Little Hero – a little trooper

Thank you to the lovely people on Twitter who’ve sent Begley get well wishes and hugs. I’ve been passing your hugs on. The day after my first Begley post, he took his attitude of mature cooperation even further. Begley’s treated me like I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on for years. In the mornings before I leave for work he reminds me to top up the crunchie bowl (even if he doesn’t want any right then) and if the water level ever gets a bit low he’ll draw my attention to it (usually by politely sitting next to it and looking back and forth between me and the bowl). I know how important it is to give Begley his tablet on time so I’ve set an alarm on my phone. I was deliberately moving tablet time by a few minutes each day so I wouldn’t have to be up so early on weekends but Begley must have decided that his scatterbrain owner needed help so he started a new routine. When I go for a shower he comes upstairs. He sits on the window ledge while I get dressed and moves to block the hallway when I move on to putting on make up. When I’m done, he runs down the stairs ahead of me and then waits to be picked up for his tablet. We’ve got the actual tablet delivery down to a fine art now. He wants me to put it as far back and centred as I can so he doesn’t have to manoeuvre it before swallowing – if I get it wrong it looks like a pinball rattling around in there. Job done, he wants a cuddle but accepts that on work clothes days it’ll be very brief. If anything, I’m the inept one – there’s been two mornings where I tried to do it before coffee and completely missed his mouth! He’s being so helpful that he swallows whether the tablet’s actually in there or not. I’m not sure if he realises I’ve missed either.

I need to stop ringing for a vet appointment at the last minute in front of Begley because he knows that there’s no good reason to hear his name in a brief formal phonecall. He’s got nothing against individual vets – both cats behave beautifully whenever we go – but they both hate the waiting room. Who can blame them. Last time we’d been in there was a dog pitching an absolutely screaming fit over having a tick removed and his claws trimmed. Our next appointment was a week ago last Thursday. Begley knew he was safe until I’d had my shower (it was a non-work day so he’d already had his tablet). Once I was dressed, my clothes confirmed his suspicion. Jeans. Crap. He legged it towards the back door. I casually picked him up and put him on his desk nest (he’d co-opted my cosiest hoodie but I’ve bought him a new bed for the same spot on the desk, which he completely loves). He wasn’t having any of it and ran for the lounge. I have a day bed in the lounge and Ciara’s usually on it at that time of day so she was horrified to find me pulling it forward to try to reach Begley. Before I could grab him he was behind the sofa. When I’d pulled the sofa out and was clambering over the back of it, Ciara joined me, sitting on the back of the sofa glaring down at a miserable Begley. I didn’t have a choice. A full 20 minutes before we needed to leave he was scooped up and crated.

Ciara really surprised me at this point. Once I opened the lounge door, she ran outside but after a couple of minutes of what looked like intense thought she came back in, hovering round me like she wasn’t sure if she was missing out. Last time I’d taken Begley to the vets the capture was quick and quiet. I’m not sure she even noticed he was gone because she was asleep. This time she was waiting for us by the front door when we got back. Ciara’s a funny thing. She takes Begley for granted most of the time but leans on him heavily when they have to go to the vet or cattery. Two years ago we had the nightmare of a suspicious lump. It was the first time she’d ever been to the vets alone and she was a completely different cat. With Begley there, she’ll hop off the table after her exam to investigate the room. Without him her confidence completely deserted her. Begley’s had more solo vet visits over the years – not many but a few – and his demeanour never changes, with or without Ciara. It’s incredibly sweet that the brother she takes for granted and sometimes bickers with is her anchor.

Much as I love dogs (if you don’t follow me on Twitter I feel like I need to point out that I do), some of them behave abysmally at the vets. On Thursday it happened again. The dog waiting to see our vet howled through nearly the whole of Begley’s appointment. Next time I’m going to ask if they do a cat only clinic because Begley also has a stress induced heart murmur. The vet thought that by the time we’d been talking about treatment options for a while he’d be calm enough to check his heart again. I was the one obviously struggling – I’d nearly fainted as she described the risks of surgery and had to sit down but (after I’d tugged his crate towards my chair in response to his look that the stroking had stopped) I could see Begley was still really stressed and I could see why. His ears were pointed at the waiting room, where the howling was coming from. I’m probably not going to decide surgery’s right for Begley anyway because he’s settled into the concept of treatment so well but the heart murmur is an important factor in whether the vet would allow it at all so I really need to try to get him in front of a vet when the walls aren’t shaking to the sound of howling.

Begley does have some limited experience of dogs and they bring out his hero side. The first time I ever heard him growl was when he met my parents’ last dog for the first time. An energetic Irish Water Spaniel, Corin put his paws on my shoulders when I got down to him. It must have looked to Begley like I was under attack because I’ve never seen him act quite so aggressively before or since. Years later when Corin had died and my parents got Quinlan, we decided to introduce the cats to him while he was still their size. Ciara was amazing (possibly a story for another time). Begley did what none of us humans had been able to with this cocky little bundle of rags in a cyclone
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most of my puppy photos of Quin are just blurs of brown velvet because the person who termed the phrase “bundle of rags in a cyclone” was absolutely right but here’s a rare one of a sleepy tiny Quin (who can now get his paws to my shoulders when I’m standing)

Begley scared the living crap out of him with just a growl, a glare and 5.5kg of puffed up irritation. Begley had him belly up on the floor, submitting and looking for permission to get up again before we knew it. The cats quite often stay at my parents for a couple of nights when I’m away. Quinlan’d gotten so used to me smelling of cat that he spent the day and evening of their first stay after he came along wondering why I wouldn’t come downstairs to see him. “She’s in Reading” apparently wasn’t convincing in the face of the overwhelming evidence that I smell of cat and therefore I must be in the house if he can smell cat. Mostly there’s an assured mutual destruction thing going on between them and the dogs these days I think. The dogs (Meris has never been formally introduced to the cats) stay downstairs, the cats stay upstairs and no dog ends up with a bloody nose.

Anyway, back to the vets. I got the blood test results the next day and it was brilliant news. Although his weight hadn’t stabilised yet his thyroid count wasn’t just in the normal range. It was hovering at the lower end of it so we reduced the dosage of his tablets. Unfortunately, since we lowered the dose he’s had an upset stomach again. Fortunately, from monitoring point of view, Begley only uses the litter tray when he’s sick. He didn’t get sick on the higher dose so it’s hard to believe it’s a side effect. Diarrhoea’s common in hyperthyroid cats and this is similar to how he was before he was diagnosed. If we hadn’t seen such a dramatic reduction in his thyroid count last time I’d be panicking that he’s back where he started but I just don’t believe that could happen from the reduction we’ve made. There’s been no vomiting or diarrhoea since Thursday night so hopefully we’re moving forward again.

Begley’s brilliant. He does his best to communicate how he’s feeling, even coming to find me if he’s thrown up somewhere I might not notice (which he’s never done for normal things like hairballs). He’s stayed perfectly cooperative over the tablets, despite being sick this week. I thought I might be in trouble yesterday when he went outside just before tablet time but he came straight back in when he saw me. I could hardly blame him if he’d decided that they weren’t working and he’d had enough. His faith in my judgement, if not my memory, is a privilege but it’s also the most frightening thing about pet ownership and I hope it’s justified.

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Begley absolutely loves his new bed

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