Monday, August 27, 2007

with and without foam

I did not want to go to Guadalupe on Friday. Guadalupe is the farthest south we ever go for a rescue. Technically it's not even in our county. There's a great steak place there which took me ten years to try simply because it's so very far away. Anyway, I was sure that no self respecting sick sea lion would wait on the beach nearly two hours for my crew to arrive. I figured we'd drive all that way and return empty handed. I was totally wrong. We found her there, all well behaved, sitting in the sloping tideline of the unspoiled beach. She didn't even take off when some spectators (who'd just given us a $20 donation) got too near. She didn't bite at us in the net or try to escape when the waves rushed in. She was the picture of cooperation. Off shore a thick line of birds flew south endlessly. It was simply breathtaking. Everything went so well we named her Smooth.

Smooth never did seize for us, but it seemed she really wanted to. She had all the usual markers - the brown slobber, bobbing head, seizy eyes. But she was nicely hydrated and it was late, so we left her alone for the evening. Sounds like she was a bit of a butt to box up the next morning but other than that the day was quiet.

Sunday I got a little more action. I was able to pass Modred's rescue off on my south county crew (she was on the drive on beach), so I didn't have to get another pair of sneakers wet. She was just about the strangest sea lion I've seen. Instead of brown slobber, she had white foam. And tons of it. She was head bobbing constantly - literally for hours. Though she wouldn't seize for me, she wouldn't settle either. I made a case for some lorazepam and left her for the evening.

Apparently Modred had no problem seizing this morning. She was unresponsive to touch and totally flat. Not surprisingly, she died on transport this afternoon. Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one. Monday's crew had four more animals, one of which died during rescue. And to think I was whining about how far I had to drive. At least I didn't have to watch anyone die.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

tarred and feathered

Didn't I predict I would get a call today? Wednesdays, I tell you. The fates were kind, however, as I was able to fit my seal in between my vet visits and my lunch date (which turned into breakfast). She was another delivery from the drive on beach. All I had to do was pick her up. Easy enough for me. The guy who caught her had been trying for three days.

So you can see from her picture she's got a tar problem. We wanted to name her Tar Baby. We figured it wouldn't fly cuz it wasn't PC but actually it didn't fly because it was taken. Olio didn't work either. So in my absence they came up with Twinkle Tar, which really isn't all that bad.

Her tar is actually pretty dramatic. The thickest spot even has feathers in it, which I found amusing in a sick sort of way. I don't know whether the tar was the cause of her other problems - distended belly, bony frame, possible prolapse - but at least she still had considerable fight in her. We only had her for an hour (long enough to stretch her legs before the transport), but boxing her up took about half of that.

The vet, like the fates, was also kind to me today. He manipulated my bill to my distinct advantage and suggested that although there is little more we can be doing medically, it is too soon to be talking euthanasia. He's thinking we should throw caution to the wind and put OC on Fancy Feast to increase the moisture in his system. He would be at increased risk for urinary crystals, but we'd keep an eye out and add acidifiers to his diet to manage them. He also wants to know where OC's been eating long thick grass and picking up ticks. I have no clue. I guess he is getting the ticks in the long thick grass, but I swear there is no grass in my neighborhood. This is California in the summer. Everything is brown.

So I am relived. OC and I have dodged another bullet. And besides, I realized I can't kill him before the LSAT. That would really tank my score. I am, however, in the process of negotiating my way off the seal schedule for September, to afford myself more study time. I'm pretty well ingrained, so it's painful at this point. Even a reduction in days would be helpful. To think, I might actually have to blog about something other than seals...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

this is your seal on drugs

I don't think I've ever been happier to see a seal seize than I was on Sunday when ICBM (named after an inter continental ballistic missile), who turned from utterly unresponsive on the beach to super scary aggressive in the carrier, finally threw herself into a fit. Having learned my lesson on Nashville (who I see is not on the website and therefore not likely in this world...), I remembered to bring the good drugs to the beach. But, no, she didn't seize then. Not while she was all nicely entangled in the net. That would be too easy. Instead she waited until we got her back in the pen where she could, you know, run all around and bite things. Anyway, we were just deciding how to approach her safely when she threw her head back and had the biggest seizure I've ever witnessed. Often we see the whites of their eyes (which is, I believe, a band of connective tissue). This is the first time I've seen the red that lays beyond. Heartbreaking, but a relief, as we knew she needed meds and had no other guarantee that we could get them into her.

