Look at the headbumps, the rubbing, the goofery. These guys enjoy each other.
I need to write about this now, as it’s only going to get more difficult if I put it off.
Despite our hopes that Mr. Squeak would see some relatively long-term improvement in his general condition after the time he spent in the vet hospital early in April on being diagnosed with renal failure syndrome, and despite a brief period during the middle of the month when he was genuinely doing better, the tide is unfortunately turning for the worse.
When he was released from the hospital, Squeak was put on meds for blood pressure management and to improve what remains of his renal function. At first he responded pretty well to these, and around the middle of the month he started acting more like the cat we knew from before last winter — being up and around a lot more, demanding food every time someone walked into the kitchen, getting in your face in bed in the morning (normally by sitting on your chest and purring deafeningly until you surrendered to the inevitable and got up and fed him), hanging around with whoever was up and working, and snoozing on and off when he was convinced that tthings were going well enough that he could relax his attention.
But it didn’t last. Last week his appetite started slowly dropping off again. This week he’s eaten very little: not even the roast turkey for which he would have in better days nearly knocked you down is sufficient to tempt him. When he does eat, he has trouble getting it down. He’s grown visibly weaker. He spends almost all the day curled up and sleeping in the box where his much-missed mate Beemer used to sleep before she was killed by traffic nearly two years ago.
It’s getting to be time to make the final call to the local vet.
We’re going to give him a last couple of days to see whether there’s some change in his fortunes. But frankly, I’m not betting on it. I’ve seen often enough what it looks like when someone stops responding to their medications. It was always a long shot that the meds would have any significant effect with a cat whose kidneys were probably down to 5% or 10% of their normal function. This time I think the dice have fallen against us. And there is no kindness to Squeak — and no respect for his lifelong, considerable dignity — in trying to keep him around any longer in hopes that things will magically get better. Here as elsewhere, entropy is running.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone very much who took the time to stop by the DD.com shop to buy things that would help defray the expenses of renal diet food and so forth. Squeaky really did like it, for as long as his appetite was improving, and it won’t go to waste; Squeak’s padawan apprentice Goodman likes the k/d food too (and at thirteen-plus is of an age to be eating it anyway. An upcoming priority is to get him over to the vet too in fairly short order to have bloods drawn and see how his own kidney health stands).
And now we wait, For the moment, Squeaky is lying out in the sun, snoozing — the first time in months that we’ve seen him do that (but we’ve been kind of short on sunshine around here until very recently). I hope the next couple of days stay sunny.
One postscript here: Peter tells me he won’t be blogging about this, but he too thanks eveybody for all the kind thoughts we know will be coming our, and Squeak’s, way. And I thank you all too.
“Recovering at home,” I guess, is the best phrase to use. He looks a little peculiar, since they partially shaved both his forelegs — one for the first IV he was on, and the other to use when he (somehow or other) pulled the first cannula out. He’s been ambling around looking vague, or else sleeping a lot, and right now — today being an unusually nice day for Ireland, sunny and still — he’s sitting out in the back yard soaking up the sunshine.
…But “recovering” is kind of an optomistic usage here. Chronic renal failure is 100% fatal, eventually. It’s just a question now of how long “eventually” takes. Right now we have to give the medications Squeak is on enough time to kick in, and see whether they help his appetite (which right now is worryingly marginal) and his other symptoms. He’s drinking well enough, though not as much as he was when he was in crisis last week — which is a good thing. The question now becomes whether he’ll start feeling like eating enough to make some kind of improvement in his condition likely.
This is, finally, a quality-of-life issue. Squeak has always been a dignified cat, and there’s no point in depriving him of that dignity, especially at his advanced age, just for the sake of what might be only a few more months of life. I’m guessing that within a couple of weeks we’ll know whether there’s any point in continuing vet runs for blood work and so forth, or if it would be kinder for all concerned — especially our most senior puss — to ask our local vet to make one last house call.
Meanwhile, through all of this, work goes on. It ain’t easy. But thanks to everybody who’s tweeted or emailed to send support. (And thanks also to all those who picked up a subscription to The Big Meow, or a copy of the Uptown Local and Other Interventions anthology or something else from the ebook shop, to help with the vet bills. It’s seriously appreciated.)
