Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bart - 1994-2008

Bart is gone.

The dates above were probably already set in stone due to his kidney disease, it was just a question of how long into the year he would make it.

Bart's been basically a member of our family since July 1994. We figured he was about 5 weeks old. Tiny little thing. Could fit in your palm, and about half of him was head.

He came as a package deal with Theo, who was 4 or so at the time. We got them at the Humane Society after our first cat was hit by a car. Brian picked Bart out, and Vicki couldn't stand to leave Theo there and asked if we could get them both.

Neither of us were ever particularly cat people.

But, you know, they grow on you.

Theo developed diabetes several years back, and we gave him two insulin shots a day for at least 4 years. At $60 a month and kind of being tied to the house ... it was a greater length than I ever thought I'd go to for a pet.

They went through that period where they decided that the litter box was optional and ruined carpeting downstairs ... and we went to lengths to stop them from that. Used everything from tinfoil to citrus and hormone sprays to the famous Catscram (still a major source of google search hits on my blog). Theo got broken of the habit. They both did at first but Bart had his lapses.

Theo's illness eventually caught up to him and we had him put down. I probably let him suffer far longer than I should have ... almost a good 12 hours. He was practically dead in the morning when I found him, and was still breathing that evening when we took him in to have him put down. And we still lost it when they gave him the shot. There was no question he was dead and had zero chance of coming back... and still...

So if you've been following along in your reader you know that Bart stopped eating late November 2007. Took him in, and he was diagnosed with kidney "failure" -- or "kidneys that don't work very well anymore but can be helped along with some simple procedures for a while".

At the time, Vicki's mother was staying with us getting over a severe illness of her own, and Bart was a great comfort and companion to her. There was no way I wanted him to die while she was still staying with us -- partly because of that and partly because she was already discouraged enough about her state of health ... having her companion in sickness die before she was over it probably wouldn't have been excactly encouraging.

We gave him periodic appetite stimulants and subcutaneous iv fluids. He started eating again, gained a little weight back (he'd already lost half his body weight) and acted fairly normal most of the time except that he was constantly drinking water. Constantly.

And then we had this episode Monday and yesterday where he could no longer pee. Took him in. He had blockage. The vet drained it and we left him there last night. It was apparently blood, probably from a bladder infection. But he was up and eating this morning and we thought things looked pretty good.

However, we had been warned of a possible "rebound" effect on his kidneys where the back pressure from his bladder may have further damaged them. And he started spiraling downward I guess late this morning. Got a call from the vet about 1:00 this afternoon. She gave me three choices, but I could tell which one she was leaning toward.

I had to call Vicki - mostly to buy time for me to think, but also to let her know what was going on. Then I talked to Jennifer a bit (she had a cat die from CRF as well... she had to put him down). And then I went next door to Linda's cube and talked to her and Jeff ... still buying time. And I called Dr. Stormer back and made sure I understood the nature of what was happening in his system and his real chances of recovery. Due to his age and the fact that his kidneys were already bad ... the prognosis wasn't good.

I was already breaking up before I got the words out to tell her to go ahead with it. Not real manly of me.

It's not really so much the knowing he's dead and gone, though of course that's a part of it. What really bugs me is the playing God part. Where you make the decision for another being that you know and have become attached to.... "I have decided that you will no longer have a chance to pull out of this. You're done."

Even when you know you were probably right ... it's that little nagging doubt.

Either way, it's over now. We decided several years ago that Bart would probably be our last pet. I don't feel any different about it now.

Still, all in all you can probably tell that I liked the little guy. I enjoyed having him around. He suplied a lot of mirth, comfort, warmth on your lap on a cold winter day. Annoying as he could be as he'd get in the way of whatever it was you were reading, or is exceptionally loud licking noises he made when he was bathing.... all in all we kept him around because we liked having him around.

Bye bye, Bartman.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another Bart Update

Bart was doing pretty well. Eating, drinking, acting pretty normal.

He hid a lot over the weekend. He's always been nervous around kids and crowds. We had both over the weekend.

