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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Life Lessons From a Cat


My parents have taught me many valuable lessons about life, but the most valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far was just taught to me by my cat Gandalf.  Our cat is eleven, in human years, and if any of you have a pet you’ll know for a cat that’s not so old.  Consider Gandalf to be about sixty-two.  Imagine, if you will, that Gandalf is your parents’ ages.  I ask you to do this because in cat years that’s just about how old my parents are. 

I want you to suspend your reality for a minute and pretend Gandalf is a person, perhaps your mom or your dad.  One day you notice that your mom or you dad is getting thinner, too thin, so you mention it to them, and go with them to see the doctor.  After two weeks of extensive testing the doctor tells your parent, I’ll choose my mom, that she has a fat absorption problem, and that she must, for the rest of her life, mix a powder with her food in order to get the nutrients she needs from her food. 

Your mom has gotten really weak at this point, so you take her home and assume the responsibility of feeding her.  Stubborn mom, won’t eat!  She’s that one-in-a-million person who can smell the powder in her food.  After a week of coaxing, begging, and watching your mom drop more weight, you call the doctor again because now you are seeing your mom’s bones actually protruding from her face.  The doctor stubbornly says it can’t be the powder, but you, being the person who has mixed it for your ailing mother for a week, assures the doctor it is.  The doctor gives you a test to give your mom some food without the powder, and if your mom eats that food, then the doctor will believe you. 

Your mom gobbles that powder free food up and you call the doctor and tell them.  The doctor has an odd tone, as if she’s none to pleased to have been proven wrong by a commoner-a non-doctor!  Then the doctor tells you and your mom that she has NO choice.  She has to have that powder or she will die. You listen and nod to the doctor then politely explain, again, that your mom is starving to death because she won’t eat food with the powder in it.  The doctor tells you to try another type of food, so you do.  You try ALL different types, but the food is not the special diet food and it makes your mom sick, plus she can STILL smell the powder. 

This goes on for another week and now you can plainly see your mother is starving to death. You take her into the doctor, and the doctor takes one look at your mother and instead of trying anything else to help your mom the doctor coldly states you must put your mom to sleep.

Stop!  Come back from imaginary land.  This is exactly what happened with my cat last week.  As I stood in my vet’s office crying, I couldn’t gather the strength, at that moment, to put my cat down.  Instead, I went home and called my mom who used to be in the business of animal rescuing.  I told her about my cat, and she told me I needed a second opinion.  Why hadn’t I thought of that? 

My mom drove to my house and took my cat with her to her vet that very day.  At that point, my cat had gone from nine pounds to four.  He was, in fact, starving to death.  That was last Friday.  Yesterday, my mom called, she lives four hours away, and told me that tomorrow my cat could come home with her.  You see, Gandalf is doing much better.  This new vet tried a different powder that my cat wasn’t as finicky about eating.  I had asked my old vet if there was another medicine, and she had told me no.  This new vet also fed Gandalf special fluids to hydrate him until he would eat again.  My old vet took one look at my starving, dehydrated cat and told me to put him to sleep.

Here comes the valuable lessons my cat just taught me.  Doctors are not God. They make mistakes.  Some doctors are better than others.  Most importantly though, second opinions are a must.  I’m glad I’ve had these lessons hammered into me now, before I made the mistake of listening to a doctor who gave me the wrong advice.  I’m just sorry that I didn’t seek a second opinion for my poor cat sooner.  I’m proud to report though that my new vet has told me Gandalf is a fighter, and he thinks he will survive.  I can tell you that my two young boys, me and even my husband, who has always loved to grumble about the cat, are so glad to hear Gandalf is doing better and will be coming home to us soon! 

Have you ever had a valuable lesson taught to you by your pet?

Have a great day,
Julie Johnstone
The Marchioness Of Mayhem 

27 comments:

  1. Great story Julie. Also remember that with your own parents!

    Love,

    Dad

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  2. Ha! If they ever want to put you to sleep, I'll fight them tooth and nail!

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  3. Wow! I'm so sorry you had to go through all that! Thank goodness for moms! I remember my little dog was way overweight and year after year the vet would condemn me for feeding him too much. I got to the point where I was only feeding him a little bit, and still the vet didn't believe me. I finally took him to a different vet and she tested him for thyroid problems, and yep, that's what it was. I think Vets are like anyone else, some hate their jobs but they have too much time and schooling invested in it, and they're too scared to take a risk and do something else.

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    1. Amen to that, Cynthia. I had the exact same thought about my old vet.

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  4. Julie, you've got me crying with this story. I've had to put my first cat to sleep, and it is a heart-wrenching choice to make. I'm so glad you got a second opinion for Gandalf, and I'm so glad he'll be coming home to you soon.

    Let's see...lessons my cats have taught me over the years? Sometimes, you need to just curl up somewhere comfortable and enjoy the company of those you're with. Good things are worth working relentlessly for. The day always goes better if you take the time to stretch and slowly get your bearings before jumping into things. When you find someone you love, let them know it every chance you get. Those are just a few. :)

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    1. Those are some fantastic life lessons, Catherine! My heart goes out to you for having to go through putting your animal down. I haven't had to do it yet, but those hours when I thought I might have to were heartbreaking.

