Gratuitous Cat Pictures

Time for a few pictures of our cats as they enjoy our new home.

First, can you spot the two cats in the photo below?

Roulette & Newton have been enjoying the morning sun in the guest room, and Roulette has also turned into something of an “under-furry”.

Blackjack sometimes lies in the sun, but lately he’s discovered that the heating vent under our kitchen island blows a nice stream of hot air to warm his paws and shaved belly:

And one morning he decided he really needed the warmth:

Roulette has been getting more used to the downstairs, and the other morning she was enticing me to pet her on top of the kitchen island:

Blackjack and Roulette each like sleeping in the papasan, which now lives in the library upstairs (which holds my comic books, humor books, and mass-market paperback fiction). Sometimes, when there’s no sun elsewhere, they’ll sleep together:

But more likely we’ll find Newton and Roulette sleeping together, which is how I found them a few minutes ago when I came up to post this entry:

State of the Blackjack

So the Thursday before we went off to Hawaii Blackjack had his last chemo treatment for his cancer. So seven months of weekly or bi-weekly vet visits for treatment came to an end for him. The last treatment was one of the rough ones, and he got 4 days of strong anti-nausea meds, and then off we went on vacation. We had four friends lined up as cat-sitters to give him (and Newton) their pills, in addition to the usual cat-sitting events.

Wednesday he had a check-up with the vet, who said he looks great (including his blood work), and he’ll have another re-check in six weeks. We’re also winding down the cortical steroid pills he’s been taking, which makes us all happy.

That all sounds good, but not all is good with our black guy.

We noticed over the first two days that he’d stopped jumping up on things. Specifically on the kitchen counters, where he could often be found before we left. He still jumped up on couches, but he had trouble jumping up on our bed, which is higher than the couches. He learned that if he jumped up and couldn’t make it, then he could come around to my side of the bed and meow and I’d pick him up.

He’s also been sleeping a lot, and sleeping hard. Now, Debbi’s still home on her sabbatical, so she sees him sleeping most of the day, but then, she sees Newton and Roulette sleeping most of the day, too. So, is this normal?

He also seems a little wobbly on his feet, which might be related to him not jumping.

Debbi asked the vet about it at his check-up, and they said he might have hit his head, or missed making a jump and is a little gun-shy about jumping now, or maybe he has a cold which is throwing off his balance. We don’t know.

So we’ve been keeping an eye on him, and trying to make his life easier while we decide whether he needs further examination. For instance, I brought one of the ottomans up and put it at the foot of the bed, and he’s learned to use it to get up to sleep with us. (He’s also decided that when he does get in bed with us he needs to announce his presence with a couple of loud meows. Thanks, guy.)

We also noticed that not a lot of food is being eaten – by anyone. We wondered if the food in their container is stale, so I tossed out the stuff in the bowls, cleaned out the bowls, and opened a new bag of food for them. And they seem to be eating more today, so maybe that’s part of it. I also gave them all some wet cat food yesterday morning, and Blackjack chowed that down. So maybe he’s been hungry? (Then again, I think the cats always eat a little less as winter approaches.)

Last night we had a rain storm, with some pretty strong wind. It’s the first significant storm we’ve had in the new house, and all three cats were pretty wound up about it. Blackjack decided he would complain by sitting in the hallway and yowling. But I’m pretty sure it was the storm, since Newton and Roulette were also trotting around trying to figure out where they felt safe.

In other ways he’s been fairly normal. He’s played a few times, he pounced on his sister this morning because he wanted to lie where she was, he’s been eating bits of cheese that we give him after giving him his pill, and he still loves eating human food. Last night he was chowing down on bits of rice from stuffed peppers Debbi baked, and I had to keep him from pulling more off my plate with his paw.

But he’s not quite right. We’re hoping he’ll get better, and we’re making sure he doesn’t get worse. But if he keeps on like this, I’m not sure what we’ll do. Give it another week or two and then take him in for another exam, I guess.

We’ve always known there are no guarantees about Blackjack since he was diagnosed with lymphoma. My hope has been that we’d have another 2 or 3 good years with him. I’m hoping that this is just lingering reaction to six months of chemo, and that he’ll bounce back and be a little more energetic soon. But I worry that he won’t.

A Much-Needed Vacation, But Not Mine

I’m back from dropping Debbi off at the airport. She’s flying back east to visit her sisters for a week and a half. Her company, you see, has a sabbatical program, so after 6 years working there she gets 6 weeks off. Lucky duck! But it does mean I’m on my own for 10 days.

Well, me and the cats, anyway.

I could use a vacation, too, given how busy it’s been lately. Work has been pretty nutty, filled with the unreproducible bugs, and the impossible-to-diagnose bugs. Especially the last of these, late this past week. I am going to take a couple of days off next week to catch up on some stuff that Debbi wouldn’t be interested in, though; should be nice.

