Butterscotch’s Gotcha Day

March 1st is Butterscotch’s Gotcha Day, the day we went up to my dad’s home in upstate NY in 2010…in March…to pick her up and bring her back to live with us. Driving through the Adirondacks to nearly the Canadian border at that time of year can be dicey, but we were fortunate. We were fortunate with Butterscotch too. She is a gem of a dog.


Adirondack roadside in March

I was doing a little research on the term “gotcha day” and discovered that it was originally used to denote the day that a child was adopted into a new family. I also found that the term is controversial in some circles because one family’s gotcha day is another family’s lostya day. Butterscotch’s gotcha day with us was her lostya day for my dad, and it was hard not to feel sad about that.

My dad loved her so much. She was, in many ways, his lifeline and companion, especially after his wife died. Butterscotch used to sleep in a crate before Jeanne died, but when Jeanne was gone Butterscotch slept on the bed with my dad, and she was the thing we most often talked about by phone.


Dad and Butterscotch

When Dad went into the hospital in late February 2010 we knew that he was not going to be going back to his home, way out in the country away from everything. He had many health problems, and was starting down the road to some dementia. An independent living place was already reserved for him. I had promised him that I would take Butterscotch when the time came, so up we went to get her. Because Dad was in the hospital he could not say goodbye to her, something that left me feeling sad.

Butterscotch had only met us once and so I wondered how she would be when we arrived to pick her up, but Butterscotch loves anyone who will rub her belly. Actually, unless you are a groundhog, she loves you automatically. Even in the vet’s office she rolls over and invites the vet to give her a belly rub.  So she had no trouble at all coming home with us. We stayed overnight one night at dad’s house, and Butterscotch even slept with me. She’s easily one of the best car traveling dogs I’ve ever seen.

Butterscotch in car

She was also sick, though my dad didn’t know it. I realized it within half an hour of meeting her, and called my vet for an appointment from my dad’s house. Butterscotch had and has Cushings Syndrome, which responded beautifully to medications once she was diagnosed. Over the next year we took the excess weight off of her, and she has been one sweet and happy dog for the last five years.

A few months after my dad moved into his independent living place we took Butterscotch back up to see him – in the spring, thankfully. He was so glad to visit with her, and I felt better about taking her away without giving him a chance to say goodbye.


Butterscotch has been one of the world’s best dogs, and we love her dearly. She is now nearly 15, and still has her Cushings, as well as some pretty substantial arthritis. She is also deaf, or nearly so. Our entrance into the house or even a room doesn’t cause he to wake up anymore. She has aged quickly in the last six months in particular, and cannot get up on furniture anymore, and can rarely climb steps without help. She sleeps a lot these days, and the snow and ice, which she has always loved, has been pretty tough for her this year. She is not terribly steady on those old legs now. She doesn’t much like being by herself if she knows we are home anymore. If she is downstairs and we are upstairs she barks short staccato barks, almost like a smoke alarm that has a dying battery. She’s really good at playing the sympathy card, and she knows we will come to help her to either get up on the bed or come up the stairs or whatever else she might want or need.


I did the front legs, she says…can you do the back ones?


We were talking the other day, Marley and I, and we both know that the number of days ahead of her are getting shorter. We are glad that, for now, she manages what she needs to manage. She’s still got a good appetite, and likes a short walk each day. She sleeps on the bed every night and is quite content to just be with us, and who could not love that? It is hard to think of her not being with us, even though we both know it is coming sooner than we might like. But we try not to dwell on that. We’ll just enjoy her one day at a time, and lift her butt up on the bed or help her up the stairs or whatever else is needed for as long as that works for her. And when the day comes – may it be a long time still – we will imagine her with Dad again, climbing up on his lap in their favorite chair for a nice long cuddle. They wold both like that very much.


orange kitty

Life lessons from a sick cat

orange kitty

J., the sick kitty I took to emergency last week, came home this week after 8 days at the emergency vet. Eight days at the vet’s office is never a really good sign. He had a rough week with biopsies and ultrasounds and all sorts of tests and IVs and who knows what. He has two tumors and there isn’t anything more to do for him now, but with some meds he is stable for the time being, and home for whatever good time there is left.  (And this is actually his picture, which I have permission to share with you.)

