September 28, 2015

The Big Stink

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Seepage. That’s a word to alert you that this post is not for refined sensibilities. I have been told by people (who don’t know me all that well) that I have refined sensibilities. I used to; over the years I have put aside so much for my cats.

Anyway, ten days ago, early in the morning a long-haired ginger cat appeared outside the sunroom door. I was reading and Winston was curled up on my feet when Artemis went rigid. How her rigidity alerted Winston who was snoring, I don’t understand but the next thing I knew, Winston had leaped off the couch and muscled Artemis aside.

Artemis is a quiet cat who seldom makes a sound. Her meow is a “freep” rarely heard. She has a secret weapon, though: she’s a screamer and it’s all the more effective because she’s usually so self-contained. When Winston interrupted her vigilance over the ginger cat, Artemis screeched like someone was pulling her legs off. Then I nearly leapt off the couch.

When I got myself untangled from the blankets, tea cup, and book, Winston and the ginger cat were face to face like a pitcher and a referee about to altercate. When I tried to distract them, the ginger cat ran but Winston overtook him. A whirling ball of cat bounced across the yard with fur flying in all directions.

The belligerence lasted only about 30 seconds. The whirling fur was stopped by the fence. I shook the hose that was lying in the garden bed, giving Ginger a chance to escape over the wall. Winston huffed and snorted and did a few circles in the grass.

His tail was almost as big as his body, and that is saying a great deal. He’s a big-boned tomcat with a broad face and thick neck. His belly looks as though he had swallowed a basketball. When he walks he slowly dribbles the ball from side to side. His ponderous thud is usually preceded by a highly irritating whine that I have written about before. My neighbor Bill calls him the Dreadnought.

When he calmed down and stopped emitting his fighting odor, I combed over Winston’s head to see what the damage had been. I located a lot of puncture wounds, which I cleaned and left to the air. I visited the wounds every day until they scabbed over. All standard procedure.

I was congratulating myself on being such a capable nurse when a putrid stench became part of the medical follow-ups. I combed all over Winston trying to figure out where the odor was originating. I knew it was an abscess: you never forget that odor. It took nearly two days for me to see that red and brown goo was hanging out of his left ear. To call it goo doesn’t do it justice. It was like a fungus the size of cotton balls. I cleared out the worst of it and washed the area with saline.

Ginger had hooked him in several places in the swirls of his auricle. There was a cut mark, a puncture wound and what looked like an area dotted with shrapnel. I waited for the salt water to do its magic. In a few hours the seepage began: loathesome, yellow gunk oozing out of the cut and coming out of the shrapnel points as though through a sieve, reeking enough to nauseate. It was like one of those horror movies from the 1950s: “It Slimed Out of the Ear.”

Winston’s last great puncture wound had healed quickly as soon as Artemis got involved. She couldn’t get to it fast enough to lick it away as it oozed. But this abscess appeared to be more than she was up for. Either that or she wasn’t into ears. She has her sensibilities, too. She avoided him for a few days. Winston was Philoctetes, the Greek wounded on his way to Troy whose wound stank so badly, they left him on an island. They came back for him, though, because they needed him in the end. Artemis finally curled up to sleep with Winston.

Twice a day I treated the wounds with the saline. Every few hours I went in with a kleenex, cotton ball, gauze, or Q-tip and soaked up whatever the wound had heaved up. The morning was the worst because the abscess drained through the night, and then hardened in the various little curls of the ear.

Winston was oblivious to anything out of the ordinary going on in his body. He demanded his meals on schedule, and whined relentlessly when I forgot his arthritis meds, which he counts as a treat. He still wanted to have his cigarette on the front porch at 9:15 PM. He still scratched incessantly at my bed to go outside at four in the morning.

One morning we had a little repeat of the Ginger cat appearance except that it was a raccoon. It was 6:00 AM and still dark outside. I was in the sun-room, swathed in blankets, reading. Artemis was poised at the sliding door, which was cracked open six inches. I got up to see what the attraction was and there was a raccoon. It retreated when it saw me. From behind the raccoon I heard Winston hiss.

“Ah geez,” I thought. “This cat thinks he’s Steve McQueen.”

Winston shot by the startled raccoon and came toward me. I stepped out, snatched him inside and closed the door. The raccoon ambled around outside the door, inspecting the stacked wood and sniffing at the stump that serves as a booster for the cats to get through the cat flap into the sunroom—that is when the flap is open, which it hasn’t been for years, since the last gift of a giant rat got thumped into the house by, you guessed it, the Dreadnought.

The irony is that Winston is a big baby. He’s a scaredy-cat. He’s actually a bully not over-endowed with brains, which is why he blusters and fights other cats and hisses at raccoons. That a woman of my refined sensibilities ended up with bully for a cat is a source of everlasting shame to me.

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