Wednesday, 12 May 2010

For The Love Of Maddy


This is Maddy. To the rest of the world she's a very ordinary little black cat. To me, for fifteen years, she's been my close friend, a source of constant amusement, and the inspiration for the name of my very first heroine in my very first novel. Two weeks ago Maddy had to have her left eye removed after developing an ulcerated optic abscess. The operation went well (I spent all day pacing up and down with my stomach in knots, as you do), she came home two days later and, the vet said, was on track to make a full recovery.

Maddy looked awful. Half her face was shaved away, she had six huge stitches in a sort of gash shape from the top of her head down to the tip of her nose, and she was very wobbly. However, after a couple of days of TLC she started to make progress. She'd eat a little and venture outside occasionally and the other cats stopped giving her a wide berth because she reeked of VET. Then she changed. With no warning she started clawing at her face, shaking her head violently and falling over. She couldn't eat, drink, walk or even stand up. Every time I put food down for her, she'd lower her head to it and then jerk it frantically away almost as if she'd just smacked her face into an invisible glass wall. She hid behind the sofa, hunched up, looking terrified.

I rushed her back to the vet who checked her over and said he'd never seen such violent and distressing reactions, that the eye socket was clean and clear, there was no indication of an infection, and that unless she'd had a post-op cerebral bleed he had no idea what was going on, but that he was very worried. He wasn't the only one...

Two days later, with Maddy's violent shakes and panics getting worse, and still having not eaten or drunk anything, I took her back. The vet removed her stitches, checked her over again, said she wasn't in pain but was very weak and he had no idea what was going on, and said he didn't hold out much hope for her survival, and that it might be kindest to have her put to sleep...

Now, at that point there was no way I was going to let her go. Not until I knew there was no alternative. If she'd been in pain then yes, of course, I'd have agreed. But as she wasn't... I took her home. She crawled behind the sofa. And I crawled with her. And for an entire week that's where she stayed and - for most of it - so did I, just talking to her and stroking her and reassuring her. I reckoned that it was vital for her to have fluids more than anything, so spent ages syringing water into the side of her mouth. We both got soaked but at least she got some of it. Then, still talking to her all the time, and stroking her, I smeared pate round her mouth and on her paws and the side of her face. At first she just panicked, but I persevered to the expense of everything else. For seven days I did nothing - certainly no writing or housework - but sat with her in the darkness, smearing food on to her and talking to her until she gradually, very gradually, started to lick it off.

After another two days she crawled from behind the sofa and, keeping her away from the other cats, I put the food on a saucer in front of her. She went through the violent shying away/head shaking thing again, but then - amazingly - started to hook the food off her plate with her paw and eat it with her "fingers". Not much, admittedly, but some. I was so encouraged by this breakthrough (yes, I cried) that I started teaching her to stand and walk too. Just supporting her underneath her tummy and moving her forward inch by inch, and putting her into a litter tray and holding her steady. And after another day she could do this on her own too.

Then she started eating normally from her dish, admittedly very, very slowly with her head all skewed round at an odd angle, but she was eating and drinking and walking unaided...

By the end of last week, Maddy was back to normal. Yes, she's finding it a bit odd only having restricted vision - but this hasn't stopped her resuming her tree-climbing and bird-watching activities. As I'm typing this she's chasing butterflies in the garden. She's the first in for food, the first one with a clean plate, the first one on the bed at night seeking out the snuggliest spot.

Now I'm miles behind with the TWTAH edits, the house is a tip and The Toyboy Trucker is beginning to look like beans on toast - but I'm making no apologies. Maddy's back, I'm ecstatic - and I'm thinking, should the writing take a nose-dive, of setting up in business as a cat-whisperer.....

22 comments:

Sara said...

Awww. Such a moving story Christina! keep up the good work with your writing. Can't wait for the next book! x

Christina Jones said...

Sara - thank you! Am writing like stink now!!!! C x

Debs said...

What a heart-breaking time you've had. Poor Maddy. It must have been very strange and frightening for her (and for you). I'm so relieved she's feeling much better now and it's thanks to all the tlc you've given her.

Good luck with the edits. x

Christina Jones said...

Debs - thank you! It was very scary and I was (as you can imagine!) totally devastated so everything else came to a grinding halt - sometimes wish I didn't love them quite so much. C x

Lesley Cookman said...

