I realize I’ve been absent for longer than normal, and I apologize. I’ve had a rough week, completely separate from Steve and haven’t felt like sharing anything. I do owe the maintenance of any semblance of my sanity to Steve and the rest of my pack, as well as to Jay.
Last week, I had more tests done in the continuing quest to get to the bottom of my vertigo. Those tests, combined with other tests that were done in the past, left my doctors stumped. Some of the tests showed that I was normal, while others showed I was abnormal. Apparently, I’m a vestibular anomaly. Their best guess now is that I have a rare vestibular disease that affects about 2% of the population. I’m being sent for a high resolution CAT scan to look for what essentially amounts to holes in my skull. If they find that, I go in for surgery (scary because they’re cracking open my skull!!) to fill in the holes, and then this is finally all over with. If they don’t, they still will have no idea what’s wrong with me.
I’ve spent the past week researching this rare disease and stressing over the possibility of surgery on my skull. If anyone has ever doubted animals’ connections to our emotions, they can come to my apartment and set up their own case study. Steve has been glued to my hip, Yorrick to my feet, Saxon next to Steve…even Spyder is becoming a more supportive pet! Steve has never been more than 10 feet away from me except to eat and use her litter box. When I go to bed at night and close the bedroom door, she stays outside the door digging at it and crying to be let in. I can’t imagine what will happen (to both of us) if I do have to leave her for a few days for surgery. She really is the leader of my support team!
Today marks 9 months of vertigo for me, 8 months of Steve being our cat, and 7 1/2 months of Steve being a Tripawd. I’m not a religious person, I don’t believe in God therefore I don’t believe that God brought Steve and I together at just the right time. I do believe in happy coincidences, and Steve and I are a happy coincidence. She just happened to need me at almost the exact moment in time that I needed her. I took her in at her time of need, and she is now returning the favor. This summer, we’ll return the favor together to the humane society that rescued her and performed her amputation by being a foster mom/foster big sister duo! Care taking is in Steve’s blood!!
Here are Steve and Saxon snuggled up next to me on the couch
My sister is in town for a long weekend with her kids. My 2 1/2 year old niece, Josie, loves to watch the videos on my smartphone. Her favorite one is a 10 second video of Steve hopping across my bathroom floor towards me. At the very end, Steve looks at the camera and meows. Josie could watch this video 1,000 times and never get bored!
Josie has met Steve a few times, both before and after amputation. Steve was never a cat with a disability. Steve isn’t a cat with three legs, different from her four legged brothers – even when I point it out. Steve is Steve, the kitty with the cute meow. Steve is the soft orange kitty. Steve is “the other nice kitty.” (Saxon was the first nice kitty before Steve came to live with us.) Even my 5 year old nephew doesn’t notice Steve’s missing leg. She’s just the orange cat that he gets to pet when he comes to Aunt Bue’s house.
Usually when I tell people that one of my cats is a Tripawd, I get the “Oh I’m so sorry” reaction. Sorry for what? I’m not sorry, Steve isn’t sorry, the surgeon who removed her leg isn’t sorry. “Poor kitty.” Poor?! Do you know how many toys she has? I’m the poor one! Do you know how much her food costs?! I wish people could be more like my niece and nephew. I don’t know if it’s that the kids don’t notice or that they don’t care. Or is it that they see Steve getting around the house just as fine as her brothers and know that’s just how it is? Saxon jumps, Steve jumps. Yorrick runs, Steve runs. Spyder climbs, Steve climbs.
When I take Steve to the vet, her doctor already knows that she’s a Tripawd because she assisted on the surgery. The techs don’t notice, even when they pick her up to put her on the scale or place the stethoscope on her chest. I assume she’s fluffy enough to hide it. Then something comes up in conversation and I say that she’s missing a leg, Steve jumps from the table, and a tech makes a comment about how agile Steve is for only having three legs. She’s essentially been on three legs all of her life, of course she’s agile! Plus, she’s a cat!!
I know that a day will come when Steve’s lone back leg will wear out sooner than normal from carrying the full load. I don’t trim her nails so that she has a better grip to pull herself up when climbing. I try to give her lower options for jumping when she wants to get somewhere high, but there’s really no stopping her on the way down. She’s a highly active cat, and if her days are numbered on the low end because she enjoyed them to the fullest in the beginning, so be it. I will not baby her or treat her like she is disabled, and I will not let others do it. I will encourage everyone to treat her as my niece and nephew do – like she is just another cat!!
