the obligatory pet-related post
For the longest time (10 years, in fact), it was just me and the boys -- Max (black cat in background) and Toby (orange tabby). The one in the foreground, that's Deuce (post-spaying, which accounts for the shaved belly), and I'll get to her in a moment. I lived with my boys in Durham NC, then we moved to San Jose CA (I drove, they flew), then we moved to Richmond VA (we all drove), then to Alexandria VA (more driving), then back to San Jose CA (and even more driving). When I picked them up at the airport, after that first trip westward, Max was one pissed-off cat, and I could hear his yowling from the parking lot. Toby was curled up under the blankie that went with him in his carrier, shaking like a leaf. He stayed like that for a good two days. From that point, I vowed we'd be driving together, if we ever moved again (and we did).
I've had Max and Toby since they were each about 2 months old. They're not from the same litter, but they're only about a month apart in age. Max and his littermates were left on the side of the road, near a vet hospital. A vet tech took them into the office and there they stayed, waiting for adoption. I happened to go to that vet hospital with my quasi-gf, as she had three cats to take in for checkups and I had nothing else to do that day. I ended up playing with a particularly gregarious little fella, and was sad when it was time to leave. The quasi-gf had to make a return trip with one of her cats, about a week later. I went along, and Max (as he would later be named, after Mad Max) was the only one of his litter still at the vet hospital. He came home with me a few days later. We lived in a crappy little duplex, and then I realized after about a month that we needed a roommate to help with the rent. It happened to be the summertime in a college town, which means there were plenty of people who needed a place to crash for a month or two, to participate in various camps or academic endeavors. We got a ballerina. This ballerina managed to step on my poor little Max, around midnight on July 4th. I freaked out, but miraculously enough, the emergency vet hospital not only was open at midnight on a holiday, but the vet was actually there. I plunked down my hundred bucks, determined his leg wasn't broken, and went home. It was a frosty few weeks until the ballerina left.
During the frosty time, the owner of the gelato/coffee place where I worked called me up and said "I have a cat for you". I had no intention of getting another cat. Max was only a few months old. But it seemed reasonable that Max should have a buddy, so I said "go on..." She told me that her next door neighbor had found a few-months-old orange tabby hanging out alone at the gas station. They scooped him up and had him in their shed, and would I come over and get him? I said of course, after work. Well, one of the neighbors didn't get the message, and took him to the pound. I immediately followed and said "No! I was going to take him." But he was already in the system, so I plunked down the sixty bucks to "reserve" him, and visited him every day for a week, in kitty quarantine. Then, Toby came home. After three whole seconds of hissing, Max and Toby became the best of buds.
Flash forward to 2001, and the three of us are living in San Jose. My boys are all grown up (18lbs each) and well-traveled. One day, I realized that Toby was throwing up an awful lot...like every day. He would eat his normal amount, act his normal lazy self, but couldn't keep his food down. I took him to the vet, and she determined that he had a "nervous stomach", which was plausible because he's always been a wee bit...off. It may have had something to do with how another roommate's big ol' chow would wander around the duplex looking for Toby to chew on. Anyway, Toby didn't get better. Toby lost six pounds. Went back to the vet and finally found something -- a mass in his gut. They opened him up for a biopsy, and lo and behold: gastrointestinal lymphoma. It has a very low survival rate, but if you start the chemotherapy, you'll know within six weeks if it's going to "take". If it does, it's a two-year process before "you're cured!" is proclaimed.
Toby started the chemo. Thankfully, there is a veterinary oncologist in my town. We went every week for six weeks, and he responded well. He stopped throwing up, and he started to gain weight. So we kept on with the treatment. After a few months, the visits were monthly...every month for the next 18 months. Toby was the only one who made it, from the various cats and dogs who started treatment at the same time. We always went on the same day of the week, so we got to know the "Thursday crowd". It was very sad, when I realized that the "Thursday crowd" was a whole new set of animals, as none of the originals made it (except the Tobester). Toby is a happy, healthy, 18 pound cat again....$6000 later. He prefers chinese food takeout boxes to those fancy carpet-covered things that cats are supposed to like.
During the last few months of his chemo, there was a wee kitten also at the vet hospital. I hadn't seen it, but I heard its story: a weeks-old kitten, covered in some sort of caustic goo and thrown into the sewer. Vet tech heard her cries, rescued her, brought her into the vet hospital. Her little paws and face had the hair burned off them, from the caustic substance. She had pneumonia. She was very young, and understandably terrified of everything. She had been in the hospital for a month when Toby's favorite vet tech said something to the effect of "you should take her, you grow big cats" (It's true, I do). So, I disrupted my happy household and brought the baby home. When my friend Kate saw her, she said she was the absolute spitting image of her cat, Dexter. Dexter lived to be like 18 years old, and had died the year or so before. Since we couldn't really call a girl kitten "Dexter", she became "Deuce". But she's referred to now as "the baby", even though she's 2 years old, 13 pounds and, as you can see, queen of the world (or at least the aquarium)
Those are my kids. They are all quite unique and I love each of them dearly...and boy, do they have personalities! Max thinks he's a dog, and likes strawberry-banana smoothies. Toby would climb over burning coals for a french cut green bean. The baby? She wanders around carrying on a conversation with herself, and likes to be combed, a lot. Miss priss, that one.