Aby-a-Day – 24 Augusti 2020: Three years ago today…(Medical Monday Memory)

Three years ago today, my life changed: I was bitten through the finger while giving Pyret a pill.

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Being new to the Swedish medical system, I stupidly went to the local clinic (Vårdcentralen), even though I was well aware of how serious a cat bite is, especially on the hand. I just thought that’s what you were “supposed” to do. The doctor I saw was Spanish, and spoke little English. I tried to tell her it was serious, but she waved me off with just a prescription for penicillin.

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I didn’t know that I could go straight to the hospital. I thought, then, that you had to be referred by Vårdcentralen (although, to be honest, that worthless “doctor” should have known to send me there straightaway). Now I know I can go to the Akuten (emergency department) if I need to. Twenty-four hours later, I woke up screaming in pain so badly Björn almost called an ambulance.

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They bundled me into a room, pumped me full of antibiotics and morphine, and got me into surgery as quickly as they could.

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This is me just after the first surgery. Within a week, I would have two more operations to flush the bacteria out of my tendon sheath.

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I also had a lot of morphine. The pain involved with repeated hand surgeries is insane.

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The brightest part of my week in the hospital was the two evenings Björn smuggled Logan into my hospital room.

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One time when a nurse came in, we hid him under my blanket.

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He was good and held still; the nurse never knew he was there.

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After a week in hospital, I was released, but still had several wound checks and dressing changes. When I first got home, my hand was in a plaster cast. I was also still on penicillin and painkillers. It seemed to be healing nicely, but on my last wound check, 20 September (the same day Alfred was neutered), the nurse noticed my finger seemed red and hot. She sent me back to the hospital, and they determined that, despite still being on antibiotics, the infection had managed to return. They wanted me to have surgery immediately, but I had to go to pick up Freddy, who was literally at the other end of the bus line.

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It took a really long time to get him (I ended up taking a taxi for part of the return trip), gathered my things and got back to the hospital just before 17:00. Apparently, I took too long to get back and they weren’t able to do the surgery until the next morning.

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This last, fourth surgery was the most painful. They put more stitches on my palm than on the previous surgeries, and the skin seemed to have been stretched more than the other three.

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It also bled a lot more than the other three operations.

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A month after the first anniversary of my bite, we were at a cat show in Västra Feölunda and ran into Göran, the recovery nurse after my first surgery. His sambo breeds Cornish Rex, and we (used to) see them at shows frequently. He asked to take a look at my hand, and I made a comment about being lucky I still had a finger.

“You could have lost more than that,” Gören said. “I could have lost my hand?” I asked.

“You could have lost even more than that,” he responded. And that was how, a year later, I learned that I could have died from this bite! Even with as much as I know about cat bites, I never thought it could have been fatal.

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This is how it looks today. It’s still very stiff and it sometimes aches and feels crampy. I’ll never have a normal hand again.

So, again, the moral of the story is: If you are EVER bitten by a cat on your hand – and especially your finger – GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM as soon as you can!

Abys are Everywhere: “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds”

The other day I came across a Facebook post (in a Bengal group, of all places) that caught my eye for a couple of reasons: one, the Somali, of course, and two, it was a warning about Easter lilies.

As I have posted before, lilies kill cats. Easter lilies are among the worst, but it’s safest to avoid any sort of bulb plants (remember, garlic and onions are also bad for cats, and they are also members of the lily family).

Aby-a-Day – October 23: Escalator Awareness Day (Flashback Friday)

As I do every year…it’s time to remember Jacoby’s escalator incident, which happened five years ago today (24 October was a Saturday in 2010, too).

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I did a series of cartoons depicting the accident last year.

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Of course, I didn’t have any photographs of the actual event, but I wanted to show what it looked like, not just tell the story of what happened.

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I remember panicking for about a second and a half. I couldn’t find the stop button, so I just pulled Jake’s foot out of the escalator and held it tight.

