Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hey, Rick Perry!

Yesterday, you announced that all Texans have access to insurance.  Your choice of the word "access" reminds me of Bill Clinton's nitpicking the word "is."
I've lived and worked in Texas for over 30 years, and I'm calling you out.

It took about five minutes to find the data I needed to refute your absurd comment.

From the Kaiser Family Foundation:

  • 25% of Texans live in poverty compared to 21% in the U.S. at large

  • 25% of Texans are without insurance (the highest rate of all 50 states) compared to 16% for the U.S. as a whole

  • 17% of Texas children are uninsured compared to 10% in the U.S. at large

Knowing you, I'm sure your response would be that those children and their parents CHOSE not to purchase insurance.  It couldn't possibly be that they couldn't afford insurance.

In your futile run for the presidency, you told the world what Texas already knew.  Don't make it worse now.

Oh, and don't think you're kidding anyone with that nonsense about not being willing to set up an insurance exchange.  The truth is you dragged your heels for so long that you CAN'T set up an exchange in the time left to you.  So, you're defaulting to let the federal government set it up for you.  I'll bet once that exchange is created, you'll immediately demand to be given control of it. 

You are dishonest, intellectually shallow and arrogant beyond belief.  And, unfortunately, those are your strengths.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Postscript to My Christmas Story

Well, it isn't quite over yet. Both Christmas Day and the day after--known as St. Stephen's Day by Catholics and Boxing Day by our British friends--were pretty exciting for Van Gogh and me.

When I left off yesterday morning, I'd removed Van Gogh's Elizabethan collar. For the past few days, he had been trying to rub the top of his head on furniture and anything with a protruding edge. I took that to mean that his nerve endings had revived and he was itching. I thought that if he could scratch the top of his head, he might leave the almost-closed wound alone.

Alas, it was not to be. After about an hour, fearful that he would scratch the healing hole in his head open again, I put the collar back on.

The day was nice and peaceful until about 9:30 last night. I was in bed reading with Bob when I heard a god-awful caterwauling coming from the hall bathroom. I jumped up and ran toward the noise. Van Gogh was screaming in what sounded like horrendous pain. For one incredible moment, I wondered if something had gotten into the bathroom and was attacking him.

When I tried to enter the bathroom, the door opened about half an inch and then stopped, blocked by something. I banged forward without success. I slammed my shoulder into the door, trying to move whatever was stopping me but bounced off.

The bathroom went silent. That scared me more than the screaming had. I ran toward the den where I keep a flashlight. Grabbing the portable lamp, I ran for the back door without bothering to stop for slippers or a robe.

I stood on tiptoe on the cold patio concrete, peering into the bathroom window.

No cat, but I could now see what was blocking the door. The bottom drawer of the bathroom vanity was pulled out about eight or nine inches. Since the door opens inward, the drawer served as a very effective barricade.

I returned to the hall outside the bathroom and examined the door. The hinges were on the inside.

For the next two hours, I tried everything I could to move that drawer. I twined metal clothes hangers together, I tried various knives, I inserted a potato masher under the door. If the object was thin enough to go under or around the side of the door, it wasn't strong enough to close the drawer.

By midnight, my patience was at an end. I decided to break in the double hung window outside the bathroom.

The upper half of the small window is safety glass (go here to read about my adventure which ended in replacing the glass). Therefore, the only way into the room was through the lower half, which was still ordinary window glass.

I was in better shape than during my previous adventure. I had tools and other conveniences that were not available when I had been locked out of the entire house in February. I changed into a set of warm sweats, put on shoes and retrieved some knives and a five-foot ladder from the garage.

My goal was to remove the glass without breaking it. I didn't want to be messing with a knife while standing on an unstable ladder so I worked from the ground reaching up. I started by removing the edging that framed the window.

Bob had followed me outside and stood nearby, chattering like an insane Greek chorus. He clearly remembered the last time I had tried to enter the house through the window and did not approve of a reprise effort.

I held my left hand above me to support the glass when it came free. What I did not expect was that the glass would pop out after I had slid my knife along only two edges of the window. The glass came crashing down, pausing only to hit my nose hard on the way down. Of course, it shattered to pieces on the concrete patio.

I swore in a most un-Christmas night-like way while Bob shouted, "I told you so!" in feline. But the window was now open. I pulled one of the wrought iron patio chairs over to the window and climbed up on it. I carefully threaded the five-foot ladder through the window. By leaning inside, I was able to set it up on the bathroom floor.