Just a quick thank-you to those who’ve tweeted and emailed over the weekend to ask how Squeaky is.
For the last few months he’d become increasingly subdued and lethargic at home. Initially we put this down to the aftereffects of a bitterly cold and snowy winter, during which he actively refused to go out very much, and to Squeak’s considerable age (he’s somewhere in the neighborhood of eighteen years old). But when he also started losing weight over the last month and getting actively frail, we became a lot more concerned.
On Friday we got him to the best of the local veterinary practices in our area for a checkup and to have bloods drawn. When the results came in on Saturday morning, the vet called us and asked us to bring him in immediately for hospitalization, the diagnosis being chronic renal failure.
Squeaky’s spent the weekend on IVs, essentially having his kidneys flushed clean, being hydrated and stuffed full of steroids and various other medications, and being evaluated to see whether his renal disease can be managed through diet and medication or not. His condition has been improving — the vet told us today that when he was admitted “he’d let us do anything we wanted with him” but that now “his personality was coming out a lot more” — meaning, I strongly suspect, the part of his personality usually expressed with his claws when something happens that Mr. Squeak considers inconsistent with his dignity. Since he has only two teeth left, I suspect they aren’t that much of an issue. But even in his frail state he still has a skogkatt’s big catcher’s-mitt paws, and packs a wallop when he hits someone with them. Squeak’s padawan apprentice Mr. Goodman, having been on the receiving end of smacking from these weapons from a young age, still treats Squeak with great respect even though he outweighs Squeaky by 50%.
Anyway, the hospital is looking at being ready to release him to home care tomorrow sometime. In the short term Squeak will now need the expected special renal diet, and probably diuretics as well, and monthly injections of this and that to help metabolize the built-up toxins that his kidneys and liver are no longer capable of handling unassisted.
Only time will tell at this point how long the treatment will extend his life. Naturally we’re overjoyed that our old friend isn’t going to have to depart the household just yet. What the future will hold remains to be revealed (but then that’s the way things usually go anyway…). The only thing we can be sure about right now is the vet bills. (And for those of you who’ve been idly considering a subscription to The Big Meow, or picking up a copy of the Uptown Local and Other Interventions anthology ebook, or something else from the DianeDuane.com ebook shop, let me suggest that this would absolutely be the perfect moment for it.)
In any case, thanks again to all those who inquired about Squeaky’s health. We can’t wait to get him home.
Over the past few days we’ve had a bunch of people ask via email or my Twitter account if they can still subscribe to the project — either because they want an early copy of the paperback, or just want to be a part of the project.
Well, sure, why not? So we’ve restored the subscription buttons at The-Big-Meow.com — they’re in the left-hand column, under the “search box.” People who subscribe get immediate access to the online chapters (or can download ebook versions of the entire novel in Kindle / .mobi or Nook / iPad / ePub format) and will naturally have their names (or preferred handles or IDs) listed in the final print edition of the book as project supporters.
Also, the buttons have been updated for people who’re already subscribed to the paperback version and want to upgrade to a hardcover, or want a hardcover with dustjacket as well. Those buttons are at this link.
Thanks again, everybody!
For those of you who’re not subscribers: the latest chapter has just gone online for the general readership over at the TBM site. Here’s the URL —
All the chapters presently online are linked to from this page.
We also have new versions of the Mobipocket-format files available. The marvelous Linnette Stoney (who’s been converting the chapters to Palm– and Mobipocket-friendly format for us as they come out) has converted the files to add an image that will display in e-ink readers such as Kindle, Cybook and Sony Reader. You can find a .ZIP file containing chapters 1 through 7, as well as the cover image, here.
Chapter 8 will be posted to the subscribers’ file area on August 20th. If you’re interested in having access to it before the general readership does, you’re most welcome to subscribe!
It’s up at last.
There are a lot of places where this notification needs to be posted, and a lot of explanations and profound apologies to be made… but for the moment it just seems best to get the news out.
Chapter Seven is now available online for subscribers: it’s linked to from the normal TBM subscriber gateway page. The same old username and password that worked for previous chapters will get you in. (If you can’t find your login info, email me and I’ll send it out to you pronto.) HTML and PDF versions are there right now — the mobile .prc versions will go up in due course, as soon as we receive the conversions.
