How It’s Done

Our cat is dying of kidney disease, it’s chronic and incurable.  The vet told us we could keep him around for a while by sticking a needle into the skin of his back every day, attached to a line and a bag of liquid, and pumping some hydration into him.  In his experience, he said, cats in The Baron’s condition usually live six months to two years.   The Baron has only one kidney, it was discovered recently, but he’s been doing pretty well on the cat dialysis. [1]  Once he starts losing weight, the vet told us, the end is approaching.   

He lost his appetite back in June, a month or so into his kidney treatments.  The vet prescribed a drug called Mirtazapine, developed as an anti-depressant for humans, that is a known appetite stimulant for dogs and cats.  The Baron will not be forced to take a pill, but a vet tech, after wrestling with the determined cat to give him a pill, told us this drug also comes in a transdermal form, you rub it into the skin.   The only place a cat has skin is the pinna, the furless area inside each ear.   Presumably the pads of the feet are also skin, but the cat or dog would lick it off and the drug would not have the desired effect. 

We ordered the transdermal Mirtazapine from a formulary in Arizona, and after a stressful week or two of hassles,  the cat listless and eating very little, spoke directly to the pharmacist, Ashley, who was great.  She contacted the cat’s vet and immediately formulated the proper dose for his age and weight.  It arrived shortly after, in a pen that dispenses a perfect dose of the goop.  I massaged a small gob into his pinna, and soon his old appetite was back.   He gets the drug every three days, and his appetite and weight have been consistent.  The hydration, the cat dialysis [1], has been working pretty well so far and his quality of life is pretty good.  If you didn’t know he had a punched one-way ticket on the death express you’d think he was fine.   

He still cuddles affectionately with his female slave, Sekhnet, once all the lights are out, and he still puckishly claws and bites the hand of his male slave, when it lingers too long after giving him some treats or for the intolerable crime of attempted petting.  I sometimes point out to him that he is literally biting the hand that feeds him, but he glares at me so there will be no mistake: there’s more bloodshed in my immediate future if I continue trying to talk irony with him.  I have the scrimshaw on my hands and forearms to prove I’m not making this up.  Sekhnet always gets a good laugh out of my squeal of shock every time I repeat this timeless ritual with the imperious [2], well-armed Baron and get slashed by a fishing hook claw or cobra fang tooth – an always amusing example of the unlearned lessons of history, I suppose. 

The Mirtazapine pen was marked “Days supply 180”.  60 doses, three days apart.  I keep a chart on the wall to keep track of how many doses we give him and we were up to dose 45.  But the pen was empty.  I emailed Ashley, succinctly stating the facts and what we needed, trying not to sound peevish, and she got right on it.  The drug was formulated and in the mail overnight.   

Naturally, there was no explanation or any hint of an apology.  This is standard operating procedure in our culture, so it was no surprise.  The important thing was that we had the drug the next day, overnighted for the regular shipping cost.  Skaynes got his dose, a day and a half late, but, sure enough, his appetite returned. 

Here’s the thing that tickled and irritated me, both.   The information on the label on the new pen was identical to the printing on the first.  Only one detail was gone.  “Days supply 180”.  No promise, no basis for complaint for broken promise.  Like the uncertain duration of life itself, there was now no promise made, once it was pointed out that the earlier promise had been as solid and unimpeachable as a tweet from our current commander-in-chief.

[1] Sekhnet who is “in the business of accuracy”, as she says, points out that this is not dialysis in any sense of the word.  The cat’s blood is not purified by the process, he is merely getting hydration that relieves some of the stress on his kidney.

[2]  I get a great kick out of dictionary definitions sometimes.  My favorite is the great definition of “squeamish” from the dictionary I had in high school.   “Exhibiting a prudish readiness to be nauseated.”   Fucking genius.   I can’t accurately quote a line of Shakespeare, even those I love the most, but, like many TV commercials heard as a kid that I can recite verbatim, I’ll never forget that great definition.

I looked up “imperious” just now, since I am also in the business of accuracy, and before a great series of synonyms describing the Baron’s attitude toward his staff, was this thought-provoking definition: 

assuming power or authority without justification; arrogant and domineering.

“his imperious demands”

synonyms:  peremptory, commanding, imperial, high-handed, overbearing, overweening, domineering, authoritarian, dictatorial, autocratic, authoritative, lordly, assertive, bossy, arrogant, haughty, presumptuous 

What I love is the “without justification”.   Isn’t human history a continuous bloody scroll of those who assume power and authority without justification?   

Kings ruled by Divine Right, God gave them their indisputable powers, no matter how they came to the throne, God himself justified their bossiness.  Likewise hereditary ruling pricks like Barons and Lords derived their power from long custom, backed by force of arms.  The power to kill you, or have you whipped, is a pretty convincing justification for assuming power and authority, I guess.  “The consent of the governed” is the current fiction in democracy, but as far as “justification” look no further than these universally despised, or at least supremely disappointing, folks we have out there exercising power and authority, torturing some folks in our name and deciding how many poor people will need to die early so the super-rich can be even richer.

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