I had not as yet seen any sign of Van Gogh. Now I crooned to him, "Hey, guy, I'm here. Come on out."

As I had suspected, he was hiding in his cabinet. He came out immediately and, with my coaxing, climbed right up the ladder and into my arms. I jumped off the chair and carried him into the house, leaving Bob standing outside on the patio.

I brought him straight to the laundry room where I could put him on top of the washing machine and examine him. My suspicions were confirmed.

The drawer pulls on my bathroom vanity are the ornate metal kind used in houses built in the early '60s. There is a long twisted pull which extends out about an inch from the perpendicular pieces that hold it in place. My guess was that Van Gogh tried to scratch the top of his head on the pull, got his wound caught in it and then yanked the drawer open while trying to get free.

His wound was a mess. He'd torn it open about half an inch in both directions, and it was bleeding all over the place. I cleaned it up as best I could, using the first aid kit from my suitcase since I couldn't get to any of the stuff in my medicine cabinet.

By the time I was finished, it was after 1:00 AM, and I was drained both physically and emotionally. I set up another litter box (fortunately there was an extra in the garage) with a water dish and deposited Van Gogh in the guest bedroom.

I decided to leave the bathroom window as it was for the night. If a tall, skinny burglar got in, maybe he'd open the door for me. I did pull the ladder out of the room--no point in making things too easy for the burglar.

After collecting a very-ticked-off Bob, I tumbled into bed. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I'd worry about the rest in the morning.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The End of My Christmas Story

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Van Gogh's wound is all but closed. There is a tiny opening left on his head, which I expect to be sealed by tomorrow. He has a white scar about three inches long across the top of his head. I would never have believed that such an ugly wound could heal so beautifully.

The other amazing thing is how quickly an essentially feral cat could settle down into a loving companion. Whenever Bob is outside, I let Van Gogh roam the house. He's learned to come running when I call his name. He leaps into my arms and purrs up a storm. When he's back in the bathroom, all I have to do is open the door for him to begin purring and rubbing against me. I now shower and dress in that bathroom so he has company each morning. He hops up on the counter and watches while I get ready for the day.

To celebrate the holiday, I removed the Elizabethan collar that he' been wearing. After three weeks in that collar, he deserved to enjoy Christmas, too.

In honor of the day, I split a can of Bumble Bee tuna between the two cats. Bob licked the juice and left the tuna. Van Gogh inhaled the tuna.

Our next challenge is to see if I can integrate Van Gogh into our little household. The two males are testing my ingenuity and stamina. Van Gogh has an appointment with Tim to be neutered on January 5. I'm hoping that will help.

Bob is clearly more aggressive, but it's his home he's protecting.

Right now, they are two-for-two on outwitting me. Bob continues to try the bathroom door to see if he can get inside at Van Gogh. Fortunately, both times he's pulled it off, I was in the room and chased him out.

Van Gogh periodically tests the door from his side as well. He, too, has succeeded twice. Both times he's gone looking for Bob. He didn't attack either time; just stood and stared at Bob, who snarled and hissed. I heard the ruckus and intervened. While dragging Van Gogh away, I flicked my index finger against his forehead and scolded him.

I've had a few wins myself. I've put knots in knee socks and left them on the floor under the bathroom door with one knot on each side. The cats have shredded the sox while playing with them.

Whenever I let Bob back into the house, I'm holding Van Gogh. At first, Bob wouldn't enter the house. Now he just walks past us to check out his food dish.

I've tried holding Van Gogh on my chest on the bed while Bob is in the room. Since Van Gogh's the more unpredictable party, I've chosen to control him.

Bob always jumps up on the bed, too. The first time, he howled and growled at us. To my relief, Van Gogh didn't respond. Bob finally settled down and curled up in the opposite corner of the bed.

These days when Bob jumps up, he walks over to within a foot or so of us. I hold Van Gogh firmly, and the two cats just look at each other. Then Bob turns his back and curls up nearby.

I've been unsuccessful in finding a screen door to put in the bathroom doorway to allow them to see each other without disaster. My new plan is to purchase two baby gates and try putting them, one above the other, in the doorway so the cats can see each other without actually attacking. Not sure how that plan will work. I may have to secure a screen either above or between the two gates.

