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On Top of Monadnock

I turned 45 in June, and, as I had done when I turned 40, I celebrated with a long weekend bike trip.  In this case, I headed north (and a bit east) into New Hampshire, where I intended to hike Mt. Monadnock, which I’d been meaning to do for several years.

I started the trip on Friday, biking through South Hadley, Hadley, Amherst, and Leverett, and then stopped for lunch in Montague (at the cafe at the Book Mill).  From Montague Center I rode up to Turner’s Falls and then into the town of Gill, and just as I passed into Northfield, Mass, it began to rain lightly.  Fortunately, I’d brought a rain cover for my bike luggage, so I was able to keep the stuff dry while I rode through Northfield.  When it started to rain a little harder, I took shelter briefly at a bank drive-through lane.  I only had to wait 10 minutes, and then it lightened up.  Soon, as I was about to cross the state line into NH, the rain stopped completely.

What was interesting was that, in NH, the ground was much wetter than in MA.  It had clearly rained more there, but by the time I got up there the sun was out and the moisture had started steaming off of the road surface.  I rode on (along route 10) through the town of Winchester, and eventually the ground dried up.

At one point I stopped to rest by this pond/wide piece of river (click on pictures to enlarge):

    

I continued north through West Swanzey, and on into Keene.  I had intended to pick up a bike trail in W. Swanzey, but did not find it (turned out later that I had incorrectly remembered which direction it lay from the main road).  I eventually found the trail just after getting in to Keene, and followed it to downtown, where I had dinner.

After dinner, I headed southeast, toward the town of Rindge, where I would be staying the night.  It took a bit longer than I’d expected, and I was feeling fairly tired.  I did cross a few nice looking streams/rivers, or perhaps the same one multiple times, as I rode down route 12.  They all looked similar to this:

It was after dark by the time I reached Rindge, but I’d brought lights, and so was prepared.  I had booked to stay 2 nights at an AirBnB place, which had the advantage of having a couple of cats.  The long-haired one was more friendly and approachable, while the other one only showed up after I’d been there a while, and he crept very cautiously into my room:

   

When I went to bed, I left the door cracked open in case a cat would want to visit during the night.  As far as I’m aware, that did not happen.

The next day, I biked down to a nearby diner for breakfast.  The house where I was staying was right on a trail through the woods, so I did not have to ride on the road.

The trail was a bit rough in spots – it’s an old railroad line, and there as a section that still had ties in place (I walked the bike over those).

After breakfast, I biked up to Monadnock State Park and met up with my friend David.  We started up the mountain, as he told me that it’s a very popular hike, despite being pretty strenuous.  I had not realized how strenuous, but it does go upward more than it goes laterally (i.e. the slope is greater than 1).

The mountain is very forested, so it was quite a while before we had any kind of view.  Once we did, it was pretty cool.

   

We were about 2/3 of the way to the summit at that point, I believe.  The summit itself is mostly devoid of vegetation.  Here’s a view from the top:

And then standing a little lower, looking up at the summit:

As mentioned, it’s a popular spot.  We hung out up there for about half an hour, then went down by a slightly different trail.  I had not brought quite enough water for the hike, as it turned out, so I was rationing myself as we went back down.  Once we got back to the bottom I drank a whole bunch from a faucet by the bathrooms.

After recovering a bit, we parted ways, and I biked back into Rindge.  I took a shower and then got some dinner, and ended up going to sleep somewhat early (funny how doing a 5+ hour mountain hike the day after 85 miles of cycling will wear you out).

The next day I had breakfast at the same diner, then packed up and started heading for home.  I went by a different route, traveling west from Rindge into Fitzwilliam, then south into Royalston, MA.  Unfortunately, what was not included in the route I’d mapped was a bridge under construction soon after getting into MA, which necessitated taking a 4 or 5 mile detour which had a bunch of up and down riding.  At least it was still morning, and so not too hot yet (though that day ended up getting into the mid-nineties).

From Royalston I kept going south until I reached Athol, then I rode on Mass Routes 2A and 2 west through several towns (Orange, Erving, Northfield, Gill), until I got to Turner’s Falls, and I then mostly retraced my path from Friday (though passing through Sunderland instead of Leverett).

On the way through Montague Center, I stopped to check e-mail, and while stopped, I noticed something familiar looking at the front of a residential property:

I went closer to see if this was actually what I thought it was.  It was, indeed, a facsimile of a certain British Police Call box.

