What’s it like to be a survivor? When life is grand, I guess one could say it’s OK. But when life is bleh, one questions why? Why did I survive? Why did I survive to live this life? Why must I suffer over and over? What is the point? I don’t understand. But it’s not up to me. Thy will be done. It’s up to my Creator.
I wrote the following on January 1995. I actually wrote it for a creative writing class I was taking in college…
Her eyes of emerald, brown and specks of gold reminded me of a forest with the sun peeking through. But there was something else about those eyes… they seemed to look right through me, like a laser beam burning a hole deep inside, but there was no pain! I knew she was concentrating on something for her teeth were clenched down on her lower lip.
Her eyes clouded over like the skies do just before it rains… I wanted to say something, anything, but the words froze in my mind. What would I say? What could I say? I was at a loss. She just stood there and stared. Her eyes began to mist with collected tears, and I thought of the ocean… her eyes were like little wells for no tears cascaded over her freckled cheeks.
I was puzzled, confused, dazed. Why wouldn’t she let the tears come? Tears help loosen the pain, but she didn’t budge. She reached into her purse. I thought shewould pull out a tissue,but she did not. She pulled out sunglasses and covered her eyes. I was embarrassed for not saying anything, so I shrugged and walked away.
She collided with the devil on November 11, 1988. He appeared as an angel, but not now. He stole six hours of her precious life that she would have thrown away before that Friday. Her eyes witnessed the entire event, but not her. She was not there. She soared through the heavens with the almighty Father, thinking of her family, friends, pets, and memories. Memories, she might not ever live again.
A sad day, true, but for her, it was the longest day. A day she still remembers vividly, although six years have passed. She touches her throat, and the tears start to build, but can she let them run their path? She fights to hold them backand does not even utter a sob. Tears equal death. That’s what has been imprinted on her soul. She feels the cold tip of the knife that rested on her innocent flesh. The tears… silent tears of pain… the tears that only come at night… forever at night.
Rape. The word sounded so harsh, butnot as harsh as what it felt like to be humiliated, boundaries crossed, purity lost, an innocent, forgiving, and trustworthy child she was. Naive to believe that anything so mean could deceive her and leave her to bleed. Physical pain? No! Mentalpain? Yes! It’s as though the insides of her body have been ripped out, into the open, allowing the world to see her… see her for the fool she was. Vultures devouring her flesh, her mind, her heart, her soul.
Humiliation. Pride gone. Love wasted. Life – what was it? Do unto others as you would want done unto you, honesty, truthfulness– all just a dream… it wasn’t real! Shadows of skeletons buried deep come out to haunt her… Life as she knew it, taken away from her so shamelessly. Forgive and forget is what she was taught, but how do you let someone who stole a part of you so sacred and true walk away?
Flashbacks. Nightmares. Knives turning in the silver light. Black clouds. Twisting heads, whisper…whispering. Shadows moving, look around, no one there. No one! Lost… Body and mind severed… Escape! Flying high and feeling, just pain!
In memory of Friday, November 11, 1988 from 5:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.
Eight nights ago on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, I evacuated my two cats from my friends’ RV in Boulder Creek. I had been living there up until January 2020 when they let me know that I would need to move out, but my cats could stay.
Sadly, yesterday, I brought Blur into a veterinary hospital to have her euthanized. This last week with her, I noticed that her liver cancer was definitely worse. She had a voracious appetite, but the food ran right through her. She was starving. 🙁 I know I did the right thing, and if I had thousands of dollars, I would have spent them all on her when she first had a problem. Would she have wanted to be poked and prodded? No. Is she an easy cat to pill? No. As far as all of my cats go (past and present), she is by far the worst of them all – not wanting to be poked, pilled, or anything of the like. So, in the end, I think I did the best I could have done for her.
Now, I need to get my other cat to eat. Living in a 4runner isn’t easy, but I know that has nothing to do with the reason Aby is not eating. It takes her time to adjust to any new place. We’ve moved around quite a bit since our home burned up in the Bear Fire three years ago. Aby is very slow to adjust to anything new. At the boarding facility three years ago, I had to go over there everyday to coax her to eat, while looking for my lost cat, looking for housing, etc.
