Category Archives: Grendel

Of tremors and fevers

I watch him as he quivers, his body shaken frequently yet not terribly.

Small, fast movements easily mistaken for the shivers of someone briefly struck with a sense of cold, with chills.

But over time even the doctors agree they represent something else, something akin to the tremors suffered by a Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s patient.

And tremors they are.

Whether he be lying down for a nap, sitting patiently waiting for treats or standing nearby watching to see where I might be going, I see the shudders as clearly as I might see the sun climb above the horizon.

Tremors the doctor called them, signs of possible neurological damage from a lifetime of systemic steroid use.

So we wait and we watch and we hope things do not worsen.

I nevertheless believe his twelve years of life come next February could well mark a turning point for him, a signpost lighted as evidence of things to come, of a life winding down like an old clock, of a sponge from whom no more can be wrung.

Wait and watch…

Another sickly chap maintains a lesser weight than he once carried, a panther reduced in size but not spirit.

Or almost.

His immune system dysfunction does regularly battle with his quest for happiness.  A lonesome fatigue results.

Scarcely more than ten years old in human terms, already he demonstrates a slowing skill for causing trouble.  Only slightly though.

When at night he curls up with me under the sheets and rests his head upon my arm, his head tickling my face with hair, I forget easily the vulnerability he suffers, the near-fatal episode he recently survived as his body did war against itself.

No greater love can be found in any juvenile-minded life than exists in this dear soul, this marvelous baby whose fevers do little to diminish his spirit.

Upon how many fields must we stand and fight before this ghoulish villain leaves him to enjoy his days?  Or can such a thing even be accomplished?

Wait and watch…


Loki taking a nap on top of me (163_6310)

Despite his worsening asthma, Loki remains a devilishly spry cat for his age.  Both he and Grendel will be twelve years old in February 2009.  That’s the human equivalent of being 65 years old.

I see age beginning to slow down The Great Satan, however, and I see asthma taking its toll as well.  His plotting, scheming, conniving ways have been subdued of late, less vile than they were some years ago.  He still conspires to perpetrate evil at every opportunity, mind you, but his body no longer can support the near constant malevolence he once visited upon the world.

A close-up of Kazon in soft, natural light (205_0564)

Kazon remains on a powerful regimen of antibiotics and steroids in an attempt to subdue his out-of-control immune system that seems intent on harming his own body.  As ill as he was when I rescued him in the first few months of his life, it now appears that the terrible childhood he suffered has finally come back to haunt him.

Now a full ten years old in human terms, his own species would equate that age with being in his mid to late fifties.  I see how growing older brings old ghosts out of the shadows and into focus.  Yet he remains my Baby Boy, my Puppy, the one member of The Kids who I know could not survive without me.  His emotional attachment to me is of such profound energy that it becomes palpable each and every day.

A close-up of Grendel as he glances away (20080419_04126)

My high-maintenance cat, Grendel has suffered throughout his life with one ailment after another.  From bone spurs in his hips to acute asthma to inflammatory bowel disorder (an immune system dysfunction) to kidney and bladder stones, Sponge always has made it through a difficult life with the grandest composure and perseverance.  He remains to this day a proud, capable, fearless companion.

Yet as I always discuss with the vets, time proves over and over again that the next shoe will eventually fall, and we saw that next problem begin just a few months ago.  With alarming weight loss and the onset of tremors, a lifetime of steroid use appears to have finally caught up with him.  All examinations and tests indicate his shaking stems from neurological damage; one vet likened it to the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease.  His age will not help this latest affliction, nor will his waning strength allow him to adjust as easily.  Even today I saw him struggle to leap from the cat castle to the desk where he might enjoy a refreshing bit of ice water from my glass.  The hesitation he now shows breaks my heart.


More than twelve human years old, placing him near 70 feline years old, Vazra recovered from near death and shows a youthful exuberance for life that dwarfs the survival instinct of many humans.  His poor dental health two years ago spelled certain doom for him, what with it keeping him from eating and drinking and grooming, yet removing seven teeth gave him a new lease on life.  He took his rescue in stride, quickly making himself at home with The Kids as a member of the family, and he demonstrates an unequaled ability to disregard hardship in favor of getting through just one more day.

