Friday, October 26, 2007

Time For Tribble?

This has been a tough week. My sinus/migraine problems paled against the possibility that it was time to put my almost-23-year-old calico Manx down.

Tribble and I have been together since she was six weeks old. She has mostly been a delight, a low-maintenance companion with a gentle disposition. In all our time together, she's had only one physical ailment--a little cancer on her chin, which my vet removed about six years ago.

The only difficulty has been her moodiness. She was already ten years old when Lucy, my border collie, came to live with us. In a fit of pique, Tribble jumped up on one of the chairs in my breakfast nook and didn't come back down for nearly a year. I never saw her on the floor although I noticed she cleaned her dishes each night and made periodic visits to her litter box.

When Lucy, an exuberant puppy, would approach Tribble's chair, she'd swipe the dog's snout. Lucy would come running to me, whimpering with outrage.

Then, one day, as suddenly as she'd jumped up on the chair, she jumped down. She made no effort to avoid Lucy--even occasionally walking over or under the border collie to get where she wanted to go.

By contrast, Lucy froze with terror whenever Tribble drew near.

Far more troublesome than her moodiness has been Tribble's tendency to periodic fits of depression. When Shadrach, our little disabled cat, died Tribble quit eating and grooming herself. I tried offering new flavors of cat food, Bumble Bee tuna and even my sure-fire method for getting an animal to eat: lamb-flavored Gerber baby food. Nothing would entice her to eat. My vet warned that we might have to put her on intravenous feeding.

I was desperate. One night about a week after Shadrach's death, I came home to find Tribble's long, silky hair unbelievably knotted and snarled. While I couldn't convince her to eat, I decided I could do something about her terrible coat. I drove to Petco and purchased a dog grooming kit. Returning home, I spread newspapers on the dining room table, plopped Tribble down and started shaving her.

Midway through the haircut, Tribble began to purr. I suspect that, without her heavy coat, she could feel my massaging fingers more easily.

I left her head and legs full, but trimmed everything else. Within two hours of my petting her smooth skin, she began eating Lucy's liver treats out of my hand. To this day, dog liver bites are her favorite treat. And, whenever she slips into one of her depressions (she did it again when I had to put down Shadow, my 20-year-old grey-and-white tabby), I shave her tiny body and give her deep skin massages.

Earlier this week, Tribble began to pee indiscriminately--outside of her litter box. She has NEVER exhibited inappropriate urinary behaviors.


Stephen Parrish said...

Failure to eat, groom, and go in the litterbox are signs the time is near.

When my twenty-year-old's time came I had him cremated so I could keep the urn and not think of him as totally "gone."

Maria Zannini said...

Stephen is right, Maya. It might still take a while. Every creature is different.

Make peace with yourself and decide what needs to be done.


Caro said...

I'm so sorry, Maya. We've got a 15-year-old kitty who's been with us since he was born and while he's in good health, we see the signs of age that remind us he won't be with us forever. It's so terribly hard to deal with and all I can wish you is peace and strength and the hope this will be an easy passage for Tribble, no matter how long it takes.

Maya Reynolds said...

Stephen: You're right. The time is coming up fast.

I've saved the collars and tags of each dog/cat that I've lost--five in total.

Thanks. I know you understand.

Maya Reynolds said...

Maria: I have a clear policy. My job is to insure that any of my animal companions has a quality of life for as long as possible. When that quality of life ends, I take the necessary steps.

Right now, I'm going through the process with Tribble. Checking her out medically, which I don't expect will provide any helpful answers.

My original suspicion was that she didn't want to have to walk all the way to the litter box. To test the theory, I confined her for 24 hours in the hall bathroom with a litter box. She responded by peeing all over my bathmat instead of using the nearby litter box.

Knowing her stubborn nature, that could be pique at being confined. I removed the bathmat and my basket of dirty clothes in the nearby cabinet (She sometimes opens that cabinet and sleeps on my soiled bed linens and garments). She is now confined with the litter box only.

If I can re-train her, we'll move forward with a litter box that is more convenient to her. However, I am not going to keep her permanently confined in a bathroom
--that does NOT fit my definition of "quality of life."

Thanks for the hug. I needed it.

Maya Reynolds said...

Caro: Thanks! It helps to have messages of understanding.

Knowing I'm doing the right thing is what helps me get through these times. I've had to "put down" three animals since I've been an adult. The first time was the hardest by far.

It's never easy, but it's part of the compact I agreed to when I started sharing my home with my animal companions. They provide unconditional love. I provide the best life I can offer them for as long as possible.

Sherrill Quinn said...

I had an orange tabby named Shadrach that was such a lover. When his kidneys began to fail we had to end his suffering, and it was so incredibly hard. I've also lost 2 dogs to cancer. I feel for you, sweetie. You know where you can find a shoulder if you need it. :)

The Anti-Wife said...

I can relate to what you're going through. I too am waiting for a sign that it's time to let her go. I have no words of consolation or advice except love your pet enough to let her go just before she starts to suffer.

Maya Reynolds said...

Sherrill: Shadrach is an unusual name for an animal. It's it odd that we both chose it?

Thanks for the offer of the shoulder. It's nice to know.

Maya Reynolds said...

AW: Thanks.

We are in complete agreement.

Tribble used the litter box in the bathroom twice today. I've opened the door so she can leave the bathroom whenever she wants. So far, she's staying put.

Even though I haven't yet turned on the central heat in the house, since the temperature is expected to get down to 40 overnight, I've turned on the overhead gas heater in there so she can warm her little bones.

Take good care of YOU.