It lacks a bunch of details, but maybe it’s trying to look unassuming…

 

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, but much of the day I’d had to stop for shade breaks because it was so hot.  So the riding took longer than I’d expected, even though I was only traveling about 65 miles.  I met up with others in Hadley for ice cream (at Flayvors of Cook Farm), as part of a joint birthday celebration for 2 of us, and because of the late hour and the heat, my bike and I got a car ride home.

Posted by seaking on 09-19-2017 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Cats, Hiking, Travel with 0 Comments

Plane, Train, Buses, and Bike

On my last morning in Iceland I got up somewhat early so I could return my rented bike (Óli Stef).  I headed for the Reykjavik waterfront along the city’s bike paths, and partway there, I noticed geese in the median strip of the road (click photo to embiggen):

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I also encountered this little bird at the waterfront:

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I believe it’s a starling.  In this photo it’s poking into a seawall, presumably trying to get some food.

After dropping the bike off, I walked back toward my lodging, taking in some more of the city on my way, as I did not have to hurry.

A couple of days earlier, I had visited the home of the original Althing, the gathering of the country’s leaders to make law.  The Althing still exists, but it meets in a building in Reykjavik – this building, to be exact:

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It’s labeled on this side section:

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As are the spaces on the street in front of it:

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That third letter is the letter thorn, by the way, which has a soft ‘th’ sound.  I’ve been transliterating it to ‘th’ in Althing and Thingvellir, among other words.

I thought this fountain was neat looking:

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And yes, that is a hot dog stand in the background – it’s supposedly quite popular.

I came across some interesting sculptures on my way east through the city:

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Not sure what to make of these folks:

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or these polar bears:

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I saw similar stuffed bears in chains in front of other stores.  It’s some kind of thing…

At the far end of the street was one sight I wanted to make sure to go by:

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It is Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, and of unusual architecture:

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There is a statue out front of Leif Ericsson out front:

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This inscription is above the door:

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The side view:

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I did not go inside, but I did encounter another friendly cat outside the church before I moved on:

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I got back to the apartment and packed up my stuff, then took a city bus to the bus station.  There I had some lunch (more lamb) and waited for the bus to the airport.

It had been dry that morning, and for a couple of days before, but it started raining by the time I got to the airport, just as it had been raining when I arrived in the country.

Getting my bags checked required waiting a while in line, because the luggage conveyer belt at the check-in counter had broken down.  Eventually some carts were brought to move the luggage through, and I was able to head for the gate.

On the flight to London, I watched an Icelandic documentary called Electric Reykjavik, about the electronic music scene there.

The plane flew southward over the British Isles, and I was able to glimpse some thin white things in Scotland or Northern England.  I took as best a picture as I could with my phone:

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They’re right in the center of the image.  I was able to figure out pretty quickly what they were, because I could see blades turning.  Apparently, windmills are visible from tens of thousands of feet in the air.

I arrived fine in Heathrow airport, and took a bus from there to Reading train station.  From there it was a short train ride to Didcot, where I was staying with a friend for a couple of nights.  The next day, she’d be showing me around Oxford.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-11-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Biking, Cats, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Not-So-Plain Plain

On my third day in Iceland, I had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola, or rather, of yogurt drink and granola.  It turned out that the stuff I thought was yogurt, Skyr, is more like a thin smoothie.  It still worked fine, as I even like having granola with plain milk.

Outside, before getting on the bike, I took a picture of Héradsskolínn itself (click any picture to see it bigger):

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And here is Óli Stef up close:

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And here is the peak across the road, without its summit obscured by clouds:

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I started riding west, back up Route 365.  When I say ‘up’, I mean that there is a long hill that I had to climb as I headed out of Laugarvatn.  Here’s a view of that same peak from a ways up the hill to the west:

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This is a view looking downhill at the town:

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While I was paused at this point, there was a pretty stream off to the side of the road:

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As I rode along 365, I took pics of mountains that I hadn’t stopped for when I came through earlier in the week:

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I also saw some more sheep, including a variegated one:

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When I came within view of Thingfallavatn, I could see what looked like a geyser on the other side of the water:

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Soon I got to Route 36, and headed north into the Thingvellir park.  A little ways after getting into the park, I turned off on a side road that goes west along the north side of the lake.  There I was able to get close to the lake, as at this parking area:

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The lake, complete with a fisherman off to the left:

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I walked along the water a bit, and observed some interesting seaweed, which was very brightly colored:

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It was also very stringy:

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The plant life on the ground was mostly low-growing stuff, and not all of it green:

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Continuing along toward the center of the park, I soon came to the odder parts of the landscape.  Namely, various geologic fissures:

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Iceland, and the national park in particular, sits on the divide between the North American and European tectonic plates, which are moving apart very slightly each year.  It’s this action that causes much of the ground breakage there.

