August 24, 2016: There's an old joke on the Internet about how to give a cat a pill that involves more that a dozen steps in which the cat's hapless owner engages in an ever escalating battle with the furry patient, ultimately resulting in failure. We can certainly relate to that after our latest bout with feline health issues that have found us spending a lot of time and money at the veterinarian's office.
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Cats can't tell you where it hurts, so when Eevee suddenly began acting oddly one morning on a trip to the litter box, we chalked it up to constipation and figured nature would work itself out. It did, sort of, when the cat barfed on Ben's bedroom carpet and tried to poop there. Ben closed him out of the bedroom after that, and who could blame him. But the cat wouldn't take no for an answer and scratched at the door to get back in after making yet another trip to the litter box. It was then Glenn noticed Eevee was dripping diarrhea through the living room and entryway, and while this was happening he was straining to poop. Then he threw up again in the entryway, but it came up as clear liquid because there was no food in his stomach. He hadn't been eating.
Glenn cleaned up the mess and closed Eevee in the laundry room with his litter box hoping the cat would take the hint and take care of business somewhere other than the living room. When Roni got home from work, we discussed what to do with our sick cat. The diarrhea had made a mess of things as he had gotten it all over himself. First order of business was to give Eevee a bath in the kitchen sink. Roni ran the water while Ben got a towel and Glenn watched the cat to make sure he stayed in the kitchen until the bath was ready. Eevee had gotten worse. He looked listless and was panting. He barely put up a struggle while Roni bathed him and dried him off. Then he pooped on the living room carpet. Yay.
It was time to call the vet. Roni was able to get him in right away at Cypress Veterinary Hospital in Oakley, which is just a couple of minutes away from us. They are always happy to see us. One blood panel, x-ray examination and a few hundred dollars later, Roni was informed that Eevee had a piece of hardened stool in his intestine that was causing a blockage. The prescription was for him to take a human laxative and for us to work on boosting his appetite. If the blockage didn't resolve itself by morning, we'd need to make a return visit. The vet gave us appetite stimulant pills and filled him with hydrating fluids before she sent us home.
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ATURALLY THERE WAS no change in the situation by the following morning, Thursday, so it was back to the vet for round two. The obvious solution would be for the vet to go in and remove the blockage by hand — a surgical procedure that apparently is not as simple as it sounds. Doing so would require putting the cat under anesthesia, and the vet had some concerns about that. She had determined from the initial exam that Eevee's blood panel looked mostly normal except for elevated numbers in his liver and kidneys, indicating an infection that we were now treating with antibiotics. What she was more concerned about was that his heart rate was abnormally slow, and putting him under anesthesia could be dangerous. So her decision was for us to continue the laxative another day and if that didn't work, then we'd go to the next step.
It was well and good to suggest that we treat Eevee with meds, but the reality is that cats are horrible patients. We have used pill pockets with Eevee for a long time to give him his thyroid medication. Those pills are tiny and we just wrap them in the treat and he usually will take them without fuss. Not so with the new meds we had been prescribed. How do you force a cat to eat when he already has no appetite? Worse, how do you get multiple pills per day down his throat? The short answer is, you don't. Eevee wouldn't eat the pill pockets. We tried disguising the pills with canned tuna, then crushed them up to add them to milk. Roni tried a half dozen ways to administer the meds through food and he wouldn't touch them. By the end of the day she had managed to get a very small amount of the prescribed dosage into him, but his appetite remained flat and he was still as listless as ever. Ben was beside himself with grief, already resigning himself to the thought that his cat of 15 years was seeing its final hours.
On Friday we brought Eevee back to the vet again to perform the surgery, by far the most risky and expensive method we'd so far subjected him to. The doctor had said his condition wasn't life-threatening, but we worried that it had already been three days since this started and the weekend was coming. What if his condition should worsen on Saturday night and there was no one around to help him? Ben had to work that day and we had a festival we needed to be at, so we didn't like the thought that Eevee would be on his own to possibly suffer while we were all away from home. The vet seemed less concerned about the cat's slow heart rate now, especially since she had done another blood panel and saw that his numbers were returning to normal with the antibiotics.
She performed the surgery and removed the poop piece that had been causing the trouble. The veterinary clinic was now into us for nearly a thousand bucks, and we bitterly joked that Eevee's poop was worth its weight in gold. For such a valuable commodity, we hoped the vet would at least return it to us, sort of like an auto mechanic will provide you with the replaced parts when your car has been serviced, as proof. She didn't offer and we didn't ask; we would have all been happy just to have back a healthy cat. Oh, if only we could have.