Sunday night we noticed he wasn't eating ... or drinking. Monday Vicki noticed that he would go in toward the litter box, look at it, or sometimes go in, do nothing, and come back out and lay down. He was obviously distressed. I kind of half thought he'd likely die overnight.

This morning he was still alive. About the same, really. I gave him yet another dose of fluid. And made an appointment at the vet. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for it to be "The Last" vet appointment, if you know what I mean.

Well, he has urninary tract blockage. Bladder the size of a lemon. (probably wasn't happy about the 40 cc's of IV fluid he got in 12 hours!) He needed to be catheterized. So I left him there overnight. We'll see how he is tomorrow.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Double Walkabout Weekend

The Groves came for the weekend -- we hadn't seen them since... Irish Fest, I guess.

Nothing special was planned. I had talked about the possibility of taking the kids on walkabout, but Saturday was to be very cold. Still, we knew Q needed to get out of the house and run some energy off at some point. Ryan wanted to go this weekend as well, but because of the uncertainty of us going Saturday, we scheduled that one for Monday.

It was 12 degrees when Mark, the kids, and I left for Cedar Creek. Q had said "Nothing can keep me from going on walkabout!" And Cassie was on board when she heard about the hotdogs.

We hiked down to "Gilligan's Island" and did the traditional fire-starting... this time with the sun and a magnifying glass. The kids were tasked with gathering some wood and fashioning their own hotdog-roasting sticks. We roasted some dogs, ate them. Watched the kids throw rocks in the creek. They never complained, and seemed to have a great time. Just a few hours.

We went home for dinner. Brian and Kristin came over, and Brian made Cassie's day, weekend, even, by playing "Teen Titans" with her. Cami & Vicki played Farkle. Very nice evening.

Sunday we did breakfast burritos, which Brian & Kristin returned for (and more Teen Titans was played), and after everyone left Vicki and I pretty much veged out. Well, Vicki points out that she stripped the beds and did laundry as well. She does a lot of laundry. It's hard living with Pig Pen, I guess ;-)

This morning after a dentist appointment, Ryan and I hiked to "The New Spot" from our respective sides of the National Forest. Ryan had a new toy ... a packable grill that all fits in a tube, and that tube is a part of the grill. Pretty amazing.

It sleeted most of the afternoon, but of course we kinda like that. We talked about lots of stuff, of course, including the accident that could have killed Kristie on Saturday ... something got stuck in her Ford Escape ... the accellerator and/or transmission. She pressed the "+" button on the cruise control and the car just took off. Brakes couldn't slow it down to anything below 60. She tried putting it in neutral, reverse, & even Park. She tried slowing it down by going up an off ramp, only to jump the street and back on to the on ramp, where she finally lost control and rolled it. Not a scratch on her, even though the airbags didn't deploy. She's sore. The car is totaled, and only the part of the top over the driver's seat wasn't crushed. She said there was glass and dirt and grass everywhere, including in her mouth.

So the rest of us had a great weekend, anyway, even if Kristie didn't. But at least she's alive, and apparently unharmed.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Drove out to my parents' house for our family's Christmas get-together today, and we were treated to this sight about a mile or so from their house. A bird took off from the middle of the road where it had been feeding on a dead possum, and as it flew up 20 or so yards in front of the car, I saw the distinctive white tail, dark body, and majestic wingspan.

Is that a bald eagle??? I have never, to my knowledge, seen one in the wild. If I have it was certainly not this close. I didn't even think we had any here. I quickly pulled the car to the side of the road and hauled out my ever-present camera.

He wasn't going anywhere. He had a guaranteed meal to finish and he wasn't about to leave it. He waited high in a tree for me to move on, and I'm sure he went right back to it after we left.

No wonder we picked this bird as our national symbol. Wow.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Winding Down

We took the Christmas decorations down Saturday, a day early this year. It's always a little sad for me, and the house looks so... bare. But it's also symbolic of a fresh start for the new year.

Speaking of fresh starts, Friday evening I'd come home and tried to update this blog, only to find the computer was dead. I'm pretty sure it is a bad power supply. But it really was about time for a new one, so I went out Saturday and spent about $200 more than I'd hoped to but got a nice Gateway GT5622. It has Windows Vista on it, which is going to take some getting used to. I've been in IT for a while and I know my way around Windows pretty well, but Vista does some things differently.