Blimey. That must have happened just after our last emails? Chris, you're a marvel. I can't bear to think about what she was going through - or what you did. I bet TTT didn't mind the beans on toast a bit.

I'm trying to write like stink, too,as deadline's been brought forward. Argh. xxx

Jilly said...

What a moving story, Christina and I'm glad Maddy is pretty well back to normal. I wonder if her problems were that she can't see in three dimensions and consequently can't judge where things are? When I first lost part of the sight in one eye I found it very difficult to judge distances and would go to take something from someone and miss. Frightening to an adult - but I could rationalise it. A cat can't and you can't explain it to her either.

I hope she has many more years of happy life with you.

ptasia said...

Oh God. Throughout the whole post I was expecting you'd write she died. And when I read what happened, I cried.

Colette McCormick said...

Go Maddy! and well done you. Glad to hear that she's back to normal. Don't worry about the house being a tip - mine is most of the time.

alzamina said...

Glad to hear she is on the up! Animals are worse than kids - at least the kids can tell you what is wrong!!

happydaze said...

Hi Christina
What a beautiful story and I'm so pleased it had a happy ending. Maddy looks lovely. I have a special fondness for black cats. I had one once from a rescue centre and I swear he was almost human. We still talk about him now and remember all his funny ways. I used to make up stories about him to tell the kids and there was a cast of characters who were his imaginery friends - which probably makes me certifiable!Anyway, I've had several cats over the years and my present cat got quite ill over Christmas( all my cats had a knack of getting ill over bank hols = big vets bills) we gave him water through a syringe and he's now doing well although he has renal failure and is on a special diet. Give Maddy a special hug from me and give yourself one too because you were an absolute star! x

Jan Jones said...

Oh, Chris, you poor darling.

I'm so, so, so glad you've managed to re-teach Maddy how to live.

(((((((hugs)))))))

Pat Posner said...

So glad all your loving, caring and determination worked. Maddy is a lucky cat to have you.

xxPat

womagwriter said...

Oh that is so moving and you are brilliant. Most would have taken the easy way out. I am so glad Maddy has more life ahead of her, thanks to you.

Olivia Ryan said...

I was nearly in tears reading this story, Chris - convinced the outcome would not be happy - so now I'm almost crying with happiness that you've got your old friend back. xx
What an amazing testimony to your love and devotion - you deserve to go on enjoying her company for years ahead.
Sometimes writing has to take a back seat. And housework ALWAYS has to take a back seat!!

fred said...

Hi Christina, our cat King a stray had a fight at christmas and had his eye removed. He has made a full recovery. We built him a run as we live near a busy road hes now in his second youth. great book
claire

French Fancy said...

I'm so happy to read this about sweet little Maddy.

Christina Jones said...

Lesley - yep, it came right out of the blue - and at the worst possible time for my deadline... Hope yours is going well now - I'm on edits - will say no more... C x

Jilly - thank you - and I think you're right - it was judging dustance and balance she found so difficult and frightening - mainly I think because of the trauma of the op but also because they shaved off her wiskers on the blind side. She still fine now though! C x

Christina Jones said...

ptasia - sorry! didn't mean to make you cry! No, she's fine - still! Cx

Colette - thank you! Maddy fully restored - house STILL tip!!! C x

Alzamina - exactly! Wish I was Dr Dolittle sometimes!!! Cx

Christina Jones said...

happydaze - thank you so much. They break your heart though, don't they? And I swear ours are all little humans in furry coats - I *know* they understand me... That's two of us barking mad, then??? All love to yours with renal failure (had those too and they've gone on for years with the right - expensive! - treatment.) Cx

Christina Jones said...

Jan - thank you. Know you know how I felt... Cx

Pat - thank you so much. Maddy is sitting on my desk at the moment, clearly knowing she's the topic of conversation!!! Cx

Christina Jones said...

womag - thank you - and yes, even the vet thought I was mad to try it - but hey, what do they know??? Anyway, she's part of the family and I love her - would NEVER give up on any of them. Cx

Olivia - don't think I'd have been able to post about it if it had been an unhappy ending! Yes, agree housework always comes last - fortunately writing connections understood too (this time!) Cx

Christina Jones said...

fred - thank you - and so pleased King made a full recovery! Maddy seems fine with only having one eye now too. Phew! C x

French Fancy - THANK YOU! Cx