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There wasn’t that much blood…in fact, I still have that sweater and have been wearing it this week.

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Jake, of course, ended up being fine, and you can’t even really tell he was ever injured, apart from the claw on that one toe being a bit thick and dull. Makes claw clipping that much easier!

Aby-a-Day – October 28: The Escalator Incident (Part 5) (Cartoon Tuesday)

Here is the fifth and final page of the illustrated retelling of Jacoby’s escalator accident.

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Page 1 can be found here
Page 2 is here.
Page 3 is here.
And Page 4 is here.

You would never know Jake ever got his foot caught in an escalator to see him today. He was extremely lucky, I know. He easily could have lost his foot – or worse. But all he has is a little scar on one toe and a funny deformed claw. And…well, and a pretty good story to tell.

All these drawings are based on photos I took of Jake during this time. Here is Drama!Jake, Jake at the vet, and Jake as an ancient Egyptian mummy cat.

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – October 21: The Escalator Incident (Part 4) (Cartoon Tuesday)

Here is the fourth page of the illustrated retelling of Jacoby’s escalator accident.

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Page 1 can be found here
Page 2 is here.
And Page 3 is here.

Stay tuned for the conclusion next week!

I didn’t have a good photo of a taxi cab, so I used this one by Emmanuel Amador on Flickr, which is used with a Creative Commons license.

And the last drawing of Jake is based on this photo I took while he was being worked on (and while I was helping hold him still). I honestly wasn’t being millennial and taking photos to post on Facebook; I got my phone out to check Jake’s weight so the doctor could sedate him without having to move him to the scale. While I was checking his weight, I went, “Oh, hey…I should get a photo,” so I took three. If I didn’t keep track of the cats’ weight on my iPhone, I wouldn’t have any photos at all.

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – October 14: The Escalator Incident (Part 3) (Cartoon Tuesday)

Here is the third page of the illustrated retelling of Jacoby’s escalator accident.

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Page 1 can be found here
Page 2 is here.

Stay tuned for page 4!

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – October 7: The Escalator Incident (Part 2) (Cartoon Tuesday)

Here is the second page of the illustrated retelling of Jacoby’s escalator accident.

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Page 1 can be found here
Stay tuned for page 3!

(Fun fact: I suck at drawing myself.)

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – September 30: The Escalator Incident (Part 1) (Cartoon Tuesday)

Since we’re coming up on the anniversary of Jacoby’s escalator accident, I thought I’d tell the story in cartoon form. I have very few photos of the incident (since I was a little busy while it was happening), and it seemed like a good story to illustrate. It’s going to be a five-part series, so here is page 1:

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Stay tuned for page 2!

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – September 9: The importance of being prepared (Serious Sunday)

Every other weekend is claw clipping weekend. I’ve been clipping cats’ claws for about 35 years now, and I like to think I’m fairly good at it.

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Still, I keep the stypic powder handy, just in case. Because no matter what kind of shaolin master I am with the clippers, all it takes is one little squirm and…the quick can be cut by mistake. And the quick can bleed a lot. It’s actually pretty incredible how much blood can come from one miscut kitty claw.

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Today, it was Angel. It was one of the last claws I clipped, and she must have been getting a little antsy, because I got one toe just a little too short. A lot of times, the claw doesn’t start to bleed right away, and this was one of this times. About 10 minutes after I’d finished and let her go, I noticed a large blood spot on the bed where she was sleeping, and little bloody pawprints on the floor around the bed and on the windowsill.

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After Jacoby’s accident, I built a feline first-aid kit with bandages and cat-safe wound cleaners and anti-bacterials. I also have the most common first-aid items in a special drawer in the bathroom where I can get to them quickly.

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So I quickly cleaned Angel’s foot, put on some stypic powder, Bactine and Bacitracin, covered it with a cotton gauze pad and bandaged it with self-sticking, no-chew bandages.

