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A Very Merry UnBirthday
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.
Good Dog, Bad Day
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.