3-15-2010 Sad update--please read the paragraph at the end.
The Pioneer Woman had a cat photo assignment recently and I felt like submitting a photo of my Athena, but when I found out it would require signing up for a Flickr account which in itself required opening/having a yahoo e-mail address, I decided it would be easier to post Athena's picture here! Fewer people will see it, but that's OK with me!
I love this picture of her. Look at those eyes!
I thought you also might like to hear Athena's story. She was born in Washington state (I'm guessing) in the summer of 1999. She had just weaned what was probably her first litter of kittens when she came to live with me. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
My previous cat had been a beautiful Himalayan with the coloring of a Siamese. Puff had the silkiest of fur and the most gorgeous blue eyes. But at 13 years of age, she started getting sick--kidney failure--and I finally had to put her down, which broke my heart! It was December 1999,when one of my homestay students dug a hole for me in the frozen soil under the deck and we laid Puff to rest. I put a paver to mark her grave and when spring came I planted primroses over her grave. Then I vowed I would never own any more pets.
But one day in May of 2000, Barbara, one of my dear friends who lives out in the country about an hour north of me, called and begged me to take a stray cat who had taken over her carport. Putting two and two together, Barbara guessed that someone had gotten this cat as a cute kitten, but when she ended up pregnant, they no longer wanted her and dumped her along side the road. She'd had her kittens in the woods, and then being a smart mother, knew she was going to need to find food for herself in order to sustain her little ones, so she went foraging and found a 'gold mine' in Barbara's carport--a big dish of cat food that she soon commandeered for herself, and a place for a new nest for her kittens where she brought them one by one. Then she posted "keep out" signs around the whole carport and wouldn't let Barbara's cats even come near their own food dishes! What audacity!
"As soon as she weans her kittens, please take her," Barbara begged me. "She is terrorizing my cats and I can't keep her!"
I didn't want another cat, but I couldn't say no to my dear friend. So a few weeks later, one of my homestay students and I went to Barbara's home to pick up this unwanted cat.
"What shall we name her?" I asked him on the way home.
"How about Athena," he said. "I think Athena means the goddess of love."
However, we soon found out that Athena's temperament was anything but loving! She was small for her age, and she was feisty! After looking up her name on the Internet, I found out Athena was the Greek goddess of war! So my Athena had been aptly named after all!
Now fast forward to today. Athena is 11 years old. She is still stubborn, still rules the roost and sometimes drives me crazy! For example, she insists on eating her wet cat food with her right paw (she refuses to eat dry food!). She scoops it out of the dish, and brings it to her mouth. When she's through, she does several quick flicks of the wrist to get the remaining food off her paw, then walks away leaving gravy footprints across the hardwood floor onto the area rug where she finally sits down to clean her paw. There is always a big mess around her dish and little flecks of gravy in a 6 foot radius--on the glass patio doors, on the front of the refrigerator, on the basket holding the potted Chinese money tree, on the bar stools.....
So, last summer I moved her downstairs to my home office just off the back of the garage. It is nice and warm in my office. It has a large window with a sunny southern exposure. She preferred to be upstairs in my bedroom, but she eventually adapted. Now the kitchen stays clean, but my office has become crowded with cat bed, cat toys, litter box, food and water dishes, and of course the perpetual mess around her dish.
So, last week I finally got the brainy idea to have my nephew, Josh, install a cat door in my office door, a high shelf at one end of my office for her bed, and a permanent shelf under the window. I figured that should make both of us happy. She could sleep in her comfy bed up on the shelf, or she could sit by the window and watch the goings on outside. Or, she could exit through the cat door into the garage to eat and poop. Finally, my office would stay clean and Athena's mess would stay in the garage. A win-win solution for sure!
Athena hated the cat door--refused to have anything to do with it! When I tried to teach her to use her head to push the plastic flap open, she braced her paws against the sides of the door and wouldn't budge. So I pushed her through the door into the garage. She ran and hid, and no amount of calling would entice her to come out.
The next day I noticed she was limping. Oh, no! What had I done? Guilt and remorse washed over me like a quick drenching rainstorm. I took her to the vet who examined her but couldn't feel any broken or misplaced bones, so she prescribed a low dose of pain medicine. But when Athena didn't get better and refused to eat for 3 days, I took her back. The vet took x-rays and did blood work. No broken bones, nothing out of joint, her thyroid, kidneys lungs and heart were fine. But there was indication of soft tissue inflammation in her right elbow. The vet ordered complete bed rest. Very little walking, absolutely no jumping and no going outside! She wanted her confined to a cage for two weeks--a soft-sided cage so she wouldn't try to get out--where she had her food, bed and litter box close by.
So that's where she is today--in her hospital bed back in my bedroom so I can keep an eye on her. Athena is happy with this arrangement and she's loving all the pampering. Maybe it's my imagination, but she seems to be milking this for all it's worth!
She's a smart one, my Athena!
UPDATE: Yesterday Athena wouldn't eat or drink anything. She was also walking with even more difficulty. But now it was her right hind leg giving her problems. So back to the vet we went again today. What they were seeing now, they said, was not a soft tissue injury at all. They are pretty sure she has cancer--and it's affecting the nerves on her entire right side--the nerve impulses aren't able to connect between her brain and her leg muscles, so when she tries to walk, the right side won't coordinate/cooperate with her left side. I think it's just a matter of time now. They hydrated her and gave her a steroid injection. That did improve her appetite and she ate a can of food tonight. She's sleeping in her favorite spot in my office right now while I'm on the computer. I'll take her back upstairs to my bedroom when I go to bed. I'm praying that God will take her quickly so she doesn't have to suffer through a lot of pain. My emotions are too raw right now to put her down. But if I sense she is in a lot of pain, I'll have to. As you can imagine, things are kinda hard for me right now!