A boy and his dog, a girl and her cat…

Seems we have had our fair share of sadness lately.  Sometimes that is just how things work out.  When you travel with 2 elderly pets, it is inevitable that it will become time to help them cross the rainbow bridge.

We rescued Raskal back in the spring of 1998 – yes 17 1/2 years ago!  He was an adorable black and white “tuxedo” kitty, and was 8 weeks old.  Here is the story about how he came to live with us.

Let me start by telling you that we were a family of 4, Mom, Dad, Daughter and Son, that had just grown into 5.  Not in the traditional way – that being me having a baby – but instead we had our 15-year-old niece, Angela, come live with us.  The how and why of that is another story for a different day.  Our daughter, Michelle, was 9 years old, and our son, Billy, had just turned 8.  Our pets at the time were my cat, Mandy, a long-haired fluff ball that didn’t like anyone but me, and our poodle/terrier mix, Becky, who loved everyone.

Michelle had been asking for a kitty of her own for quite a while, and we (actually Bill) had always told her no – one cat in the house was enough.  She kept asking b/c she wanted a kitty she could pet and love and play with, b/c Mandy was not that cat.  So, she was given a writing assignment in her 4th grade class “Writing to Persuade”.   (side note for those of you that are not aware: Michelle has earned her Bachelors and Masters degrees in English – we should have seen that coming even back then!)  Her letter was addressed to her father, and I’m sure you can now see where this is going, her letter was to get him to agree to allow her to get a new kitty.  Well, clearly she got an “A+” on her letter at school, and at home we got Raskal.

She had originally asked for a black cat, but after calling a bunch of places, there were no black kittens available.  One of the places did have 2 black and white kittens and she decided to go look at them.  A friend of ours had told us a good way to tell if a kitten/cat would be agreeable to being held was to flip them onto their backs and attempt to hold them like a baby, if they were ok with that, good, if they squirmed and wanted to get away, that might not be the best kitty if you wanted to be able to hold them and love on them.  Raskal’s brother was not agreeable to being held that way, but Raskal laid like that in her arms for quite a while.  I could see her little face fall in love with him, right there in the middle of the pet store.

After filling out all the paperwork, and getting kitten supplies, we left and headed for home.  The name he came with was “Alfalfa” and she did not like it at all.  Michelle and Billy started talking about possible names for her new kitten and I cannot remember now all the options that were considered and put aside before Billy finally said “How about Rascal?”  Michelle thought about it for a minute and said “Yes – I like that, BUT we have to spell it with a K – not a C”.  Ok – Raskal it was!   They also discovered, in the backseat of my car on the way home, that he has a crooked tail.  The vet told us 2 days later that it he was born that way, nothing to worry about.  He was completely healthy!

not long after he was brought home
not long after he was brought home

I can safely tell you that was one of the best days of her life, and Raskal’s too.  They were inseparable.  She fed him, cleaned the cat box, pet him, brushed him, slept with him, read to him (yes read to him!), took care of his every need and want.

after he had gotten a bit bigger
At about 2 years old

When she left for college, she would come home to visit us, but I think it was mostly to see Raskal.  At some point, she got another kitten, Luna, also a tuxedo kitty.  (maybe someday ask me THAT story!) When she moved to Pittsburgh, she left Raskal with us b/c she could only take one cat and she figured Raskal had been with us longer than Luna.  So, when we sold the house and started this RV lifestyle, Raskal came with us.  He did not like travel days very much, and he occasionally would voice his displeasure during the drive.

Raskal was recently diagnosed with syncope, which you can read about here:  syncope in cats if you want.  The very short version is he had an issue with his heart that caused these episodes that initially to me looked like a seizure or even a stroke.  He also was becoming incontinent, which is not good in any home, but especially bad in the rig.  He also had pretty bad arthritis in his back, I believe he broke his one front foot getting down off the bed and he also just hasn’t been “all there” mentally in quite a while.

So, when we got to Pittsburgh, Michelle (already aware of his health issues) and I decided that it was time to take him.   It was a very hard day, but it is made somewhat easier knowing it is the right thing to do.  He isn’t limping anymore, he isn’t “zoning out” when he has one of his syncope episodes, I’m not annoyed at him anymore b/c he peed outside the box.  He was an awesome cat, who loved getting his attention (he could insist on that sometimes!), loved his cat treats (Bill called the cat cookies his cat “crack”!) and we are very grateful for the time we had him with us.