Ironically, earlier friday I had finally fixed a problem on my Palm Pilot... but in the process accidentally wiped out the memo in there that had all of my software license info in it. Now I have other sources for most of it, but it's a pain tracking it all down. That was a dumb move.

Sunday we finally went to see "Enchanted", which was hilarious as advertised. Amy Adams, besides being terribly cute, played the part of the fairytale princess with such a super honey-dripping, over-the-top innocence and sweetness -- I thought it absolutely made the movie. Without her performance, it would have been just an ok comedy. Plus the whole "cleaning up the apartment with New York animal friends" song/scene would've made me fall out of my seat if there were somewhere to fall besides a grody movie theater floor. We really enjoyed it.

So I'm still getting my software re-installed on this computer, and Ryan has a power supply I can try on the other machine. If it works, it will make a nice MP3 machine.

I also got a super-duper Universal Remote that can be programmed to do everything you need to do something, like, say, watch a DVD. It turns on the TV, sets it to the input for the DVD player, turns on the DVD player, and the amplifer, and the remote handles all three. Same with the Satellite tuner or just the TV antenna. Vicki was getting frustrated juggling remotes and remembering which input to go to and having to use a separate remote just for the volume. No more!

It got really warm for a couple of days, around 70 degrees, followed by a strong cold front last night which triggered afternoon supercells out ahead of it. We had a tornado warning around 4:00 yesterday, but nothing got anywhere near us but heavy rain and hail.

Bart is still alive, having ups and downs. Looks like it's important to keep him hydrated with the Ringers Lactated USP IV fluid, but the vet charges $29 a bag. I found some on the web for $2.95 + shipping = ~ $4.50 a (liter) bag. So for $27.50 I'm good for at least a couple of months and we'll re-evaluate how we think he's doing and how we think we're doing and how much we want to deal with it.

We'll take Mom (Krick) back to Fort Wayne soon and see how well she does on her own. Plus this weekend is the Leith Christmas out at Mom & Dad's.

And the following weekend, I think we're expecting a visit from the Groves.

Maybe things will settle down after that.


Yes, Christmas happened. And you didn't hear anything about it here, as ... well there was a lot going on.

Mom (Krick) got a second infection the 16th, and after it didn't go away for a week. So she and Vicki went doctor shopping on Christmas Eve and ended up in the UMH emergency room. They did a culture to figure out excactly what it was and in the mean time put her on another antibiotic. But she was on a liquid diet for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It was pretty much a White Christmas due to the snow & sleet leftover from the walkabout weekend. Brian & Kristin came for Christmas Eve dinner, the traditional Oyster Stew and Cinnamon Pears. It's an Adams (Mom Krick's maiden name) tradition, and I was quite happy to adopt it when I married into the family. Kevin came after dinner and stayed the night.

Christmas morning they came back and we opened the presents. Vicki got me the coolest watch and the first 26 years of "The Complete Peanuts" -- 8 hard back volumes, 1950-1966. Peanuts was always such a big influence on my two younger brothers and myself. I got Vicki a coat, some silver chains, and the all-important movies, movies, movies. She loves movies. Mom gave us some money which I used to pay for my 0 degree down sleeping bag. Kevin & Angela got me a bourbon sampler from Knob Creek and a thumb-drive card reader. And Brian and Kristin gave me a gift card to Bass Pro which turned into a Nite Eyz intelli-switch and LED conversion kit for my Mini Maglite. Our big surprise for Kristin was a video camera which she wanted mainly for the baby. The grandchild. Who will be here in April.

Vicki's cousin Jim and his wife Carol came out from Las Vegas to visit some friends in Illinois and drove here Saturday after Christmas and stayed the night. We always have a good time with them. I'd love to have their house out in the Nevada mountains. We cooked up a pot of home made spaghetti sauce. I've been making it since I was a teenager, but we hadn't made it in quite some time. I think the "recipe" came from the Leith side of the family, probably from Aunt Pat. It's not really so much a recipe as a method. This time I actually added small yellow and zuchinni squash to it, which added color and texture and... since you cook it all day long, it pretty much took on the flavor of the rest of the sauce.

