Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Daily Gift

In the spring of 2009, Samantha and I came as close as we have ever come to losing one of our four pets.  Julius, the big orange tabby who has always been more fluff than anything, began acting differently.  First, he stopped using the litter box, choosing instead to use an open suitcase, the sink, or the hamper; he even went so far one time to jump onto the bed while we were still in it, and proceed to pee on the blankets right in front of us.  We thought he was mad about getting a new dog - Chuy - back in January, and figured the phase would pass.  It didn’t and his behavior continued to change.

Then in May, there was a few days where Julius became lethargic, not eating and not moving from the desk chair in our home office.  He wouldn’t come out to greet us, harass the dog, or even come for treats.  Since it was time for their yearly check-up, we brought him to the vet.  She recognized that something was amiss and decided to take some blood for tests.  Afterwards, we brought him home and waited for a call telling us what was going on.  When the vet finally called, she told us Juilus was experiencing kidney failure and that we needed to bring him back in to talk over options.
Needless to say, we were a little in shock, and a lot upset.  Kidney failure is not common in four and a half year old cats, and it even took our vet by surprise. The sum of his ailments added up to two choices - either leave him at the vet for the weekend, or bring him home and say goodbye.  We decided to opt for medicine and the giant vet bill.
Julius ending up staying at the vet for ten days.  They placed him on IV fluids for hydration and to flush his body of the toxins his kidneys were no longer removing.  They added a feeding tube and performed a variety of tests and treatments.  Julius was still not eating, so the vet tried every kind of food to get him to eat - he couldn’t go home unless he was eating on his own.  She even boiled a chicken for him at her house and brought it up.  No deal.  Finally, she asked us to bring up some of his normal, cheap cat food from the house.  Guess what?  The stubborn orange fool ate.
At the end of his ten day vacation, Julius added some weight back on, was eating on his own, and acted a little more cat like.  The vet told us that she had done everything she could do, and the only thing left was to bring him home and wait and see what would happen.  Well, I am here to tell you that he is still here, fluff and all.

Julius is our special child.  We have to feed him a special cat food and can no longer give him the treats he loves.  On top of his food we have to sprinkle a powder which binds with and removes phosphates from his blood since his kidneys can not.  Every morning we have to give him two pills, Pepcid-AC for his acidic stomach, and one for blood pressure to give his sick kidneys a little more blood flow.  Julius has now become good friends with the pill-popper.  Finally, three times a week I give him subcutaneous fluid.  I hook a lactated ringer (the IV bags you see in the hospital with saline solution), up to a needle, and inject fluid underneath his skin.  This helps flush his system of all the toxins.  
We see every day that we get to spend with Julius as a gift.  While he can still be just as much of a pain in the butt as he was before, we cherish the chance we have to experience him.  Looking at Julius reminds me that this life, this world, this experience we share on this planet is the same - a gift.  
Look about yourself and see the things you have taken for granted.  I didn’t realize it until all of this occurred, but I took everything for granted.  I didn’t appreciate who or what was in my life; I assumed everything would continue the same with nothing altering.  I think too often we become blind to what is right in front of us, and we lose moments of life because of that blindness.  From now on, I choose to be better, I choose to be more aware of everything in my life.
Julius taught me a valuable lesson during his ordeal, one that I am reminded of every time I give him a pill, or sprinkle powder on his food, or slip the needle under his skin - do not take anything for granted.  Appreciate who and what you are, be thankful for everything you have around you, and look at life as a gift.

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