If you’re not a subscriber, the chapter will go public on the 28th of the month. Look for the link to its gateway page in the left-hand menu at the project page at http://www.the-big-meow.com. (And for those of you who might feel inclined to subscribe, the subscription button is at the top of the left-hand column, along with info about what you get.)
Once again, I’m deeply sorry for the immense delay. I’m going back on the old one-chapter-per-three-weeks schedule: Chapter Eight will be going up in mid-August. Additionally, the book has become a couple of chapters longer in the course of being restructured — check the project schedule for the anticipated posting dates.
Thanks again, everybody, so very much, for your patience during this past crazed and difficult year. More info shortly.
Best — DD
I mentioned this place in passing in a post some while back, and it really needs to have something more said about it, as there’s not nearly enough information online.
There are a lot of nice estaminets and bars in Brussels, but this one’s a favorite one for both Peter and me. Other such places will have more beers, or more food, or both; but none will so perfectly give you that “timeslip” feeling of having stumbled into another century. And there’s a cat. (And she’s a nice one.)
Le Cirio is the last remainder of a whole chain of restaurants founded by Francesco Cirio, a food entrepreneur who started the industrial farming and production of tomatoes for canning purposes in the mid-1800’s: the direct descendant of his company, now a multinational, still cans and ships GM-free tomatoes worldwide.
This branch of the cafe/restaurant was built in 1886, possibly one of the last in a series of eighteen establishments meant to serve as “tasting gateways” for Cirio’s products (there was always an industrial warehouse for the products nearby, and such alliances of Cirio-shop-and-warehouse existed as far away as New York, Berlin, Paris and London). All the others are gone now, but this one has resisted anything but the most minuscule changes since it was built. It is famous as the home of the half en half, which (for North American readers) has nothing whatsoever to do with dairy: it’s white wine and sparkling wine mixed one-to-one, a combination that may sound weird at first, but actually works very well.
The cafe itself is a splendid den of perfectly preserved Art Nouveau: stained glass, ornamental brass, carved wood and marble-topped, iron-legged tables, with toilet facilities that are also gorgeously antique. Some of the wall hangings or tapestries are a little faded, the old mirrors a touch spotty: no one cares. The pace is leisurely. The music is — if not exactly 1890’s — also of an earlier time, more likely to be Piaf if anything else. People sit, have a coffee, drink, read their newspapers, chat, have a sandwich, gaze out the windows at the old Bourse building outside.
The first time I stopped in here, it was because Minou was doing that very thing. I mean, of course, “le Chat Minou,” the official Le Cirio cat, who lives in the apartment upstairs. Minou (it’s a French word for “kitty”) was tucked up in meatloaf mode on top of the espresso machine — plainly a smart move on a cold wet day — looking out at the pouring rain, eyes half closed. I was out and about looking for a cafe to write in, and I saw Minou and thought, “Why am I not in there?”
I went in and spent some happy, relaxed hours writing. I’ve been fairly often since. It’s not a big food place: mostly they have little sandwiches and such. (I like the croque monsieur.) Waiters in the traditional long white aprons patrol the room in a calm and alert way. Little old ladies drink the classic Belgian beers like Duvel. No one pays attention to one more writer working on a movie or whatever: they get that kind of thing all the time. The place fills, empties, fills again, all in an overarching sense of calm.
At quiet times, Minou appears to check the spaces underneath the tables and see if anyone’s dropped anything nice. She is not one of those in-your-face, demonstrative cats: she is willing to be friendly if you feel like paying attention to her, but otherwise entirely willing to let you be. On a cold day, she’ll jump up behind the espresso machine again to take advantage of the uninterrupted view out the window. It’s all very sedate, just a short walk away from the noise and expense and tourist-trampling of the Grand Place.
So recommended. Stop in and have yourself a beer.
Le Cirio | 20 Rue de la Bourse | Brussels / Bruxelles | Open: daily, 10am-midnight.
No credit cards
(link to Google map at Wallonie Tourism website)
A side issue: just outside the front of the restaurant/bar, a little off to the right as you look out,are the glassed-in foundations of a medieval church and convent, unearthed by archeologists in the 1980s.
(Also: Probably I shouldn’t be surprised that the only comprehensive article on the Web about Le Cirio is in Italian, at their version of the Slow Food site.)