As the oldest member of the family, I look at him now compared to when I rescued him and think about what might have happened had I not intervened.  More importantly, I wonder about his health as he grows older.  But those concerns aside, this Persian offers unconditional love and gratitude at every opportunity, and his newfound health and vitality bring joy to my heart every time I look at him and remember what might have been.


My Lion.  Only six human years/40 feline years old, Larenti lives in a perpetual state of discovery, fear and timidity.  He is the largest cat in the house, yet he also is the most afraid.  Slowly he has shown increasing comfort; nevertheless, the unending reservoir from which he draws fright at even the smallest surprise continually worries me.  Some horrific tragedy befell this poor soul before I rescued him.  I only hope he remains on this path to overcoming that anxiety.

Larenti’s young age and juvenile spirit lend themselves to a good deal of energy and mischief.  I laugh heartily when I see him play, when I see him stir up trouble by stalking someone in one of the litter boxes, or when I recognize his purring request for attention each night as he leaps atop the bed to join us for a spot of sleep.  I trust he has many years left to travel, many days of quality and joy and comfort.


al-Zill is a child.  Scarcely more than two years old, his feline age of 24 means he remains immature, rambunctious, meddlesome.  I affectionately chastise him continuously for getting into trouble, whether it be destroying an entire package of toilet paper under the bathroom counter or endlessly trying to engage one of the other children in rough horseplay.  Yet such things are to be expected from someone so young, especially someone with neurological damage as severe as his.

There are times when I forget about al-Zill’s mental incapacity; he leaps and runs and plays with rugged determination.  Then there are times when that now invisible head wound becomes apparent: he still shows instability when I pick him up and set him down, his body convulses from time to time when he tries to run or leap or scratch a difficult-to-reach spot, and a simple shake of his head can throw him to the ground as though struck by some invisible force.  However, he’s young enough to adapt, something he’s doing quite well already, and a full life stretches out before him so long as he remains in a safe place that can accommodate his special needs.


Like her brother Kazon, Kako has reached her mid to late fifties in terms of feline years, although her bad health early in life does not seem to have affected her quite so severely.  Sure, she has a perpetual problem with her ears due to the mite infestation she had way back then, but medication every month or two clears that up and leaves her ready to tackle the world.  And tackle the world she does.

Yet being a bitch is not all this Lady has to hold on to; she is, after all, Daddy’s Girl, and she claims that which only she can claim: being the sole female in the house.  When I’m not home, she spends a great deal of time with Grendel, her man, but she’s all mine if I’m available.  I see age taking from her little by little the energy she once had.  This has in no way stopped her from ruling the roost.  She proffers horrific cries when someone invades her personal space even if they don’t come within arm’s length of her; she defends her gentlemen (Grendel and I) with a fierceness unrivaled by great white sharks on the hunt; and she embodies the universal truth of no home needing more than one female cat, no kingdom requiring more than One Queen to Rule Them All.  I think it’s her female superiority that keeps her from showing her age more than she does.  I wonder how long she can keep up that dichotomy…

— — — — — — — — — —

Henry lived almost 22 human years—104 feline years—before his body stopped living up to his spirit’s expectations.  Only in the last months of his life did age catch up with the immortal soul of a god that dwelled within his flesh.

Very much unlike the current members of The Kids, I did not bathe Henry in perpetual health care for every little infirmity, every little hiccup in the natural order of things.  Instead, I focused on his happiness, watched him closely and did what I thought best for each problem as it cropped up, and in the end I found myself justified in the approach that favored quality over quantity without delving endlessly into unneeded, unnecessary, unjustified meddling by veterinary professionals.

Looking back on life at this moment, I question my present methodology with regards to my children…

Methinks the time has come for a serious examination of care, an unquestioned scrutiny of how I deal with The Kids and their well-being.  Although I would dare not second-guess myself with regards to critical action in a time of need, I’m left wondering if my efforts, like so much human health-care that lends itself to more suffering and hardship, have made life more difficult for these cats who look to me for wisdom in cases where they cannot offer as much.

