November 30, 2016: There was one less member of our family around the table this Thanksgiving. Following months of illness, diagnostic tests and numerous trips to the vet, our cat Eevee finally succumbed to the forces of nature and died peacefully in his sleep the morning of Nov. 6. He was 15.
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Raised from a kitten in our home, Eevee will forever be remembered as Ben's cat. They were a perfect match for each other — Eevee the calm and obliging companion through Ben's boisterous and occasionally dramatic childhood years. They would sleep together, Ben lugging him over his shoulder to the bedroom if the cat didn't voluntarily go there, as he often preferred, when nighttime came. If Ben went out for the day, Eevee would be sitting by the front door waiting for him when "his boy" came home.
He always gave as good as he got when it came to his interactions with people and other cats in the household. You could dress him up in a costume for Halloween and he'd sit patiently and pose for you while you took pictures, although he was never fond of the flash. He'd even let you pick him up and carry him around like a baby on your shoulder if your name was Roni, but would turn into a fanged warrior whenever Glenn got near because... well, we're still trying to figure that one out.
Elvis Presley notwithstanding, Eevee garnered the nickname of "The King" around our house because of his dominance of the other cats, first Ariel and later Rio and Katy. He would lie in wait for them under the living room coffee table each morning until they would emerge from our bedroom for a trip to the litter box, and then he would pounce. If he caught them he would pin them beneath his 16-pound body and bite them on the scruff of the neck. If they were lucky enough to evade his clutches, he would parade through the living room "meroaring" in triumph. Ariel, who'd had our house to herself for nine years before Eevee came along, would have nothing to do with his dominator routine and let him know it, hissing and spitting at him whenever they crossed paths; she preferred to stay in our bedroom. Katy seemed to treat it more as a game, although many times we had to rescue her from The King's clutches.
It was not just the cats that Eevee would pounce on. He especially had a thing about Glenn's naked legs, so if Glenn would groggily stumble out into the living room in the morning wearing shorts, it was not uncommon to wind up with bites on his ankles. We'd had Eevee's front paws declawed shortly after adopting him, but he could defend himself just fine with his jaws, and there was one tooth that was always sharper than the rest, so even in play he was likely to draw blood. Get him mad at you and he could inflict serious damage; we will all bear at least one or two scars from occasions where the play got a little too rough or he lashed out at a nose when he didn't want to be held anymore.
Glenn had several pejoratives he reserved for him when the play got rough: "feisty cat," "buddy" and "the big fluffy." Their relationship was often contentious, going back to the cat's early days when he liked to hop up onto the dividing wall between the kitchen and living room in order to avoid Ben's bedtime ritual. In those days, Ben couldn't sleep without Eevee in his room, so it was up to Glenn to go up on a chair and get him down. Let the combat games begin! Glenn usually won in the end, but not without a few wounds to show for it, and that set the tone for their interactions for years to come.
But to Ben, Eevee was always the faithful companion, even when the end finally came.
* * * * *
EVEE, A RUSSIAN gray whose name came from one of the original Pokemon characters that has the ability to evolve into several different creatures, was diagnosed with pancreatitis in early August. After multiple trips to the vet, daily medications and several courses of subcutaneous fluids, Eevee seemed to be on the road to recovery. His appetite returned and his weight was rebounding so well that the doctor was hopeful he could make a full recovery. The lethargy that had gripped him for weeks seemed to ease, and while he still got winded when he walked around the house, at least his cantankerous personality returned.
But the recovery was never complete, even at his best, and by mid-October there were signs that things were going the opposite direction. He stopped eating again, and Roni did her best to coax him to the food dish by giving him fresh fish, chicken broth, Fancy Feast, cat treats — anything he might eat, we weren't particular. But all he wanted to do was drink water. It got to the point where he was so weak that he could barely keep his face out of the bowl when he drank, and we feared he might drown himself if we didn't keep a close watch on him.
The vet had us put him back on appetite stimulants and we restarted the daily doses of subcutaneous fluids. But nothing seemed to help. The vet suggested that he might have thyroid cancer and that we should have more diagnostic tests performed. By now we had spent more than $3,000 on his treatments with little to show for it, and we were slowly coming to terms with the fact he didn't have long left. We made the sad decision that, when the time felt right, when he appeared to be in pain, we'd put him down. But how would Ben handle it?
