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When Pets Are Dying (and Have Died), Owners Need Support, Too

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  I have written a bit about the process of pets dying before, along with the ways in which vets can be (or not) helpful. In that post, I shared a book by Barbara Karnes on understanding the pet-dying process, which I had found very helpful and which would have provided me with a fair amount of relief and guidance had I known about while Murjan was still alive. It explained much about his dying process and death that was comforting in retrospect. You can read that post HERE . In this post, I want to share the emotional aspects not only of the dying itself but also of the role of the support community (which should be supportive but in our case was not so, at least not to the extent that we needed and that could have been). As a result, my experience with Murjan's dying days were traumatic--more traumatic than they should have been because of lack of support from the veterinary hospital that should have been my source of support.  As I explained in the earlier post, Murjan had been

When Pets Are Dying: Help in Understanding the Process and the Decisions

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  When my beloved Murjan was dying from cancer , I was desperate for information, but my husband was dying from cancer at the same time, which gave me very little time for seeking out answers. Murjan was almost 19 years old and had been on chemotherapy for three years. His vet did not know how to help him further, but she apparently did not want to admit that -- and subconsciously I did not want to admit that she did not know what to do and had essentially given up on him. I was unable to get timely appointments, or any appointments at all, even in the emergency room. We do not have any vets in town. I have to travel no matter what. Murjan's vet was located an hour north of us. To get help, I contacted other vets. A vet to the west of us recommended hydration, and so we stated hydrating Murjan every other day. His vet to the north allowed as to how that might help. But Murjan kept losing weight. He was down to 5 pounds (from 16 pounds) when he died.  Finally, a vet to the south of

Cat Personalities: Opposite Best Friends Murjan and Intrepid

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  Carl and Murjan sharing a Thanksgiving dinner Gaudete Sunday is coming up--an oasis in Lent, and, like other Sundays, a time we can eat a full meal! If our beloved Murjan were still with us, he would be perching on his chair next to Carl (wish he, too, were still with us, 2021 stole two beloved members of our family), savoring the smells of the fat of the land (well, maybe, of pancakes -- he at those, too), and patiently (yes, he was a patient cat, almost humanly patient) for his share of the feast to be chopped up and presented for his enjoyment. Each of our cats had quite different personalities, but the two that stand in stark contrast to each other are Murjan and Intrepid . They were both born in Jordan, lived with us there, and came to California with us 15 years ago. Both are now on the other side of the rainbow bridge, ravaged by the same kind of cancer, feline lymphoma. Intrepid is interred with his devoted human to whom he was equally devoted, Carl, and Murjan's ashes

Cancer Diary: Pets and Cancer II (They Are Not Immune to the Ravages of the Disease or the Need for Support)

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The cats in the window, Intrepid (tabby-mau mix) and Murjan (red & white Turkish van), were the best of friends. Murjan "raised" Intrepid after he was found as a small kitten crying in the grass after his mother died. Both were born in Jordan and were brought to the USA when we moved back home to California. Both were diagnosed at the same time with lymphoma though the vet said that it was pure coincidence. Intrepid was the younger by four years, but he had the worst case: his kidneys and liver were already damaged when we found out he was sick. Both began chemotherapy in summer of 2018.  Intrepid In October 2018, Intrepid , named for his daredevil approach to life, died. He was only 11 years old. As the days went by and the chemo did little more than make him loopy--actually, it was difficult to know whether the progressing disease was causing him to walk drunkenly or the chemotherapy side effect or both--he ended up on IV at home at times and IV in the pet hospital at t

In Memoriam: Murjan Leaver

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  Murjan went over the rainbow bridge tonight after a valiant three years of fighting lymphoma and with such indomitable spirit that even on Sunday, after his hydration, he jumped down from the chair he was on, certain that he still had the springing power that he has always had. But he fell and landed on his side. Clearly, he hours were numbered.  His last days and hours were so typical of cancer patients. (Check the MSI Press website in a few weeks; there are plans for a cancer resource page for people and animals -- those questions that one can never find an answer to in spite of how much time you spend on Google; the tentative page name is Carlr's Cancer Compendium. And check out the book on cancer by Sula, Parish Cat at Old Mission ) First, the chemotherapy stopped working. Then Murjan lost interest in food, then in drink -- and then his spirit left his body. Just like his owner, MSI Press graphic designer, Carl Leaver, a month earlier. Murjan was born in Jordan and moved to S