On other fronts, Blackjack is hanging in there. Actually, the vet says he’s doing very well, but he’s been low-energy lately. She thinks he might just be tired of going in to the vet every other week. Certainly it’s getting to be a drag to bring him in – last week was the first time I actually had to chase him to put him in his carrier. But, it seems he has only two more chemo treatments and then he’ll be done! Yay!

I’m not really that worried about keeping myself busy while Debbi’s gone, but I am going to miss her. Especially when I go to bed. I’m not completely comfortable in our new house, I think, and being here by myself is going to make it feel a little weirder. I think the cats are going to miss her, too, and will be confused when I’m the only one home at night.

But we’ll make it through, and she’ll have a good trip.

Now I just have to keep myself from staying up too late at night. 🙂

Bumps in the Road

Last weekend we had our second house guests in our new house, as K and her new boyfriend C visited for a day and a half (two nights) at the end of a vacation they’d be on. We had a good time, with dinner at Cascal, and a visit to the Computer History Museum. I hadn’t been to the museum since before they opened their spiffy new exhibit hall. While the artifacts on display haven’t greatly changed (other than lengthier descriptions and some multimedia presentations), the big change is that they were able to spread out the exhibits for the personal computer era from a couple of racks of hardware to several rooms of material. Well worth visiting, as always.

Two sets of house guests in two weekends is a little exhausting, though, since it means we spent a lot of time cleaning and preparing for their arrival. We enjoyed having them, but it feels like it’s been quite a while since I’ve had the time to keep up with hobbies and even home maintenance.

That was the most fun “bump” in recent days. The rest are not any fun.

Blackjack has been more subdued lately, and Debbi and I have both been worried about him. He had his regular chemo treatment on Thursday, and the vet said she agreed that something seems off, but it’s nothing she could diagnose, and that we should keep an eye on him. He did have one of his more difficult chemo treatments right before our first guests arrived, and it might be that all the visitors has thrown him off and he’s just feeling tired of change himself. Fortunately, these last couple of days he’s seemed perkier than he had the previous week, so maybe he’s getting over it. But we’re still worrying about him.

The other big bump has been that we have ants in our house. The tiny, black kind who send out little scouts and then swarm when they find things. The weird thing is that they started out in our master bedroom, and have gradually made their way downstairs. They’re in the kitchen now, and found the cat food yesterday. We’ve been dealing with them as best we can, amidst everything else we’ve been doing, but it’s been massively stressful. As with many such problems, my first concern is the cats: The ants aren’t really a danger to the cats, but I don’t want to use a treatment that will hurt them. If it was just us humans, I’d be more likely to call an exterminator to nuke the buggers.

Here’s what we’ve tried:

  1. We started by getting a soy-based spray and spraying it along the base boards of the bedroom, which stopped them from coming in for about a week.
  2. We bought some Grant’s Ant Stakes, which seemed to eventually get rid of the ants in the immediate vicinity of the stake, but they have not shown a huge amount of interest in them, so they haven’t done their intended job of destroying the colony.
  3. We’ve treated a few spots outside with a spray insecticide, which certainly dealt with the problem there, but doesn’t help indoors, since I don’t want the cats to be exposed if we can avoid it.
  4. I’ve caulked a couple of places where they were getting in, but I don’t think we can caulk every opening.
  5. Finally, after reading an article by my friend J.D., yesterday we deployed some Terro bait traps (which I’d previously picked up but not tried), which is another “kill the nest” treatment. This one the ants are quite interested in, and we’re hopeful that we’ll have J.D.’s experience and see the ants go away over the next couple of days. Cross your fingers for us that it works.

If the Terro does work, then we’ll investigate more perimeter defense to see if we can keep them from coming back.

While I don’t really hate ants, seeing them swarm around the Terro baits makes my skin crawl. I just don’t want them in the house. I can’t recall ever living anywhere that ants were a problem – it’s weird that we never had a problem with them at the townhouse, which is only half a mile away. But maybe ants are just a problem everyone has to deal with around here, and we just got lucky. I don’t know.

I thought I was dealing with adjusting to our new home pretty well, but the ants have really thrown a wrench into it. It sucks.

A smaller issue is that one of our carbon monoxide detectors (which are now required by law in California homes) beeps occasionally, and the other night about 2 am it decided to beep multiple times, but not persistently, and not in any pattern that the instructions said meant anything. So after checking things out, I removed the batteries, and put fresh ones in in the morning. No more beeps since then, but it’s annoying. (One friend on Facebook called this the “pull me off the wall and throw me in a drawer beep”.)

