Austin's Diary, The Sister Chapters

Chapter 16, In Which Austin Gets A New Partner (And, by the way, no one asked his opinion first)

Austin gets a new sister, and she has diabetes, too!

We have been missing Eugene like crazy, knowing he can never be replaced. However, we also knew there was a cat somewhere out there who would be able to start a new place in our hearts. We were certain that this cat would come into our lives at the appropriate time.

Sure enough, a confident calico took to the Internet on January 8, 1998 and announced her availability and qualifications for the job. Using the alias "BABY," she is a little mysterious about her background but we know she was smart enough to make it out of the Delaware County, PA, SPCA into the arms of foster parents, Greg and Tess Zangari. Though they have cared well for this sassy miss, with her new diagnosis of diabetes, she has decided to come join Austin and help run the Feline Diabetes Web Site.

Believe it or not, we named her RIPLEY! Ripley is a small town in WV, home to the Mountain State Arts & Craft Fair during the July 4th weekend. And who doesn't know Ripley, too, as that tough alien-fighting woman. And although Ripley is a calico, being predominately white with spots (though muliti-colored), I believe she meets criteria for being considered a piebald! Need I say more?

Austin continues to be a rock. Despite the presence of this hissing, growling yet pushey little calico GIRL, he has maintained his dignity and calm. I love him more than ever.

January 14, 1998

Ripley has ceased her growling each time Austin comes near. Today, Austin walked up and rubbed noses with her, one of them hissed (I think Austin), and then Austin strolled off while Ripley stood there with a doofus look on her face. Feline games.

We are going to have to get used to a teen-ager again. Austin is so calm, and both Austin & Eugene have always been exceptionally well-behaved, thanks to their strict upbringing by the evil Mom-Lady. Ripley is rambunctious. She is also the biggest pig I have ever seen when she eats and when she uses the litter box!

We are also amused as she spends a lot of time batting the water in the toilet, then licking her paws. And being personally conscientious about her hygiene, she finds it necessary to wash her paws in the toilet following each use of the litter box. Of course she gets water all over the seat and floor. I am getting used to going to the bathroom and sitting in puddles of water. This morning was almost too much though. The entire kitchen floor was soaked from Ripley frolicking in the water bowl. Austin and I had to get down on our hands and knees and mop up water! At least the floor is clean now.

Ripley Dives In

Ripley prepares to dive

Ripley Relaxes

We are closing the toilet lids so Ripley has been pouting. To amuse herself, she has managed to collapse a closet shelf, destroy my Snow Village arrangement (no broken pieces, thank goodness), and commit the ultimate cat sin in my eyes of jumping up on the kitchen counters. I have yet to discover the source of the crashing noise earlier today. Despite all this mischevious behavior, she meets me at the top of the basement steps when I came home from work (this was Eugene's job before, and a position that really needed to be filled in my opinion) and we had a nice time sharing a slice of vegetarian pizza at 3 a.m. this morning. Ripley naturally likes to tear her share directly from the piece of pizza I am holding.

High diving platform

Ripley has started her insulin shots. Dr. Kirk, the weekend vet, made a small face when we told him Austin was on Ultralente but wisely did not counteract Dr. Candy's prescription. He said to start Ripley on Ultralente, too, at 2 units twice a day. Austin has done very well on Ultralente, so we hope Ripley does, too. Paul says that Ripley doesn't even notice her shots.

Note: We took Ripley directly to the vet after picking her up. She was tested for feline AIDS and leukemia (both negative, yeah!) and received some vaccinations before she ever got to set foot in the house. You should always have new arrivals checked out before introducing them to the household, but especially when an immuno-compromised diabetic is already a resident.

Chapter 17, In Which Mom Feels Sad
January 26, 1998

Ripley is a very agreeable cat but seems a bit bland. I know this is because she has learned to be an adaptable cat and why she is a survivor. Probably her diabetes makes her not very playful either. She did play about two seconds with a twist tie one day and lets me rub her neck for a few minutes each day, but since her initial explorations of the house, she is rather quiet and passive. Well, we won't count the deep puncture wound she put in the base of my thumb, but that was just an adjustment, although she did try to bite me again yesterday. Paul keeps trying to tell me that it took me six months before I could even tolerate Austin and Eugene, and months more before I fell in love with Austin. Eugene took a year of intense work before he was even sociable. And I am being much too hard on Ripley because I think it was too soon for me to have another cat.

I have the saddest dreams in which I am walking along with Eugene, looking down at his poor little tumor-swollen belly swaying from side to side. Dreams (memories) in which he is laying on the living room floor, so tired, days before he died, with us lying beside him. Dreams in which I am horrified that we kept Gene alive so long, hoping that he was not in pain. I have trouble remembering that Gene climbed trees after his surgery, that 24 hours before he died, he jumped up and shared a Domino's ham and pineapple pizza with us, sitting and licking his paws in delight afterward. I miss that little cat so much. I'm crying right now. And poor little Ripley is not Eugene, but I want her to be. I want her to be that comic and curious little piebald that Gene was, that little dim cat that is making me bawl my eyes out right now.

And Austin seems to be deteriorating so quickly. He is thin again, his coat is always disheveled and greasey because he rarely grooms. And his legs. That awful back leg problem, which never goes away, is now horrendous. His legs splay out to the side when he walks, like he doesn't know where they are going to land, and it gives him a weird hunching gait. I want to carry him, but I am afraid that without exercise, they will get worse. He didn't even want to sleep with us last night. I was up until 4 am and Austin was downstairs, in Paul's easy chair. "Lean back in your easy chair, the Bunny Planet's waiting there..." Does he not want to sleep with us, or like Gene, is it just too hard to go up and down the stairs? Austin was upstairs this morning when Paul left, and Paul expressed concern for him, asking me to check on him. I got up at 10 am briefly and found Austin on Paul's office chair. I just stroked him for a few minutes, then got back in bed, but then Austin laboriously climbed to the bench then the bed and snuggled as tightly to me as he possibly could. And I hugged him tight and we slept for a few hours more. He didn't want to get up and it almost killed me to make him move. My sweet Austin.