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She was not crazy about this treatment.

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But she kept it on. Whatever they put into or onto that no-chew bandage, it really works.

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Finally, she gave up on it and let it alone. It’s still on her foot now, as I type this; it can probably come off, now, but I reckon the longer it stays on, the better, especially in the litter box.

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Granted, one claw clipped too short isn’t a dire emergency, but it hurts, and it bleeds a lot, and if it doesn’t stop bleeding right away, it needs to be taken care of. I was very glad I had the cat medical kit today, and I think Angel was, too.

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Do you have a first-aid kit at the ready for your cats?

Abys in Need: Update on Ramsey

Good News! I just got this email about a half hour ago:

RAMSEY WAS SPOTTED!! He’s healthy and OK. He walked into somebody’s house, and the owners cat had him cornered in a room with his tail in the air and back arched. The owner picked him up and said he was fine and took him out to his sealed off barn so he wouldn’t get out, then went to get water and food for him, and he jumped out the only window again. But just knowing he’s alive, and well…..such a relief. He was literally 200ft from where we lost him.

The owner of the house he walked into did not know he was a missing cat, but knew he was a pet since his harness was still on. I posted flyers at the post-office, and wouldn’t ya know it. The owner went in today to pick up his mail, saw the poster, and called me.

Heading up there tonight to find him again. My parents are already on their way, and are hopeful he will come out to his calls since he seems to be more confident in walking about at night. I just hope he isn’t too confident and wandered off, though it seems he also ate half the chicken we left for him on Monday night.

Any suggestions given the current circumstances are appreciated!

Lost in an unfamiliar place, scared, hungry…and marching into someone’s house? Yeah, that sounds like an Aby. I hope they manage to capture him soon, though…it makes me so nervous to think of him out there in the wild.

Abys in Need – URGENT Update on Ra in Michigan

Holy crap, you guys, this is urgent! I just got this update on Ra, the homeless Ruddy Aby boy in the Detroit area:

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“Can you foster or give a home to this poor beautiful ruddy boy? He is only 7 years old and is front declawed and starved for attention. He doesn’t understand why he suddenly lost his home and is in this terrible place, which has decided he has until THIS FRIDAY to live. NAR and helpers are looking for an alternate foster place (NAR has a temporary foster home so he can be saved), and of course a more permanent home for him, someone who will give him a loving Forever Home. He is in Detroit, Michigan. Thank you!!!

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Look at that head-butting action! What a sweetheart! But we need to find this poor little guy at least a foster home. Spread the word!

An Easter Reminder: Lilies = DANGER

(Repeat post: this was originally posted on April 20, 2011)

I was just reminded of this today: Easter Lilies are poisonous to all cats. Actually, any member of the Lily family (Liliaceae are dangerous; a good rule of thumb is not to trust any bulb plant around cats. Onions, garlic and asparagus are members of this family, as well as tulips, daffodils and amaryllis. Even just a little bit of pollen on their feet, or drinking the water the lily has been in, can be dangerous.

This hits very close to home for me. Jacoby’s older brother Cypher (same parents, different litter) was staying with his owner’s mother while he and his wife were on their honeymoon, which happened to be at Easter. The mother was given a bouquet of mixed flowers, including one lily. Cy, being a playful young boy Aby, had to investigate the new flowers; no-one is sure exactly what happened, but he either played with and/or bit the lily and, not long after, started showing symptoms of renal failure. He was rushed to the vet, but it was too late. He died two or three days later, before his people were able to return home. He was only 7 months old.

All parts of the plant are dangerous, so it’s best to just not allow lilies inside (and also watch out for giving cats food containing onions or garlic). If you go on outings with your cat, avoid any bulb plants you might encounter in a park or greenway; I have to remember to keep Jake away from the many patches of tulips and daffodils along the Fort Point Channel Harborwalk this time of year.