Michelle with Raskal during her high school years, around 2006'ish
Michelle with Raskal during her high school years, around 2006’ish

I also have to tell you about Cocoa.  She was “technically” my son’s dog, as Raskal was Michelle’s cat.

I mentioned above that when we brought Raskal home, we already had a dog, her name was Becky.  In she spring of 2000, Becky got very sick and we had to take her to the vet; sadly there was nothing the vet could do so we ended her suffering.

About 3 or 4 months later, Billy (who was 9) started asking for a puppy.  Ever since Michelle had gotten Raskal, he had been asking for a puppy but we told him one dog in the family was enough.  I was surprised it took him a few months to start asking after Becky died.  I wasn’t ready for a new puppy.  I missed my Becky and didn’t want a “replacement” just yet.

Well, as Christmas grew closer, Billy really kicked the asking into high gear.  I actually went out and bought him a robot dog and wrapped it and put it under the tree.  Then I started feeling guilty and started watching in the newspaper under the “pets” section.  One ad stood out (I’m totally paraphrasing here) that said something like:  The neighbors very crafty Australian Cattle Dog figured out a way to get onto our very secure deck and make puppies with our black lab female.  Well, I HAD to go look at them!  The next afternoon while Billy was with a friend, Michelle and I drove to see the puppies.  There were 8 in total, 7 females and one male.  I had already decided I wanted a female, so the owner put the male, and the female that was already promised to someone else, in another room so we could just see the still available girls.  Michelle sat on the floor and they were running all around her, being crazy puppies.  After a few minutes, one came over and just sat in her lap and looked up at her.  She looked at me and said “This one Mom!”  Ok – the owner got out some nail polish and we polished a couple of her nails red, and the owner got out a paper and wrote “red polish – Kelly Murray” and she asked me when I wanted to pick her up.  Ideally, I wanted to pick her up Christmas morning, and even though I never actually thought that would be an option, I said it anyway “Christmas morning would be perfect”  The owner says “well, I already have someone coming, so as long as you are here before my kids get up – that’s fine”  I was shocked, but happy!  We agreed I would come at 6:30am.

So, a week later, on Christmas morning, Michelle and I got up and left at 6:10 to go pick up Billy’s new puppy!  While we were out, Bill got the crate, bag of puppy chow, collar and leash out and under the tree.  I had also gotten a big red bow that we put around her neck when we got home.  I’m not sure if he heard some of the commotion, but Billy didn’t take long to get up and find his way to the living room, where the rest of us were sitting, waiting anxiously for him to come see her.  Now, I have to mention, Billy has always had big blue eyes, but I’ve never seen them bigger than that morning – never before or since!  I thought he was going to faint – he sucked in his breath and just stared with his mouth gaped open.  I guess he really had no idea – that was clear.  After some discussion, her name was chosen – Cocoa.

Billy and his Christmas puppy Cocoa
Billy and his Christmas puppy Cocoa

Along with the puppy supplies, I had also bought him a book on training your puppy.  I told him he was to read it cover to cover and teach her to be a good dog.  To his credit, he did exactly that.  Of course, while he was at school, I had to walk her but he did as the book told him to do and taught her all kinds of things.  Most important was “COME!” b/c Becky never learned that one and she was a runner, if she got out off leash, it would take a long time to get her back home, and I didn’t want that again.  He also taught her to sit, shake, down, stay, wait (which was when he fed her, he would tell her to “sit” and then “wait” and he would fill her bowl – then he would tell her “ok” and she would eat)  She was the absolute best dog ever!  Angela and her baby daughter, Avianna, were still living with us and Cocoa was so good with the baby, always gentle!

The other amazing thing about Cocoa was how much she helped Billy.  See, my son has a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome.  He would go to school and sometimes get teased for the movements he would do that he couldn’t control.  He would come home and take Cocoa outside to play.  Cocoa didn’t judge him or tease him, only loved him.  Billy would throw her sticks (her FAV activity!) for the longest time!  While out there, he would “shake off” his day.  When he got older, he was able to somewhat “control” his tic’s at school, but when he got home, he could “scratch the itch” as he would call it – outside with Cocoa.  I had no idea when we brought home that roly-poly puppy how good for him she would be.

