Bo in March 2014
“No cat likes to take medicine,” the veterinary technician said, “but this stuff tastes particularly bad.”
Then she demonstrated how to draw up .04 ml of Gabapentin out of the top of the bottle into a syringe without a needle and placed the bottle in my hand. “Good luck,” she said, kindly. She might as well have asked me if I wanted a cigarette and a blindfold.
Give a cat medicine? Did I have a death wish?
♦ ♦ ♦
My house is beginning to resemble a veterinary M*A*S*H unit. Kai the Husky is two weeks into a two-month process of having his heartworms eradicated. A hulking wire crate occupies space by the breakfast table, in case we have to confine Kai to save him from antics that could trigger an embolism in his lungs. Macy the Lhasa Apso takes pills day and night for food allergies and a stomach condition, and her feet must be soaked weekly in prescription shampoo. She might be allergic to grass. Now my cat Bo is ailing. Last Friday he scratched the side of his neck into hamburger, simultaneously developing a limp. The vet treated Bo’s neck wound that afternoon with antibiotics and pain pills, shaving a wide swath through his fur to aerate the bloody skin. Come back on Monday if his limp’s not better, the vet said. We came back on Monday, Bo’s limp worse. For several weeks he’d been off his aerial game, missing landings on the bathroom counter and needing help climbing the step stool to his food bowl in the laundry room. Adding to the cavalcade of distress, he had begun to cry piteously and loudly while scratching madly at his ears.
Clearly, Bo was miserable, and I was at my wit’s end. He’s only about nine years old, much too young to be so feeble. And most of his symptoms seemed to have developed almost overnight.
While Bo underwent x-rays and more tests Monday afternoon, I set up camp in a corner of the clinic waiting room. In the intervening hours, as I cleared out old emails on my cell phone, a pig named Penelope was escorted out the front door, her back end suspended in a sling made from a towel held up by a clinic employee. I watched an enormous three-year-old Great Dane named Sergio get weighed. “One hundred eighty-eight pounds,” the receptionist announced. An assortment of smaller animals came and went. A fellow pet owner took a seat between me and Sergio and, hiding her mouth behind her hand, said to me sotto voce, “That’s a HORSE.”
You missed the pig, I told her.
The parade was a blessed distraction as two hours passed. When at last the vet approached, a laptop open in her hands, she cut right to the chase. X-rays showed deteriorating vertebrae in Bo’s lower spine, she said, and a urinalysis revealed cystitis. A swab of both ears indicated raging yeast infections deep within. I did my best to follow the vet’s explanations as she pointed to elements of my cat’s skeleton on her laptop screen. I couldn’t believe he got so sick, so fast. “It’s stress,” the vet said. “Cats get sick when they feel stressed.” I thought of how many times our dogs had given merry chase to Bo if he so much as peered around a corner in their presence. The Prozac he was prescribed months ago to address his anxiety affected him like a two-martini lunch, so I gradually stopped giving him the drug. Here was the result.
Please make him better, I said.
♦ ♦ ♦
It’s four days later. Bo hates having the Gabapentin squirted down his throat. It makes him gag. I’d wear a hazmat suit if I had one for the nightly task of flushing his ears with an anti-fungal solution. The liquid stings, and he shakes his head like a centrifuge, slinging medicine in all directions. Inevitably, I end up swallowing some and wearing the rest. I’ve replaced the step stool in the laundry room with one he can better navigate and traded his high-walled litter box for one with short sides. Bo lies on my desk as I write this, his damp and crusty neck resting on my arm. I fervently hope he feels better.
We had Stuffed Jalapeños as an appetizer before dinner last night. Fiery hot, sweet with pineapple and cream cheese, wrapped in salty bacon, they’re delicious. If I had to take some unpleasant medicine, it could be buried inside one of these little tasty missiles, and I’d happily swallow it down.
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained well
12 small to medium fresh jalapeños
12 slices of bacon, regular cut
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, then fit a cooling rack inside.
Combine the softened cream cheese and drained pineapple in a bowl, and mix thoroughly with a fork.**
(You might want to put on a pair of disposable latex gloves for this next task.) Slice off the top third (lengthwise) of each jalapeño, leaving the stem end intact. (Reserve the slices for another use, if desired.) With a small spoon (a serrated grapefruit spoon is ideal), scrape out the core, seeds, and membranes of each jalapeño.
Stuff each pepper with enough cream cheese mixture to fill, then wrap with a slice of bacon to enclose. (No toothpicks are necessary since the raw bacon sticks to itself.)
Place each prepared jalapeño on the rack set inside the baking sheet. When the rack is full, place it in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bacon is browned and crisp. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes. (A stuffed, baked jalapeño retains heat for longer than you think it should. Be patient in order to avoid a painful burn.) Serve warm.
**Leftover cream cheese/pineapple mixture makes a divine spread for dainty raisin bread tea sandwiches, or use to top toasted bagels.