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Roses are safe, though, and they have claws so they can defend themselves in a way cats can appreciate (Carnations are okay, too)!

Aby-a-Day – May 3: Today was brought to you by the letter “P”

When I woke up this morning, it seemed like a perfectly ordinary Tuesday.

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Then Jacoby went to the bathroom and nothing happened.

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(I took these photos to show the vet, not to post, but since I have them…) Poor Jake went from box to box, trying to pee in each one as though a change of venue might be more productive. Every time, only a few drops came out. He must have tried at least 10 times in less than an hour.

Being fairly well-read on the subject of feline healthcare (and having on hand both the most recent edition of the Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook and the Cornell Book of Cats as well as The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms because, for some reason, looking things up in books is so much more satisfying than Googling them at times like these), I knew that a cat trying to pee and not being able to – especially a boycat – is an emergency. It could be a blockage of the urethra (which is narrow in male cats), or Cystitis, or crystals or stones in the bladder, but whatever it is, it’s definitely not a “wait-and-see” situation. So, I bundled Jake up in his carrier and we went to see the vet.

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We saw Dr. KC (who we saw when he had his escalator accident back in October), and she agreed that there was something going on, probably Cystitis since he was otherwise perky and eating well. She prescribed Clavamox (antibiotic), Tramadol (pain reliever) and Phenoxybenzamine (which reduces urethral spasms and increases urine outflow). However, I wasn’t to give him the Clavamox until I’d gotten his urine sample.

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I’m sure you’re wondering (as was I), “how in the heck do you get a urine sample from a cat?” Why, with PlastiLitter, of course! You put the PlastiLitter into a small, empty litterbox and wait til the cat pees in there, then pour out the urine (which the plastic pebbles don’t absorb) and take it back to the vet. Easy peasy! Except, not really.

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“Seriously? Seriously!?

Jake went pee surprisingly quickly, almost as soon as I’d set up the little litterbox, and I got as much of it as I could and ran back to the vet…but it wasn’t enough. I had a doctor appointment of my own during lunch (ironically, involving a urine test), and then I had to get back to work, so I had to leave Jake alone in the bedroom with his little red cat show pan and his PlastiLitter and hope for the best.

You know you’re a cat mom when…all the time you’re at work you can’t wait to get home and see if your kitty has peed. It was the first thing I checked when I walked in the door, before even taking off my shoes or jacket. And…he had not. Not at all. I stirred up the PlastiLitter and showed it to him again, and pretty much begged him to “please go peepee.”

Finally, he went in and gave me a good-sized sample! Hurrah! I think he was as relieved as I was; I know he was thrilled to see the little show box go away and the regular big box returned to the litter cabinet.

So now he’s had his Clavamox, and tomorrow I’ll take his sample back to the vet to see what’s actually going on in there.

An Easter Reminder: Lilies = DANGER

I was just reminded of this today: Easter Lilies are poisonous to all cats. Actually, any member of the Lily family (Liliaceae are dangerous; a good rule of thumb is not to trust any bulb plant around cats. Onions, garlic and asparagus are members of this family, as well as tulips, daffodils and amaryllis. Even just a little bit of pollen on their feet, or drinking the water the lily has been in, can be dangerous.

This hits very close to home for me. Jacoby’s older brother Cypher (same parents, different litter) was staying with his owner’s mother while he and his wife were on their honeymoon, which happened to be at Easter. The mother was given a bouquet of mixed flowers, including one lily. Cy, being a playful young boy Aby, had to investigate the new flowers; no-one is sure exactly what happened, but he either played with and/or bit the lily and, not long after, started showing symptoms of renal failure. He was rushed to the vet, but it was too late. He died two or three days later, before his people were able to return home. He was only 7 months old.

All parts of the plant are dangerous, so it’s best to just not allow lilies inside (and also watch out for giving cats food containing onions or garlic). If you go on outings with your cat, avoid any bulb plants you might encounter in a park or greenway; I have to remember to keep Jake away from the many patches of tulips and daffodils along the Fort Point Channel Harborwalk this time of year.