Lastly, we’ve started moving on selling the townhouse. My agent says it’s in good shape, and he was impressed with some of the things the HOA has done over the last decade to stay up to code. We’re doing the necessary improvements (such as painting and recarpeting, things we probably would have done soon even if we hadn’t moved), and hopefully it’ll go on the market in the next month or so. Other than a few miscommunications, this has been rather fun; but amidst everything else that’s been going on it’s been just one more thing to take care of when I’m already pretty stressed out.

Overall, I’m hoping we’ll have good progress on the ants in the next couple of days, and that my stress over them will go way down.

Health Update

Another big gap between updates. Things have been real busy around here lately, so let’s try to catch up over the next few days.

Last Monday I went to see my doctor about my recent health concerns, and also to get a physical exam. Since I’d gotten blood work done on my trip to urgent care a week earlier, that meant fewer tests to do. I’m in slightly better shape than I was at my last exam 2 years ago, and have lost a little bit of weight, too. I also seem to be about an inch shorter than I thought I was, which is bizarre: I’ve always been an even six feet tall, and now I’m a little over five-foot-eleven. I’m not sure if I’ve shrunk a little (aren’t I a little young for that?) or if their measuring stick is a little off.

I talked about my health concerns with him, and he said that stress could certainly be a contributing factor, but that it could also be a case of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). He said that reflux can result in a phenomenon which feels like chest pain, as well as stomach pain, and the phlegmy feeling I’d developed in my throat the weekend before the appointment. He suggested I buy a 14-day round of omeprazole (brand name: Prilotec OTC) and see if that helps.

And, I’m pleased to say, a week into the treatment I’m actually feeling much better, with all of my symptoms being just about gone. I’m trying to cut down on coffee and caffeine a bit, which should also help. But hopefully I’ll be all better at the end of the treatment.

So that’s all a big relief.

That same Monday was Blackjack’s first chemotherapy treatment for his cancer, and yesterday was his second treatment. The vet said both times that he’s doing very well (though I’m not entirely sure what this means; are they X-raying him to examine his tumor, or just seeing how he physically is reacting to the treatments?), and the staff at the vet all seem to like having him, too. I guess he’s pretty easy to deal with. He is still low on energy compared to how he was before starting radiation treatment, but he’s been pretty friendly, has been up and around (and very happy to have had the back door open during our recent warm weather), and has been playing some.

I do miss the overexuberant Blackjack running all over the house, though. I hope he bounces back to that once we’re done with all the therapy.

But he’s enjoying all the attention, canned food, and extra treats, that’s for sure.

Blackjack’s Progress

Today we took Blackjack in for his examination. The vet said she’s very happy with how he responded to his radiation therapy! He’s even gained some weight. We can take him off two of the three medicines we’ve been giving him, which will make everyone in the house happy. (Well, okay, Newton and Roulette probably won’t care that much.) The vet does say she wants to put him on chemotherapy for the next six months, since that greatly improves his chances over the next few years, in her experience. Meanwhile, he gets another week off before he starts weekly visits for treatment.

It’s not the ideal outcome, but it’s not so bad as things stand. And we’re encouraged that she’s pleased with how he’s reacted to treatment so far.

We both took today off for the check-up, but with the rain we’re supposed to get all weekend, plus Debbi having twisted her ankle working out yesterday, we ended up spending the day hanging around at home. We took a nap in the middle of the afternoon, and had all three kitties curl up with us, including Blackjack, who’s been a bit standoffish recently, so we were happy that he was willing to join us.

We topped off the day with an evening of Batman and Justice League cartoons. A pretty good day, really. And the best part is that we don’t have to go back to work tomorrow, because the weekend’s just starting!

After Treatment

Wow, it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated.

We’ve been mostly focused on Blackjack’s treatment for cancer these last few weeks. Two weeks ago we took him in on Wednesday for his CT scan (a.k.a. CAT scan – heh-heh), and then Thursday was his first radiation treatment. The night before each treatment we had to take away the cats’ food when we went to bed. So Debbi and I each woke up to starving, ravenous, whining cats the next morning. It was especially hard for me at times since I then had to bundle Blackjack into his carrier, then feed Newton and Roulette, and then take him out the door while they were eating. Poor kitty!

I dropped him off each morning around 9, giving the technician an update on how he was doing. Then I headed to work, and Debbi picked him up at the end of the day. I understand he was knocked out for the first treatment, but then merely sedated for the later ones. I’m not sure how that worked, but he is a pretty mellow kitty.

He had Thursday and Friday treatments, and then Monday-Wednesday-Friday the next week. There was one more treatment planned for this past Monday, but it was cancelled because he was starting to get some blistering in his mouth and throat, since the mass is behind his throat.