Around these fissures, I also saw my first view of this long rock wall:

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That wall borders the parliament plain (the Althing Vellir) itself.  This is where the world’s first parliament met, established in the 10th century by the Viking settlers of Iceland.

When I got to the plain, I locked up the bike in a picnic area, and headed up some steps toward the rock wall.  Here are some views of the plain from most of the way up:

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There was a path in front of the rock wall, which went slightly downhill to the north:

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And uphill to the south:

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I followed the line of people uphill, and came to the top of the wall, with a viewing platform, and a good view of the lake and plain:

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I could also see Óli Stef from up there:

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At the top, there was also a parking area and visitors’ center.  I went in and watched a few videos on the history and geology of the place.  Apparently, the land in the plain is slowly sinking, which is why water flows over so much of the places that people once camped for the annual assembly.

Here is the view back down the path along the wall, just before I headed down that way:

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More of the wall:

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Here, marked by the flagpole, is the Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite the country’s laws:

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Looking down at the plain from here:

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Further along the wall, I came to water flowing down from above:

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Looking down from a bridge over the stream:

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And here the water flows onto the plain:

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I headed down onto the plain after that.  Here’s a view looking south:

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And looking back up to the Law Rock:

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I wandered through the little collection of buildings on the plain, including a small church.  There is a graveyard there:

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And behind the buildings is this mysterious tree:

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A wider fissure:

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And here there is a diver getting ready to swim along the tectonic divide:

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I headed back to the bike at this point, and noticed the lava rocks found around the picnic area:

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On my way away from the plain, I saw some geese – a type that I don’t generally see in the US:

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Riding eastward, I stopped to check out a couple of hiking trails in the park.  The first one took me through some tundra:

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There was a cable running across the ground, for some reason:

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I came to a waterway which had more of the neon seaweed, as well as a much stranger growth of stuff on and in the water:

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The other trail I hiked took me through a stand of evergreen trees:

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And then up a hill which has a neat gully cutting across it:

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There was another pleasant view from up there (looking west):

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Once I hiked back down from there, I rode out of the park, back toward Laugarvatn.  At the park exit, I stopped and took this picture to the north:

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I had a rain-free day this time, but still wanted a shower when I got back to the hostel.

I met this individual in the hostel parking lot when I arrived back:

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It was very friendly, and must belong to someone, as it was wearing a collar (but no tag).

After cleaning up, I had dinner in the hostel cafe, this time getting an item not written on the menu.  It was local trout, baked with a cheese sauce, and with fried potatoes and salad on the side:

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It was quite delicious, and a nice end to the day.

Next: back to the city

Posted by seaking on 11-09-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Cats, Hiking, Surreal, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Animal Miscellany

Catching up with a few photos from the past few months.

Back in January I was flying home from a visit to Michigan.  As I waited in the Detroit airport, I noticed something moving through the air in the concourse.  Then I saw more than one thing.  It turned out that there were birds that had gotten into the building somehow.  They just kept flying around, sometimes resting on the windows and some times in the rafters.

They clearly wanted to get outside again, but I didn’t have any way to help them.  Hopefully they were able to do so later on.

Here’s our cat Mr. B doing his best impression of Monorail Cat:

(…except he has some visible paws.)

Finally, here is Deodat, lying one pillow lower than she usually does in this stack of pillows:

There have been a couple of times that she was completely sandwiched in there, without even her head poking out.

Posted by seaking on 05-26-2012 at 10:05 pm
Posted in Cats, Surreal, Travel with 0 Comments

It Gives Me Paws

Last week I walked into the bedroom to find the following:

 

Usually the cats are more discreet when they go undercover.

 

Posted by seaking on 12-28-2011 at 08:12 pm
Posted in Cats with 0 Comments

Lions and Weddings and Slots, Oh My!

But mostly lions.

This was the view out my hotel window the first morning, as the sun was about to come up over the mountains:

I wandered around the hotel area the first night to get dinner, which included walking through the casino.  It’s pretty extensive:

And it has a car in it:

You can get married in the hotel in its own wedding chapel:

There are some renovations going on, marked with this large poster:

It took me a second to get the visual joke.

