Another clueless, airhead model

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goodbye Doobie


I found Doobie in a box with his dead/dying siblings by the Brazoria NWR. They were probably dumped the night before. Of the group only Doobie and one sibling survived however that kitten was too weak and died later at the Vet. I took Doobie home, ~ 3 days old, where mama Chelsea fed him by bottle for a couple of weeks until he was ready to eat regular cat chow. Within 10 days of coming home he was attempting to walk around and thereafter was on the verge of finding a way out the dog door into the back yard. Between him and the door was Spock the cat killer. With Doobie in hand we approached Spock and swatted him with Doobies' paw; telling him to never hurt him. From then on they were brothers along with Kahn and Othello. Motorhead became his brother a month later.

With Doobie growing and hunting throughout my wildscape the rat/mouse problem disappeared. Doobie was king of the back and front yards. They were his jungle and he loved every minute roaming his territory. At night he and Motorhead would vigilantly guard against rodents and the no-tail cat gang down the street. Doobie loved to be held and had a habit of licking the shirt of the person who carried him – digging in his claws as if he was a kitten nursing. He had just enough mischievousness to be fun as we lovingly admonished him often for biting off buttons or chewing on a dress or shirt. Doobies' desired to be held was often preceded by a gurgling sound so you knew it was time to put the laptop or magazine down and accommodated him as he jumped on you for a session of body scratching. Doobie had grown from a kitten that could fit inside a shoe to a 17 pound cat. A little chubby in the gut but most of the size was genetic.

Possibly a clue to Doobies sudden sickness was a disembowel rat at the front door. A rat was a rare occurrence now and a dead one like this may have been sickened by poison elsewhere and easy for Doobie to catch and eat. Doobies' heath degenerated over the course of a month. The prognosis was acute kidney failure that resulted from ingestion of a toxin. Despite 6 days of IV treatments, medication and some functioning of his kidneys Doobie had lost over 25% of his body weight - down to 13 pounds within 3 weeks. The treatment gave us some hope he would recover but after coming home he started to waste away again. He was able to drink on his own but never ate and feeding him by hand proved futile to bringing his strength back. His body had lost its capacity to metabolize and regenerated red blood cells. I looked for any signs of improvement but in the end I conceded that Chelsea was right – Doobie had to sleep the final sleep. Even weakened he still managed to claw his way onto the bed at night to sleep with me and seek comfort for what he didn't understand was happening to his body.

The Passing

Doobie spent the night with his mom the day before his passing. I picked him up in the morning at 6:30 am at her apartment. She gave him a tearful kiss goodbye and put him in his cat crate. As Doobie and I drove back to the house I toyed with the idea of caring for him another six days on my road trip but relented to reality. Before the Vet I let him have once more tour his domain and say goodbye to his brothers. In the front yard I walked around with him in my arms and spoke of the good times he had there.

"Remember this Doobie? You use to stalk the birds every morning, lying in wait in the bushes for that morning kill". More often than not unsuccessful especially after I cleared open space for the hummingbirds to see him creep up to them. "Remember how you use to ambush me from the bushes as I set out on my morning run?" "You would try to run with me until I shooed you away". "At night I would see you lounging on the logs with nothing better to do then watch the world go by". I put Doobie down and he walked a few feet before lying down in a thick growth of sedges. I carried him inside the house to say goodbye to his brothers – Spock, Kahn and Othello. Motorhead wasn't present so I called out "Doobie says goodbye Motor!" I walked by the computer desk
"How many nights did you jump on my lap as I sat at the desk?" Signaling beforehand with his gurgle-meow that he wanted to be held and scratched and clawing into me like a kitten as he licked the shirt.

I carried him to the backyard. "This was your Jungle Doobie". Remember how you would hide in the bushes for a rat or any cat from the no-tail gang to come into your domain?" I put him down and he walked to a small log to sharpen his claws. "Still a cat to the end" I thought. He walked off the log, his coat now sagging on a bony frame and too weak to lift his head as he moved into the foliage to lie down. I let him stay a moment then picked him up for the trip to the Vet. He never liked to be in cars or crates and cried the entire drive.

Dr. Dobson was ready for us because I requested her the night before. One more time I pleaded through tears if there was anything else that could save him. She knew it was over but said he would have to be on IV for months in a crate and that would not guarantee anything. This was not the life Doobie loved. I would not want to be in that condition either. She took Doobie from me to prepare him for the sleep; inserting a syringe with a tube into his arm. He was returned to me for a few minutes more. I looked around the room, seeing a picture of a cat inside a paper grocery bag with another cat that looked like Motorhead peering back at him from the outside. "Remember how you loved to climb into bags to play in or sleep Doobie?" A moment more and I asked the vet attendant to bring in Dr. Dobson. I was glad she was quick about the procedure – injecting a sleeping medication first into the tube. Doobie's body went limp in my arms as he slept. Next was the toxin that would instantly stop his heart. It was over, our baby was gone. I kissed Doobie goodbye and told him I love him. He was carried out wrapped in a towel shroud.

As I drove to Doobie's final resting place I kept one hand on his lifeless body, thanking him for the unconditional love he gave me and Chelsea. His resting place was the Hudson Woods Unit of the San Bernard NWR. Last week I planted a small tree there which I had grown in a pot. A tree I called the Friendship Oak because it was a seedling the day I first met Chelsea. Now 5 feet tall it is in the open near a small building and where school children are brought for field trips. At the tree's base was a hole I dug for Doobie. I put him in it, wrapped in his shroud, and shoveled soil over him. A large flat stone over the grave would keep hogs from scavenging it open. As I walked away I shouted to the sky "Doobie, Doobie you're the best!"


Above Doobie is a garden of tropical sages which are frequented by hummingbirds. Once mortal enemies, Doobie and the hummers are now friends for eternity. His essences will feed the Friendship Oak and they  in turn will be released into the air where one day I'll breathe them in. The oak and Doobie will be protected in perpetuity with thousands of children playing around them. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

From One Disaster to Another

I was in Angleton for four days after returning from Louisiana when I received a request for help with the damage assessment of an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. A pipe belonging to Enbridge Energy Company had ruptured and discharged ~ 900,000 gallons of oil into the river and adjacent creeks. My job was to lead a botanical team to identify the flora communities before the Enbridge crews came in to remove the oiled vegetation and soil.

I was familiar with ~ 50% of the flora in the area and it took another week before becoming fairly proficient in the identification of the rest. There was little time to botanize as the crews were coming in fast so this was a rapid assessment dozens of sites along the river. In the morning we boarded either small boats or airboats and covered over 15 miles of riverine plant communities within 6 days. We were required to wear a safety helmet, steel toe rubber boots and oil resistant coveralls at least to the waste. My coveralls were made by Dupont – Tyvek material that was barely resistant to oil staining but unlike the cleaning crews with their Tychem suits (imagine a suit made of the material of a plastic canvas sheet) we didn't have to pick up oil vegetation or use vacuums to suck up pools of oil so rubber gloves were not necessary.

At each site we moved into the center of a community to quickly assess the dominant canopy, mid-story and ground cover by their percent occupation – their "cover". Species were noted as was a judgment call on the impact of the oil. Also noted was the extent of highly invasive non-native plants such as purple loose strife and canary reed grass. We finished each site with photographs and a GPS point. We would often encounter dense stands of wood nettle and when the unavoidable stinging occurred we were fortunate to have Jewelweed in abundance for its sting reliving sap. 

No poisonous snakes and no other animals except turtles, frogs and birds; all of which were captured and cleaned of oil. Too much crew and boat traffic had scared away the rest of the animals. After 9 days I was back home.