Monday, April 16, 2012

Cat Trouble

Osito on my lap
These are entries from my journal as I travel the east coast with two cats in a motor home. I am on day 14 of a three-month journey.

Tuesday, 10 April, Skidaway State Park, GA
This is an absolutely beautiful campground. Each site is huge and separated by stands of tall trees and bushy palmettos. My site had to be close to half an acre. Osito was out enjoying nature on his cat run but poor little Brindie was stuck inside the coach. I felt so bad that she, who I had rescued from a campground two years ago where she had free run of the place, was now confined. To add insult to injury, she sat looking out the window enviously at Osito enjoying the outdoors. I decided to try her on her harness one more time. She allowed me to “saddle her up” without objection, but when I carried her outside she began to shiver. I should have quit then, but no. I set her on the ground. She sat still at my feet for a moment then tried to walk away. As soon as she felt the tug of the leash, she went crazy. She was flailing around, literally doing back flips, snarling and growling. In the chaos I dropped the leash and she took off into the woods.

I searched and searched to no avail. I was worried sick that the leash might snag on something and she would be trapped. Although I recalled that most of the times I tried putting her in a harness she pulled a Houdini-like escape maneuver and got free. Not only had she escaped but my cell phone flipped out of my pocket and was lost.

I enlisted the help of my neighboring campers. One woman came over with her phone and kept calling my number but we never heard my phone ring. (It turned out it fell out of my pocket inside the coach, where I found it on the floor next to the sofa. So much for clear recall in a crisis.)

Everyone was very concerned and promised to keep a lookout for Brindie. I spent the next 12 hours searching for her. At 10 PM, I got a call from a couple in a pop-up telling me that they heard a cat cry in the woods behind their site. I thought Brindie may go to them because in the past she has always gone camping with me in a popup. I took a flashlight and searched in the woods, stopping to listen frequently, scraping up my arms and legs, but nothing. I gave up for the night.

Then at 11 PM, I got another call from the popup people wanting to know if Brindie had a white patch on  her chest. There was a cat sitting at the edge of the woods looking at them. Well, Brindie does not have any white fur so I said it wasn’t her.

Thirty minutes later I heard a shy little meow outside my coach. I saw something move underneath. When I shined my flashlight there, I saw Brindie who in that light, actually did appear to have a white patch. I called her, and in a moment, she came to the door, hopped up the steps, looked at her food bowl, and demanded to be fed. There was no trace of the harness or leash. Which is fine, because I’m never trying that foolishness again.

Sunday, 15 April. Sawmill Camping Resort, FL
I took Osito for a walk on his leash this afternoon. He walked beautifully along the trail through the woods, up to the pond, and around one side of the pond. I marveled at how good he is at walking, just like a dog. Well, maybe a little slower and with a lot more stops for sniffing. As we returned by one of the campground driveways something spooked him and he went berserk  -- thrashing around at the end of the leash, spitting and growling, desperately trying to get away. I tried my best to restrain him, not certain that he would find his way back to the coach if he got loose. (Why do I always make the same mistakes?) In the ensuing struggle he scratched me up pretty good and apparently bit my hand. He cowered up against a stone railing where he continued to spit at me. He was panting heavily, actually gasping for air. The harness strap under his belly had come undone but the neck strap was still holding him.

I moved closer to him and sat down trying to talk to him in soft, comforting tones. He didn’t run away but he did hiss at me a few more times. Eventually he seemed settled enough that I could try to fasten the other harness strap and to my relief he allowed me to do so. I waited a while longer, all the time praising him in as calming a manner as I knew. When he seemed approachable, I picked him up, still gasping, but he allowed me to carry him back to the camper. As soon as we were inside, he flopped on the floor, still hyperventilating, while I washed the blood from my arms and hands and bandaged myself up.

Still feeling sick from earlier in the day, I lay down on the bed for a while. I was awakened by Osito, who had jumped up on the bed and was nuzzling my face. All was forgotten and back to normal. Forgotten by him, that is. The puncture wound on my hand was throbbing with pain and half of my hand was swollen into a big puffy mess.

I worried that the wound was infected. Once before when I was bitten by a cat I ended up staying for 5 nights in the hospital on an intravenous antibiotic drip while the hand surgeon puzzled over my x-rays trying to determine if my hand would have to be amputated. (It wasn’t.)

What would I do if this bite required hospitalization ? I had no transportation other than the motorhome and how would I care for Osito and Brindie while I was in hospital? I decided to monitor the situation closely and make a decision the next day.

Monday, 16 April, Sawmill Camping Resort.
Had a rough night. The pain in my hand kept waking me up even though I was popping two Ibuprofen  every couple of hours. I also felt physically sick, something that may or may not have been related to the bite. There was something even more troubling. A red trace had developed from the wound site up the back of my forearm all the way to the elbow. I knew what that meant. Infection, big time.

Still, it was laundry day and I managed to do three loads while I puzzled what to do. I asked at the office for the location of the nearest medical facility and information on taxi service. The man at the counter called a clinic about 12 miles away and told them I was coming. As I walked back to the coach, Chuck, a man I just met in the laundry, asked what I had decided to do. I told him I was going to the clinic and that I was calling a taxi to come collect me.

“Oh, don’t do that,” he said. “I’ll drive you there.”

I really didn’t want to impose on anybody but he insisted.

“I’m retired,” he explained. “I have nothing better to do and all day to do it. Besides, we all look out for each other here.”

So with that, he drove me to the clinic, waited there for me, then drove me to the pharmacy and finally back to the campground. What a saint. I invited him to dinner the next night.

The nurse practitioner who saw me verified that I had a serious infection and that it was a good thing I had come so soon. She gave me a tetanus shot in the arm, and a penicillin shot in the butt, and a prescription for antibiotics. She felt certain that I wouldn’t need hospitalization this time. Thank heavens for that.