One neat thing they have in the hotel, in keeping with the lion theme, is a lion habitat.  It’s an area that, for a section of each day, has a couple of lions in it, playing, being fed, sleeping, etc.

Apparently the lions don’t live there full-time.  There are a whole bunch of them that live on a ranch outside town, and they transport a couple each day to the hotel in a specially designed vehicle.

The staff of the habitat were attempting to get the lions to play:

They would play a little, but mostly just wanted to lie around.  (they are cats, after all)

 

Next: some stuff I saw when I left the hotel.

Posted by seaking on 11-16-2011 at 08:11 pm
Posted in Cats, Travel with 0 Comments

2 pieces of overdue cat news

There is good news and there is bad news regarding cats in our household.  I’ll give the bad news first, which is also the more recent news.

Arzachel, who was the very old cat of the household, died 2 weeks ago on December 23.  He was about 19 years old, which is quite a bit older than most cats live.  He had survived many things which could have killed him, but avoided getting cancer (which killed both Shark and Nematode), or kidney failure (very common problem in older cats).  We discovered that he had congestive heart failure, and treatment by a cardiology vet ultimately couldn’t do enough for him.  The weekend before christmas he was no longer eating, so we took him in to end it.

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The good news is quite a bit outdated.  That is, we have a new cat – one that we got 3 months ago.  We didn’t tell anyone for so long because we wanted to settle on a name first, and that took a while.  We started with a list of possibilities, and tried them out on her frequently to see what she would respond to.  The final choice was made a few weeks ago, so I now present Deodat:

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A couple of weeks after Shark died, we started looking for a new cat.  We might have waited more, except that Arzachel seemed lonely being the only cat in the house.  We got here from a shelter in Springfield, and thought she might be a good companion for him.  Unfortunately, she seemed to be afraid of him from the get go, and even after she calmed down and started tolerating his presence, she was never friendly to him.

She is friendly to humans, though, and likes to sit on our laps (especially at the dining table, oddly enough).  She also is a big ball of energy, and wants to play much of the time.  This is not too surprising, as she’s much younger than our previous cats were (the shelter estimated that she was a bit over 2 years old, making her 2.5 now).  She’s a bit weird, though.  Besides the lap-sitting at table, she also likes to run past someone who’s headed up the stairs, then grab the top step as she gets there, letting her momentum flop her onto her side on the landing.  For the first couple of months she lived here, she would spend a good deal of time under the couch, and in particular would squeeze under there when she see someone coming (it took a little while to figure out that she was playing, not hiding in fear).  She still goes under there occasionally.

I have yet to put up a web page for her, but I will get around to it at some point.

Posted by seaking on 01-06-2008 at 11:01 pm
Posted in Cats, News with 4 Comments

Shark: 1993-2007

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The assessment given by the vet who diagnosed Shark’s cancer was correct. He said that Shark probably had a few weeks, maybe a month, to live. That pronouncement was made on August 13, and the end came on September 12.

I originally got Shark in the summer of 1994. We had stopped by a dancewear store in Ann Arbor during the sidewalk sales that accompany the annual Art Fair (which is actually four different art fairs). There were 2 cats living in the store, but the store was getting ready to move, and the owner told us that in their new location they wouldn’t be able to have cats. The two were litter mates, and his sister had already been promised to someone, but Shark didn’t have a home lined up yet (that was already his name). We agreed to take him, as there was only one cat in our house at the time, who we thought would like the company. It took a couple of days to accomplish this, because he would run away and hide in the store’s attic wall whenever anyone tried to catch him and put him in a carrier.

He was pretty much my cat from the outset. He was only a year or so old when I got him, and wasn’t much interested in sitting on my lap or being picked up. Eventually, though, he did come to like such things after he got a little older and mellower. For several years he would go flying through the air when he’d play, as can be seen on his web page. In later years he got less active, and also somewhat chubby.

Generally he was a healthy cat, with occasional problems such as when he ate a bunch of thread right out of the sewing machine, and I found him with it hanging out of his mouth, still attached to the machine. He was diagnosed with a heart condition a couple of years ago (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), but medication kept that in check (Shark has always been easy to give pills to). This year he lost weight over several months, which initially was thought to be thyroid-related (and might have been in part), but he turned out to be in worse shape.

He declined slowly, still being affectionate, but hiding more often and losing his appetite despite pain-killing medication. This past Wednesday he hid all day, and by evening was crying when we tried to move him, and then was unable to walk correctly. I took him to the emergency vet clinic late that evening.