Despite the fact that Eevee had been sick for months and we knew the fateful day would come eventually, given that he had already outlived his life expectancy for cats of his breed, the idea of Eevee not being in our lives anymore was especially hard to take for Ben. He was already talking about getting another cat, trying to block out the reality that his faithful friend since the age of 7 was dying before his eyes. Even as Eevee grew weaker, limping due to muscle loss in his hind legs as his illness progressed, lying down in the cat litter because it took too much effort to move out of the box, he still let Ben scoop him up in his arms at night as they headed to the bedroom, happy for the companionship they shared.
The weekend after Halloween, we knew the end was near. We decided we would wait until Monday, while Ben was off from work, to put Eevee to sleep. At least then he would have a chance to say one final goodbye, as would we. But on Saturday the 5th it became evident that Eevee might have other plans. With Ben at work and the both of us home on a lazy afternoon, Eevee wandered into our bedroom to sit in front of the window and enjoy the warmth of one last sunny autumn day. He didn't protest at all when Glenn went to pet him, and for a while he just lay there and purred. He wasn't fazed at all when the local feral cat we call Big Orange wandered by and postured in front of the window as he always does, much to Katy's displeasure.
That night, Ben took Eevee into his bedroom and placed him in a basket with a blanket tucked around him, but sometime around 1 a.m. he crawled over the edge and fell to the floor. He dragged his body into the hallway and could go no further. Ben, hearing the commotion, picked him up and carried him into the living room where he and Glenn tried to figure out what the cat needed. They gave him water but he wasn't interested. He didn't want food. He didn't seem to need the litter box. All he seemed interested in was lying down, his shallow breaths coming in rapid, ragged succession. "I wish I could hear him purr just one more time," said Ben, overcome with emotion. But there were no more purrs. There was nothing left to do but make Eevee comfortable.
Ben decided it was okay if Eevee slept by his bed that night, so Glenn helped set up a soft pad on the floor, laid Eevee onto it, then kissed him on the head and shut the light out.
At 8 the next morning, Roni awoke early to go check on Eevee and found him dead on the pad, moved only slightly from where Glenn had set him hours before. His body was still warm, so we figured it had happened sometime before 5 or 6 a.m. Ben couldn't bear to look, so we wrapped Eevee in a blanket and brought him to the veterinary hospital in Antioch for cremation. It was the same we had done for Ariel in 2010. They return the ashes in a nice cedar box with an engraved inscription on the front. We got him back just in time for Thanksgiving. But it just won't be the same without our cantankerous cat to keep us company.
* * * * *
S WE WRITE this, it has been nearly two weeks since the election to end all elections and we wonder if the country will ever heal. Like most, we were caught off guard by the election of Donald Trump to become the 45th president. Not hard to do when you live in a cable news echo chamber and just about every poll in America had Hillary Clinton winning by double digits. But win, Donald did. Now we get to sit back with the rest of the world and see how the next four years unfold. We hope for the better.
It hasn't appeared that way here in the left-leaning Bay Area, which voted overwhelmingly for Clinton and isn't taking the result well. People protested in the streets for days against a man they view as a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic demagogue who bullied his way into the White House with help from his "basket of deplorables" supporters. All of us have had to set aside our social media connections at times during the campaign because the nasty rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum was wearing us down.
Election night was especially interesting for Glenn, given that his work for the newspaper required him to watch the returns until 2 o'clock in the morning. With early returns still being counted by the time he left for his office at 7 p.m., it looked as if the election was following a predictable course. Clinton was winning the states she needed to and Trump had yet to claim Florida or Ohio or North Carolina. It seemed safe to assume she would capture those as the evening wore one. But that didn't happen.
By the time Glenn arrived at work at 7:45, the electoral map had changed dramatically. Trump had been declared the victor in those three swing states and was starting to show strength in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The mood in the newsroom was glum. Journalists pride themselves on the ability to appear impartial, but it was clear folks wanted Clinton to win and were crushed by her impending defeat. Reporters wrote silently in their cubicles, running their hands through their hair and rubbing their long faces. Editors sat glassy eyed, staring blankly at their computer screens, trying to concentrate on work while the dumbfounded CNN anchors speculated on how Clinton might regain the victory that had seemed hers to lose. And when the paper's online web producer said, "AP just called Pennsylvania...", you could feel the silence in the room settle like a blanket of smog. It was not a fun place to be, and that is in the opinion of someone who has covered scores of elections over nearly three decades in the business, including the infamous "hanging chads" fiasco of 2000 and the Bush re-election victory of 2004. But we survived those and our country will survive this one too. At least we hope. Good luck, to all.
