
- Since I keep crazy hours and I’m always up way before the dogs– Collins is my constant companion in the wee hours of the morning– until Belle and Dudley get up. Then he disappears. Belle likes to tackle and lay on top of Collins if she can catch him. Collins does not appreciate this!
- Collins and Belle will frequently sit in the stairwell and have a stare down. This can go on for hours.
- Collins loves to talk! He will meow at you nonstop until he gets sufficient attention.
- Collins’ purr is quite loud and he loves to give kisses and lick your face like a dog.
- Collins does not like to have his picture taken and absolutely WILL NOT wear clothes, costumes or hats!
So Happy UnBirthday Collins! He’s probably the sweetest, friendliest, most docile cat I’ve ever met.
I better finish this up– he’s on my lap and pawing my face because I’m not looking at him enough. That, and he keeps covering my computer keys with his paws and tail.
Sunday when I took Cash up for his nap -okay, our nap- I gave him his treat but didn’t throw a few of his toys on the bed like usual. Not that he actual played with them– more than anything I think he just liked having them around him. Seeing this, Cash took matters into his own hands (paws) and somehow managed to open the door to Belle’s crate and took her bone. With it hanging out of his mouth like an oversized, cartoon cigar he climbed up on the bed, turned around in circles and laid down– pressed against me– to go to sleep. Michael had Belle and Dudley in the other room, so this time was just about us.
I have a lot of memories like this- simple, not profound but beautiful.
Cashman. Boogey. Boogers. Boog. Goofy. Goof. Son. Brother. Big Brother. Baby Boy. Old Man. My Cash.
Yesterday, I had to say goodbye. Time simply ran out.
Twelve years and nine months. He outlived his sister by just over two years and has been my constant companion since then.
But it was time.
I thought I was losing him twice earlier in the day but Cash always was a fighter. He hung in there. He hung in through the ride to vet, where they were able to give him medication to make sure he was comfortable and he hung in until Michael could get there.
Nose to nose and staring into his eyes I told him I loved him. I told him it was okay to let go. I whispered it was time for him to run and find his sister. Nose to nose I felt him take his last breath.
Through it all I tried to stay calm, to not cry, to reassure him. When he was finally gone– through the sadness and grief– more than anything I felt lucky.
Cash was a gift. The last two years when I really got to know him and bond with him on a different level were the greatest gift.
I’ll miss his smell. I’ll miss the upturned corners of his mouth–that I call a smile when I’d kiss him or stroke his fur.
I’ll miss him pretending to sleep, one ear flipped up so he can hear what’s going on and not miss anything.
I’ll miss Michael getting out of bed every night when it was time to go to sleep and kneeling at the end, scratching his ears and covering him in kisses.
I’ll miss Cash waiting for me at the door, begging for treats, snuggling with me on the couch and in bed… his guilty looks… his playfulness.
And most of all– those eyes. I’d swear looking into his eyes connected our souls.
So very Lucky.
Before posting on Facebook, I posted the following:
I want everyone reading this to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, take a deep breath– and be grateful for all the good things you have to be thankful for. Life comes with no guarantees. The only thing certain– is this moment.
I wanted to share– but not make this all about me. Grief and loss is something we all experience throughout our lives. So many times we get caught up and forget the important things.
Earlier this month, it seemed a lot of friends were experiencing grief and loss. I found and posted this:
When we got home from the vet, we let the babies out and I had to plug my drained phone into the charger… next to Cash’s empty food bowl. A while later, I opened the refrigerator to find his half can of dog food, covered in foil, staring me in the face. Little moments of grief and remembrance. There will be a lot of those moments over the coming weeks. The empty space on the couch, toys only he played with, tags in drawers forgotten long ago. It’s all part of the process.
Within hours of posting on Facebook, over a hundred people has expressed their condolences. Reminding me once again that I am so Lucky.
At bedtime, there wasn’t even any discussion. Belle and Dudley got their peanut butter, their crates were left open and they both climbed up on the bed. They played a little before settling down and going to sleep. I didn’t sleep well– but mostly because it’s hard to sleep with a sixty-pound boxer pushing me to the edge and snuggling with her head on my chest– snoring softly. I was blissfully uncomfortable.
So very, very lucky.
There are still more good days than bad. There are even some real great days– but nothing makes me sad like when Cash is having a bad day.
At 12 and 1/2, Cash is still mighty healthy for a Boxer, his age. Of course, he’s not as active as he once was- he’s slimmed down and sleeps more than he’s awake. Yet, true to the breed, he still has those ‘puppy moments’ that never cease to make me smile.