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OR THE MOST part, Eevee seemed to be doing a bit better after his surgery. He acted tired and sore, but that was only to be expected after what he'd been subjected to. He was even eating a bit more now, although it was still a fight trying to get him to take his pills. But by the end of the weekend we were growing increasingly worried. Sunday night found him lying motionless on the living room floor, barely willing to acknowledge us when we pet him or tried to offer him food. So Monday it was back to the vet for another injecion of subcutaneous fluids, which perked him up enough to start him eating again.
By now the vet was suggesting more tests. She wanted us to do an ultrasound to rule out cancer as a possible cause of Eevee's deteriorating condition. For that, we would have to go to East Bay Veterinary Specialists in Walnut Creek, where they were better equipped to perform such (expensive) diagnostics. We paused to take a hard look at our resolve to find a cure for our cat. What would an ultrasound tell us? That we needed to spend thousands more to treat our 15-year-old cat? Bottom line, Eevee is no longer a kitten and has already surpassed his life expectancy. Anything we do for him now is out of loyalty to our pet and for sentimental reasons, not logical ones. Still, we had come this far in his treatment and Roni didn't just want to give up on our investment because he refused to eat despite the surgery that was supposed to make things better.
So on Tuesday afternoon Roni and Ben drove Eevee to Walnut Creek for the full-body ultrasound. It turned out that there were actually two ultrasounds, the second one being called for during the nearly six-hour visit, which doubled our total vet bill to date. But at least now there was no doubt as to the diagnosis: Eevee had pancreatits. This would account for his lack of appetite and vomiting, and it might also explain why he wasn't getting better despite the surgery. What the doctor couldn't tell was if it was acute or chronic pancreatitis, which would affect the prognosis for a full recovery. We were reassured that it was caught fairly soon and that it wasn't our fault that Eevee contracted it, as there are several underlying causes. The important thing was that we could treat the condition and, with time, should see some improvement.
For the next two days we kept watch over the cat, noting every sign of improvement or decline. And we continued to have daily wars with him over the pills. We had scheduled a trip to Monterey starting Thursday, Aug. 11, so Roni could attend a work-related conference, and she worried about leaving Eevee for three days with only Ben to care for him. So that Thursday morning we drove him over to Cypress Veterinary again where they administered more fluids and helped get him to take his pills. They were nice enough to arrange for Ben to bring Eevee in on Saturday if he wanted so they could help administer the pills. We figured we would be returning home by that night, so hopefully we'd just give Eevee the pills then.
We packed our bags into Roni's car and hit the road for the coast, about an hour later than we had planned.
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HE PURPOSE OF Roni's visit to Monterey was to attend the awards ceremony for the California Association of Sanitation Agencies. Ironhouse Sanitary District was being honored with an award for public outreach, and Roni had played a major role in the achievement, so she was invited to the conference as a guest of the district. That included a free night of lodging, which if you know anything about Monterey was not an insignificant perk. We decided to make a mini vacation of it and extend our stay into the weekend.
But first we had to get there. Our visit to the vet that Thursday morning took about half an hour longer than planned, so by the time we hit the road around 10 a.m. we were already cutting it fine if we needed to be at the hotel by 1 p.m. for the awards ceremony. It didn't help that we encountered major traffic on Interstate 580 through Pleasanton that tacked on at least another 40 minutes to the trip. It was so bad that Roni considered forking over the toll for a ride in the HOV lane, if only to shave a few minutes. But fortunately everything worked out, and we arrived at our destination with about 10 minutes to spare.
The convention was taking place at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Monterey, and fortunately our room had been booked there. The valet parked our car while we ran inside to register, Roni trying to finish up with the desk clerk so she could hurry upstairs to join the Ironhouse board members and general manager at the awards ceremony. We were in luck that our room was ready for us, so while Roni went off to celebrate her award, Glenn went up to the room to drop off our luggage and settle in. We'd scored a pretty nice room on the fifth floor, with a sweeping view of the old downtown and part of Monterey Bay near Fisherman's Wharf. It was a good vantage point to watch the fog rolling in over the hills, which was preferable to the smoke from the nearby Sobranes Fire that we saw coming into town on U.S. 101. Fortunately the wind conditions had changed, so the smoke that had been in Monterey had largely blown away by the time we arrived. We enjoyed good weather for our visit.