Since then he has been getting a steroid pill twice a day, and a different pill and a liquid rinse in his mouth three times a day each (the liquid rinse contains Maalox as one ingredient). Unlike Newton, who loves pill pockets for his daily pill, Blackjack isn’t really interested, so we have to pill him the old-fashioned way. It’s getting old pretty quickly.

The vet said after treatment that Blackjack might get worse before he gets better. He has been low on energy and been lying around a lot, and harder to convince to play with us. We have a sense that he’s turning the corner, but it’s hard to tell. Especially since all the medications I think make him unhappy.

We have a follow-up appointment tomorrow, where we will hopefully find out if the radiation put the cancer into remission, and whether we have to keep giving him all the meds. Plus whether they want to do a round of chemotherapy with him, which I’m sure will be equally disturbing to all of us.

But most I just hope the treatment works and that he’ll have several more happy years with us.

Positive Indications

So Saturday we took Blackjack in to a veterinary specialist about his cancer. He has feline lymphoma, which is typically not curable but can be treated. The vet took an ultrasound of his body and it appears the cancer has not metastasized, so we are going to be taking him on on Wednesday for a CT scan, followed by several days of radiation treatments over the following two weeks. Hopefully that will put him into remission and we’ll have several more good years with him.

Apparently cats deal with radiation treatment and chemotherapy better than humans do, so he probably won’t be flattened for a long period of time following treatment. (If we’re really lucky, the actual trips to the clinic will be the worst part for him. I expect it will not be so easy, but we can hope.)

The poor guy got his belly shaved for the ultrasound, which makes him look kind of pathetic. On the other hand, it’s a lot of fun to rub his shaved belly – fun for us, that is! Not really for him.

Sunday we drove around to look at some more houses. None of the houses we looked at were ones we had high hopes for – four of the five were actually pretty far afield of where we’d like to live – but we wanted to get more of a feel for what’s on the market. Three of the five were homes which clearly hadn’t been substantially remodeled since the 80s (if not longer) and needed some TLC to make them livable. The other two were more modern and had much to recommend them – except for their location, as far as we were concerned. But hopefully some more places will be hitting the market in the next month that we can take a look at.

Today I took the day off and caught up on a bunch of project around the house. For example:

  • Went jogging. It was a hard run this morning, but I managed to finish it.
  • Washed all the bedcovers, which took most of the day. Also vacuumed around the bed.
  • Replaced a dying bulb in a light fixture.
  • Catalogued all the comic books I’d bought from the last two months.
  • Paid bills.
  • Distributed the minutes from our last homeowners association meeting.
  • Pulled up some weeds outside.
  • Even took a coffee break, walking down to Starbucks and reading for 40 minutes.

A pretty productive day, all around. Still haven’t done my taxes, though. Might work on them tomorrow, so I can send all the data to my CPA this week.

A Little Rebound

After our rough week last week we gave ourselves a low-pressure weekend.

The good news is that Blackjack is feeling better, practically his old self once he recovered from being knocked out at the vet. Debbi says the vet told her that they took a pretty large sample of the mass in his throat for the biopsy, and he’s been swallowing less – hardly at all the last couple of days – and eating and drinking more. While this is hardly conclusive evidence, I’m choosing to take it as an encouraging sign that the mass may be treatable. And more importantly he hasn’t spent the last few days in distress because he feels like he has something stuck in his throat.

The vet was closed for President’s Day today, but hopefully we’ll find out the results of the biopsy in the next day or two. And hopefully it will be good news.

On the house front we went out on Saturday to some open houses, visiting three homes. In contrast to past visits, none of these homes are presently occupied; two were staged, and one was empty. The first one was a large house with fairly dated decor. It will probably be a really nice house for someone willing to do a major remodeling job on it (which is not us). The second one was the empty house, which has been remodeled and brought up-to-date (other than the rattling furnace which would need to be replaced), but which was rather dark in the main living space and the back yard, and which had a few quirky floor plan choices. It was probably the closest to what we’re looking for, but we weren’t bowled over. The third house was just frustrating: A nearly-brand-new house on a large lot near downtown, but with an utterly bizarre floor plan and a lot of space that just cried out, “What were they thinking when they designed this?” Debbi eventually figured out that it’s a sort of showcase for the builder’s skills, but it really needed a couple of run-throughs with an architect before it was built. It will probably be a nice place for someone looking for a large house who’s willing to do some major renovation to fix the weirdnesses.

Our hope is that as we head into spring more houses will hit the market and we’ll see some more variety. But it was nice to be looking at homes with no pressure again.

We also had the trailing end of a series of storms passing through the area, and visited the open houses in the rain. Which was actually kind of fun itself, driving around and walking in the rain. I do like rain. The cold temperatures aren’t as welcome, however.

We had a quiet day mostly at home on Sunday, which I was totally ready for. And then back to work today.