After we got her nice and stoned, she stayed pretty well zonked until, of course, I came back to give her her evening Phenobarb. Like on the beach, she went from totally flat to totally bonkers in an instant. Only then did we realize she was acting nonvisual. (Not a good thing, as blind sea lions can't fish. This is the reason Swansong, who was rehabbed and actually scheduled for release, didn't make it to the ocean again...) You would think that it would be easy to sneak up on a blind seal but you'd be wrong. A blind seal is a scared seal. And therefore a scary seal. So I had to call in reinforcements at 9 pm. With four people (instead of two) we were able to get the job done, but it wasn't pretty. Is it mean that I'm a little jealous that she was well behaved for her morning Phenobarb? Lucky Monday crew. Anyway, I see she's on the website which means she's been admitted. Perhaps this means the nonvisual thing was temporary?

Speaking of temporary, it seems that OC's lucky streak of free flowing feces is once again coming to an end. Gee, how long has it been? Shall we check the calendar? No need. Just refer to the credit card statement. It's been exactly one month and one day since his last incident. And before that? Well, that was in May, so we'd made it just about two months, our longest stretch since this whole nightmare began. We also have had visits in April, March, and January. Could my sister actually be right that this has become a quality of life issue for him? I mean, it can't be fun to have giant fingers up your butt once a month.

Really, I thought she was just being cheap, setting herself up to back out of our unwritten contract. You know, the one where she promised over fondue and cocktails that she'd pay his butt related bills if I would just give him a home. Well, now that those bills are up to $1441 for the year ($1031 of which is in dispute - $614 incurred before she advised me to kill him, $417 since...) we seem to talk about anything but OC. I'm sure she considers her advice to be pragmatic. At worst it could be called clinical. And frankly, I can see where she's coming from. She puts animals out of their misery every day, often over a lot less money.

But for me, it's just harder to swallow. I'm his mom, perhaps the only person in the world who cares about him. I'm supposed to be on his side. And I am. I totally am. I mean he's not my favorite cat. I'll admit that. Even people moms have favorites - they're just not allowed to say. I think we all know that his evil sexy brother is in many ways more beloved. But not favoring him is a far step from killing him just because he's expensive. And gross. And broken.

Who's to say if the 29 - 59 days he spends without giant fingers up his butt don't balance out the discomfort? He truly enjoys killing and eating things. Just the other night he brought in a mouse (which, I guess thankfully, was still alive so I stepped in and set it free...). This cat's got game. And he seems to dig the narcotics he gets after the enemas. He's always very affectionate which, I now know is a side effect, but still. It must be fun. Why else would all the kids these days do Ecstasy? (Do the kids these days even still do Ecstasy, I wonder? I'm so old...)

On the other hand, he literally lives in fear. The jihad is always on. On like Donkey Kong. So much so that I sleep with a Super Soaker in the bed just so I can better break up cat fights in the night. But I never squirt OC. I know it's not his fault. He works so hard to give me love. He literally risks life and limb to be near me. Even now, he is at my side while his brother bangs on the door wanting to kill him. How do I repay that with poison?

And look how cute he is. Could you kill this face? He's much more photogenic than his brother. And besides, I'm still just 2 and a half years out since last I lost a cat. I'm so not ready to mourn again. Oh, imaginary internet friends, what should I do?

Well, I guess it starts with the vet, eh? This time I think I caught it in time to avoid anesthesia. So it should only be $100, not $300 or more... And I had to go there anyway, to pick up more meds, of course. I knew there was a reason I didn't run that errand while I was out today. I sure hope the beaches are quiet tomorrow as I am once again in charge of the seals. I'm thinking I'll get a call, though. I always get a call. And Wednesdays are historically busy. And apparently it was quiet today. Add to all that an errand and it's just getting irresistible to the fates. If that package weren't already enough, I also have a lunch date...

So I guess it's off to bed with me (and my Super Soaker). But if the cats are trapped in, no one will sleep anyway...