Tom and Betty are also taking care of Betty's mom due to illness this holiday season, so we called off the annual bro-fest on New Years Eve. So Brian and Kristin came over to watch bowl games on New Years Eve. We managed to stay up to midnight, but we had people coming over for the REAL bowl game on New Years Day -- but for breakfast first. So we didn't stay up long after midnight.

We watched Mizzou in the Cotton Bowl and they were impressive, beating Arkansas handily. And we proceeded to watch the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. I watched more football in two days than I've probably watched in the last 2 years. I was pretty much footballed out.

I did manage to catch the Kansas game, since they are Mizzou's archrival -- and I hate to admit it but you gotta hand it to Kansas. They played an impressive game against Virginia Tech -- who should have beaten them (I think there were some questionable coaching decisions) -- but even so, Kansas proved they could play with the big boys.

Plus it's good for the Big 12, which is good for Missouri.

And that about wrapps up the holidays.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Winter Solstice Walkabout

Well, we did it.

Dec 22, Ryan and I struck out into Cedar Creek National Forest on a day we expected 40 degrees and rain all day. Changing to sleet and freezing rain and snow in the evening. Down to 20 degrees by morning.

Well we caught a break. For our hike in it was around 60 degrees. The worst thing about it was it was muddy. Deep, slippery mud that clung to our boots like some sort of peanut butter/pudding concoction that was lonely for boot companionship.

At about 12:20 pm, under an hour after we got to the site, without the slightest gust of wind, the temperature seemed to instantly drop about 5 degrees. Sure enough, the light breeze had shifted to the northwest. Still (thankfully) not a drop of rain.

We put up the tents and the canopy that Ryan had fashioned from a Wal-Mart kids tent he had cut the bottom out of. We suspended it between two trees and two stakes in the ground a few feet in front of the fire pit, and then set about gathering wood and filtering water from the seep at the bottom of the bluff. Boiled up the traditional dogs and it started to rain by 3:30.

It was wet. We spent a lot of time sitting under the canopy, feeding the fire and preparing for darkness - getting organized so things wouldn't get lost in the sleet and so that going to bed would be uncomplicated (keeping mud and snow out of the sleeping spaces, mainly).

It was 37 degrees by 6:00 and, being the Winter Solstice, also very dark. By 8:00 we had rain, freezing rain, and ice pellets, which quickly changed to snow-pellet sleet and then snow. Once the liquid precipitation stopped we were free to wander around the camp at will. My drover coat was completely wet and parts of it had frozen stiff. Still, water hadn't gotten through it and I was warm and dry underneath. We had rain pants which we left on as wind breakers, and we cooked up some jambalaya for dinner around 9:00. We used ice pellets to wash the dishes. We kept the fire roaring with a little help from a stiff northwesterly breeze.

We stayed up with our flasks, some quiet Christmas music on the MP3 player while it snowed, and went to bed around 1:00.

My new Campmor 0 degree rectangular down sleeping bag worked quite well -- I just wore E.C.W.C.S. long underwear with the head covering and wool socks and I was never cold. I slept well in my Swiss Gear Hiker tent (in which I had installed a couple of curtains since it really isn't designed for winter. Ryan apparently did as well in his Eureka Solitaire. Probably warmer in there since it is smaller.... but ... it's also .... smaller.

I woke up to a thin layer of frost on the inside of the tent from condensation and the temperature inside was 25 degrees. Outside there were about 2" of snow and sleet and it was 20 degrees.

We broke down camp and hiked the 2.5 miles out over the now snow-covered mud, and drove home over icy roads. I dropped Ryan off around noon and headed home for a shower... and a nap.

Why? Why would we do this?

To prove to ourselves we can. To get outside of our comfort zone to put life in perspective. To see bare trees in the snow in the faint moonlight that filtered through the thick clouds. To feel cold wind and sleet on our faces and feel the satisfaction of having to work to stay comfortable -- and succeeding. To push ourselves. To learn about the world around us without looking through a TV screen. To touch it and to be a part of it.