In parts 1-3, I am sick, struggling with caffeine withdrawal and Sophie gets a direct hit from a skunk. 

It is Tuesday morning, Christina’s actual birthday, and Suzanne is on her way home with a car full of dirty clothes of the type you get when you spend a week being uber-athletic in 110 degrees. (Roller-skating in Las Vegas, to refresh your memories.) She’s looking forward to doing laundry and so my goal for the day is to finish all of my many rounds of laundry by the time she gets home around 12 or so, and then get to the post office in the afternoon.

Everything smells of skunk and I’m not so happy about that, but I’m also aware that AIP is already starting to work. If the skunking had happened a week earlier, I would have… I don’t know what. Dragged all my belongings out to the curb and said good-bye to them? I would not have had the energy or stamina to be hand-washing sheets in my sink, scrubbing floors, and running back and forth to the washing machine all day. As it was, I was tired, but I wasn’t exhausted. Doing more laundry and making it to the post office felt perfectly feasible. I didn’t feel the need to ration my energy, which felt like progress. I’m not quite at the “I can do ALL the things” stage, but it might be on the horizon.

But I’m really glad Suzanne is so close to home. Gina is not doing well. She’s complaining a lot, but not eating much; she’s no longer even pretending to use her litter box; and Olivia Murderpaws is bullying her. In fact, in the morning, when I come back in the house after feeding the chickens, Olivia Murderpaws has pushed Gina off her food and is eating it herself. OMP has a full bowl of the exact same food in her spot on the table, so this is a power move, and not good news. Fortunately, Suzanne is on her way.

I text her to find out how soon she’ll be home. Should I warn her that I feel like Gina is giving up? It’s not going to be a surprise: Gina is a sick, old cat. Suzanne doesn’t even let her outside anymore because she worries that Gina will wander off to die alone. But it will be a sorrow. Does she need to know now?

Answer: probably not.

Because Suzanne’s response to my text is, “I’m in Healdsburg now, so…4.5 hrs? And when I get home if I can grab you and have you drive me to Mad River that would be rad. I just fucked up my ankle at the skate park.”

Mad River is the local hospital. The answer is, of course, yes, I would be happy to take her to the ER.

The day got very busy after that, in the way that days that involve hospitals are busy: lots of time spent waiting for the next thing to happen, but none of it productive or useful time. And my memories of it are already blurry. Did we take all the dogs to the hospital or just Bear? I think we took Bear the first time, because we didn’t want to navigate the dog reunion, and then I took all three dogs the second time I went to the hospital, because I was going to get them some exercise, too — multi-tasking! — and then maybe just two dogs the third time, because I had just put Bear into her crate so I could have a break. But maybe I left all three dogs home that time. The next day I had two more trips to the hospital, so maybe there were dogs in the car then? Honestly, I don’t remember.

I do remember that when I came back from dropping Suzanne off, Gina was in her cardboard box on the floor. She lifted up her head and looked at me, but did not get up. She did not tell me that she needed food immediately. She did not complain that she had been abandoned. She did not tell me that I should let her outside immediately. She just put her head back down again.

This is very unlike her: Gina is the most interactive cat ever. She always says hello. In fact, she usually says something more like, “Human Servant! There you are. I have been waiting for you for at least twenty minutes. I am displeased with the current food, and I would like a new selection. Now, please. No, not after you do whatever unimportant thing it is that you are trying to do. Now! I am waiting!!”

Over the course of the next few hours, I was in and out with the dogs several times. I checked on Gina every time, but she never moved. Sometimes she didn’t even open her eyes. Finally, after I’d fed the dogs their dinners and tried to tempt her with food that she wasn’t interested in, I decided I needed to warn Suzanne. So I texted her that I thought Gina might have given up, that she wasn’t moving. Suzanne asked if she should bail on the ER and call the vet and I said, no, Gina was peaceful, not seeming to be suffering, and I’d kick the dogs out and sit with her for a while.

She opened her eyes but didn’t lift her head when I sat down, so I stroked her fur for a while and told her all the reasons that she is a wonderful kitten, about how it’s not just that she’s beautiful, although obviously she is quite beautiful, but also that she’s so curious and so communicative. And I told her that she could come back if she wanted to come back, but that maybe it was time to let this body go. But that Suzanne would be home very soon — very soon! — so it would be okay if she wanted to wait a while, too. Up to her. She didn’t move at all, but after a little bit, she started to purr and I stayed with her until she seemed to be sound asleep. Truly sleeping, though, as I could see her chest rising and falling.

I checked in with Suzanne. 6PM and no progress at the ER, except that she was making lots of friends. Also no painkillers, also no food. I asked if I could bring her something, she said she was okay, so I suggested… oh, actual texts.

Me: Dogs would love a ride in the car. How about I load them up, bring you an apple and a Kind bar and maybe a milkshake from that milkshake place?

S: I would totally accept that, even at the risk of starting a riot among the other prisoners. 😃

I brought the box of Kind bars and before Suzanne even took a bite of her apple, she was passing them out to the other prisoners. Um, patients. The waiting room was full, there were people waiting outside, and plenty of people who had come in around the same time as Suzanne had decided that they’d survive without medical care. On a random Tuesday. In July. Why?? It really highlighted for me what it means to live in an area as rural as Humboldt. Florida has its drawbacks, but it also has excellent medical care, at least around Orlando.

Anyway, I took the dogs off to the beach so they could get some exercise, then came home. Gina was awake, still in her box, but sitting up, so I offered her some dinner, and I made it sound delicious. Much to my relief, she came over to check it out. I was sitting on the floor watching her eat to make sure OMP didn’t take it away from her again, when Suzanne texted to let me know she was finally done. She’d broken two bones, maybe torn some ligaments, too. Pre-COVID, they’d be checking her in so she could have surgery in the morning, but post-COVID, they were sending her home, and she should call a surgeon in the morning.

It was probably 11PM when I finally realized: I never made it to the post office. Christina’s birthday presents were still sitting in their box next to the door.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it the next day either, or the day after that. But the days were not quite as exciting; mostly I was just too busy with dog-exercising, healthy-meal cooking for two, the usual Mighty Small Farm animal chores, and errand-running. Suzanne got to see a surgeon; Gina got to see a vet, and as of whatever day it is today — Saturday? — everyone is doing well, or at least as well as can be expected.

Suzanne can’t have surgery until the swelling goes down, so she’ll have another appointment next Friday and hopefully surgery the week after that. She won’t know for sure about the ligaments until they do the surgery, so recovery time is currently unknown, but she’s already going stir-crazy.

As for Gina, her smug expression when Suzanne made it home was a delight to behold. Her silent glare to OMP beautifully conveyed, “My full-time human servant is back and SHE will protect me. Eff you, peon.” The vet has a couple new options of treatments for her, so hopefully we’ll have a few more purrs and many more complaints from her.

Oh, and my house — while it still smells like skunk — no longer reeks. Or maybe I’m just learning to live with it.

And Christina’s presents are finally in the mail.