Glenn took a nap until Roni returned from the ceremony about an hour later, the public outreach award clenched firmly in her hand. It was made of colorful sculpted glass and weighed a ton. She wanted to be its custodian so there would be time to take good photos of it to use later for publicity purposes. The main purpose for our trip now behind us, we had the rest of the afternoon to do whatever we wanted, or so we thought.
The first order of business was to find lunch. All we'd had since waking up that morning were a couple of doughnuts Glenn had bought in Oakley while waiting for Roni to finish up at the vet. Our hotel was directly across the street from a traditional British pub called The Crown & Anchor. We weren't in the mood to hunt all over for our meal, so we decided to give the place a try. The restaurant carries a decidedly nautical theme, with each booth decorated in honor of a famous British sailing vessel. Ours was the Titanic. Roni ordered a salad and Glenn had a grilled banger on a roll. Both were good.
After lunch we thought we would head over to Fisherman's Wharf for a little bit before dinner, which we assumed we would eat in one of the restaurants there. That was before Roni got a phone call from Ironhouse GM Chad Davisson, inviting us to dinner with the board members to celebrate the district's public outreach award. It wasn't something we'd planned on, but when the boss calls you go, so we agreed to meet the group at 6:30 for the big feast. We hoped that would be enough time to work up an appetite, seeing as we had just finished lunch.
We still had plenty of time to visit the wharf, and we quickly appreciated the benefits of booking a hotel within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. At least that way we wouldn't have to waste time picking up the car from the valet, hunting for a parking spot and ponying up cash to feed a meter. We were already being charged $25 a day to park at the hotel, might as well make best use of it.
After we had killed an hour or so browsing the windows of the restaurants and gift shops and taking photos from the observation deck at the end of the pier, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at Cibo, an Italian restaurant where they offer live jazz music as entertainment. There were nine of us in our party, including four of the five Ironhouse board members, the general manager, his wife and another guest. We had a round of appetizers and then some very decent pasta and seafood dishes. We were in the restaurant for more than two hours as the sanitary district folks relived the glory of receiving the transparency award. When the party finally broke up, it was already dark outside and time to head back to the hotel to sleep off an exhausting first day.
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AY 2 WAS quite more relaxed. We awoke earlier than we planned and took a walk past the future downtown conference center, whose construction has the area in a shambles, to have breakfast at Crepes of Brittany. As you would expect with a name like that, the restaurant specializes in crepes of all kinds, both sweet and savory. Glenn tried a strawberry and cream cheese crepe while Roni had a crepe featuring salmon. The place was so busy that initially we had an outdoor table. Although the fog had not yet burned off, it wasn't too cold, but we opted to grab a table inside when one came open.
Next it was off to Cannery Row, which turned out to be much closer than we thought — just about a mile from our hotel. We'd both brought sweaters thinking that it was still a bit cool, and that we would probably want them in the evening if we stayed out late enough. We really didn't need them, so they soon came off and wound up tied to our waists or shoved in our camera bag. The fog lifted quickly and we were left with a pleasant, sunny day for a walk along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail that runs parallel to Lighthouse Avenue.
We stopped first to check out the Pacific House museum with its beautiful garden and collection of artifacts from Monterey's founding nearly 200 years ago. Glenn, being a histoy buff, was interested in visiting the Custom House across from Fisherman's Wharf after learning that it was the first building registered as a state historical landmark. It was constructed in 1827.
From there we walked along the trail with the many other walkers and cyclists out for a Friday excursion. The trail led us past a bay dotted with boats at anchor and harbor seals lounging on the rocks close to shore. We tried to remember the last time we visited Monterey and couldn't. Was it later than 2002? It must have been, because it all seemed so recent that we had been here. But we didn't remember parts of the trail we were on, and there were a few more coastal access points that hadn't existed on our last visit. We also had been unaware that the famous carousel once housed along Wave Street had years ago been packed up and shipped to Las Vegas, its former home now a movie theater. The last time we had been to Steinbeck Plaza nearby, it was an open square with a few restaurants surrounding it. Now there was a 15-foot-tall sculpture in the middle of it all that pays tribute to John Steinbeck and similar Monterey icons.