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Roses are safe, though, and they have claws so they can defend themselves in a way cats can appreciate (Carnations are okay, too)!

Jake’s Cautionary Tale…For Cats Only

Jacoby told his harrowing escalator adventure over on Abyfriends Sonny & Cher’s For Cats Only blog.

Aby-a-Day – Day 298 of 365

(Continued from yesterday’s post…)

As I said yesterday, I’ve heard stories of people getting things caught on the escalator, and sometimes being seriously injured, but somehow I never quite understood the severity of these accidents. I’d always kind of thought they were an urban legend, the kind of dire threat that parents tell children to make them behave in public. After having done a little internet research, I know that isn’t true. People die on escalators!

And what’s even more scary…Evidently, the escalators in Boston T stations are known to be particularly dangerous.

I’ve heard stories about accidents on the T, of course; an 82 year old woman died on the escalator at State Street last year, and five years ago a man died on the Porter Square escalator when he sat down on the step and his hoodie got caught. I lived two blocks from that station for 9 years! That escalator is really long, so I can see why he sat down; evidently, he was drunk, too. He also worked at Kaya, a Korean restaurant we used to go to all the time. And then the whole accident that caused the Crocs lawsuit happened at Aquarium station, which has an entrance inside the building I work in!

But while I’d heard about these accidents as teasers on ads for the local news broadcasts, I guess I thought the accidents were kind of the victims’ fault because they were drunk, or very old or very young, or they were goofing off or playing on the escalator. In other words, I didn’t think it could happen to an able-bodied, healthy person who was paying attention and not impaired in some way.

Turns out, it really can happen to anyone. Jacoby has walked up and down escalators many times, and he always (instinctively, I thought) avoided the edges and the top and the bottom gaps because they’re sort of naturally intimidating. In the past, he always jumped over the last step. And you see people with dogs on the escalator all the time; service dogs, MBTA police dogs and pets all ride the T and frequent the stations, and you never really give it a second thought. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog carried on the escalator, unless it was already inside a purse. And the warning signs don’t really say anything about pets on the escalators, only children and strollers.

So the moral of the story here is: Escalators are dangerous pieces of heavy machinery. Even though we see and use them everyday to the point that they blend into the environment, they have many moving parts, they run at a fairly quick pace (1-2 feet per second), and they’re made of metal with sharp edges. All things considered, it may well be more dangerous to ride an escalator than it is to drive a car. And, while they do have built-in safety features and emergency cut-off switches, they don’t always work. Supposedly, the MBTA escalators are supposed to all be fitted with sensors that, if anything is caught in the steps, are supposed to stop the escalator. Maybe a cat’s toe isn’t big enough to set them off, but the escalator we were on didn’t stop when Jake got caught. They’re all supposed to have emergency stop buttons, but they aren’t always immediately obvious; the ones on the Broadway T escalator were on the lower part of the right side handrail, quite close to the floor; they also had covers over them that, if you were in a rush and somewhat panicked, seemed like they’d be hard to open. And the stop button doesn’t always work.

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Here is Jake on the way home from the vet, riding a much safer MBTA vehicle…a bus!

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It may have been the pain medication, or maybe he was still in shock, but he was very interested in looking out the window on the way home.

(To be continued…)

Aby-a-Day – Day 297 of 365

Today, on a very special episode of Aby-a-Day…

Yesterday, I needed to run an errand downtown. Jacoby was a Tasmanian Devil of activity that morning. He woke me up trying to break into the bedroom closet, he moved all the sheepskin rugs into the bedroom and attacked the reindeer rug, and turned over the fighter plane. Since he likes to go out with me, and he had energy to burn, I took him with me. Since the trip would mostly be just riding the train and going up and down a lot of stairs and escalators, we didn’t take the stroller; I just took Angel’s small carrier and his leash.