Cocoa and her boy in the fall of 2001
Cocoa and her boy in the fall of 2001

As Cocoa got older, she developed many health issues.  She had vestibular syndrome, which made her dizzy, sort of like vertigo, and she walked with her head a bit tilted.  She also had pretty bad arthritis in her back legs, and Tramadol 3 times a day wasn’t enough after a while.  She also just wasn’t all there mentally.  She had significant hearing and vision loss.  She had this eczema on her nose that itched her like crazy, and nothing really helped it, not even 3 rounds of steroids.

Billy - all grown up with Cocoa this past winter in FL
Billy – all grown up with Cocoa this past winter in FL

Billy and Renee and I took her and Billy will keep her ashes and a paw print.  As hard as it was, it was the right thing to do.  It was very hard to watch her failing so badly.  She is now at peace, no longer in pain and is chasing sticks with Andrew while Raskal lays in a sunbeam nearby.  She is playing with her “fursisters” Mandy and Becky, and my Grandmother is feeding them all lots of cookies.

So, sadly, our time with our kids was bittersweet.  We always love spending time with them, even though this time the time was somewhat subdued b/c of what happened.  We did have a few bright moments though.

While in Lancaster, hubby and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary!  My awesome man brought me roses!

He used to get me one for each year - 30 roses would have been a bit much for the rig!
He used to get me one for each year – 30 roses would have been a bit much for the rig!

Another day we visited Greg and Cori at Brandywine Creek CG.

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Greg on the phone with Craig and cracking himself up!
Hobie!
Hobie!

Another day we visited Spring House Taproom in Lancaster.  Both my men love their beers!

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The flight Billy ordered and Bill's cooler - he was all ready to bring his growler home
The flight Billy ordered and Bill’s cooler – he was all ready to bring his growler home
Billy beating his father at shuffleboard
Billy beating his father at shuffleboard

We took advantage of all the best that Lancaster offers

fresh Lancaster corn on the cob! The corn was so yummy this year! And only $2.50 for a bakers dozen!
fresh Lancaster corn on the cob! The corn was so yummy this year! And only $2.50 for a bakers dozen!
FULL bag of colored (non-green) peppers $4.00!
FULL bag of colored (non-green) peppers $4.00!
HUGE eggplant 2 for $1!
HUGE eggplant 2 for $1!

a surprise gift:

Look at the beautiful thoughtful bracelet Renee got me - with Cocoa's birthstone
Look at the beautiful thoughtful bracelet Renee got me – with Cocoa’s birthstone

Breakfast at Shady Maple:

Ken & Nancy Bill & I
Ken & Nancy Bill & I

In Pittsburgh:

out to dinner at The Church Brewery - yes it used to be a REAL church!
out to dinner at The Church Brewery – yes it used to be a REAL church!

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A first time visitor to our home

Michelle's long-time friend, Elise and her dog. His name is German and I have no idea how to pronounce it, much less how to spell it
Michelle’s long-time friend, Elise and her dog. His name is German and I have no idea how to pronounce it, much less how to spell it – he is a total cutie!

A walk on a beautiful day at Frick Park

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Michelle didn't want her pic taken, but I took it anyway
Michelle didn’t want her pic taken, but I took it anyway

Shopping!

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We had another great view at Mountain Top

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This is very confusing and just wrong

diesel pump is BLACK
diesel pump is BLACK
gas pump is GREEN
gas pump is GREEN

Bill and I arrived in Campbellsville, KY earlier today.  We are all set up at Heartland RV Park, and will start our new jobs at Amazon on Monday.  We will be here through on or about Dec 22.  I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes.

p.s.  Just wanted to show you a pic of one of my fav purchases:

No - your eyes do not deceive you - a new atlas! Bill inherited the old one for the truck!
No – your eyes do not deceive you – a new atlas! Bill inherited the old one for the truck!  He says I’m a weirdo, but I just love my atlases!