I had, well we’ll call it a conversation today with my cousin. He has a small business in pet care, working in a few of the wealthier neighborhoods here. He owns a cat, which he rescued. I distinctly remember when he was picking out his new friend that he didn’t want a cat with any “baggage” shall we say? He wasn’t even interested in a cat with a bobbed tail. I understand that special needs aren’t for everyone, but this is besides the point. The conversation we had was about the horses in Central Park. He doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way the carriage horses are being treated and that, because it’s a tradition, the horses should stay. I showed him an article from the HSUS stating that it’s been documented several times by several independent auditors that the horses are being treated inhumanely and therefore pose a threat to the general population – two separate issues. I was then called irrational and insane. (The first thing my cousin actually told me was to shut up.)
This is not the first time I have been called irrational or insane because I was standing up for animal rights or welfare or whichever name you want to stick on it. In fact, I get called insane because I have four pets all from the shelter system – even more so because two have special needs! My father shakes his head when I spend money on my pets for anything more than routine vet visits. I couldn’t believe he actually drove me to one of Steve’s appointments to help resolve her GI troubles!
So why do we get called insane for speaking for those with no voice? I’m sure any number of you have been called insane for spending money on your pet for the amputation surgery or chemo treatments. I applaud each and every one of you for making the decision you made. You are not insane, you are amazing!
You know who is insane? Crab fisherman. Though I suppose there’s even an argument for them because they really love what they do and there’s REALLY good money in it!
I’m insane because there is no money in what I love. Sometimes there’s no reward at all. If the case in NYC goes through and those horses are relieved of their duty, I’ll never get to see the horses enjoying their freedom.
My reward is Steve, right now, laying on the back of the couch just over my shoulder, purring in her half sleep…nope she’s awake. The baseball game I’m listening to on the laptop woke her up! Well, even how cute that was is a reward because she could be asleep anywhere in the apartment and she chose to sleep right here with me.
Irrational… Is it really irrational to ask for responsible breeding of dogs and cats, complete eradication of puppy mills, funding for bringing spay and neuter programs to low income cities, and humane treatment of farm and food animals? If it is, then I’m insane.
I apologize for veering off the tripawd topic, but I had to get that off of my chest. It’s been bugging me all day. Here’s a picture of Steve to bring it back home again:
I’m going to attempt to put a couple of videos on here, let’s see if I succeed. Jay has challenged me to be more confident in trying new technology. The fact that I’m blogging on my own is a miracle in itself…
As you can see, mobility is not an issue for Steve! We bought the laser pointer this weekend and she’s been jumping and climbing up the walls for it!! She usually jumps and climbs into/onto windowsills and perches; but since she has the highest prey drive of the three and is always chasing the sunlight reflected off of our cell phones and my rings, we thought we’d get her something she could chase even when the sun isn’t shining to really keep her moving!
I thought it would be nice to share a little bit about our furry family, and what it was like when Steve joined the “pack.”
Five years ago, as part of my decision to make my career path about animal care, I signed up to volunteer at our local humane society to help with dog and cat care – including to be a dog and cat foster mom. I took the kitten foster class, and before kitten season even began, I was asked to foster an adult cat for behavior issues. They singled me out for this foster because I had expressed an interest in animal behavior. This particular cat had been rescued from a hoarder’s home with approximately 30 other cats, and was not showing any signs of interest in human interaction. His name was Spyder (a name we kept because it was the same name as one of my fiance’s favorite comic book characters), and he never left!
A few months later, our roommate moved out and I had waited long enough to get a dog. I hadn’t had one since my family’s dog died when I was 17, and I was going nuts! An agreement with our landlord allowed us to get one dog under 40 pounds. My fiance…I suppose he deserves a name by now, huh? His name is Jay and we’re getting married in June of 2016. Jay wanted a Dachshund which I flat out put the brakes on. He wanted a short, long dog that burrowed, so I did my research. I could compromise with a Basset Hound, except that they are impossible to train. What dogs are easy to train? Labs! I searched PetFinder for Basset/Lab mixes (by the way, Google Basset mixes and you are guaranteed to find cute dogs!) and found one at a rescue two hours from us. Yorrick (named for another favorite comic book character) came home a week later! He’s the perfect mix of a Basset and a Lab. Brains for miles, energy when you need it, laziness when you don’t! Oh, and he burrows!