Some days his legs don’t work so good. When Belle, our 1 year old Boxer, is overly playful; I sometimes have to play go-between. Even when Cash is in the mood to play, it’s still really easy for Belle to knock him on his butt. I don’t know what’s going through his head but he seems surprised, even a little embarrassed when it happens.
Sunday, 10/11/15 – Today was a good day. Yesterday felt like a really bad one. Cash had four pretty severe attacks of “reverse-sneezing” that I witnessed. There may have been more. At least I know now what it is. Knowing it’s not life-threatening doesn’t make the experience any easier. Especially when he’s gasping for breath, looking in your eyes. It’s heart-wrenching.
Just Breathe. A reverse sneeze isn’t actually that at all. I’m not sure how that term came about; but I can assure you that if you haven’t experienced it, witnessing it is far worse than is sounds. The medical term is paroxysmal respiration. When this happens, it is your dog trying to rapidly pull air into his nose. It sounds like something might be caught in his nose or throat and he’ll usually extend his neck and all his focus goes into trying to breath.
In everything I’ve read, doctors aren’t sure what the root cause is; but they suspect it could be allergy related and there is no treatment. These attacks also cause no ill or long term effects. Most often they can be brought on by stress or excitement or can happen when eating or drinking. These episodes can last from a few seconds up to a minute. Dogs act perfectly normal before and after it occurs.
The first couple times Cash had one of these attacks, I was afraid I was on the verge of losing him. It literally sounds like he’s choking or being strangled; wheezing and gasping for air.
I learned the best thing you can do is to keep your dog calm and gently rub his throat or briefly cover his nose to encourage him to swallow. This helps open the air passage and allows normal breathing to return.
Tired Legs. A couple weeks ago, while Belle and Dudley were away on a play day, Cash was having a weaker moment. I could see his legs were a little more stiff than usual but he was still managing to get around just fine. We went out side for awhile and when it came time to go back in, he just froze on the steps. Legs trembling, he stood there staring at me– waiting. So I scooped him up, all 80 plus pounds of him and carried him inside; for which he seemed grateful. A couple hours later, he was doing the stairs again like a champ.
I don’t pretend or assume I know what he’s feeling and I try not to act overly concerned– but I am. It’s funny, sometimes– trying to hide your feelings from your dog. But he knows. Most people don’t realize just how synced their pets are to their emotions.
Just like with people, there are good days and bad days. Aging is difficult for us all. The most important thing is to cherish every moment.
Wednesday, 10/14/15 – 4 am- Three days have gone by without another serious attack. For that I’m grateful. Hoping today will be another good day. My boy deserves it.
When I woke up this morning, taking my cup of coffee and Kindle outside, I had hoped to spend a few quiet few hours reading before Michael and the kids (our pups) got up. I didn’t expect to finish, teary-eyed and even bawling through passages of the final few chapters.
A good book, whether fiction or non, takes you on a journey. Perhaps somewhere familiar or on some new adventure. If you’re lucky, besides a good read, you might learn something along the way.
I got a complimentary ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of All Dogs Go To Kevin by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang through the NetGalley website. It’s official publication date is July 14, 2015. As a dog owner/lover, I thought I’d give it a shot.
The NetGalley description goes on with, “You can’t always count on people, but you can always count on your dog. No one knows that better than veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang, who with the help of three dogs, is buoyed through adolescence, veterinary school, and the early years of motherhood. Taffy, the fearsome Lhasa; Emmett, an amiable Golden; and Kekoa, the neurotic senior Labrador, are always by her side, offering lessons in empathy and understanding for all the oddballs and misfits who come through the vet clinic doors. Also beside her is Kevin, a human friend who lives with the joie de vivre most people only dream of having. But when tragedy strikes, Jessica is reminded that the animals we love give more than they take.”
This isn’t an owners’ manual or a how to book, but rather a beautiful memoir of sorts, of Doctor Vogelsang’s (Dr. V) personal journey to becoming a caring Veterinarian, mother and guardian of some wonderful dogs. There are some wonderful takeaways in this book that are inherently present. 1) All dogs are not created equal. 2) All vets are not created equal; and there is an important partnership between owner and caregiver that should be present to maximize a pet’s quality of life. 3) The pain and heartbreak of losing a pet can never outweigh the rewards of loving one.
A year and a half later, I’m still grieving the loss of Roxie. Not an all-consumed, depressing loss– but a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think or her and miss her wet kisses. And more so, I worry about her brother Cash; who at 12 years old, has good days and bad days and many in between.
It was impossible not to directly connect with many of the humorous and touching moments of Dr. V’s experiences. Her empathy and humanity will enrapt you in an enormous bear hug and not let you go.
