Monday, April 27, 2009

Ernie's story

Did Ernest Hemingway go by "Ernie" to his friends, I wonder? Or maybe just with his family? I hope so.

Okay, well our Ernest Hemingway (a.k.a. Mr. Ernie Doodle) has some news! He has officially been transformed into an indoor only cat.

The last straw happened a few weeks ago. I even mentioned it in my post Is there a voice in my head? Is it Jiminy? Basically, Mr. Doodle went out and got himself beat up again. I found him after work on Thursday, April 2nd. His eye was the first thing I noticed: it was all weepy and he was keeping it squinched shut. He looked like hell! I picked him up to examine him further, and noticed his back leg was not in good shape either. I didn't spy a wound, but it was noticeably swollen, and he didn't want to put his weight on it. I took him to the vet the next day, and turns out he needed stitches and a drain in that back leg! The wound was hidden under his fur, but pretty bad for all that. His eye turned out to be fine, whew.

We kept him cooped up on the porch for a couple days, but by Thursday he was going stir crazy and we started letting him out again. His leg was much improved, and they had taken the drain out (although he still had the stitches). But it wasn't until Saturday that the camel's back completely broke in half.

That Saturday was the day before Easter, and we had plans to go up to Rachel's. I let him out in the morning, as per usual. We were getting ready, and at one point I looked out the window and saw him sitting down by the edge of the pond. I even remember thinking, "He's not so stupid that I have to worry about him falling in! Do I? Nah!!!" And while I was thinking that, he got up and walked off into the field. Whew! Disaster averted.

Little did I know . . . when we got home it was about 8:30 PM and dark. I was fumbling with my keys on the porch, and I saw him sitting there. It was so dark he was just a blob, but I reached out to pet him and jerked my hand back: he was wet! I remember I had a horrible thought: what if it wasn't Ernie? What if it was a raccoon or some other animal sitting there? Logic was not any part of this frantic thought; of course a raccoon or any other wild animal wouldn't just be calmly sitting on our doorstep while we walked up to the door. The fact that I couldn't distinguish the shape on our doorstep made me beat feet inside to flip the light on. Dan and I gasped at what we beheld on our stoop: a mud sculpture of Ernie.

The poor little guy was not just "muddy" but had somehow been immersed in mud. He was mud to the skin, nose to tail. He had probably been on the porch for a while and working at cleaning off his face, but you could still see the remnants. He looked positively dreadful.

So, what do you do? I locked up Blake and Bunny in our bedroom, and got some towels and brought Ernie inside to give him a bath in the utility room sink. My heart nearly broke at how miserable he was; he was completely bemired in muck. And he didn't understand what was going on, and just wanted out, out, OUT! His little arms gripped the side of the sink for all he was worth, hanging on for dear life, and he was trying to pull himself up out of the sink. The sludge just sluiced off . . . I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. Plus, his little ear was ripped and his back had minor, superficial wounds on it.

Who (or what?) had he been fighting with?

At last he was clean. I dried him as best I could, and prayed the stitches were okay. He was already scheduled to go to the vet on Monday to get the stitches out; despite his wretchedness, I didn't see any reason to go to an all-night emergency vet.

After everyone got put away, Dan and I had a heart-to-heart. Ernie as a Porch Kitty was just not working. After giving him a bath and really seeing what condition he was in, I was convinced that he got in a fight with a goose. Romeo and Juliet live at our pond--remember them from last year? And I had seen him down there just that morning. We'll never know for sure, but I'm certain he must have come back and either gotten too close to their nest and been attacked, or else he was dumb enough be the instigator and pounced on the goose. Either way, he's clearly not the brightest bulb in the box, and officially Too Stupid to be an outdoor cat.

On that Monday when he got his stitches out, he got the last test he needed to be able to mingle with the indoor kitties: the feline leukemia test. It was negative, so in he came.

And what an adventure that has been! I locked him up in Puma's old prison down in the laundry room. All the "How to Introduce Cats" articles stress the importance of setting up the New Kitty in a Safe Room. Unfortunately, the laundry room that has no natural light whatsoever is the best solution. He was in there for a couple of days, and Blake and Bunny got to listen to his voice a lot, and then I got a couple of baby gates.

I put two in the door jam, one on top of the other, and there was about a foot gap at the top. I jimmied it to make it look, from Ernie's perspective, that it was solid up there, and we just opened the door so everyone could sniff though the gates and hoped for the best.

It went well!! Blake went right up to him to check him out (that was a surprise; usually he hides) and they didn't even hiss or growl! And Bunny eventually came up to see what was going on, and that went well too.

Everyone eating together on their respective sides of the gate.
Ernie is hard to see but he's got a blue bowl that's easy to spot.

This weekend we finally got to the next step. I wasn't really sure about the timing, I figured the slower the better, but apparently it's true that "they'll let you know when they're ready." I heard Ernie fussing with the gates, scrabbling around, but figured he and Blake were just playing through the fence, and since I didn't hear hissing or anything to cause worry, I didn't go look. Dan and I were watching TV and about a half an hour later, I went out and BOING! That's the sound of my eyes popping out on stalks because Ernie was on the WRONG SIDE OF THE FENCE!

I exclaimed, "Hey!" and Dan came running out and there they all were: Ernie casually drinking out of the communal water dish, Blakey nonchalantly lounging against his step, and Bunny had been in with us anyway.

It seems to be going okay so far. Ernie plays rough, but he's obviously just playing, so I hope it will be okay. He charges at Blake and then leaps over him. It's pretty funny, and Blake is just left in the dust with this expression on his face, "What happened? What was that?" No one was acting aggressive yesterday, but I wouldn't say it's all sunshine and roses either.

Keep your fingers crossed! This is Ernie's last chance; if he can't work it out with the other two cats and the dogs, he's got to go to a shelter. And that would really be sad because he's so sweet and cute and loveable. But I refuse to switch from constantly patching Ernie up, to patching up Blake and Bunny or Georgie and Izzy.


It's working out! Hooray. In the months we've had Ernie inside, we've learned:

  • Ernie is a major dork.

  • He's clutzy and more than a little stupid.

  • He's crazy about his red cube.

  • And, finally:

  • It doesn't take an anthropomorphist to figure out what he's saying.
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