In September of that same year, I started putting the idea in Jay’s head that a kitten would be good for Spyder since we still hadn’t seen him come out from behind Jay’s desk in the back room of our apartment. I thought a playful kitten would help to start bring Spyder out of his shell. Jay said no. I asked about fostering kittens. Jay said no. In November, we went to PetSmart to buy hamster supplies (we had a couple of hammies for a short time). It was one of the PetSmart that has the cat adoptions set up in windows instead of cages. Jay, for whatever reason, went over to the windows and saw two fluffy orange kittens. One of them put his paw on the window and Jay put his hand up to the kitten’s paw. Jay turned to me and said, “Honey, I’m in love!” Jay (and Spyder) got a kitten for early Christmas that year! Saxon (named for one of my favorite comic book characters – notice a trend?) definitely did his job. He found Spyder in all of his hiding places and encouraged him to play!
Three pets in one year, then none for four years! Foster kittens came and went. Tears were shed as new homes were found. We almost gave up fostering for good at the end of 2012 when we lost two kittens in one litter. One died of a disease that had spread to several cats in the shelter and caused a massive quarantine. The other died from medication that causes toxicity in 1 in about 1 million kittens. She was the one. That was a hard September. We considered adopting the one who had the disease in hopes of giving him a life he couldn’t have otherwise, knowing that special needs animals don’t intimidate us. It turned out that he would have been in severe pain for about a year before dying anyways.
Thankfully, last Summer, after getting engaged, we gave fostering another go. Then “Mya” came into our lives.
The foster email blast that asked us to take “Mya” also asked us to take a mom and two boys with URI. “Mya” hated the mom, but loved the two boys. She has maternal instincts like you wouldn’t believe.
As soon as her URI quarantine was up – and she was answering to Steve – we let her out into “gen pop.” Spyder, Saxon, and Yorrick weren’t sure what to make of her. They always wait on the other side of the door for the kittens to get released, but Steve was no kitten. She hissed like a kitten, but she was bigger! Unfortunately, before they could really get used to each other, Steve had to go in for surgery. Thankfully, everyone was very polite when Steve was allowed to start exploring again. Yorrick, felt no reason to chase her because she didn’t run from him, she sort of meandered towards him. After a week of hissing through baby gates, the three cats were fairly ok with each other. After another couple of weeks, they were grooming each other!!
In December, Steve helped us foster another hoarder cat and taught him how to play. Tobasco, who we renamed Neville, came to us completely shut down but not as far gone as Spyder was five years ago. Steve taught him all of her best moves, shared her toys with him, groomed him, showed him the best places to sleep at the different times of day, and made him into a highly adoptable cat! Thank goodness, too, because Neville was orange and orange cats tend to stay in this house forever!!
Kitten season is coming, I can’t wait for Steve to help with the new batch!
I’ve always loved animals. My best friend growing up was our family dog Kip – an overweight, fluffy, smelly, loving Golden Retriever. It’s Kip’s fault that I currently own 3 cats and a dog, have an open door policy on fosters and strays, and one eye open for the dog (pit bull) that will become our second dog.
Rescue is my passion. No more homeless pets is my goal. I see a falling star, I wish for no more homeless pets. The clock says 11:11? I wish for no more homeless pets. Every year on my birthday when I blow out the candles, I wish for no more homeless pets. Blow an eyelash off of my fingertip….you guessed it. No more homeless pets.
While I have no real connection to the military – I’ve never said goodbye to a family member as he or she deployed overseas – it breaks my heart on some kind of personal level when I see how we, as a country, are failing our returning troops. Statistics say that 22 veterans a day take their own lives due to PTSD. What warms my heart is when I see a story on the news of a returning soldier being paired up with a dog or a horse to help them cope with PTSD. Sadly, there aren’t many programs doing that and there isn’t one at all in my area. I live in Upstate NY and the closest one is in NYC. I’ve seen a few soldiers coming through our local airport and getting paired up with a therapy dog through such a program, but every time the soldier and the animal had to work with a program from somewhere else in the country.