It was hard to say goodbye, and I keep being reminded of things I will miss about him. I also have occasionally forgotten that he’s gone in the past couple of days, thinking in the morning that I have to give him medicine, and the like.

To our surprise, when our normal vet found out he’d been euthanized, they sent flowers. I’ll end this post with a picture of that arrangement:

sharkflowers.jpg

Posted by seaking on 09-15-2007 at 02:09 pm
Posted in Cats, News with 12 Comments

Shark update

Some details in this post may be a little gross for the squeamish, just to warn you.

Shark was going along seemingly fine on the medications prescribed to him, until a few days ago.  He threw up a little after being in the litter box (and not doing anything there), and this raised red flags for us.  We figured there was some sort of intestinal blockage, so I took him to the vet on Thursday morning.  He was impacted, so they gave him an enema and kept him the rest of the day.  He got the stuff out, but was quite unhappy that night and the next couple of days (moping and hiding a lot, and not eating anything).  Part of the unhappiness is that we had to discontinue his painkiller, because the vet thought it might have caused intestinal ulcers (a possible side effect of some NSAIDs).

On Friday he was prescribed 2 new painkillers, though, and a drug to help protect his GI tract (it helps produce more mucus).  As of Saturday night he started to act more like himself, being a little more active, more cheerful, and much more responsive to us.  He’s also been hiding much less since then, and spending more time with us.

The one thing that hasn’t recovered is his appetite.  I put food into his mouth from my finger on Friday and Saturday to get some nutrition in him, and since then he has licked up a little food on his own, though he still is not really eating enough.  We’ll keep trying to get food in him, though.

We thought he might be about to go, but it seems like his decline has slowed for now.  If he doesn’t eat more, that could change, but of course it could change for any number of other reasons, too.  So we go on, taking it a day at a time.

For now he is still happy, so we persist in treatment.  He’s getting 5 different medications right now – a total of 8 doses per day – and he’s due for some of those right now.  Thanks to everyone for their sympathy and good wishes.

Posted by seaking on 09-03-2007 at 07:09 pm
Posted in Cats, News with 0 Comments

Sad news again this year

We have another cat who has been diagnosed with cancer.  Most readers will remember that a very large tumor had been discovered in Nematode in the Fall of 2005, and we had to have her euthanized in February of last year.  Now we face a similar situation with Shark.

In the first few months of this year, Shark seemed to be losing weight rather rapidly, going from his typical 13 or 14 pounds down below 11.  I took him to the vet in May for tests, and they discovered his thyroid levels were high.  We started him on medication for that, and his weight seemed to stabilize for a while.  However, he started to shrink again in July.  Another visit to the vet showed normal thyroid and other levels in his blood work, but the vet felt a lump in his intestines.  I took him to another clinic for ultrasound scanning, and they actually detected several small lumps and nodules throughout his abdominal cavity.  Lab tests on some needle samples confirmed that he has cancer spread throughout his abdomen (the medical term for this being carcinomatosis).

There isn’t any particular cure for this.  Palliative care is what we’re trying to do, giving him an anti-inflammatory drug (non-steroidal) to kill any pain from the tumors and possibly slow their growth.  Having less pain there should help him eat, plus he’s also getting an appetite stimulant.  This is on top of his thyroid and heart medications, so he’s getting six doses of medicine a day currently.  Fortunately, Shark has always been good at taking pills.

I was told when the diagnosis was certain (about a week-and-a-half ago) that he probably had weeks, maybe a month, to live.  So far he seems to be maintaining his weight at a little over 9 pounds, but he isn’t eating what he used to.  Today he was less enthusiastic about food than the past several days, and of course, if he doesn’t eat enough, he’ll decline more rapidly.  The vet’s estimate could yet come to pass, or maybe Shark will stick it out longer.

I suppose losing one cat last year makes this a little easier to bear, but I’m still steeling myself for what is to come.  Shark has always been my cat in particular, and I’ve had him for 13 years now.  His personality is pretty much the same, but he is sometimes acting uncomfortable, and maybe scared, and I know he’ll decline emotionally as his physical health goes.  We’ll do what we can until he ceases to be happy and comfortable.

Those of you who live in the area and know Shark are invited to come and see him, while there is still a chance to do so.  Just don’t all come at once, as he gets skittish and flees when we have multiple visitors.   🙂

Posted by seaking on 08-23-2007 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Cats, News with 10 Comments

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