Bob weighs 17 pounds; Van Gogh has done from about 9 to about 13 pounds over the three weeks. If I can't get them to declare a truce, I'll find Van Gogh a good home.

At any rate, I've enjoyed telling the tale of Van Gogh. Today, on this holy day, I feel truly blessed. I'm grateful for my family and friends and also grateful that the Lord brought Van Gogh to my door when I could be of service.

God bless us, everyone.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Part IX of My Christmas Story

Eight days after I found Van Gogh on my windowsill, we returned to the vet. I was like a new mother, insecure and overly anxious about every little thing. The still frightful wound terrified me.

Tim came into the examining room and asked, "Okay, what are you doing here?"

I replied, "He doesn't seem to be improving very much."

He laughed and put the purring cat on the scales, "Well, he's gained almost three pounds in one week so you must be doing something right."

Tim manhandled Van Gogh, examining him thoroughly. "The second bit of good news is that we've saved his ear."

A burden I hadn't even realized I was carrying fell off my shoulders. "But the wound looks as bad as it did a week ago."

He shook his head. "You're looking, but not seeing." He angled Van Gogh so I was staring into that cavern of blood and mucus. "What do you see?"

"The wound just keeps weeping," I complained. "It's every bit as big as it was before."

"As wide, but not as deep. It's filling in from the bottom up."

I squinted. He was right. The walls of the pit on Van Gogh's head were not as deep or as steep as they had been. At the base, the perimeter of the wound was narrower than at the top. "What about all the goo?"

He grabbed a piece of gauze and swabbed the wound. "Before you apply the antibiotic, wipe it out." Then he turned and gave me a stern look. "Do not use water, peroxide or alcohol on this wound. I don't want anything interfering with the antibiotic's bond."

I nodded, without telling him how often I'd been tempted to apply alcohol--just to dry out the bleeding wound.

"And use only a tiny, tiny bit of the topical antibiotic."

"What happens if I use too much?" I asked anxiously.

"You'll have to pay for more. As it is, I'm going to have the tech mix up another bottle of oral antibiotic. I want you to keep him on it for two weeks total."

He smiled. "You're doing a great job. Come back whenever you need a pep talk. By mid-January, Vincent here will be ready to be neutered." He gave me a rough hug. "Merry Christmas."

Tim charged me just $15 for the antibiotic, no office visit charge. Van Gogh's total medical expenses so far had come to just over $100.

Over the next week, the wound began to close up almost magically fast. It started as a tiny white line of scar tissue where the narrowest part of the wound had sealed together behind Van Gogh's ear. Each day that white line grew by another quarter inch. At ten days, the white line ran the entire width of Van Gogh's right ear.

As he began to feel better, the problems between Van Gogh and Bob multiplied. Bob had stopped throwing himself on the bathroom door, but now Van Gogh was battering the door from the inside. Bob was more subtle. He'd cautiously test the door to see if he could push it open.

More later ...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Part VIII of My Christmas Story

It was already noon on Monday by the time Van Gogh and I left the veterinary clinic. Van Gogh was wearing one of those hard plastic Elizabethan collars to prevent him from clawing at his already fragile ear.

I'd emailed my boss early that morning to say I had a cat emergency and would let her know as soon as I could whether I would be able to make it into the office at all that day. As an exempt employee, if I couldn't work at least four hours, I needed to use my vacation accruals. When we left the vet, I phoned her voicemail from the car to say I would take the day off.

Of course, when I'd hauled the hated cat carrier out of the garage at 7:oo that morning, Bob the Cat had made himself very scarce. When I returned home at 12:30, he magically appeared, wanting to know what was going on.

I put the carrier on the floor of the den. He cautiously approached. Almost in unison, the two male cats began howling at each other. I yanked the carrier off the floor and brought it into the hall bathroom, shutting Bob out. This room would be Van Gogh's home until his wound healed. Fortunately, as bathrooms go, it's pretty large. Along one wall is a full-length closet with folding doors, the commode area and the bathtub. Along the other wall, are two sinks, each with its own counter, and a floor-to-ceiling cabinet with shelves. Although as narrow as most bathrooms are, the room is twenty feet long.

To my surprise, when I lifted Van Gogh out of the carrier, he began to purr. I took advantage of the moment to put him on the bathroom counter and do a tick inspection. Over the next half hour, with him purring like a Jaguar motor, I removed 19 ticks of various sizes. The Revolution Tim had applied would take care of the fleas.