When we moved to Bakersfield, it was the same thing with Aby – it took her a few weeks to get adjusted. Then we had to move to Taft. Then to the RV, and now into my 4runner.
I just offered her canned chicken in water, and she won’t eat that either. She ate a few bites of Friskies pate mixed grill last night, but she won’t eat her normal ‘shreds’, or even her dry. Sigh. 😔
It’s surreal when you find out you’ve lost your house, your home. Yes, it’s stuff – some is replaceable, some is not. Memories were made there, those we can take with us. Everything else is left behind. It’s a painful and heartbreaking loss.
When you first find out that your house is gone – you think back to what you wish you grabbed. But you have to remember that you only had so much time to evacuate. When you’re evacuating, you’re not in your right frame of mind – you’re only thinking of what you need – which is what you should be thinking. Evacuating is a life/death situation, not a “let’s think about everything I want to take on my vacation sort of thing.”
Whatever you do, don’t play the, “I should have grabbed…” game. You grabbed what you felt was necessary. Period. You did the best you could under your present circumstances. If you didn’t go back to your house to grab this, that, or whatever – don’t beat yourself up; you stayed out of the danger zone. (During the Bear Fire of 2017, I would have gone back for my cat if I could have, but there were road blocks.)
The most important thing to remember is that you did the best you could. You saved yourself. A life is worth way more than any amount of stuff – replaceable, or not. Don’t believe me? What if you had gone back for those photos you forgot? And then your house or someone else’s house or the road caught on fire, and you couldn’t get out? Those photos are not worth your life! Nothing is worth your life! NOTHING!
Your house is gone. You scream, you cry. Your heart is shattered. How am I going to pick up the pieces? How am I going to survive this? Where am I going to live? What am I going to do? Oh my God. OH MY GOD! Your head is in your hands, you’re crying again. People tell you they’re sorry. They say hang in there, they offer encouragement – your house is gone! GONE! You’re crying and screaming again, wondering what you could have done differently. You may scream at God, asking Him, “Why?” “Why me?”
I know it seems like you’re not going to get through this, but you will. You are going to get through this. Repeat after me: “I’m going to get through this.” Now, breathe. Take a long deep breath in and hold it for 3 seconds and exhale. Repeat if needed. Scream if needed. Cry if needed. Pray if needed. You will get through this.
This is the grieving process. It’s going to take awhile to go through this. You’re going to be very tired. You haven’t slept. Your eyes are red and puffy. Your exhausted, but you cannot sleep. You keep having flashbacks, nightmares. This is normal.
Share your thoughts, your pain, your heart, your loss. Write it down. Post pictures. Some people may criticize you and tell you that you shouldn’t live in the past, or you cannot rewrite history. They don’t know that you are doing this to grieve. Ignore them. Do whatever you have to do to get by.
When the fires are contained, and the word is given – then you can go back and sift through the ashes that was once your home. You need to wear the correct mask though and because of this pandemic, those are harder to find. You also need to wear gloves. Why, you ask? Because whatever was in your house and in the surrounding area are those ashes. It’s not just from trees. It’s chemicals, plastics, hazardous materials that you don’t want to come into contact with. If you wouldn’t touch Drano or battery acid with your bare hands, then don’t touch these ashes. (This is the mistake I made.)
You will prevail. I have confidence in you. We are survivors.
It is very expensive to rebuild your life after a fire – please don’t make the mistake I made. Plan wisely. Make sure you have enough funds to cover everything, not just rent. Make an expense plan BEFORE you start buying.
Start adding what you need. It may help you get your mind off of losing your house. You need to contact your insurance company as well. (Sadly, I was living in a non-compliant house and didn’t have insurance.)
It’s been almost three years since the Bear Fire of 2017 destroyed my house. I still find myself wishing I had three photo albums that I didn’t grab. I wish I was able to find my cat, Felipe. I wish I was able to rebuild a life elsewhere. Instead, I’m homeless. I didn’t plan very well when it came to the limited funds that I had. I wish my house never burned down. I wish these CZU August Lightning Complex fires never happened because not only are they destroying people’s homes, terrifying other people, but they’re conjuring up bad memories.
