Bus stories: For Limpy

Bear and Socks, circa 2011

The vet tripped over herself with joy on our voicemail today -- she managed to discuss his case with the internist and the medicated food rep, and now she has excellent news she can't wait to share with us!

Internet, if only you knew what Bear has been through.

The Life and Times of Awesome Bear, a.k.a. Limpy

Bear was born in a barn that, eleven years ago, housed dozens of cats, many rescued from the road where owners left them. Bear developed an eye infection at an early age and suffered minor corneal scarring. This same infection afflicted most of the other cats born in the barn, and it cost most of them the use of part or all their sight in the affected eye. For the same reason, the barn owner and my parents' beloved neighbour George, eventually decided to spay and neuter everyone in the barn. In 2 decades, no treatment had ever stopped the mysterious disease, and so the last resort became the only one.

But in those days, George thought that maybe if he raised Bear and his half-brother Socks (who was also sick) in his own house, they might escape the worst of the disease. The gamble paid off in their cases. The downside was that George's daughter was terribly allergic to cats, and so the only home he could make for them was in his unfinished, dark basement.

And there they lived for five years until I came along.

Bear is a lovable cat. He's called Bear because he sits up on his hind legs. He lies down for anyone, and chooses caresses over food. He forgives my brutal 2-year-old anything. He has also limped, almost from birth, and suffered from arthritis in both hindquarters.

Out of curiosity, my previous vet examined Bear closely, and discovered via x-ray that both of his back hips are essentially snapped in two at their growth plates. It's a rare condition having to do with the age he was neutered, among other things. (Lesson: don't neuter too early, or your animal might not develop properly.)  Instead of rotating in their sockets, the balls of his thigh bones have fused to their sockets, and his hip "joints" occur at the breaks in the bones.

Yes, it is painful. He walks on broken legs. It's an amazing testimony to the ability of the body to adapt.

We treated the arthritis for years with a powerful drug. Eventually, it caused kidney failure, and Bear almost died. After his week in hospital, we fed him medicated foods he hated, and subjected him to thrice weekly top-ups of fluid subcutaneously (under the skin). He got thin, and we were never able, despite repeated lessons and recourse to the Internet, to do it well. Much cat and human crying was involved. A year passed, and finding good spots among the scar tissue to give him his fluids became next to impossible. We gave up for almost two months.

Then he started vomiting again. Actually, our current vet said, he looks better than last time I saw him. He's gained some weight. So let's do another blood panel, I said, so she wouldn't have to ask me if she could do one (they cost a few hundred bucks). And then I gathered up my courage and asked her for another lesson in giving fluids. Her and the vet tech stayed late at the hospital showing me yet another goddamned time the good places for the needle, the good ways to hold him, and so on.

I have talked across my cat's slim gray back to this woman, whom I adore, so many times since last spring. Every time, her message is, we're doing a great job. But this isn't going away. Kidney disease is usually for life. To make his life as long as possible, let's try this. Or this.

But now she says she has excellent news. She can barely keep herself from spilling it on the machine. What are you going to tell Bear, Doctor?

***Thursday Update***

I spoke with Bear's vet today and received overwhelming news. He is completely, unexpectedly well. No more medicines. No more pokes with needles. His kidney disease is gone. Presumably, his life expectancy is back to normal. He's free.

I'm just ... Wow.

Dr Wara, thank you.