Too much and too little

Too much to do and too little time.

Loki and Kazon had their annual visits last weekend.

Not so good.

Loki’s asthma has grown so acute that they won’t even do a simple dental procedure to clean up a bit of tartar on his teeth.  Several of the vets agree that the anesthesia would likely kill him.

So instead of teeth cleaning, they’ll attempt to do some general scraping each time they see him.  They also recommend Feline Greenies on a regular basis.

I was thrilled to hear that.  Greenies happen to be one of The Kids‘s favorite treats.  They get them regularly.

Kazon’s visit was more problematic.  He has bacterial and yeast infections in both ears.  That can be treated.  Ear drops do not agree with him, of course, and I must pay the toll with extra lovin’ and extra goodies.

He also has a cavity.  That requires a tooth extraction.

He goes in for dental surgery next Friday.  Next weekend won’t be happy around the xenogere household.  Hell, next weekend will likely encompass a certain amount of pandering on my part and demanding on their part simply because Kazon had a bad day.

And I will give in to the demanding.

Add to that a simple truth: This is the first time Kazon has been anesthetized.  I don’t know how that will go (although I do know he’s such a baby that I will spend months paying the emotional bill for this).

Grendel and Vazra both go in this weekend for their annual exams.  I hope that goes well and doesn’t add to the growing burden of malfunctions already in play amongst these felines.

Then comes me being on call this weekend.  That never goes well, always demanding too much time and giving so little in return.  And it results in working 12 days straight before seeing any respite in the melee.

Something else popping up on the ol’ radar is a trip to the family farm.  Dad’s health has been problematic at best; Mom’s job has been overly demanding; my siblings offer no support whatsoever.  It behooves me to get out there as soon as possible, even if for nothing more important than a visit, an opportunity to sit a spell with the folks.

Although I’ve finally completed the outline for “The Kingswell Chronicle” as a whole—something I’m thrilled about both as an accomplishment and as a voluminous tale eager to be told, Dreamdarkers needs additional work so I can begin on End of the Warm Season.  Then Centralia.  Then whatever comes next.

Yet I still need to deal with relocating coupled with finding a new job, neither of which can be seen as simple in the current economy.  It seems many companies persist in their hunts for candidates without actually engaging any new employees, a practice with which I’m quite familiar given my many years in management.

That makes finding a new job all the more difficult, however, and relocation on top of that becomes a challenge beyond measure.

I go on, though, go on looking, go on writing, go on caring for my children and my parents, go on going on in a hostile environment assaulting me on all sides.

Things cannot always be this way.

What dark fiend is this?

I awoke just before the clock showed four in the morning.  Sounds of feline mischief beside the bed drew me from slumber.

In that place of being awake enough to hear and see without being so awake that I might as well get up and start my day, I rolled over and looked for the troublemakers.

Grendel and Kazon both sat intently beside the bed.  Grendel appeared to be leading the effort to subdue a shoelace that dangled tauntingly from where I carelessly had tossed some work boots the night before.

I reached down and gently pushed Grendel’s paw away and said something akin to “Please stop doing that.”

Without thinking about it, I grabbed the shoelace, curled it in my hand, then pushed it down into the boot so it could no longer vex The Kids—or my sleep.

But the shoelace had not been the problem.

While I tucked the suspected toy down as far as it would go, something climbed out of the boot and onto my hand.  Perhaps not so much climbed as scampered, skittered even.  And up my arm it came.

Before I could react, it circled back down my arm and around my wrist before climbing down the other side back to the floor, but behind my arm where the resident predators couldn’t reach it.

Needless to say I quickly left that semi-awake/semi-asleep place where I had been, quickly rushed forward to fully aware, and I bounced out of bed with—well, let’s be honest here—I leapt out of bed with a rather unmanly squeal.

It had been large, that much I knew, something moving too quickly to recognize by touch alone yet all too familiar in the worst possible way.  I knew it was a large roach or, as we call them here in the south, a Palmetto bug.