At least one thing hadn't changed: the Monterey Bay Aquarium still occupies the cul de sac at the end of Cannery Row, and it was mobbed with school tours and families looking to check out its amazing displays of sea life. Roni longed to go inside. Even though we have visited the aquarium several times before, she wanted to check out the sea otter display. Either that or we could take a three-hour whale watching tour that promised we would see dozens of whales. Apparently this has been a good year for them. We decided to think it over while having lunch at a place called Cannery Pizza Co., where they make personal-size pizzas in assembly line fashion as you wait. You choose your sauce, cheese and then up to five toppings, and the pizza moves through a small oven on a conveyor belt, emerging near the cash register. The pizza was decent for what it was, and there was enough that we could split a small one (there's only one size) and be comfortably full until dinner.
We made up our minds to see the aquarium and spent what time was left before the 5 p.m. closing — a little more than two hours — checking out the many attractions. The otters were in a playful mood when we saw them around feeding time, and of course we were mesmerized by the kelp forest tanks with their swirling schools of anchovies and leopard sharks an sea bass. We braved the crowds around the display tanks in the jellyfish exhibit, and had just enough time to make it to the penguins before the museum announced it was about to close. You can't go too wrong with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but we were pretty wiped out by the end of the visit because we had been on our feet all day. It was lucky for us that there is a free shuttle bus that took us back to the downtown area.
We arrived back at Fisherman's Wharf in time to catch the car show taking place on Alvarado Street, a block over from our hotel. We had arrived in town just before the start of Monterey Car Week, which celebrates classic and collectible automobiles. They were in the process of setting up a huge event tent for an aution later in the week, and the two-hour car show featured more than two dozen road racing cars from throughout the 20th century. The real attraction came about 7 p.m. when the cars fired up their engines and made a loop around our block before parading up East Franklin Street and Del Monte Avenue toward Laguna Seca Raceway. We had a bird's eye view of the action from our hotel window.
We rested up a bit before walking over to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner at Abalonetti Bar & Grill. Glenn was most in the mood for clam chowder in a bread bowl, and for a while we made our way up and down the wharf sampling the various chowders. What sold us on the place we picked, however, was that they were reasonably priced and had $4 margaritas — which Roni had her heard set on. Glenn had sampled so much chowder that he got away from the idea of the bread bowl too, but we were both happy with our meals.
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Y OUR THIRD day of vacation we were just starting to get comfortable with the idea of being on it and appreciating the convenience of our downtown location. But alas, it was already time to start heading home. We celebrated our last morning in town with more crepes. Yes, there are two crepe restaurants a block apart from each other. Crepes are just a thing in Monterey, evidently. The place we went to Saturday morning was called Monterey Crepe Company. They weren't nearly as busy as Crepes of Brittany had been the day before, and frankly weren't as good, although it's hard to mess up sweet pancakes.
We left town and headed up Highway 1 toward Moss Landing, making the obligatory stops at a couple of statuary businesses to check out their goods. At the Little Baja Pot Stop we found a terra cotta jug that we plan to incorporate into our front yard landscaping project, and some whimsical flower pot babies that don't fit into any of our plans but that we simply liked because they were so unique.
After that, we drove around Moss Landing State Beach at the foot of Elkhorn Slough in search of the sea otters that Roni had heard can be found there. Right away we saw a pair of them lounging in the water just off the highway. Several other people had their cameras out too and were shooting away. For Roni, it was her first opportunity to try out the 500 mm Nikon lens since it returned from being serviced, and it performed like a champ. We took more photos of those two otters than we had taken of the rest of our vacation, and we might have been satisfied with that had it not been for our discovery a few minutes later.
We were preparing to find lunch when Roni made one last swing down the jetty road along the beach and decided to take a few pictures of the entrance to Elkhorn Slough, where we caught sight of another otter. She was so focused on the one otter in front of us that she didn't immediately notice the huge group of them swimming in the bay to our left. We counted anywhere from 16 to 22 otters doing their best to relax and avoid the kayakers that were coming and going from a business on the opposite shore. The result of that was the otters swimming closer to our shore, making it easy to photograph them up close. Several were actually sleeping on the beach below us. It was a great experience, and we slightly regretted having spent $100 for the pair of us to go see three otters in captivity at the aquarium. No comparison.