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  5. Julie, I'm so angry with your first vet! Not only was her reaction callous, but lazy and inappropriate. Being my hair-trigger, you-will-see-your-wrongdoing self, I would be sooo tempted to show her the error of her ways.
    We have a wonderful vet who helped me save a puppy who'd been run over by a car. I watched the toad speed away, leaving the dog on the side of the road.
    He only has 3 legs now, but Sam Henry Pickles Bear (each of the kids picked out a name for him) is an official member of the family.

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    1. Andris,
      That's wonderful about your dog, and I love his name! I've decided that when I get Gandalf back home and he has put on a good amount of his old weight, I'm going to take him to his old, cruddy vet and show her the little guy she told me to put to sleep because she was too lazy and uncaring to really do her job!

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  6. Julie ~ That is so sad, and more than a little outrageous. I'm so glad Gandalf is doing better and will be home soon. Poor kitty.

    Lesson I learned from my cat - "Don't tell me *what* to do. I'll do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it." (OK. My cat didn't have to teach me that, I came out of the womb that way. But my cat has the same temperament.)

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    1. It is outrageous, isn't it. Vets, like doctors, are supposedly called to practice medicine, and if you have a pet's life in your hands, by your choice, you should exert all your energy to save that pet.

      And Ava, I can completely see your cat giving you attitude and you giving it right back!

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  7. I have had many cats over the years. The most important things I've learned: never stop being curious and never pass up the opportunity to sit in a sunbeam or take a nap.

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  8. Janet,
    I love those lessons, especially the never miss the opportunity to sit in a sunbeam!

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  9. Julie,

    I am so glad Gandalf is doing better. How frustrating that must have been. We have been lucky to have had a great vet for our pets for the past 20 years. A couple have had to be put down, which was heartbreaking, but they were very old, had lived a long life and were living in a great deal of pain before we finally made the decision.

    But you are so right about second opinions, and sometimes third, forth, etc. for pets and humans. When my middle child was in grade school, we had a year of going back and forth to doctors because of abdominal pain. Two even suggested it was in her head. Turns out it only took the right doctor in the right ER to diagnose her with a chronic inflamed appendix that would flare painfully for awhile, go away and then come back. Had I listened to some of the doctors, she would be seeing a psychiatrist and still in pain, instead of a quick surgery to remove the offensive organ. She hasn't had an issue since.

    What I have learned from my cats (currently have three). The oldest will always be the matriarch and not bother with any other living being in the house unless she likes you, which is pretty much only my husband. The second cat goes with the flow and is so laid back, and very calming. Just take life easy and don't sweat the little stuff. The third cat, acceptance of all forms of life, no prejudices. She is basically attached to the dog. She was curling around the dog the other day and the dog was licking her face. They are best friends - lol (or maybe the cat just thinks she is a dog).

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    1. I love seeing cats and dogs curled around each other!

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  10. Wonderful post! Often enough we are quick to trust and believe whatever doctors tell us which we shouldn't. Ever. I'm glad you're cat is doing better.

    As a die hard animal lover, I've had animals all my life but about 7 years ago, I learned a very important lesson, taught to me by a little black pit bull mix. He taught me not to judge based on what every one else was saying as not everyone is the same and should be allowed to prove themselves, he taught me to love the good beings in my life without limitations and without fear. He also taught me that I am responsible for helping those less fortunate than I am, and not to be selfish in life by just going after what I want.

    That pit bull mix is now going to be eight this year and while my heart shatters at the thought that I may not have much time left with him, I will always be grateful that he is in my life.

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    1. Adria,
      What awesome life lessons! I have always heard pit bulls were mean, but you just taught me not to judge!

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  11. I'm glad Gandalf is feeling better. I think pets can teach us a many things especially how to be a good friend and devotion.

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    1. So true, Melody. Gandalf is definitely a devoted friend.

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  12. Great blog Julie. Gandalf taught me to never give up...even when all evidence seems to indicate otherwise. And, he reinforced what I already knew...which is...common sense along with our knowledge should always be our guiding light.

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    1. You are so right, Jane. thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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  13. Well, thank goodness for second opinions, Julie! I'm so sorry that you had to go through that.
    Thank you for sharing Gandalf's journey with us.

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    1. Thanks, Marquita, and thanks for stopping in and reading my cat's story!

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  14. I'm so glad he is on the mend! As for life lessons... always sleep on someone's head - it's the warmest part of a human ;) (and now you know why my old cats got kicked out of the bedroom each night!)

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    1. LOL! We had to kick Gandalf out of the bedroom years ago because he would sleep on my husband's chest and periodically lick his face. Drove Inge nuts!

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  15. That explains why you've been so quiet this last week. I am so glad you called your mom and I'm so very glad to hear your cat is getting better now. We do trust our vets, and doctors, sometimes a little too much. I'm glad you got a second opinion.

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    1. Thanks, Heather.

      It's been crazy hectic dealing with all of this. I hope we are getting back to normal.

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