lucky cat

My parents raised me to value quality of life over quantity of years of life. At the dinner table they discussed what they wanted us to do if either of them ever became a vegetable. “Pull the plug,” they’d say, and though we’d laugh we clearly understood their sincere message.

Back in February Michael and I adopted a stray kitten that had repeatedly come to our doorstep. We took her in, had her spayed, dewormed and vaccinated, gave her a cozy place to sleep, food to eat and the companionship she thrived on. We learned from neighbors who’d seen her around that she’d likely been living outside for at least nine months. We named her Maneki Neko, which means Lucky Cat in Japanese. Neko for short.

As much as Neko we were the lucky ones; lucky to make the acquaintance of a smart, beautiful, funny, affectionate cat who liked Rudy and who nearly always came when we called her. We kept her indoors and enjoyed her playful antics until the mild weather arrived, but as soon as it did she expressed her keen interest in romping around outside again and we obliged.

During my quiet spring afternoons spent gardening Neko became my much-loved companion—chasing butterflies, climbing trees then coming back to me to say hello—something I’ve always dreamed Calvin could do. One of our neighbors, however, felt Neko was a nuisance when she sometimes roamed into his yard. It quickly became clear that we would not be able to let her outside without worrying she'd be snatched up and sent to animal control or enduring a barrage of complaints that would add to an already elevated stress level due to caring for an ill child. One solution the neighbor offered was to clip her on a dog run so she wouldn't wander. But in our minds, understanding her strong instinct to bond with nature (she was not accustomed to living life confined indoors nor was she afraid to go outside nor was she old and tired and apathetic) keeping her indoors or on leash would be miserable not to mention logistically impossible for our household during the warmer months.

For Neko to be truly happy—and thus for our own happiness—we needed to give her a certain amount of joie de vivre, even if it meant risking encounters with crazy dogs, vicious wildlife and fast cars. Deeply saddened by our regrettable circumstances we decided to give her to a kind friend who lives on a dead end street in a neighborhood that embraces outdoor cats. There she can roam happily and enjoy the quality of life she deserves and, though we miss her and the levity she brought to our home, we know she's much better off, while at the same time we can preserve our peaceful, complaint-free existence at home.

Since Calvin was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was two I think about his quality of life often, particularly since his poor neurological health and epilepsy put him at greater risk of dying prematurely from SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy.) I must seriously consider his quality of life especially when emerging seizures result in the temptation to increase his anticonvulsant medications. These three medications cause him to be hyper and zombie-like and nauseous and feeble and manic and spastic and dizzy and uncoordinated and unfocused, all the while impeding his development. Most recently I chose not to increase his medication just to chase a few elusive seizures that haven’t disappeared despite the doubling of his most effective drug. Why? Because doing so would likely compromise Calvin’s already impaired quality of life perhaps more so than the seizures themselves.

If only Calvin were lucky just like sweet Neko everyone would be so much happier living in the free and the clear.

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1 comment:

  1. Always that illusive balance of keeping quality of life high and seizures limited. At times, I chose to terminate my medications because of side effects (depression, mood stabilization, decreased cognitive abilities...) I was always of the mindset that quality of life came before stifling my seizures, but that balance is so individual and painful to decide. I often dream of the future when medications will easily cure seizures without terrible side effects. Will we someday be so lucky as Neko?