According to the author’s bio, “Dr. Vogelsang discovered a passion for working with pets and families in the end-stages of life, and now practices full time with Paws into Grace providing hospice care to dogs and cats.”
So why the title, All Dogs Go To Kevin? I don’t like spoilers, so you’ll just have to read the book to find out.
I highly recommend this book to pet owners, pet lovers and anyone even considering adding a furry friend to their family. It will serve as a great comfort and resource when building a life with a four-legged companion.
All Dogs Go To Kevin
by Doctor Jessica Vogelsang
Publication date: July 14, 2015
Grand Central Publishing
Available in Hardcover, Kindle, Audible and Audio CD. Purchase on Amazon by clicking here.
Last night as Cash climbed up on the bed, he did something he hasn’t done in a while.
I don’t mean he laid against me– he does that every night, or, for at least part of the night. After he did his little spin around in circles, deciding where to land, he sat against my side and then inched his way down between Michael and I, until he was laying and his head was nuzzled against mine.
At first he lays with his shoulder on my arm and buries his face in my pillow. I wrap my other arm around him, snuggling until he eventually signals (shifting around) that I need to pull my arm out from under him so he can be truly comfortable. Then he takes a deep breath and sighs and falls asleep. I love that so much. He slept by me all night like that. Snoring softly next to my ear.
Cash was never a snuggler. Not much of a licker (kisser) either. That was always his sister Roxie’s job. Roxie would spend five minutes every night licking my face before digging in the blankets, flopping down and snuggling. Cash would just climb up on the bed and lay at my feet. It was the same thing every night.
And then Roxie died.
I’m not sure if it was out of his own grief and feeling of loss or maybe a need for a greater connection– but all of a sudden Cash was snuggling. For the first six weeks after Roxie died, he snuggled every single night.
Then little by little, he did it less often. Or, not for the whole night at least.
I miss it. Every night I hope he’ll snuggle– but now when he does, it’s even more special. It warms my heart and fills me to the brim with contentment.
Just a boy and his dog.
I never really knew Cash before Roxie died. He was always aloof, letting Roxie take all the attention. She never asked for it– she took it. Like Cash does now.
After Roxie was gone, we had a lot of time alone together– Cash and I. He followed me everywhere, never wanting to leave my side. That’s when I started trying to go to the gym or grocery shopping, only early morning, while he and Michael were still sleeping. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being in this house alone.
Whatever room I’m in– Cash is there. He helps me with whatever I’m doing. If I go outside, he wants to go outside. If it’s wet or cold– things he never particularly cared for before; he’d rather be outside with me, than inside by himself.
There’s something about the look in a dogs eyes when you really get to know them. I can tell when he’s happy, sleepy or distressed. He has good days and bad days, as do I; and we seem to be able to comfort each other.
Sometimes Cash will just sit and stare back– talking without words. Other times, he’s laying next to me, head in my lap.
We connected in a way I never expected we would. I couldn’t be more grateful for this time we’ve had to just– be. Co-exist. A boy and his dog.
It took a lot of thought and consideration before we were sure we wanted to try to bring home a furry companion for Cash. We weren’t sure he’d be able to handle the energy of a puppy; and were even less sure he’s be tolerant of a rescue dog’s baggage.
We took the risk with Belle and Dudley– and it’s worked. Cash get his exercise, playing with toys like he hasn’t done in years. He let’s Belle snuggle up against him while he sits as proud protector.
With the puppies, he seems to be pretty content to let them have the bulk of the attention; knowing he’ll have his time.
They have their crates– he gets the bed.
And we always find our moments throughout the day that it’s just he and I. I make sure of it. If for some reason I wait too long, he reminds me.
Maybe because it took so long to get here is what makes our bond so special.
I enjoy it. Love it. Treasure it.
A boy and his dog.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months looking at pet insurance and seriously considering the pros and cons of it. With two new puppies in the house and having gone through added medical costs in the last months of Roxie’s life, I decided I really needed to investigate the pet insurance options.
Pets are an investment. Pets are expensive to care for; they become valued members of our family. So how can we best protect them and be prepared for emergency situations?
Pet insurance seems like an easy solution, right? Well, maybe. It’s not as affordable as you might think. It also doesn’t cover everything you’d hope it would. In fact, reading through some policies will leave you scratching your head, wondering exactly what it does cover.
Unfortunately, navigating your way through the various policies, coverages and fine print is as complicated for pet insurance as it is for human health insurance. Many options, deductibles, varying premiums depending on the coverage; lots of exclusions and vague language that suggests many of the policies won’t pay out– at least, not the way you would expect. You don’t always get what you pay for.
