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CAREGIVING: Our animal companions teach us

Posted Jun 23 2009 11:10am
Here at, we often write about caring for humans. As I've so often said: Once a caregiver, always a caregiver. At least, that's the way it has worked out for me.


This week's posting will be about Narenge, an orange tabby that adopted my husband, David, and me six years ago.


One year after making weekly visits to have his wounds treated with peroxide, I asked David: Why don't we get him fixed?


Crossing his legs (in empathy), David exclaimed, "We don't want to get him fixed; he's not our cat!"

Eventually, David relented. We think a family moved and left their cat behind. Narenge made his way into our lives with our two other aging cats (who went to Rainbow Heaven at ages 19 and 20.)


Scheduled for surgery, Narenge's blood tests showed he carried the Feline AIDS virus. Later, we learned he also had Feline Leukemia. Five years later, we came upon another discovery. Brushing his teeth one afternoon, I noticed his lower right canine (is it called a canine if the tooth belongs to a cat?) had an abscess at the gum line. David took him to the veterinarian only to learn that our kitty has a rare disorder where the body attacks a tooth.


Yesterday, David took him in for dental surgery to have his lower right canine was extracted. And the vet explained that it's very difficult to extract a lower tooth from a cat without fracturing the jaw. So now our baby has a wire holding his lower jaw together for 3 to 4 weeks.


Right now, he's miserable. He's on pain meds and antibiotics. He doesn't want to be handled, but he does remain at the top of the stairs to make sure he's aware of what's going on...a good sign, considering our typically very social kitty could be hiding under the bed!


Sigh...I sometimes wonder: How different are our animal companions' conditions are from our loved ones with dementing diseases like Alzheimer's. My father had difficulty communicating his pain and suffering. So does Narenge.


It is up to us, the caregiver, to sense the minute changes in our loved ones' conditions and to advocate for their proper care. In our case, the veterinarian moved around the surgery schedule to accommodate our kitty's urgent need.


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