By the time I finished looking for ticks, Bob was throwing himself at the bathroom door, howling "Let me at him!" I ignored the drama, recognizing it as pure hyperbole. However, Van Gogh was clearly unhappy about the barbarian at the gate. He prowled around the bathroom, looking for a place to hide.

I opened the cabinet where I keep two laundry baskets (there's a chute above through which I can drop the soiled garments). I removed one basket and put it into the bathtub. Van Gogh immediately tried to get into the opened space, but caught his collar on the cabinet door. I opened the door wider, and he entered and lay down.

If I left the cabinet door wide open, it blocked the litter box in the space underneath the adjacent counter. Clearly not a workable solution.

There is another cabinet above the commode where I keep a few tools so I don't have to go out to the garage every time I need a wrench or hammer. I grabbed a screwdriver and removed the door to Van Gogh's cabinet. I furnished his new space with one of the blankets he'd slept on the night before. Now he had two places to lie down: inside the cabinet or on the blanket in front of the closet.

I left him to get accustomed to his new digs and went out to confront Bob, who had worked himself into a major tizzy. It took me nearly 30 minutes to convince him he was still my main squeeze.

The next week established our pattern. When Bob was outside, I let Van Gogh have the run of the house. When Bob was inside, Van Gogh stayed in his bathroom.

Van Gogh's wound was still freaking me out. It wept constantly so there was always a thin layer of blood and mucus filling it. Each morning and each evening, I would blot the liquid with a Q-tip before applying the topical antibiotic. The good news was that Van Gogh had no feeling in the area of the wound at all. I could do whatever I wanted to it, and he would simply purr.

Unlike Bob, Van Gogh never fought me when I picked him up to doctor on him. Twice a day, I'd clean the wound and apply the antibiotic. Then I would fill an eyedropper with the oral antibiotic, tilt his head back and squirt the medicine into his mouth. By contrast, whenever I pick Bob up to dose him, he begins clawing and howling and fighting. I usually wrap him in a towel in order to give him meds. I never had to do anything with Van Gogh. He obviously hated the taste of the antibiotic, but never fought back.

After a week, I was getting panicky. I couldn't see any difference in the size of the wound at all. It still looked awful. The following Monday, I left work early to take Van Gogh back to the vet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Part VII of My Christmas Story

I opened the door to the bathroom and switched on the light, not at all sure of what I would find. I was more than a little afraid that Dinah might have died during the intervening five hours.

Two things struck me immediately: a rancid smell and the sight of Dinah's shoe-button eyes staring up at me. With most cats, you notice the colored irises first. With Dinah, her prominent feature was two huge black pupils.

I stepped inside and shut the door behind me. Thinking that the odor came from the litter box, I glanced in that direction, but the sand remained undisturbed. It took several moments before I realized the smell's origin was Dinah's head wound. Now that her wet fur had dried, the underlying odor had surfaced.

Dinah was alive and alert. The only other positive I could see was that she'd eaten half of the wet food I'd left her. Uncertain of my next move, I knelt down next to the blankets and spoke softly to her. "Hey, little girl, how are you feeling?"

She was purring softly, but that didn't encourage me. I've had cats who never purred much, but who suddenly started to purr 24 to 48 hours before they died. I think it's a self-soothing mechanism.

Her eyes never moved from my face, not even to blink. I reached out a tentative hand to stroke her right side. She flinched ever so slightly. I continued to caress her long fur, noting the presence of some good-sized ticks. Now that she was dry, I could see the long twisted strands of dead skin and fur sticking from the wound to her everywhere.

Operating on instinct, I decided not to disturb her any further. If I could keep her warm and calm on Sunday, I'd bring her to see my vet Tim on Monday morning. She ate and drank during the day, but did not use the litter box, which worried me a bit. I checked on her frequently, crooning to her and petting her for very brief moments. She continued that strange passive behavior, but didn't seem to be deteriorating.

When I went into the bathroom early Monday morning, I noted with relief that she had finally used the litter box. Expecting difficulty, I scooped her up and put her into the pet carrier. She didn't fight me.

At the veterinary clinic, Tim's technician gasped and grimaced when she removed Dinah from the carrier. "Ohhh," she hissed. "That's not good."