It is a lovely day here today, almost 50 degrees. Much to my horror, the daylilies are sprouting, bulbs are coming up, shrubs are budding, primroses and pansies are blooming. My horror because I know there will be terribly cold weather that will come and kill all my plants. Marcia and Cindy sent me bulbs when Eugene died and I planted them in his memorial garden. I was angry today to see that the neighbor's dog has been allowed to tromp through the soft dirt of the new bulb garden, leaving deep imprints. No doubt that the fence will go in this year.

Eugene would have been ecstatic over today. Austin and I made our painstaking way out to the garden bench while the sun was full-force on it and we spent a wonderful hour sitting and thinking of our little buddy who is gone. And I am afraid that Austin will be joining him soon. And I know that my heart does not yet have room to love Ripley and I feel horrible about that.

My brother was home just now and played with Ripley, who loves him. We take good care of her; there is no doubt about that. I am just so sick with renewed grief over Eugene and fear, terrible fear, of losing Austin.

January 28,1998

I felt bad all last night for not loving Ripley at first sight. I do LIKE her a lot. I just need to remember that it takes time. On her part, she came into my office while I was on the computer in the wee hours this morning, walked all over the keyboard like a proper cat, then sat beside me, purring and rubbing her face on my face. She even stood in my lap for about 30 seconds but wouldn't sit or lay down. Goofy girl.

Ripley and Austin are in for repeat glucose curves at the vet today. Ripley jumped right into her carrier, but when the door closed, the little paws were stuck plaintively through the wire door. Probably thought she was back at the SPCA and had to beg to have her life spared. She was initially quiet on the trip in, but once Austin started his wailing, she chimed right in. I felt badly at the vet because they were busy and I had to put Ripley's carrier down on the floor. Someone let their huge dog then run over and start snarling and barking right in Ripley's face. Poor little thing wet her carrier. And bad mom didn't have a towel in the bottom to soak up the urine. Didn't really seem to bother her. She merrily flicked urine out the carrier all over the vet's office. Good thing it is dilute and sweet smelling, or she would have been very unpopular with the vet techs. We'll see how the curve goes.

I must have really been down about Austin because my sister sent email this morning suggesting it might be time to have Austin euthanised! Not a chance! He has to be really old and really decrepit before that happens. Patrick, my brother, and I independently concluded that we need to put an elephant-type saddle on Ripley and train her to carry Austin around! Can't you see it?

January 29,1998

As some of you now know from my late post to the Message Board, Austin is doing very poorly.

Dr. Candace called yesterday afternoon and after a bit of a chat about Ripley, she hesitantly brought up Austin. Austin's glucose levels are not just high, they are off the scale. Candace thinks that Austin has developed Cushing's syndrome, an adrenal problem. She was more worried about Austin's lethargy. He is usually not very sweet about his blood draws (Candy says they usually have an "agreement" as to where and when this can be done!) but that he let her do anything she wanted and was just totally passive. She was also astounded by the extent of the hind leg problem. After more delicate conversation, I just interrupted and told her that we feel that Austin is near death. She apologized and said she agrees. She wanted to keep Austin in the hospital overnight and give him fluids, but I flatly refused. Austin comes home with us. I did the sub-q fluid routine with Gene and I can do it with Austin. (But I hate it!)

Little Austin is just wearing out, I guess. But I think this will be harder on me than Gene. It sure does help to get the messages of support though on the Message Board. Once again, all my feline diabetes pals come through.

Now that Miss Ripley has a few things to learn....

She not only peed in her carrier on the way back, she took a big poop! I have never heard of a cat doing that. So of course, she had pee and poop all over her which she got all over my leather car seats, the basement, the kitchen, etc. I was less than thrilled.

Ripley seems to know that a transition is going on. She is curled at my feet right now after just munching some of the cheetos I dropped. Any member of this family has to like Cheetos, so Ripley passes that one. Although she is peeing all over our carpets and driving me insane with that, I know that will improve as she is regulated. I also know that if I had more of an emotional attachment to her, I wouldn't mind as much. We'll get there. We'll get there.

February 12, 1998

Of course, immediately after writing about my indifference to Ripley, she started an all out campaign to be loveable! Her behavior has much improved and when she was sick a few days ago (eating houseplants? hypoglycemia?), I felt so sorry for her. And sorry for me, too, as I had to clean up all the diarrhea, vomiting, pee all day long.

I went back and read parts of this diary, and read the section about how I did not like either of the original kittens, Austin and Eugene, when we first got them. I especially did not like Eugene and tried very hard to convince Paul to get rid of him. Absolutely amazing. Reading that though reminded me that Ripley may be the same way. In a year, I may think Ripley is the greatest cat that ever lived! She certainly does like my husband and my brother and she and I have a lot of quality time in the bathroom. Ripley likes to sit on the countertop as I get ready in the morning and I must admit that I rather like that. She looks so cute.

Austin is at my feet right now, trying to hack up a hairball. Adorable. After the scare several weeks ago, he seems to be stronger than in months. We had a wonderful day yesterday, sunny and 60 degrees, working in the garden and enjoying the weather. We even put Ripley in her harness and let her go outside for the first time. She only got to go out on the porch, but she was so wide-eyed and curious. Quite funny.

Next Back to The Austin Alone Chapters Back to The Ailing Brothers Chapters
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