Recently, I got the opportunity to begin working with a woman who has connections to the military to bring one of these programs to Upstate NY. She lost her brother-in-law to suicide caused by PTSD and wants to help other soldiers struggling with this terrible disease. I’m excited to be able to bring my passion for helping homeless animals to the table. How better to help these animals in need of a home (and a job) than to pair them with soldiers who need a friend?
How does this relate to Tripawds? On the most basic level. Occasionally, soldiers return from war a bit torn up. Perhaps, they lost their spare, too. Often times, in shelters, Tripawds get looked over because special needs pets can be intimidating. Can you imagine the bond a soldier who lost his leg in battle could form with a dog who lost her leg in a car accident? Obviously, this wouldn’t be ideal for every case; but I certainly hope it can reduce the number of Tripawds being overlooked in shelters and rescue centers.
This is something that has been important to me for a long time, and is now becoming a reality. Adopting a Tripawd has taken it to an even better level.
If you have a program like this in your community, please don’t hesitate to support it. It is not cheap to run, but you cannot put a value on the human lives it saves. Also, if they have a fundraising event, get out there and whisper the Tripawd word in their ear! Tell them Steve sent you!
First off, I should note that as I type this the fur is flying as all 3 of our cats are chasing each other through the entire apartment. I used to think “zoomies” was just a pit bull term. Nope.
Anyways, as I said in our introductory post, I’m a volunteer at our local humane society (though not currently active with vertigo) and have veterinary hospital experience. I’ve seen companion animals at their worst and cleaning up bodily fluids doesn’t phase me in the least. I’ve witnessed and assisted on surgeries and procedures most of you could never imagine.
I don’t remember the first time Steve’s GI troubles manifested I assume, because things eventually got so much worse. I remember having to kick her out of the bedroom, and I remember seeing the “butt prints,” as we so lovingly call them. I remember picking up anything she could ruin in the bathroom and closing her in there with a litter box and some food and water to let her do her thing. That was the first time Steve painted the bathroom brown. I thought about taking a picture of it, but then I realized that no one else would find it funny. I cleaned it up, bathed her back end, and sent her on her way.
This happened a few more times and we started to catch on to it earlier and earlier. We started to realize exactly what was happening. Steve would go to the litter box, struggle to produce a stool, then get out and make a “butt print.” That’s when she’d get closed in the bathroom. After anywhere from 6-12 hours, the bathroom floor would be painted brown and some where in the middle of it would be a wet but solid stool. Sometimes she’d vomit in the middle of all of it, but as soon as it was all over and she was dried and groomed from the bath, her appetite was ravenous and everything went back to normal. That changed in early February.
It might be odd to an average person that I can tell the difference between my cats’ stools. Steve’s stools stand out. She’s our smallest cat and her stools are the biggest by a long shot. One week in February, as I scooped the boxes every day, I noticed those giant stools were missing. Steve also has a habit, or perhaps ritual, of using the litter box as soon as I’ve scooped it. Each of those days, she’d run into one of those freshly scooped boxes, and strain. I felt her belly – something I hadn’t done much in the past, but something I’d seen enough to know what to do and what to feel for. I felt what was like a rock in her belly. I panicked. I don’t know why…panicking would get me nowhere. I went to my fiance and, between tears, explained what was wrong. He told me to call the vet and that we’d figure things out if money became an issue. Thankfully, the vet I got scheduled with was one of the vets who assisted with Steve’s amputation surgery at the humane society.
At the appointment, Dr Sarah was not only familiar with Steve, she was also familiar with my condition and the fact that money was tight with us. Best of all, she was familiar with my animal handling abilities. One feel of Steve’s belly and Dr Sarah said that my diagnosis was right. Steve was constipated. Instead of going with expensive and unnecessary options to clear Steve’s colon, Dr Sarah gave Steve a quick pain injection and brought a warm water enema into the room where I could assist. Dr Sarah saved me hundreds of dollars that day, and saved Steve hours of discomfort in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar people. It was Dr Sarah’s assumption that Steve’s pelvis was deformed, possibly related to her deformed leg. Her stools were getting caught behind it. To remedy it, we were told to feed Steve wet food at least once a day to soften her stools. Steve didn’t mind the diet change at all.