Tim walked in and asked, "Have I seen this cat before?" I shook my head and launched into her backstory. While I talked, he used a scissors to cut off all the dead fur and skin. When I was finished, he said, "Where do you want to begin?"

I said, "I guess we need to test her for leukemia."

He nodded. "If she has leukemia, we need to put her down." By now he was handling Dinah, running his hands across her body, feeling her organs. A funny look crossed his face. "I think you need to change this cat's name to Dino."

"It's a male?" I asked, stunned.

He nodded. "An intact male."

"Was I at least right that she ... he's about a year old?"

"Yup, you got that one right. Want to call him Dino?"

"Absolutely not. I'll come up with another name before I leave. Did he get his head caught in a car fan belt?"

"Nope. Cat fight. He ran into a tom bigger than he was. Took a bad scratch and it abscessed. That wound is at least two weeks old. He's a pretty sick kitty. I don't know that we can save that ear."

The former Dinah stayed quietly on the exam table while we waited for the test results. I stroked him, and he began purring. This time it felt like he was happy to have me petting him.

In about 15 minutes, Tim came back. No leukemia or feline AIDS. He put Revolution on the cat to address all the fleas and ticks. Cleaned the wound and gave me a liquid antibiotic and a topical antibiotic to give twice a day.

"Have you come up with a name yet?"

I nodded. "I think I'll call him Van Gogh."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Part VI of My Christmas Story

I'd pulled Dinah out of a thunderstorm and into my house. Given her previous reluctance to be touched, she was strangely passive in my arms. I ran my hands over her wet fur and screamed in horror.

On the back of her head, beginning at the base of the right ear was an enormous wound. It looked as though someone had taken an ice cream scoop and just scraped out everything--all the way down to the leather of her skull. The canyon left behind was red and oozing. The walls of the pit looked like layers of lasagna: multiple stratums of fur, dermis, and muscle.

I'd never seen anything so awful on a live animal, and I was having trouble making sense of what I was seeing. No wonder Dinah was so quiet; she was probably in shock.

Fortunately, my long experience as a manager kicked in. When faced with a huge snarly ball of string with no beginning or end, you need to take a scissors, cut a single strand and begin unwinding. I left the cat on the counter and went to find dry cloths with which to dry her.

I also brought an electric space heater into the bathroom with me and a couple of blankets. I wanted to get her warm as quickly as possible.

She remained apathetic under my ministrations; it was both sad and creepy. While I worked, I tried to decide on a next step.

I've lived with cats for many years and have come to respect their fierce stamina and unexpected vulnerability. Felines are finely tuned creatures. Loud noises and unscheduled interruptions are much harder on them than on other animals. If Dinah wasn't in shock already, she was teetering on the narrow edge. A lot of activity was probably a mistake.

By the time I had her mostly dry, I'd decided to leave her alone in the dark, quiet bathroom for a while and see what happened. She might die, but I didn't want to make things worse by overwhelming her fragile system.

I put her on the pile of blankets on the floor with the heater nearby. I filled a bowl with the smelliest wet catfood I could find: Fancy Feast cod, sole and shrimp. As I left the bathroom, I turned off the lights and closed the door.

Back in my bedroom, Bob was still under my four-poster. The lightning had stopped, but it was still pouring outdoors. He was so preoccupied with the weather, he'd missed our new arrival.

I climbed into the bed, but sleep wouldn't come. My mind couldn't stop whirling. I wasn't sure I'd done the right thing by leaving her on her own. I didn't want her to die afraid and alone.

I kept trying to come up with an explanation for what had happened to her. The wound was in the shape of a teardrop--wide at one end and narrow at the other. The wide end was about two and a half inches in diameter, the narrow end tapered to nothing.

Forty minutes later, the only answer that seemed to make sense was that she had climbed up under the hood of a car and was still there when the driver started the vehicle. Twenty years earlier, I'd had a cat who did exactly that. When I found him, he was paralyzed, blind, deaf, and unable to taste or smell.

If Dinah was still alive, what should I do next? I could take her to the emergency vet, but I knew that trip would cost a minimum of $750, more likely $1,000.

I finally fell asleep around 5:20 AM.

Bob woke me at 7:30. I leaped out of bed and rushed to let him out the back door. The rain had stopped, and he didn't balk at going out.

I stood outside the bathroom and listened, but couldn't hear a thing. I took a deep breath and opened the door.

More later ...