We had a pretty good time riding the T and we talked to a lot of people. He had on his sweater, because it was cold, and of course that garnered a lot of comments. I completed my errand, and we headed home.

That’s when it happened. Jake likes to run up and down stairs, and that includes escalators. He also knows when we’re close to home, and tries to break free and run home. So, when we got to Broadway, “our” subway station, he wanted to run up the escalator. He pushed out of the carrier, but he had his leash on, so I let him go, trotting after him to keep up.

At the top of the escalator, I stepped off and then immediately heard a squawk. I turned and, to my horror, Jake had his foot caught between the top step and the hole where it goes back underneath. I gasped, “Oh no! HELP!” and for a frantic second, I glanced around wildly for the stop button. I didn’t see it.

Now, I’ve heard those stories of people wearing Crocs getting caught in escalators, and I’ve also heard about how small children are in danger of injury on escalators. I’d always thought that was kind of an urban legend. So when I saw Jake with his foot caught, I immediately thought of those stories, and had a mental image of him getting sucked into the machinery. Since I didn’t see the emergency stop button, I just grabbed his foot and pulled him out.

I saw blood on my hand, and just instantly reacted (I really don’t remember the details). I kept ahold of his foot – I didn’t even look at his injury – and went up the stairs to go to the vet. We live literally just down the street from our vet and take the #9 bus from Broadway station to get there, so in my emergency reactive state, I went to wait for the bus. After waiting maybe a minute, I realised how stupid that was and hailed a cab. Thankfully, a cab stopped almost immediately and took us in. I told him what had happened, promised that I wouldn’t let any blood get on the seat, and assured him that the vet was just up the street about 12 blocks. He turned around to look at Jake…and, miraculously, pulled out a roll of paper towels! He handed me a wad of them, which I gratefully took and held firmly to Jake’s foot.

I was babbling to the cabbie, but I don’t remember Jake making any sound, even when I put pressure on his foot. He just sat quietly on my lap while we drove up the hill to the vet.

They know me pretty well there; having four cats, three purebred, in a neighbourhood of dog owners doesn’t hurt, and I also give them my cat art calendar every year. I’d also been there twice this past week because of Angel’s giardia. So I walked in, and said, “I have an emergency…” and they ushered us straight to the back.

Dr. Waggener wasn’t there, so we were seen by Dr. Horrigan, who I’d never met before, and Sean, one of the vet techs. We went into the surgery and I finally saw how bad Jake’s injury was.

Because of all the blood, I figured he’d at least lost a claw – they bleed a lot if you cut into the quick during normal trimming. But what I was really afraid of was that he’d lost a toe or toes…or part of his foot. I literally had no idea what his foot looked like; for all I knew, he didn’t even have a foot. So when I finally saw it…

He hadn’t lost a claw at all. Just one pad was cut. It was a deep cut, to the tendon – I actually saw it. We debated whether to put him under and stitch it up, or if we should use surgical glue; since he had just eaten, and because I was worried about further trauma caused by removing the stitches later, we opted for the glue.

Here he is being worked on. The hand with the bracelet is mine; I was acting as a sort of extra vet tech during all of this. The only reason I took any photos at all was I had gotten my iPhone out to look up his weight, which I record for all our cats using Pet First Aid, an awesome iPhone App, so we could give him pain medication without having to pick him up to weigh him.

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He was so amazing the entire time in the surgery. He didn’t move, he didn’t struggle, he didn’t cry. Sean kept marvelling at how calm Jake was. And he will be fine, but…it was awful. All that blood, and the sound he made when he was caught…horrific. In my shock, I guess I did everything right and didn’t panic or lose my head; I honestly don’t even remember half of what I did. But I didn’t freak out, or lose it, or panic or cry; I just went into autopilot and did what I needed to. I guess I know how I react in an emergency, now.

(To be continued…)