Sadly, in March, Steve got worse. I felt another rock-like stool in her belly and tried to remedy it with extra wet food. After three days of no improvement, a quick trip to the vet and a “pet enema” resulted in a night of diarrhea. The rock remained. The vet had given us the dosage of a couple of laxatives we could try, so I added one to Steve’s food hoping to help. Instead, Steve stopped eating and developed an upper respiratory infection. I syringe fed her and gave her subcutaneous fluids for a couple of days until my fiance was free to bring us back to the vet, this time for another appointment with Dr Sarah.
The appointment was a bit more traumatic for Steve (who was a trooper the whole time), but in the end, Steve’s colon was cleared. Dr Sarah recommended only wet food with a laxative added twice a day. I think the worst part for Steve was that she got a full whisker to tail bath after she got home, then two more butt baths in the following days. A week of recovery from her upper respiratory infection led into a week of Steve having almost no control over her bowels. She was leaving little poo nuggets all over the house. I was happy to pick these up instead of worrying about the next time my cat would be constipated, but then one day they stopped. That night, I scooped the litter box and found three different types of stool. I’d never been so happy to find cat poop in a litter box!
After seeing what Steve went through with her constipation issues and subsequent trips to the vet for enemas, I felt guilty. I wondered what would have happened if someone else had adopted her. What if her new family had more money and at the first sign of distress took her to the vet? They could afford any and all treatment, no questions asked.
Dr Sarah made me feel a whole lot better about all of this. She told me that almost any other family would have either returned Steve to the shelter or would have euthanized her. Both Dr Sarah and my fiance said that because of my animal care experience, Steve is in the best possible home. I was able to syringe feed and administer fluids to Steve on my own both before and after her last appointment. Medicating her will never be a problem and I’ll never be intimidated by her health.
The three amigos are sleeping now. Zoomies do take their toll.
Hello! Amy, Steve’s mom, here! First off, I’d like to admit that I am not the writer in the family. That job officially belongs to my fiance, so please forgive me if I veer off course.
Steve is my tripawd kitty. Oh, and Steve is a female! I’m a volunteer and foster mom at my local humane society, and last July I was asked to foster a 2ish year old cat through an upper respiratory infection into a rear leg amputation and post op recovery. I should mention that I have some veterinary technician/assistance background, so post op care/rehab on an amputee was actually something I was excited to do. One of my fellow volunteers introduced me to “Mya” and I was hooked. She was orange, fluffy, and sweet as can be. I already had two orange boys at home, and if any of you own orange cats, you know. There’s just something about orange cats!
“Mya” came into the humane society with a deformed rear right leg. The doctors and staff didn’t know if it was a congenital defect or a poorly healed old injury. They did know that, although “Mya” got along well with the deformed leg thumping along beside her, the risk that she would get it caught in something was too high and the leg had to be removed.
As soon as she came home, my fiance and I tried to come up with a new name for her (we rename all of our fosters, it’s part of a right of passage). We Googled “tripod names” and looked at website after website. We crowd sourced our friends. Nothing was unique enough. One day, while Steve was thumping around our bedroom – she didn’t run, she thumped – I looked at her and recited a line from a Michael Keaton movie. “Sorry Steve, that leg’s gonna hafta come off.” Very few people get the reference. “Multiplicity” is not Michael Keaton’s best work, but the name stuck! She started answering to it; and by the time she went in for surgery, half of the staff were calling “Mya” Steve!!
Not long after Steve came home for recovery, I developed vertigo. Steve was confined to a cage to restrict her movement; and since no matter what I did, everything spun, I would lay on the floor next to her cage and pet her to keep her company. When her confinement time was up, she stuck by my side. If I was sitting on the couch, she was either next to me or behind me with a paw on my shoulder. If I took a shower, she sat on the side of the tub. When the vertigo got so bad that I was nauseated, she sat next to me in the bathroom while I hung my head over the toilet. If I couldn’t get out of bed, she stayed in bed with me.
It quickly became obvious to both me and my fiance that Steve couldn’t go up for adoption…she was already home! At her final recheck appointment, we signed her adoption papers.
I’m eight months into my battle with vertigo and Steve is still by my side every day. She’s my little therapy kitty.