The Highs and Lows of Feline Hospice

Saturday morning, a week and a day after Goose was discharged from the hospital in Fountain Valley, we were scheduled for a check up on his progress. In the little man’s 8+ years, car rides have never been a looked forward to experience. The fact that he made it across the country in four and a half days (with three of those days relatively calm) still amazes me. But I know it’s stressful for him and I wasn’t looking forward to making the 30-mile drive with him.

The day before, and the morning of the appointment, were not going well. He was having trouble keeping food down, and I was very worried that the nerve damage in his face was somehow affecting his ability to swallow. As we left the house, Goose in my arms, I honestly had a slight feeling that he might not be returning, and that scared me.

Weakened, he jumped right in the car, and weathered the drive down the 405 South to the hospital. The neurologist was out for the day, so we met with a visiting oncologist from Michigan who was honestly stunned by Goose’s situation. In over twenty years of practice, she had never experienced Goose’s affliction (it’s not lymphoma, but a mass of some sort on the sheath over his brain stem that affects his nervous system.) As a doctor that also taught veterinary medicine, she took photos of him to share with her students, and I remember thinking, definitely as a way to make myself feel better about the entire situation, that Goose was even exceptional in the unfortunate medical situation we’ve been thrust into.

As it turns out, he still possessed the ability to swallow. On top of that, a doctor that cared for him the week before was on hand and visited with us, assuring us that he looked better than he had a week ago. After a blood test and a slight examination, Goose was cleared to go and we returned home.

The drive sucked, and Goose was not happy to be back on an examining table. But we made it out of there, again.

Over the next few days, we re-evaluated our approach to Goose’s eating. His face is partially paralyzed, and he can’t chew or close his mouth. But he can swallow. Dry food was out, clinical canned food from the vet was in, along with syringes which are plunged into the back of Goose’s mouth to feed him.

It’s not fun, for him or us. He’s balancing open mouth breathing with sucking down water and watery, high-calorie food. We’re cleaning off run-off food and reassuring him every time he trembles. With patience, he can swallow, and on good days, he can get down a whole can of food in a day. It takes about an hour, and it involves a roll of paper towels, but it happens and he’s all the more better for eating, which he still wants to do four times a day.

Yesterday, he ate as much as he could, and amazed me afterwards. He motioned to go outside after eating, and I followed. For twenty minutes, Goose revisited all of the spots he has come to know in our complex and surrounding areas. He hid from dogs, observed pedestrians and sat underneath the neighbor’s car so I wouldn’t bother him. Then we returned home. Minus the events of the past month, it was a textbook night for him: food, walk around, lay down on concrete underneath a car, rub against a few trees, return home.

Upon returning, we sat in the kitchen together for one more snack. The past month has been rough, and there have been times, like the previous Saturday, when I honestly didn’t know what the future held. But Goose continues to fight, and I’m honoring that. And as shitty as this situation is, I’m in awe of his strength.

Last night, he slept for an entire night, and woke me at 7 a.m., just like he’s always done.