Behemoths no matter how you define the word, these “water bugs” easily reach the size of small cars—like the Lincoln Navigator or Cadillac Escalade.  They can be saddled and ridden cross-country alongside other beasts of burden.  They can stand as tall as a professional basketball player and be as strong as an eighteen-wheeler.

And they fly.

Did I mention they fly?  Not very well, I know, and that’s worse than if they could fly like Air Force fighter pilots.

I turned on the bedroom lights and cranked them up as high as they would go.  The room filled with harsh brightness that caused me to squint.

And thereby lose track of the invader.

But Grendel and Kazon hadn’t lost track of it.  They both had moved down the length of the bed where they stood staring with killer intent.

They stood staring at a pile of laundry.

Damn it!  Can this get any worse?

Unless pushed from its hiding place, the ghoulish creature would have remained hidden, only to creep out into the darkness once I had gone back to bed.

Assuming I’d even get in the bed knowing a demon of ungodly proportions still lurked around that very spot where I would entrust myself to sleep.

So I set about carefully picking through the clothes hoping to roust the devil from its lair.  All the while Kazon and Grendel circled, pawed, watched intently.

When I dislodged a shirt and held it up for a quick shake—in case the doggone villain was trying to hitch a ride out of danger—it rattled loose and flew by my head like a giant projectile weapon forged from disgust.

I leapt.  And it’s possible a wee bit of a scream escaped my lips as I tumbled backward trying to escape.

Yet Grendel immediately jumped into the hullaballoo and came to my rescue.  He had seen where the roach landed.  He masterfully pinned it to the carpet with a strategic placement of his paw.

I reached over, lightly pressed down on his leg and whispered, “Keep it there, Grendel, and don’t let it get away.”  With my other hand I groped behind me until I set my fingers upon the very boot from which the fiend had attacked me.

Boot in hand, fully cocked and loaded, I caressed Grendel out of position long enough for him to lift his foot from the ogre’s back.

And I walloped the bastard several times until all it could do was flinch its legs and try to look peaceful, as though I would fall for such a ruse.

I happily ignored entreaties from The Kids begging me to let them have the toy, let them play with it until it broke.  No such thing was going to happen.

A bit of tissue to protect me from the toxic freak accompanied it into the toilet where it quickly swirled its way into oblivion.

And I was left completely awake, not in any way interested in going back to bed or being in the dark, so I ultimately resigned myself to my fate of being up at four in the morning on a day when I would have to work until ten at night.

I still don’t know if I can go back in the bedroom, let alone sleep in there.  I feel quite certain the leviathan had friends who may well think it their job to avenge its death.

Updates on Grouch

In a most fantastic yet perplexing manner, Grendel‘s condition suddenly reversed course in the past few days.

His weight loss stopped, his shaking disappeared, his overall demeanor improved…

Why this is I can’t say.  Hell, I can’t even say what ailment vexed him these last weeks.

Then again, several veterinarians are similarly perplexed, so I’m in good company.

Nathalie and I recently spoke about this during our regular visit to the neighborhood Starbucks.  You see, one of her dogs has been ill for a spell, progressively succumbing to old age and tired bones.

We spoke that morning of how a sick loved one like this wrestles one into the pits of despair, the curse of depression.

It’s the same I felt when my father faced the danger of aggressive tumors in his head, when my grandmother walked the lonely walk toward death, when Derek battled those last hopeless weeks against a foe he could not overcome, and when Henry struggled against the menacing torment of more than twenty years of life that a cat rarely enjoys.

So these weeks since Grendel’s health spiraled down the drain have been dangerously painful, horribly difficult and ravenously abusive.

His weight is low, so much so that I feel I might break him each time I pick him up, his skin easily giving way to bones underneath no longer shielded by fat and muscle.  There are times when I believe I might well throw him across the room accidentally as I expect more substance where none exists.

Nevertheless, he reached a turning point over the weekend that I hope leads to a mending, a recovery.

Things are not what they seem, however, for he still faces an uphill battle and many challenges, not the least of which is the specter of this devil returning in the future.

We still don’t know what it was—what it is.