I still remember my evacuation as if it happened yesterday. I even remember what I was wearing. I had less than 30 minutes to escape with the clothes on my back and the sandals on my feet as I got the rest of my pets, but not Felipe. I miss him so much.
My heart aches for each and every one of you. Every time I read that one of you have lost your homes, I cry. I remember. I pray.
Everyone’s story is different. Share your’s. Don’t let anyone tell you not to. And remember – breathe.
Halo, my golden shadow as I often refer to her as, has not been feeling well for awhile now. I’m hoping soon we’ll solve this mystery. She has another appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning.
A Little Bit Of History
She has severe periodontal disease, but she also had secondary IMHA in 2018. Due to this, veterinarians haven’t wanted to put her under anesthesia.
A couple of weeks ago, I kept smelling something foul in my 4runner (this is where my dogs and I live.) I looked everywhere for where the smell might be coming from, but couldn’t find it. Halo was still eating her dry food – she doesn’t really crunch down on her food, but rather swallows it.
We were at the dog park, and I had picked Halo up to remove the debris leftover from the Sandman and that’s when the odor of her mouth hit me! I tried to open her mouth, and she screamed. OMG! This whole time, the foul odor was being emitted from her oral cavity! Eek 😬
I started feeding Halo canned food immediately, and she gobbled this down.
I called and made an appointment with her new veterinarian^ who also wasn’t able to due a full mouth exam due to Halo’s pain. But he saw blood and pus. He did a blood panel on her that I had requested and he started her on a course of antibiotics. She was supposed to stay on the antibiotics for at least 2-3 weeks, then get her dental.
Halo’s white count was high (indicative of infection) and some of her liver enzymes were high as well, but the one that I was worried about was normal. Phew. The other enzymes that were high, the doctor wasn’t really worried about.
Almost one week in to giving her the antibiotics, Halo developed gelatinous diarrhea. Eww. But she was still eating and drinking. I wasn’t too concerned.
Then the bay area is hit with what seems like a never ending heatwave. Triple digits for days on end. I know other places have hot weather a lot, but those people are probably prepared for their hot weather. Here, on the central coast, it doesn’t get that hot. Maybe one day every once in a great while… but every day? No. I definitely wasn’t prepared for this heatwave. I would have boarded my dogs or rented a hotel room (the cheapest one I could find.) I drove my dogs around in my air conditioned truck. Soaked them down^^ and tried keeping us as cool as possible.
Last night, Halo started vomiting 🤮 and had liquid diarrhea. I skipped her food because it’s not good to feed a dog who’s vomiting. And then this morning? This morning, I made her a breakfast of canned chicken. She didn’t want to eat. 🙁
Is this all from the heatwave? Did she get heatstroke? Or is there something else going on with her?
I tried to get her into an emergency vet, but they said it’ll be a 4-5 hour wait AND if some pet is more critical, then she’ll be bumped back even further. Good grief! Plus because of the pandemic, we have to sit out in the parking lot with no shade. Hmm 🤔 No thank you. So, I called her veterinarian again and scheduled an appointment for tomorrow morning at 11:00. I will be with Halo all day and will continue to monitor her. Prayers I get an answer.
^ Change in Veterinary Hospitals
Halo has been seen by a lot of veterinarians and quite a few veterinary hospitals over the years. When I used to work at one veterinary hospital, I brought her in there. I would continue to bring her in there, but they’re really expensive and pretty far away. When we moved to SoCal, she had a veterinarian who took great care of her.
But then when we moved back to northern Cali, it was back to finding another vet. In the early summer, Halo got a foxtail in her ear. I was sure of it. I found a hospital that had great reviews – voted best in the county and made an appointment for Halo to be seen.
I told them what was going on and how I had picked quite a few foxtails out of Halo’s fur. I asked them to sedate her and probe her ear. The doctor came back and told me that Halo has an ear infection. They didn’t sedate her like I had asked. They simply looked down her ear with an instrument called an otoscope and saw pus. I asked the doctor if she could please sedate Halo and look into her ear canal as I was 90% certain it was a foxtail. The doctor said she was certain it was just an ear infection and said that she’d said Halo home on some oral and aural (ear) antibiotics and recheck in one week.