On a much happier cat note, I am pleased to announce that my dear pal Wendy's renegade escape artist cat, Lou Pucci, has been returned to his home. I don't think I told you the tale, but he was missing two weeks. In the city. And he's an indoor kitty. Much like OC, Lou's not her favorite, but as I recall from OC's time away, that almost makes it worse. Anyway, Wendy is smart so she set a trap. And Lou got hungry enough to use it. So hooray. That's two successful missing cat stories in one year. An inspiration to all...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

sort of slow for our busy season

So it's taken me a while to post. My chief excuse is that my seal week's been relatively slow. I know I could actually post about things other than my seals. (You'd like that wouldn't you?) And, in theory, if I'm not chasing seals, I should have more time for writing, right? Well, yeah, you might have a point there. But really, my life is boring without the seals. And besides, I've been spending all my spare (as in sober and awake) time preparing for the LSAT, which I take in less than six short weeks. I will say, though, I could have at least taken the time to clarify what a pie safe is (in response to my loyal readers' inquiries). In fact, I have found very few people outside my immediate family who have known what I am talking about. So I pulled this description off Lowe's website:
Before the advent of the ice box, when kitchen cabinets were still more of a luxury than a standard item, a pie safe was considered a prize possession. These unique cupboards were used to store baked goods, flour and other kitchen sundries. Their classic style and design still blends well with many modern kitchen settings. In recent years pie safes have moved out of the kitchen and found new lives as entertainment centers, armoires and linen cupboards.
While my pie safe will most certainly remain one of my prize possessions, it will never contain pies. I'm much more of a cake person myself, and besides, I have an entire kitchen for all that stuff. In fact, I haven't thought of what I will put in my pie safe. Very few things seem worthy of such hallowed ground. Nor has the pie safe been officially moved in. Though we've decided it absolutely must go in the main room next to the TV (so I can admire it often), we have not yet evicted the laundry chair/scratching post that stands in its place. So I walk around the pie safe, risking stubbed toes, and I'm not even annoyed. This tells you how much I love my pie safe.

But you know, all too well I'm sure, that I also love my seals. And so here's this week's synopsis.

We begin with the sloppy seconds I shipped off on Sunday morning. Fiscalini was a late season elephant seal suffering from otostrongylis (that evil lungworm which is so often deadly, as it hasn't yet acclimated to this new host). It's been a while since we've had an elephant seal on site (the last oto victim died within hours) so we were all a bit rusty. The morning tube feeding went, shall we say?, less than perfectly. But we got the job done, and that's what matters. The only thing I regret is that I foolishly did not put on play pants. Thus I ended up staining my jeans with runny dark feces as I stabilized his hind end to give him an injection. Delightful. And I do know for certain that Fiscalini is a "he" as I accidentally stuck my finger in his "oopsie hole" while loading him up. I see now that it really does make you say "oopsie" as your finger beats a hasty retreat out of the penis keeper. Hope I didn't give him a urinary tract infection. At least he's already on antibiotics...

Then all was quiet until Tuesday. I wasn't officially on schedule, but I wasn't altogether surprised when I got a call from one of my favorite rescue friends inviting me to check on a long shot on Morro Rock. I wore long sleeves despite the heat (the last of my previous poison oak is finally gone) and hurried down to meet her. (Sadly, I think I did get some new poison oak on this trip. It's just beginning to drive me crazy today...) We ended up finding our seal by accident (she'd just hauled out on a different rock, much closer to the parking lot than the rock we were headed towards) but we knew it was our girl as her wounds were painfully obvious (and obviously painful). We took this photo of the damage (shark bite, big shark bite) when we thought we couldn't access her.

You can see from this picture that her rock (the farthest one out) was completely surrounded by ocean (shark filled ocean, at that). Still, because a determined seagull was attempting to snack on her, we worked our way closer to her position (down a steep rock, and across a bunch of wet ones), hoping to scare off the bird and maybe even the seal, figuring she might pick a different rock.

To our surprise, she let us get very, very close to her. We'd successfully spooked the gull and weren't terribly spooked ourselves. Since we were already wet (me to my knees, my friend to her crotch), we decided to give the net a swing. Filet didn't put up much fight. Only the elements made the rescue challenging. My net got hung up on rocks, the tide was rising, and we still had that steep slope to traverse. We finally got the seal to this position and called in reinforcements. A handful of people showed up (three of them from the Coast Guard) and helped us get her out of the ocean and into a carrier.

I was pretty surprised and a little encouraged when vet staff didn't euthanize her right away. Filet's wounds, though dramatic, could have been somewhat superficial. So instead we gave her the good drugs to the control the pain and crossed our fingers. She ended up dying overnight, so now we're all wishing we'd put her out of her misery, but at least I know we saved her from the bird. And again, for the record, when and if I must die, I'd like to do so on the good drugs...

