Archive for November, 2011

Hannah, her little brother Sam, and I would like to send our best Thanksgiving wishes to you, the readers of the Hannah Grace blog.

Some news: Yesterday, The Somerville News profiled my work as a writer, along with my memoir, Hannah Grace. Click here to read the article.

I will be reading from Hannah Grace at Lesley University’s Sherrill Library Reading Series on December 7 at 7 p.m. The library is located at 89 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA, a five minute walk from the Harvard Square T station. This event will showcase six writers of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, and is free and open to the public. For directions or for more information, contact the Sherrill Library.

And finally, a brief update on the Saga of Sam (The ‘Cat’astrophe): I never found the string toy’s orange string that I believe Sam ingested. Either he never ate it (which I think unlikely as it is simply gone), his intestines ground it to bits, or it’s still somewhere in his body. This morning, however, I did find half of my bathrobe’s ribbon-like tie in the litter box, holding together two rather lengthy pieces of Sam’s poop. I believe he ingested this product an estimated 2.5 weeks ago, when the garret closet door was broken and I left my robe hanging over the top of my bedroom door. I arrived home from a long day at work to put on the robe, when I found bite marks and saliva all over the tie. After that, if you can believe it, my lazy landlord fixed the closet door (miracle of miracles!) and I put the robe out of sight. Because of all that has been going on lately, I hadn’t assessed that part of it had been chomped off. I am, frankly, amazed that this item stayed in his system this long; the vet had told me I would find any foreign ingested materials within 24-48 hours. It’s my hope that the probiotic Sam has been taking now for the past two weeks has been a cleansing agent of sorts.

Perhaps I will find the orange string a week from now, deposited neatly in the litter box. I am just trying to remind myself not to worry, as the vet said, because Sam has been behaving like his usual self. I have asked Hannah (since Sam is obviously not listening to me) to have a big sister cat-to-cat heart-to-heart with him, and to stress that if he’ll just stop eating things that are not edible he might stop stinking up the litter box.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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{Writer’s Note: Please join me at Lesley University’s Sherrill Library on December 7, when I will be reading from Hannah Grace as part of LU’s student reading series. This event is free and open to the public.}

Saturday morning, I awoke to find Hannah’s little brother Sam standing beside my bed, up tall on his hind legs. His front paws pressed against the edge of the mattress as if he might hoist himself up at any moment. His eyes were fixed on my face, quizzical, hesitant, and anticipatory.

His mouth opened slightly, showing his bottom teeth. “Meow?” he asked.

I propped my head on my hand, my elbow on my pillow, which allowed me to see Hannah seated on the floor in my doorway as if she were a security guard. When she saw me rise, she galloped into the living room. Then Sam started meowing as if he were just given permission to sound off as my alarm clock.

When I tossed my feet to the floor, Sam circled my calves and grazed my skin with his orange tabby tail before he threw himself down on his back and began to purr deeply as a truck motor. I bent down to give him a belly rub, which he received for just a moment before he, in escalating excitement, rolled over and over and dashed out of my bedroom for the living room, calling to me all the way with insistent meows. I followed. Hannah was waiting in the middle of the living room floor. She seemed to snub her nose at Sam – she was too old for such vocal displays – though she would, momentarily, approach to ask me for her own belly rub, stretching her paws out on the floor as far as they would go, for as long as her post-trauma nerves would tolerate the openness, which, similar to my own PTSD adjustment, depended on the day.

That’s when I saw, to my dismay, the remnants of Sam’s orange fishy string toy on the floor: the orange fish and the yellow “pole” were present, but the 10-inch string connecting the two was missing, except for a quarter-inch frayed piece at the tip. Oh no. I felt my pulse quicken. Becoming frantic, I searched the carpet for the string. I picked up Sam to check his mouth but he twisted his back and rolled his head under my neck and cuddled as if he thought I was attempting to give another belly rub.

Every night, before I went to bed, I always put all the mouse and ball cat toys away in a bag, which I placed on top of a high and deep bookshelf, away from a cat’s grasp. Hannah and Sam had never tried to climb the bookshelf or retrieve the bag. I considered it safe. The string toy I never left out – it was only visible when I was supervising, when my hand held on to the end of the stick.

“Did you eat it?” I asked urgently, half-hoping Sam would nod yes or no as I put him back down on the floor. He ran to stand at attention at the high shelf, his body like an English Pointer. He looked at me and then back at the shelf. The bag. Toys. He wanted to play.

As I dialed the vet, I believed I would be seen as an irresponsible pet owner. I was ashamed of myself for letting this happen. I had spoken to the vet just a few days earlier when he relayed the good news that Sam’s stool culture had come back clear: the parasites were finally gone. However, he suggested I give Sam a probiotic for a month in order to resolve his persistently stinky poop. I began to think that Sam was becoming almost human. In fact, he had begun to sit for long periods of time like a Buddha. But he still did not seem to understand the phrase “no, don’t eat that” when it came to consuming inedible objects.

Sam, sitting like a Buddha.

I thought he had outgrown such behavior. Last March, when he was a tiny kitten, he ingested a five-inch tassel from my blanket. At the time, I had no idea he had committed such an act, until the tassel came out, whole, in his poop. After that, I removed the blanket from the premises. Then he began biting off the tails of mouse toys and eating them like a four-course meal. I cut off the remaining tails, and ears, before bringing a sample to the vet to ask if I ought to be concerned about possible ingestion. At the time he told me not to worry. Only longer string-like objects were problematic, he said, using his hands to measure, as they could get lodged in the intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage. I don’t recall if he actually said “life-threatening” but that was how I took it in, and that was what I thought about Saturday morning when I could not find the string of the string toy, which was the diameter of a piece of spaghetti, slightly elastic in composition, and as orange as Sam.

“Is he behaving normally?” the receptionist asked, to relay to the vet.

“Yes,” I said, as I watched Sam, who was now taller and four pounds heavier than Hannah, romp around the living room floor like a toddler, tossing himself into somersaults, racing from room to room, gobbling up his breakfast, and overall becoming a blur of fur that dashed from site to site while Hannah sat quietly and observed the craziness.

Was Hannah like this when she was a year old? I wondered. When I adopted her, she was three.

As long as Sam was acting normally, the vet said, eating and using the litter box, as long as he was not vomiting, then he was okay. The string would most likely end up passing in his poop. The “digestion” process, it was estimated, would take 24-48 hours.

I was aware of the way my mind was spinning. I had read on the internet that string could get caught in the cat’s digestive tract and “become like a saw,” cutting through major organs. I worried Sam was going to die, this feline being to whom I had grown so attached, as had (there is pictorial evidence to prove it) Hannah. The impending catastrophe, I surmised, was all my fault. I was dizzied by thought, and thought, and thought.

Breathe, breathe, I told myself, it’s the PTSD. I reminded myself that I was in crisis mode: my mother had recently died. Death had just “hit home.” I expressed my worries to my friends who relayed incidents of their pets – cats as well as dogs – ingesting foreign objects, including a pair of plastic glasses, a long piece of gift ribbon, and a (small) broken glass vase, and not only surviving but thriving.

This morning, Sam, who, overnight, ate and slept and drank and peed and pooped without disaster, hopped up on my bed, waking me out of an agitated sleep: my body jumped in startle response. Sam leaped down to the floor and sat politely then, blinking up at me expectantly. He seemed okay. So did Hannah, who remained in the doorway, like a guardian angel. I got out of bed and followed them into the garret living room, where they both called me back to life.


Have you had a similar situation with your pet? Share your story, and comments, below!

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