One week later, I told the doctor that I stopped giving the antibiotics because it was making Halo’s ear worse, not better. The doctor had wanted me to massage the ear drops into Halo’s ear canal. Halo had started whimpering and then screaming. The doctor had looked down Halo’s ear canal again and then called me to ask me if she could sedate my dog because she saw a filament of something, something suspicious of a foxtail!
If the veterinarian would have listened to me from the start, Halo wouldn’t have had to be in pain for a week and of course, money would have been saved.
^^ Soaking Dogs
When you go to drench your dog in water to cool him/her off, you need to make sure you soak him/her down to the skin. Otherwise, the water acts like an insulator and instead of keeping your dog cool, it’ll do the opposite.
Many times, owners just wet down the top, and sometimes the bottom of their dog. But what they don’t do is soak the dog’s fur to his/her skin. The best way to make sure that this is done properly is to use a little bit of soap – and rinse all of the soap out or spray the water until the whole coat is wet and you can see your dog’s skin.
Welcome to the tale of how I met my dear cat, Abygayle. Before I begin, I have to apologize that this blog is rather lengthy. I have included some links if you’re interested in learning more about a particular topic.
AudubonSociety and Feral Cats
Aby was part of a feral cat colony near the wetlands by highway 101 north heading up to San Francisco. In 2013, the Audubon Society said they had had enough with cats killing birds and were going to put an end to this feral cat colony. Whether or not, the Audubon Society was going to do this by mass euthanasia or by poisoning, is anyone’s guess.
The cat rescue groups who go out there daily to feed the cats and TNR (trap, neuter, release) were not happy to hear about this. One of my friends knew I had a huge rodent problem and asked me if I could use some “barn cats,” as feral cats are sometimes referred to. She explained the cats’ situation, and I told her that yes, I could take a couple in.
The cat rescue lady delivered the kittens to my house. We made my outside kennel as secure as possible for them. They were still in their humane trap. She told me it would be awhile before they’d come out, and I don’t need to watch them. She left, and I continued to watch these two new kittens of mine. The boy, “Topaz” was grey with black stripes.
I watched them for awhile, but they were so scared. I walked into my house to get some coffee. I came back out about ten minutes later. Topaz wasn’t in the trap any more. I went into the kennel to locate his whereabouts. He wasn’t in either of the two crates that were set up. He wasn’t anywhere. 🙀 I closed up the kennel and ran around the yard looking for him. He was gone! 😿
I went back into the kennel and saw Aby – she was laying in the cuddle bed inside one of the crates. She looked so small, even at six months old. The sun was setting. The temperature had dropped significantly. I knew that without her brother in the kennel with her, I couldn’t bear to leave her all alone. I grabbed a blanket and placed it on top of her and the cuddle bed, and then scooped it all up. Carrying her close to my body, I brought her upstairs to my bedroom, where my cat, A’more was. Aby and A’more became fast friends – snuggling together, eating beside each other, grooming one another. ♥️
I never saw Topaz again. 😿
Although I set traps (humane cat traps) across the road for Topaz with fresh water and yummy canned food, I caught everything but him. I eventually gave up. I had caught a rat, a scrub jay, a raccoon, and a black cat, but no Topaz. I was scared that I was going to end up catching a skunk!
Maddie & Aby
Maddie also lived in the upstairs but only ventured out of her hiding spot occasionally – she lived mostly on the left hand side of my bedroom, whereas Aby took up residence on the right hand side, under the desk and in the closet. These two girls may have been close to each other in proximity, but they were not close in any other way. They tolerated each other. They would both sleep on my bed occasionally, but would not touch.
When A’more passed away in 2015, I felt badly for Aby. She was so close to him. I could at least pick up and love on Maddie. But I couldn’t even hold Aby. Heck, I was terrified of her!