* * * * *
PEAKING OF SURVIVAL, the sickness bug has finally bitten us. Roni rarely ever gets a cold, but she came down with a doozy just after election day — the sort that starts with a sore throat and runny nose before it works its way into the chest and lingers on as a nagging cough. By the weekend she was hiding out in bed, sucking on cough drops and blowing through whole boxes of tissues. She was so out of it that she had to send Glenn to the store for provisions that Saturday evening.
It was as he combed the aisles for cold meds that Glenn too realized he was coming down with the creeping crud. Not too surprising, given that we share the same home and are constantly exposed to one another's illnesses. Sure enough, by Sunday we both looked and sounded like a walking hospital ward. Glenn missed a couple days of work because of it, and Roni did her best to muddle through at home because her job assignments wouldn't let her take time off. We're pretty much on the mend now, although our coughs persist. At least, so far, Ben has remained healthy (knock on wood), which seems odd because he is usually the one who always comes home sick.
Actually, Ben did his bout with illness back in September when he went through a week or more with a sinus cold and migraine headaches. When at last he couldn't take it anymore, he wound up calling the advice nurse at Kaiser and was advised to go to the emergency room. Some aspirin, two bags of IV fluids and $250 later, Ben came home and went to bed, awaking the next morning feeling much better. That would be the end of this story, except that it wasn't; Kaiser sent us another bill for $958 — our co-insurance portion for what they said was a $4,000 emergency room visit.
After a week of phone calls and explanations from their billing department that would confound a mathematician, we finally sighed and paid the bill in full. The moral of the story seemed to be avoid going to the emergency room at all costs. Little did we know that it was just a taste of what to expect from our health insurance plan going forward.
November is open enrollment month, and when Glenn's employer rolled out its new lineup of medical plans, our jaws about hit the floor. Gone was the pricy but convenient PPO plan we had relied on for decades, replaced by a trio of high-deductible options that will have us paying the full out-of-pocket cost for most of our doctor visits and prescriptions. This comes as a rude shock to someone used to a $20 copay at the registration counter. We seriously considered dropping our company-sponsored health plan and exploring the open marketplace, until we discovered the provision under Obamacare that makes us ineligible for the federal tax subsidy because we have access to an "affordable" plan through an employer that provides minimally necessary coverage. Yes, we could get coverage on the open market, but it would cost about $12,000 a year more to do so. So looks like we're stuck for now.
On New Year's Eve, we will definitely be drinking a toast to our continued good health.
* * * * *
OMETIMES BAD LUCK just seems to hit you at every turn, and November has been a good month for it. A newsletter job we do for one of Roni's clients periodically requires us to head in to Oakland to pick up several dozen boxes from the printer. There are just a few too many of them and they are too weighty to fit into Roni's car, so we usually rent a pickup truck from U-Haul and make the 100-mile round-trip on a Saturday morning to collect the job.
That was what we had planned on Nov. 19, which turned out to be a rainy and windy morning. Fortunately we had anticipated the rain part and had reserved a van instead of the pickup. Not as fun to drive, or as fuel efficient, but it would keep everything dry.
We got to the rental place just after 10 a.m. and had to wait more than half an hour to reach the counter. Apparently the weekend before Thanksgiving is when everyone wants to move, because all the others in line were waiting on moving trucks. We had placed our reservation online, but that doesn't move you to the head of the queue, unlike a Disneyland fast pass.
Once we finally hit the road, it was pretty much smooth sailing to Oakland. We only cut off one other car that we are aware of (sorry.) We arrived at the print shop just before noon as the rain was kicking into high gear. Still plenty of time to pick up our order — if they had been open. What??? The main parking lot gate was closed and there was a sign on their door informing customers of new hours (that started in March) for pickups and deliveries. The print shop was no longer open on Saturday or Sunday, so we had just wasted three hours out of a rainy Saturday along with gas and rental fees on what amounted to a sightseeing visit to Oakland. No offense to Oakland, but there are better places in the Bay Area to go sightseeing.
We trundled the empty van back to the rental place and contemplated having to make a return visit to Oakland on Monday morning. The irony was that by the time we were done with the ruck rental a second time, the total cost of delivery would be almost the same as if we had just had it mailed to us. In the end we decided to not rent the truck, but instead collect the job using both our cars. We encountered better weather and lighter traffic on Monday morning, plus we didn't have to wait around at the rental place filling out paperwork, so in the end it probably worked out for the best. Next time we'll be sure to confirm the business hours first before making a wasted trip.
That's going to do it for this month. Lowe's, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, dropped off two pallets of the driveway pavers we ordered a month ago, so it looks like we'll soon be tackling another of our many front yard projects. Maybe for Christmas we'll be out shoveling gravel and sand, who knows? We'll all find out together next month. Happy holidays.