What is most amazing about J., however, is how outrageously sweet and loving he has been through the whole process. He has been in pain sometimes, and with all that he has gone through, he has to feel pretty crummy, at least at times. Even so, he was a total favorite at the emergency vet because he’s just a lover, no matter how icky it all gets. The vet who called my client to tell him that it was time to take JoJo home, that surgery wasn’t an option, was in tears, and vets are pretty good at not being in tears or they would spend their days wading through puddles.

J. has to have quite a few meds; his discharge sheet and instructions is a full page long. For now, I am doing the mid-afternoon meds while his person is at work. J. was a very new client to me when he got sick – I’d only seem him a couple times before whisking him away to the emergency vet. And now I come in every weekday afternoon and stuff two pills and a syringe of liquid down his throat. He has very little reason to think well of me.

Orange kitty

And yet, he does. I spend time cuddling and petting J. before giving him his meds, and time doing the same after he’s taken his pills and potassium, but he knows I’m there to give the meds. Cats have hated pet sitters for much less. And forgiven much more slowly. J. bounces right back after his meds are taken, and within minutes he is ready to be my friend again. I’m pretty sure J. is trying to teach me something, mostly about loving and forgiveness and acceptance of whatever life throws at us. He is a wise soul in the body of a cat.

I don’t know how much time he has…weeks, maybe months. But for whatever time is available, I look forward to studying at the paws of this wise kitty. I can see why they loved him so much at the emergency vet, and why his person treasures him deeply.

orange cat

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
Maya Angelou

J. is a wise soul. He loves freely–he reaches hearts–and that is a rare gift in this world. I am most fortunate and blessed that he reached out and touched mine.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry: Kittens

Symmetry (noun): the quality of something that has two sides or halves that are the same or very close in size, shape, and position; the quality of having symmetrical parts.

This week’s photo challenge asks for photos that involve symmetry. Yes, I know it is supposed to be one thing that has two sides, but these two brothers were a deeply bonded pair, very much part of each other. Absolutely adorable to watch and photograph. Enjoy!








Be careful what you learn

I think I am not going to invite my favorite vet back to do another continuing education event for my staff–ever. She had a really terrific presentation last weekend on managing chronic illnesses, and not one member of my staff wanted it to end. She’s a great presenter, and the information was really useful for us. But Dr. H. told us about a condition I had never heard of or seen. A cat, usually one with a hyperthyroid condition, suddenly can’t lift its head. He or she walks around with the head hanging down. The cause: usually low potassium and possible kidney problems.

What do I get two days later?? My client’s cat, a hyperthyroid guy, can’t lift his head, and it was off to the emergency vet for us. (I’m pretty sure this only happened because I learned about it from my vet two days before.) That was Tuesday…the kitty, J. is still there. His body temp was 2 degrees below normal, white blood cell count a bit too high, and potassium…really too low. And in pain. All of that earned him a nice stay with the 24/7 emergency hospital, with IVs flowing through him full of potassium and pain meds, and probably some other stuff. And lots of blood tests.

I dropped him off Tuesday morning, and came back Tuesday night to bring the vet his meds, and he looked better Tuesday night. Cats with this condition swish their tails madly and it is a telltale sign of neck pain from the hanging head. By the evening he had the pain meds and the tail was still. He was eating, and resting much more comfortably. He looked so much more relaxed that he had earlier.

The vet’s report this morning: his potassium is still dropping, which is worrying. Tail is swishing some more…time for some more pain meds. And some more blood tests to see if his current meds and dosages are right for him. And extra potassium, on top of what was already a pretty good dose.

(This isn’t J. but J. is an orange and white kitty, like our Minh, and I’m sure you need something cute to look at after that heavy news. Minh is saying “Oh no, I hope J. gets better!” )


So I’m keeping as many good thoughts as I can for the poor guy. He’s only 12, which is too young to be going over the Bridge. And he is such a sweet guy. Even though he feels like crap he wants to be pet and he’s pawing at folks through his cage to get attention, and he’s just an affection hog. He’s eating, and that’s good, but I sure hope his potassium starts going the other way before it affects his heart. Lots of tests happening, and 24/7 care from some really wonderful and skilled people.

Hang in there, J. I want to be your pet sitter for many more years to come!