Saturday, February 22, 2014

Leasing a Puma

The last six weeks have been pretty harrowing.  Dad and I had to take Mom to the emergency room with what turned out to be diverticulitis and a C. diff. infection.  While we were there he felt ill so I had to take him home; he woke up the next day with a bad head cold, the stomach flu, and back spasms, so he couldn't go near the hospital for a couple of weeks after that.  I ended up spending 8-10 hours a day at the hospital in a gown and gloves, trying to work with my laptop and a wireless network that wouldn't send outgoing emails, because my mother wouldn't talk to the staff when she needed anything and answered questions about her medical history with amazingly inventive fiction.

For a while it looked as if the facility where my parents live wouldn't take her back and we would have to move her elsewhere.  At the last minute they relented and she went from rehab into their 24-hour nursing facility, which is probably a permanent move due to her increasing physical frailty and confusion.  In the meantime, my sister Sue and I also moved Dad to a smaller independent living apartment in the same place.  Not surprisingly, once he was settled with all his stuff and without the responsibility of taking care of Mom, his back spasms subsided. Although it's great he no longer has to be on high alert 24/7, Sue and I worried that he would be lonely without our mother.  He is almost 88 and has really never lived by himself before. 

Dad's beloved cat Mushroom passed on to the great cat condo in the sky about 3 years ago, and he was heartbroken.  He started talking about getting another cat shortly after that, but Mom was firmly against the idea.  Dad joked that if Mom died, he would stop at the animal shelter on the way home from the funeral.  Well, she hasn't died, but she's no longer in any condition to object to his owning a cat.  This set Sue into motion.  As I've mentioned before, Sue is a volunteer adoption worker at the Humane Society and a dedicated cat pusher.  She thinks everyone should have cats.  Plural.

One of the local shelters, Four Paws, has a "Seniors Fostering Seniors" program.  Senior citizens can "adopt" an elderly cat for a small fee; Four Paws actually retains ownership, and will take care of all the cat's medical needs.  When either the cat or its person becomes too infirm for the relationship to continue, the shelter takes the cat back.  Think of it as renting a cat.

So, last weekend Sue and I checked out the senior cats available and found the perfect friend for Dad.  Her name is Puma; she's a big 12-year old cat with plushy black fur and a loud purr, declawed in the front.  She and Dad have already bonded and are spending a lot of time in his recliner watching TV together.  He's a little testy about her tendency to take more than her share of the bed at night, but on the whole both of them appear more than satisfied with the new arrangement.

Puma is in excellent condition for her age - she even still has good teeth - so I hope she will be Dad's roommate for a long time to come.  If not, we may have to find another Four Paws cat for him to lease.

"Almost every pet owner out there will tell you that their animal companion enriches their life in more ways than they can count, but it turns out that pets actually help prolong their lives, too. Numerous studies have shown that having pets helps lower our stress levels, decrease blood pressure, benefit our cholesterol, improve our mood, and boost our immunity – in other words, lengthen our life span!" ~Mao Shing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., PhD