A Financial Decision
The idea of pet insurance sounds like a good investment… but is it worth it? It’s always a good idea to educate yourself before making such an important financial commitment, no matter how logical it sounds to you initially. Do the numbers, compare and read before you sign.
Coverage could be the best way to go for people on a tight budget, that might not be able to afford a large unforeseen expense. It’s also a good option for people that, by making a monthly payment, will give them a sense of security and peace of mind.
For people that can afford an immediate and unexpected outlay of cash; coverage may not be beneficial. Especially, if your pet lives a long, healthy, incident-free life.
There are two main options to consider first: pet insurance and/or a wellness plan. These are two different protections that do not cover you for the same expenses. Some companies offer one or the other and some offer both options– charged separately. Pet insurance starts with a chosen deductible amount and can cover medical care, surgeries, emergency procedures and some medications– BUT, what is covered depends on the individual policy. A wellness plan does not carry a deductible (in any of the examples I have found) and can cover many of the reoccurring, yearly costs of preventative care. These can include: health check-ups, vaccinations, heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, spaying or neutering, and sometimes even discounted grooming services. All plans are different, as are the costs. Many I found are $25-$40 a month per pet.
Most companies offer plans with deductibles of $0, $100 or $500. The better the coverage, the more it costs. Most companies do not cover preexisting conditions. Yearly wellness and preventative care are not covered by any of the pet insurance policies, from any of the companies I researched. When looking at insurance, make sure you read the complete policy to be sure all your concerns are covered. There are many exclusions you would expect to be covered. Several companies also provide additional coverage (riders) for more specified health concerns, adding to the cost of your plan.
The least expensive plans I could find, providing what I would consider average or basic coverage, was just over $2,000 a year, with a $500 deductible, per pet. Policies easily climb in cost up to around $6,000 a year.
In the long run, most pet owners do not benefit from the coverages. In some cases, the policies are written in a way that the companies could legally avoid any actual payout. It’s legal– but I still consider it a scam. Negligence is subjective. Most policies will not pay for services that are needed as the result of what they consider owner negligence. Many accidents and incidences such as the ingestion of foreign objects, could easily be classified as negligence.
I also found that, except in the most extreme circumstances, most people pay more for insurance coverage than if they paid for medical care out-of-pocket. In most of the cases, this costs pet owners $2,000-3,000 more annually for the insurance, even if minor unexpected medical services were needed.
One of the main benefits of a wellness plan is that you pay a monthly premium that spreads the costs of preventative care over the course of the year as opposed to all at once. On average, the cost of a wellness plan is pretty much equal to what you will need to spend each year on your pet anyway. Some wellness plans offer discounts for multiple pets so there could be a savings there. If you have a wellness plan that covers all office visits, you might find you are more likely to be proactive regarding any early signs of possible illness.
Insurance is a gamble. You put out a sum of money now, in the hopes that it will pay off (protect you) in the future. If you carry insurance, pay monthly premiums and actually need medical treatment, then it’s could be worth it.
Important to Note
I’m purposely avoiding too much discussion on specific companies. I recommend doing a review and complaint search online before you commit to any company.
I do have to point out that where most policies’ deductibles cover annual costs, Trupanion’s deductibles are per incident. I did not even notice that fact until it was pointed out to me in one of the articles I read. Each accident, illness or incident would require you pay a deductible for each, prior to insurance paying for anything.
I found a really good article in Consumer Reports you should look at before purchasing pet insurance. It will help you along the way, give you some idea of what to look for; and help in deciding whether this is the best decision for you and your pets. It compares several polices and gives several incident scenarios that might help you decide.
If you are disciplined enough, you might want to consider putting a certain amount aside each month, maybe opening a savings account; to accumulate funds in case of an emergency or to cover future expenses. There’s always the risk you might be tempted to use the money elsewhere; but if you end up not needing to use the funds over the lifetime of your pet– the money is still yours.
I also found a company called Pet Assure that offers a 25% discount program, for an annual fee, on all services. They have rates for individual to unlimited family pets– which could provide a huge savings. There are no exclusions with this plan. The program does require services through participating facilities. There may be other programs out there you might want to look into providing a similar savings.
Michael and I decided that at this point, neither pet insurance nor a wellness plan was the right decision for us. We might sign up for a discount program in the future; but again, at the current time it does not benefit or protect us financially, in a way that we need.
I hope this helps some people considering coverage. Coverage is a personal decision. Never let anyone pressure you into committing to a policy that makes you uncomfortable. The most important thing is that you do the very best you can to keep your furry family healthy, happy and safe.