We grabbed lunch at an eclectic Mexican restaurant in town called the Haute Enchilada before continuing our sightseeing adventure around Elkhorn Slough. The place is actually a giant nature preserve that stretches a few miles inland from Highway 1. We have been there other times, but Roni couldn't remember ever having been there, or to the visitor center. Glenn indulged her curiosity, and we arrived at the visitor center just in time to look around for a few minutes before closing time. Roni most wanted to check out the center because it was the model that the East Bay Regional Park District followed when it constructed the Big Break Visitor Center near our home. There are many similarities between the interpretive displays. Roni chatted up the center's docents for a few minutes and we bought some souvenirs to take home, then it was back on the road to home, which we reached just after 8 p.m.
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ONI WAS EAGER to check on Eevee's condition. We had been getting regular updates from Ben, who said it seemed like the cat's condition had been improving and that he was eating better. We wondered which cat he had been observing; we found Eevee by the dining room window looking weak and listless, not interested in food or water. The relaxed feelings we brought home from Monterey quickly vanished as Roni spent the rest of the night fretting about Eevee and how we would get his appetite up. He seriously did not look long for the world. We tried to get his pills down his throat, but he was having none of it. What to do?
Sunday morning, Roni awoke early and took Eevee to the emergency clinic in Antioch for another injection of fluids and to have them help get the medicine into him. He bit the vet and it took several people to hold him down. They prescribed shots we could give him in the future, and it made us wonder why the vets we had already seen hadn't prescribed shots from the start. They had to be specially compounded for us at the lab and were shipped to us overnight via FedEx. We also received a bag of saline solution so that we could start giving Eevee the subcutaneous fluid injections ourselves without having to take him to the vet in person — something we all would like, as by now we figured that every vet in the East Bay probably knows who we are.
As of this writing it is Saturday morning, a week after our return from Monterey, and Eevee is showing some signs of improvement. He hasn't had any bouts of explosive diarrhea in a few days, has been more alert and less glassy-eyed, and has shown more interest in food when we have attempted to give it to him. The vets have told us that it might be four to six weeks before he recovers from his pancreatitis — if he is going to — so in the meantime we have to continue with the fluids and the meds and try to to keep him eating. Fingers crossed and we'll do what we can for him.
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IDSUMMER ALWAYS FINDS us looking forward to festival weekends, and for the past few years that has meant trips to Courtland and Martinez for the Pear Fair and Beaver Festival, respectively. Every Pear Fair is a new experience, even if we have been to 28 of them. This one will be remembered as the year of no cash. Actually, we did bring money with us, just not enough to last the day.
We arrived in Courtland on July 31 just after 10 a.m., before the crowds got heavy. That gave us time to get all the goodies we like to get early so we could then stroll through the festival at our leisure. We bought pear bread from the Lions Club ($5), a pie from the Bates Elementary School PTA ($14), and T-shirts from the information booth ($30 or so). Glenn picked up some CDs of John Philip Sousa marches (don't ask) from the Sacramento County Library used book sale ($5), and we were enticed into buying a T-shirt from the Courtland Fire District as a fundraiser ($10). We chowed down on a delicious pear crepe ($9) — yeah, we're really into our crepes this month — and then we sipped on a couple of pear coolers ($3 each) to get us through the warm afternoon. Oh yeah, forgot about parking ($10).
That was just what we can remember spending cash on. There were a few places that thankfully accepted credit cards, so when we picked up an aloe plant at the La Perita gardeners booth for $7, for example, we were at least able to preserve our dwindling legal tender supply. But still there wasn't enough, and when it came time for lunch we were broke. We literally had just enough to buy a serving of pear ice cream ($5) from the Mel's Ice Cream concession that we split between us. A great way to keep our calories in check, but not a nutritious substitute for a real meal. We made up for that by stopping for lunch at Peter's Steakhouse in Isleton on the way home where we were briefly treated to a kazoo and ukulele serenade from a group of kids who came to the nearly empty restaurant with their parents. Fun times.
Our visit to the Beaver Festival came six days later on Aug. 6, when we were already dealing with Eevee's illness. Roni has brought her Delta Science Center booth to the festival the past several years, but we briefly worried that we might have to cancel because of the cat. Fortunately we didn't, and we had a good time there as usual. Our booth was in a different location in the park, farther away from the music stage, so we missed out on some of the entertainment, but we were surrounded by folks from the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Oakland Zoo, Native Bird Connection and others we have gotten to know over the years. It was unusually cool and windy, and a couple of people had problems with their booth canopies blowing over. We had ours anchored pretty good into the hard-packed soil, so we had no worries.
That's about all the space we have for this month. We still didn't get to update you on the progress of our front yard, but hopefully we can go into more detail in September.