Jake has been with me since he was four months old. I have had a few cats though the years, starting with Lassie when I was in third grade. I do believe that somehow animals choose you and the ones that are meant to find you will find you. It was that way with Jake.
I already had Hedwig. She was a year old when I adopted her with my roommate right after we moved to Chicago from Louisiana. When we parted ways, there was no question but Hedwig was going with me. Later on, I was living with a boyfriend and had convinced him during an evening where he had had too many drinks (there were many of those with him, he’s obviously an ex now) that we should go and get Hedwig a friend. I went to the same animal shelter that I had gotten Hedwig from and looked through the cages. It was weird, but I wasn’t ‘connecting’ with any of the cats. Hungover boyfriend even suggested we leave because he wasn’t seeing any cats that he was impressed with. I knew I most likely wouldn’t convince him to come back again, so I insisted on taking one more look around.
In came an employee wheeling in stack-able crates, each containing a kitten. I knelt down to look at the crates as the employee began removing them, opening them and unceremoniously tossing the kittens into empty cages. There he was, right in the middle. Jake was tossed into a cage, but we never lost eye contact and I stayed crouched by the cage until another employee came over and I was able to hold him. He has been my baby ever since.
About a year later, the boyfriend and I broke up, a month after that, Hedwig died suddenly of what is suspected to be a bone marrow cancer at six years old. (That was awful.) Jake and I were alone together for quite a while after that. He’s been my most constant companion. The longest we’ve been separated in the past fifteen years was ten days when I went to fight in Paris and then visit friends in England afterward. He’s my buddy. My Poobah.
Jake loves people. There have been three people I can distinctly remember him actively not liking and all I will say concerning them is that Jake is an excellent judge of character. Unless I’m going international, Jake will accompany me on longer trips. He’s journeyed via car, train, boat and plane and he is a good little traveler. Over the years, several of our friends have acted as pet sitters and come to check on Jake while Dean and I have been away on short trips. Each has come away feeling that Jake was their new best friend. He is great to take naps on the sofa with and is an admirable accent to any person’s Instagram feed.
Jake has a happy disposition. He enjoys running around and vocalizing. He will have an argument with you out-loud if he really disagrees with the current state of affairs. He also likes to run around whooping if he’s happy. He’s been an incredibly healthy cat over the years. Vet visits were generally for check ups and ‘healthy enough to fly’ certifications. He always weighed in just over nine pounds consistently. He had one scary trip to the emergency vet with a bladder infection where he had to be catheterized, put on medication and wear a cone for several days. Following that, he was put on prescription food and has been fine since.
Jake has always been prone to puking. He’s had more hairballs than any other cat I’ve known. This has never been of too much concern. I mean, it’s annoying and gross, but fairly normal. As he aged, the hairballs started taking more of a toll on him. He would have one, and then be listless with no appetite for two days. After some research, I found an article that said a species appropriate raw food diet was better for cats, especially with debilitating hairballs. We started feeding Jake raw chicken once a day. He still has hairballs, but they no longer take him out.
The move to Tennessee was hard on Jake. Harder than I anticipated, although we did our best to ease his transition. He had lived in the condo on Gunnison for ten years. Most of his life. When I had to move suddenly, we decided that Jake would stay with Dean for the first week of the transition. When we moved the bulk of our possessions, Jake came with and then stayed with me for the second week. The rationale was that although he was in a new place, all of the familiar things would be around him. We left him on his own for one full day when I went back up to Chicago to get Dean. Then we were all together for one full day. Then the building caught fire.
Fortunately, I was home and was able to get us both out. Jake spent that day in a stranger’s cat carrier and that evening in a strange hotel. The following day we drove halfway to Montgomery and delivered him to my parents so they could keep him while we sorted things out. At least he knew their place and could be comfortable there. About a week and a half later, we brought him back with us to the current place, where there was no furniture, but there was at least us. A week later everything that he been cleaned was delivered. A lot of activity for a senior guy.
As I mentioned, Jake has always been a puker. Recently he began vomiting on a daily basis. This has continued for over a week. He’s also been looking a little thinner, although he has been eating, drinking and doing all the normal Jake-like activities. At his age, I didn’t want to take any chances. I got recommendations from friends in town and made an appointment at Parker’s Paws. It’s a bit of a drive from us, but I wanted to take him somewhere good. After work, I had time to rinse off, change and chase Jake down to get him in the carrier and we were off.
When we walked into the clinic, I saw a very large dog being sedated and then gently lifted off of the table by two or three vets and carefully carried into a back room. He was still awake, as I saw his worried eyes still moving around, but definitely sedated. I checked Jake in, we were shown into an exam room and asked to be patient as an emergency had just come in before us. I had flash cards to study and there was a television in the room playing a bird video for Jake to watch. We were fine.
Jake’s exam went well, he was very good while being squished an probed, although he did vocalize and let everyone know how he felt. The doctor told us that he had some low back pain, which was not surprising considering his age, and some GI inflammation. He recommended a blood panel and urine lab to screen for several things, which he said a senior cat should probably get done once a year anyway. We got some anti-nausea meds to be crushed up into his food and a liquid medication for the low back pain that could be given as needed. (It causes drowsiness and is said to be great for traveling, so we’re definitely going to try that out for our July 4th road trip to Alabama.) Jake was taken back for the samples and they told me that he was ‘very brave’ and of course, he got comments on how handsome he was.
The doctor came in before we left to thank me again for being so patient (we did end up being there for about an hour and a half) but that this emergency was more ‘all hands on deck’ than normal. I said that I hoped everyone was okay. He replied, “I think we’re getting to a point where … the best thing for the patient will happen.” He said that it was one of the difficult parts of his job, but that he had to be an advocate for the animals when they couldn’t speak for themselves. I got the impression that something had happened to that dog and his owners did not want to let him go. It made me sad. I did not mind paying the $280 fee to make sure my Poobah was going to be fine.
I just got off the phone with the vet. He said that overall Jake looks good. He went through each reading with me. His white blood cell count was a little high as well as some other count that I can’t remember, indicating an infection. His urine was normal and kidney functions were good. No heartworms. Thyroid was good. There was an abnormal spike on his liver and a slightly abnormal reading on his cardiac function. The treatment options are to get x-rays of the chest and liver to see if there are any kinds of tumors or growths in the liver or anything going on with the heart or start treating him with antibiotics, in the probable scenario that there is some kind of infection that is affecting his liver function and then retest after two weeks to see if there is improvement. I asked what he recommended and said that personally, I would like to start with the option that would cause Jake less stress. He agreed and said that less stress means less tests, so that he would email me the link to get a prescription for the antibiotics, but to keep him on the anti-nausea over the weekend and get him through that before starting the new course.
Jake woke us up with the sun this morning for his breakfast and then cuddled with us for a while in the purportedly human bed afterward. He is currently napping in what Dean calls ‘his little chestnut house’ and has been snacking at his bowl throughout the morning as I have been writing this. I was going through his paperwork today and saw that he weighed in at only 7.8 pounds yesterday. He’s never been so light.
I am sure that he will get through this and we’ll have several more years together, but realistically, I know that it won’t be forever. And probably these kinds of things will happen more frequently. I don’t like to think about it. I think about the owners of that poor dog and how they didn’t want to let go. No one ever does. Why would you? But I hope that when it does come down to it, I am able to be strong for Jake and make the right choice. And I hope that that day is far far off in the distant future.