I was so frightened of Aby I couldn’t even hold her to trim her nails. At one time, I was considering having her declawed. I was worried that she’d get her nails caught in the curtains and rip her nail out. (This happened with another cat of mine, but he lost his nail in the carpet and bled a lot.)
I finally found a veterinary clinic that still did declaws, and explained my situation to them as to why I needed to get Aby declawed. They told me they wouldn’t do it unless I could pick her up and hold her. Hmm 🤔 well if I could do that – then I’d be able to trim her nails and wouldn’t need to go through with such a barbaric procedure, now would I?!
BIG MISTAKE – Little Brother
So, as I was saying I felt badly for Aby because she didn’t have anyone. A’more was gone. Maddie ignored her, and I was scared of her. I decided to get her a little brother which turned out to be a huge mistake.
My friend, Callalily, had a feral that had kittens in her yard… I adopted one and named him Felipe and had him upstairs as company for Aby. Well unfortunately, Aby hated her little brother. She hated him so much that she took it upon herself to hide from him.
The queen bed that I had, had four drawers on its base. The two drawers closest to the foot had cubby holes that I wasn’t aware of. Apparently when the drawer is completely shut, there is a hidden compartment off to the side… a perfect place for a cat to sit. If the drawer is completely shut, the cat cannot climb back into the drawer. Aby has on occasion climbed into these drawers before, but usually if she’s in the drawer – I cannot shut it all the way closed.
It was in the winter when I couldn’t find Aby – January 2017 to be exact. I looked for her everywhere upstairs. The upstairs isn’t that big, but by golly there are a lot of hiding spots for a cat!
Where Is She?
I looked everywhere. I looked behind the curtains of all of the windows. Five windows in my bedroom. I looked behind the desk, under the desk, behind the bird cage, behind the bookshelf, in the closet, in the drawers of my bed, in the crevice between the wall and my bed. She was nowhere! I called for her. She didn’t come, she didn’t meow. I searched the drawers again and shut them. I didn’t take the drawers out though. I searched everywhere again. I was getting rather desperate.
I cannot honestly say when I first realized that she was missing. It could have been a couple of days before I started looking, or it could have been a few days. My cats are free fed. I just happened to notice that I hadn’t seen her around. When I still didn’t find her on the second day, I started tearing my room apart. I took the drawers out and that’s when I noticed that darn hidden compartment. She was just sitting there.
She was severely dehydrated and her skin was jaundiced. Once a veterinary technician, always a veterinary technician, I knew what I needed to do. I couldn’t immediately take her into the hospital as much as I wanted to due to the road closures. I had medical supplies on hand and after wrapping her up in a blanket, I gave her subcutaneous fluids. I also offered her some food which she did eat, but didn’t finish. (When I first found out she was missing, I put Felipe downstairs.)
It was January 9, 2017 when the roads finally opened up and I was able to bring Aby to the hospital. She was diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis which is also known as fatty liver disease. It is very common in cats who stop eating for whatever reason. The liver breaks down stored fat for energy and eventually the cat can become icteric (their skin and mucous membranes take on a jaundiced or yellow appearance.) She would need to have an esophageal tube surgically placed so that I could get enough calories into her while her liver healed. We had a long journey ahead of us.
Aby isn’t the easiest cat. She is a feral. Or maybe I should say she was a feral. I had to wrap her up in a blanket to give her her medications and feed her. Little, by little, Aby started coming around. I think by having to give her these meds and feeding her through her tube, I got used to her, and she got used to me. I was finally able to trim her nails which I hadn’t been able to do since the day she came to live with me. Eventually her tube slipped out, and we had to drive back to the hospital to have it replaced. But after awhile, she got better and started eating on her own again. 😻
Aby is a love bug. I cannot believe I was ever scared of her. She allows me to set her on my lap and trim her nails – on all of her paws. She still growls, but it’s all talk. She loves sitting on my shoulder like a parrot, telling me all about her day. She also loves to drool 🤤 on me. It’s quite disgusting. I’m not talking about a little bit of saliva either. She will leave a huge wet spot on my arm, neck, or wherever. When she shakes her head, spittle goes flying everywhere.