Wednesday brought more action. No surprise there, as Wednesdays are notoriously (if not mysteriously) busy. The day began with a 9 am wake up call for a seizing sea lion in Avila. I guess because it was a second hand report, we did not think to bring drugs to the beach. Big mistake as we helplessly watched Nashville seizing in the net. We let our staff person net him (her first time) as he was lethargic and there was plenty of beach for whiffing once or twice. She got him on her first try anyway. Then we called in the Harbor Patrol guys to drive on and help us get our animal off the very long beach. I don't know if you can see it, but there's a tiny hole in his head (above his eye) that we're waiting to hear back about. It's just perfect enough to be man made, if you know what I mean. Even if he isn't a victim of foul play, we learned he was on the beach (seizing) all night. So that's not a good thing.

Anyway, on the way back from Avila, we got a call for a seal on my home turf in Morro Bay. I went down to check it out with another girl (while the others offloaded Nashville) and we scooped up Knoxville here. He was pretty easy to catch as he has a swollen shoulder and didn't feel like moving. We got our feet wet just in case (to be in the best position to respond to his potential mad dash to freedom) and again we got a lot of help from the public getting him off the beach and into the truck. I haven't gotten an update from vet staff (they just received him today) but broken parts (especially front flippers) are not generally a good thing. So I am rooting for abscess. But even that indicates a pretty massive infection.

So it looks like I'm mostly likely 0 for 3 in my seal week. At least I learned that BonusFred has been successfully disentangled and promptly released. And Propeller made it through despite his ghastly wound. And Falafel lost an eye but is still in the land (or sea?) of the living. So they're not all sad stories. But sea lions sure do have a knack for finding trouble...

Friday, August 10, 2007

my pies are so freaking safe

I am so excited to announce the arrival of my newest piece of clutter. Behold the beauty of the pie safe animals on parade.

And in case you aren't properly amazed, look how big it is. It's like seven feet tall. It seemed much smaller in the store with the very high ceilings. Ah, I love it even more. I definitely love it more than $800 plus tax plus interest on my credit card. Now we just have to find a place to put it. I think the laundry chair is going to be evicted. The black cat will be angry, as it is one of his favorite scratching posts, but I would so much rather look at my pie safe than my unfolded laundry. Besides, the black cat is always angry. In fact, he's been sleeping in the other room for the past week as his brother's been home a lot. I notice he is in the bed now, with Erik, so he is definitely just making a point to avoid the bed to punish me...

Anyway, after my hubby delivered my beloved pie safe, I ran out and rescued yet another sea lion. Yvonne is, I'm now thinking, most likely a boy. Tucked, skinny, dry, lethargic, with juicy respirations and pale mucous membranes... a definite pick up. We gave him some antibiotics last night and some fluids this morning. Hopefully, he'll do pretty well, as so many of my animals this year have not. I haven't confirmed their outcomes, but neither Gainer nor Comedian appear on the website. Comedian, with the crunchy, bumpy back is no surprise. And I guess, really, the giant pus lump on Gainer could have given me a clue. Still, you'd think I'd get one out of two. And, I sadly learned, my dear Tapia is toast. Apparently he restranded just before the fourth of July and they euthanized for suspected chronic domoic acid toxicity. Yeah, so I guess I don't really want him out there suffering with his little atrophied hippocampus trying to survive in the wild, but still, I am bummed.

But I am also busy. Off to Sausalito for an overnight visit preceding a Saturday morning meeting. Erik's coming with me, which is fun for company and romance and all, but worrisome for OC who will have no one to defend him when he sneaks in for dinner tonight. Poor little red headed step child. Anyway, I've still got to pack so I guess I'd best sign off.

Monday, August 06, 2007

back to normal

So although you wouldn't know it from my lack of posting, I survived my trip to Normal, Illinois, (which, as it turns out, was actually a trip to Peoria, 40 minutes outside of Normal, and nearly 3 hours from the Chicago airport I flew in and out of...). I'm happy to report that I successfully dodged any and all opportunities to attend softball related festivities. In fact, other than helping my niece navigate her way through airports and across highways, I was entirely superfluous. Just the way I like it.

Upon my return, it was right back to seal rescuing, my own version of normal. Friday we finally got to make our first attempt at our entanglement girl. You can see her here, snuggled up against a big male on that same inaccessible dock she loves so much. We had to approach by boat (and by "we" I mean "not me" as I was on a neighboring dock taking pictures...). The boat disturbed the sea lions, of course, but we were lucky that she was the last to catch on that the ruckus was anything out of the ordinary. We actually had a net on her for a moment, but she managed to slip away.

