Sixteen days ago, something attacked JackTar the Cat - at the head of the basement steps. Mr. Fuzzy had just lathered up in the shower but heard a cat's war cry. By the time he arrived in the scene, all that was left was a small pile of black hair and no cats to be seen. About an hour later, as breakfast was in preparation, JackTar walked up but didn't Life his tail in salute, most odd. On close examination, his tail had been chomped by something larger than a feline; the worst damage was where the tail and the body met - there was a hanging flap of skin. By now it was 7:00 a.m. but the vet's phone line did not open for half an hour. On the stroke of 7:30, the vet's practice was called but there were already other emergencies and they could not see JackTar until 9:30. The wait took a year from Mr. Fuzzy's life. The vet immediately put him in surgery for nearly two hours. When competed, she was not certain if JackTar could ever lift his tail again - or if he would have any bowel control.
He came home very groggy and despite pain meds, clearly hurting. That night he pulled out both drains and some sutures. A call to the vet's office first thing Saturday morning revealed she was taking the day off, however, the vet tech believed this was a serious problem and referred us to the veterinary clinic at Virginia Tech, an hour away. A call was made there and then an hour's wait before that vet could return my call. Then we drove up, she examined him, had a surgeon examine him, and once more he was under anesthesia. By the time he had come out of post-op and we drove home, that entire Saturday was shot - as were the two of us.
The emergency room vet had sent JackTar home with a collar on to prevent him from removeing any more sutures... and it drove him into depression. For the ten days he wore it, he ate less than a tablespoon of food a day and was stressed, pacing the floor in his quarantine room, catching the collar on everything. The twice daily dose of antibiotic probably kept his stomach and digestive tract out of whack as well.
This past Friday, the original vet removed his sutures and pronounced the surgery successful. She was surprised that (1) he had a fair range of tail motion and (2) complete bowel control. We drove home and he was elated to be released into the house, free of the collar. A quick bite to eat, a little water, and then an afternoon in the sun, cleaning himself up. You could see the smile on his face.
While JackTar's sutures were being removed, Mr. Fuzzy mentioned to the vet that Rufus the Dog was off his food for six days and not his normal gregarious & ebullient self. She opined that since his food had been changed, he was on a hunger strike. By last night, Rufus was clearly in trouble. Another call to Virginia Tech's emergency clinic and at 12:30 a.m., we left the farm on the hour long drive north. Tests indicated his blood sugar was well out of range (30 rather than a normal 100) and his electrolytes were totally abnormal. At 4:30 a.m., the vet suggested that I return home as she needed to observe him for another six plus hours. Additionally, she recommended that he remain there through midday Monday so more sophisticated tests could be run. It really concerned me to leave him although it was clear that Dr. Honorius and Ms. Mason were highly competent and compassionate (and quite attractive...). So at 5:45 a.m., I rolled back into the farm driveway. At this point, with incomplete data, the doctor believes he may have Addison's Disease http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/addisons.aspx
During this entire time, something has been killing the chickens in their coop. Due to several other major distractions, Mr. Fuzzy was not as quick on the uptake as he should have been. When he found the first corpse, he didn't examine it carefully; chickens do die in their sleep. But after the third fatality in three days, a closer examination revealed part of the carcass had been consumed, but not much. The puzzle was how did a predator enter the coop at night or was it present already when Mr. Fuzzy closed the coop doors? An afternoon with hammer, dykes, fencing staples and hardware wire was spent closing up any possible entry; only an anorexic snake could have found a way into the chickens' sanctum sanctorum. Alas, another body the next morning. Curses, foiled again!
A game camera was positioned to show two of the three exterior sides of the coop. As the sun rose, another dead fowl and nothing recorded on the game camera. Older and wiser, Mr. Fuzzy placed the camera inside the structure and caught the visage of the murderer: a raccoon.
Another careful inspection of the structure was in order. At last, a possible entry, although a very tight fit, where some chicken wire had come loose. This was closed up with hardware wire. Last night the camera was placed in the coop --- and no breech of security was recorded. Alas, the Hav-a-hart trap baited with a fresh peach failed to nab the killer and so it remains on the loose. One wonders if it is what passed through the cat door, rose up the stairs and attacked JackTar in the living room...
The weeds & grasses have nearly taken over the gardens. It has been far too wet to till and even hoeing has been restricted. The Japanese beetles which were difficult last year have over-run the main garden, at least those plants that survived the recent Biblical deluge. On Friday morning, Mr. Fuzzy was sorely grieved to see that the electric fence had been shorted out by a few tall,wet weeds and the deer had simply pushed right through the strands. Their tracks were over the entire garden where they had supped on the squash flowers, the new squash leaves, the tomatoes larger than a quarter, the patty-pan squashes (and uprooted the plants themselves to reach the fruits), and trampled the remaining pepper plants. If this series of plagues had struck a century ago, Mr. Fuzzy would be facing a starving winter.
There are more sunny days than rainy now, a fair relief. And those patio plants not savaged by the fowl are in their glory.