An Anniversary Apart: Managing Grief

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  Last Sunday, 3-20-2020, would have been the 52d anniversary for Carl and me had he not died in August. I make this post here and not Cancer Diary, although Carl died from Cancer, because Carl was an important member of the MSI Press staff from its inception in 2003 until the month before he died. He was still working on typesetting tasks on July 23, 2021 when he fell and was admitted to Stanford, then sent home on a very short 10-day hospice.  I am also including it here, on Caturday, because our cats were a very important part of Carl's life. Particularly Intrepid, who lived up to his name yet snuggled with Carl every night and, like Carl, died of cancer three years ago, resulting in a book named after him, and Murjan, shown here, who never know whether he was dog or human but certainly did not consider himself a cat, could be found at Carl's elbow every day, especially at mealtimes. He was a very polite cat and would wait his turn for food, and one could have a fairly long

Feral Cats 2: The Case of Happy Cat

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  This is a series of Caturday posts on the topic of taking in feral cats .  General information (from pervious posts): For a few decades, we have rescued feral cats. In fact, with only one exception, our "domestic" cats have been ferals that we brought inside to join other ferals, already domesticated, as part of a bonded cat family. Right now, we have five cats (alas,  Murjan , the single non-feral cat we had, died from cancer last fall), all of whom get along pretty fabulously. Of course, all of that is easier said than done, and the bonding took time -- lots of it. Here are some of the things we did to create our cat family, some of which is not at all typical of what others have done, but it has worked for us. We don't trap the feral cats at all; we win them over and invite them in. We do this by feeding them a distance from the house and walking away, then moving the dish closer and closer to the house and walking less and less far away, until they are eating at ou

When Vets Scratch Their Heads #2: What is that bare patch?

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  Our white cat Murjan (pictured here) had a very thick fur, but one day a bald spot showed up. and then it grew larger. The vet scratched his head and gave us some salve. But the spot grew even larger. Now, we could see it right off, without even having to look for it through his fur, and the fur around the bald spot pulled out easily making the bald spot even bigger.  We took Murjan to a specialist. The specialist scratched her head and then gave us flea medicine for all the cats. By then, Murjan was not the only balding cat. Two others among the six started showing the same signs. So, the specialist asked us to bring in one of the other cats, too. She was able to pull a larger patch of hair from that cat to analyze -- and sent both samples to a lab. It turned out to be scabies. No one had considered that because these were indoor cats. However, a neighbor's cat had come into the house and spent some time with our cats. That cat was an outdoors cat, and the neighbor did not pay a

Feral Cats 5: Bobolink

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  his is a series of Caturday posts on the topic of taking in  feral cats .  General information (from previous posts): For a few decades, we have rescued feral cats. In fact, with only one exception, our "domestic" cats have been ferals that we brought inside to join other ferals, already domesticated, as part of a bonded cat family. Right now, we have five cats (alas,  Murjan , the single non-feral cat we had, died from cancer last fall, and Intrepid , closely bonded to Murjan, died three years ago from the same kind of cancer), all of whom get along pretty fabulously. Of course, all of that is easier said than done, and the bonding took time -- lots of it. Here are some of the things we did to create our cat family, some of which is not at all typical of what others have done, but it has worked for us. We don't trap the feral cats at all; we win them over and invite them in. We do this by feeding them a distance from the house and walking away, then moving the dish clo

Cancer Diary: Pets and Cancer (They Know)

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Somehow, some way, it appears that animals know a lot more about death (and when it is coming) than we do.  When Murjan was approaching death , in fact, just the day before, he begged to go out on his leash for a walk. That cat always seemed to think he was actually a dog--and how he loved to go for walks! Saturday's walk was very different from his past walks, however. He kept exploring dark places, especially little cave-like areas, as if looking for a place to take a final rest. He never did that before. That spooked me a little because he seemed to be telling me that he was dying--and he was. He passed away within 24 hours of that walk. So, it should not have been surprising that when Carl was dying, he was surrounded by the cats who loved him. They spent all day and all night of that last 24 hours with him--under the footrest, on the footrest, and lying on him. They clearly knew. Check out MSI Press's books on cancer and related to cancer HERE . For more posts on Carl Leav

Feral Cats and MSI Press Staffers (and Authors) Carl and Betty Lou

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 Murjan, born in Jordan, traveled to the USA when he was just a couple of years old. He is the only domestic cat among the six cats, but he quickly established himself as the alpha cat. He sometimes thinks he is human and likes soft and warm sleeping spots. Other times, he is certain he is a dog, likes to be walked on a leash, and rolls over to have his belly rubbed.  Murjan loves to communicate, especially having night time discussions with his human.  He will even listen to and obey little ones.   For many months,  Happy Cat hung out in the bushes, waiting for the other feral cats to finish eating the food that had kindly been set outside. Then, one day he became very ill, climbed the 17 steps to the Leaver front door, where he fell, exhausted. Betty Lou discovered him there, scooped him up, and took him to the vet. Happy Cat had a serious lung infection. Once healed, it was not safe to let him outside. That did not matter because he was delighted to have found a home and will not ve