Saturday I decided to go back down looking for our entanglement girl and while there I missed out on a hike along the Morro Bay jetty. My friends and crew that remained behind picked up Comedian here. At a mere 11 kg, she was easy enough to carry, but she was at the absolute farthest point of the jetty. You can't tell in her photo, but something is way wrong with her hind end - it's lumpy, bumpy, and distorted and she wasn't using it at all. I haven't seen her name on the website and I've been afraid to ask if she's still around. At least we were able to make her comfortable during her stay. She got the good drugs.

Thinking how lucky I was to be missing the jetty rescue, I was cursed by the Fates with a hike out to Hazard Canyon for a much larger critter, Gainer. Gainer was snuggled up to a random beach goer (very abnormal behavior for a sea lion) and he was also skinny and tucked. We later discovered a mysterious pus filled hump on his back to boot. I was surprised by how many people questioned this rescue ("how do you know he isn't just sunning himself?") and disturbed, even, that we were actively heckled by a group of guys who insisted, among other things, that my privately funded non-profit was "a waste of tax payers' money." Later one of them nearly ran over Gainer in the parking lot. So sweet. On the other hand, I was delighted with the handful of folks who did help us carry his 58 kg off of the beach as we really couldn't have done it alone.

Sunday we went back down to Avila to make a second attempt at our entanglement girl. I had a spot on the boat this time (dorky life vest and all) which was infinitely more satisfying than watching from the pier. She was wise to us, though, and her boyfriends were particularly vociferous and menacing. Even the wind was against us, as it kept pushing us out of position. We did have one sea lion who decided to join us in our boat, but fortunately he was just a tiny yearling (who was presumably just pleased to be able to get into anything, as he was way too small to make it on to the popular haul out). Discouraged by our failure to get the net anywhere near entanglement girl, we headed home.

As if defeat wasn't depressing enough, we were then dispatched to pick up a shark bitten otter just before sunset. A few kids had pulled her out of the surf and then remained out themselves as they'd figured out the source of her injury... The otter promptly died, which was distressing, but convenient. It saved us from having to transport her to Monterey, at least. They probly would have let her stay anyway (as they did with the last late night agonal breathing otter we had) but they would have asked us to stick around until she passed... I didn't take any pictures (though she was a beauty) as I am done taking pictures of dying otters. In fact, I sort of shut down altogether and let my other friend do all the bagging and tagging. I dealt with the phone calls and the equipment. It doesn't usually get to me so much, the death and dying, especially from something so natural as predation, but I guess it's been a pretty graphic summer.

Anyway, Monday is usually my day off for seals, but since Harbor Patrol had my cell number handy, they called me first and thus I got to go on one of my most exciting rescues yet. Hoping to catch our entangled girl, they'd set a trap over night, leaving a gate open on a floating dock that's popular with the sea lions. This morning they cruised by and discovered a different entangled animal hauled out there. They simply closed the gate and waited for us to arrive. I skipped the dorky life vest this time, but we did take a couple herding boards (as our entangled boy was not alone in the trap) and soon we'd caught ourselves BonusFred. (We wanted to name him just Fred, as that's what the harbor regulars were calling him, but Fred is a seal that was rescued in 2003. So we added the "bonus" as he was an extra, bonus entanglement, a consolation prize of sorts...) His entanglement is way worse, anyway, than entanglement girl's, so all in all I'd say it was a good day's work. Certainly a much better note to end on than last night's otter.

But perhaps what I'm most excited about, really, is the pie safe I bought from the furniture salesman I call "The Bed Man" or, alternatively, "The Devil." Like a character out of the Twilight Zone, he always has something I can't live without, though it rarely fits in my home or my budget. It all started with the bed (thus the initial moniker "Bed Man") but he has since sold me a marble pedestal, a cute not really functional desk, a table that acts like a desk, 2 couches and a chair. I find it intriguing that he never actually denies being the Devil. He seems to take great pride and pleasure in having just the right piece at just the wrong time. This piece in particular he claims he'd only put on display 30 minutes before I'd arrived. I haven't had a chance to pick it up (or arrange to have it delivered) and I am not necessarily in a hurry as I have no idea where to put it. I do think, however, that I will go by and visit it tomorrow and perhaps take a photo so you, too, can see the splendor of my frivolous spending. That is, if I have the time, as maybe, just maybe, I'll be out hunting entanglement girl again...