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Two Sick Cats and a Hurricane

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Huichol, my girlfriend Veronica's cat, stopped eating recently. We suspected that he'd eaten something out on the street that upset his digestion. When his food remained untouched for a second day Veronica looked in his mouth and saw that it was inflamed.

The vet diagnosed an abscess. His mouth was so swollen that his tongue couldn't shift the food back for him to swallow it. There was no space back there to receive it.

We left the vet's with a syringe full of antibiotics to be injected, little by little, subcutaneously and followed the doctor's orders for a couple days, continuing to force feed and hydrate him, while we waited for the antibiotics to work.

Huichol looked terrible, intoxicated. His fur had lost all of its luster. He obviously didn't squirting water and yogurt into his mouth, but he was too debilitated to resist.

Up in New Orleans another cat had been in prolonged distress. My ex-wife's Siamese, Suki, had a stone in her bladder. After undergoing other, ineffective remedies for a month, finally, a week ago, she underwent surgery.

Days passed. While Hurricane Ida was forming in the Caribbean Suki was having a hard time post-operatively and Huichol stopped eating.

Ida began bearing down, first on the Gulf Coast generally, then on Lousiana specifically. There were mixed messages. Friday morning, believing that the storm would pass well towards the east, Tulane University announced the day would be full, that early dismissals would be considered only in special cases. Friday afternoon the mayor of New Orleans told residents who had not already left to shelter in place. There was too much traffic out of the city, no room on the road. By Saturday morning the drive to Houston, normally 5 hours, would take 18.

Lake Pontchartrain

My daughter, Sefira, also lives in New Orleans (which is why I know so much about the state of my ex-wife's cat). Nancy, her mom, had ridden out many hurricanes the decade she first lived in New Orleans, during and after her university years. Now with a sick, frail cat, Nancy refused to leave town. Mother and daughter and their two cats (Sefira has her own) weathered the storm in a windowless room, a large, finished storage space, in Sefira's house, a large walk-in closet. Nancy's house, up on stilts, is safer from flood waters, but more exposed to the wind.

Sunday afternoon, around 6:00, just as the brunt of the hurricane was arriving in New Orleans, Huichol, our cat here in San Miguel, started acting very strangely. He got wobbly on his feet, bumping into things, and wanted to crawl into the space below the stove.

Vero called the vet and was told to bring him in. (You've got to love vet hours on Sunday evening.) At the time I was texting on the phone with my daughter. Sefira is very resourceful, but how resourceful can one be against a category five hurricane? She was worried. I didn't want and was afraid to break off our communication to transport the cat.

Vero called Yasna, her friend who lives upstairs, who really is responsible for the cat. (That's a long story.) Yasna came down and declined to transport the cat, complaining, I found out later, that her vehicle, an SUV was not running well.

My Spanish is still at the stage that I have to try to understand what is being said. If I stop trying, I am clueless. This can be a real plus when confronted, for example, with the lyrics of Mexican rap music.

So, again, unbeknownst to me, who am talking my daughter through a hurricane, being shown a photo of water soaking through a second floor bedroom wall, Vero and Yasna are calling a taxi. Sefira and I suspected, but could not confirm at the time, that some siding had gotten torn off her house.

Worse than the physical buffetting of the hurricane are the sounds of the winds. What really gets to you is the screaching, howling and booming. It's the sound of a train coming right at you.

The rain was being driven sideways, blasting like shot against Sefira's house. Most of the water that was coming in below that second storey window was not coming through the inner wall of the bedroom, but was collecting in the ceiling of a first floor bathroom directly below. Sefira sent me a photo of that suspended ballooning. I advised Sefira to puncture it. She did and conveniently enough it all ran directly into the toilet centered below it.

At that moment, here in SMA, Vero began to exclaim frantically that the cat had gone into convulsions. Convinced that the poor creature was dying, I sent a voicemail to Sefira: "Daughter the cat is having convulsions. Everyone is screaming here and I need to go to the vet's. I'll be back in 30 minutes... 40 minutes." A real cat person herself, she wrote back, "I’m so sorry to hear that. Take your time." Veronica canceled the taxi.

With the cat and Vero in the back seat and Yasna on the sidewalk outside, my car had its usual trouble starting. (The mechanic told me to call him when it happens and he will come and test the gas pump, which he suspects, but is not sure, is the problem. But things have been so busy with Veronica on vacation that I haven't had a chance to let the car sit idle.) I popped the hood, spritzed some gasoline right into the carburetor, as the mechanic showed me, closed the hood, tried again and the car came to life.

Meanwhile, Yasna, witnessing my car's first failed attempt at ignition, got into her SUV, started it and pulled up along side, ready to take Vero and the cat. There was a moment of confusion, adding to the tension. Veronica, still frantic, suggested that I should drive. I plead with her, patheticaly, "Mi hija esta en una huricana!" (My daughter is in a hurricane.)

Vero got out and we had the presence of mind to wish each other good luck as she got into Yasna's truck and roared off. I went back inside, back to my daughter.

Nothing more to be done, the electricity lost for over an hour already, Sefira informed me that she was going to sign off and save her phone's battery. She asked me to keep up with the news for her, especially any flooding from the rain or breaks in the levee. Nerve-wracking for me, 1000 miles away, I could not imagine what it was for her.

She returned to the storage space to shelter for the duration, with the cats and her mother. Her mother, a very colorful person, is somewhat excitable at the best of times. Now, with a cat she was sure was dying and the tempset blowing outside for all it was worth, she was nearly hysterical.

Vero came back with the cat an hour after she left. The vet had made two incisions into the abcess to drain it, two jabs of the scalpel, one up from outside and one down from inside the mouth. She had also refilled the syringe with antibiotics.

Later that night the scanty news coming in on Twitter and Facebook made it obvious that the worst was over and that the worst wasn't so bad. Reserve generators kept the drainage pumps going; the streets didn't flood from rainwater. The levees held.

The next morning, yesterday, Monday, Huichol, the cat here in SMA, was able to better swallow our forced feedings and strong enough to struggle against them. By afternoon he was eating again from his bowl all by himself. The light was back in his eyes and the brilliancy back in his fur.

Sefira didn't contact me until 3:26 that afternoon:

Just waking up.

I'm ok. Just got AT&T service back. I have a generator powering the refrigerator until my neighbor comes back tomorrow.

My siding got wrecked and bad water damage in house but I’m ok. Not sure where or when or even if we’ll leave but we're ok.

And hour later, after better surveying the aftermath, she wrote again, "We need to get out of town, to find somewhere to stay."

The power is out in New Orleans... they expect for four to six weeks. Eight of the nine entries of electricity to the city are down. And it's not just a question of replacing a cable. The tower that carries the (main) cables across the Mississippi fell into the river. It needs to be rebuilt.

Huichol looking better

If there is too much demand, reserve generators will not be able to keep up and the City will turn off the water.

It is scandalous to leave New Orleans without power for a month or more. But New Orleans is used to scandals.

As with Katrina, 16 years earlier to the day, New Orleans is being abandoned. Sefira tells me, that's why people there are clannish, because they know that they have to rely on themselves.

The older I get, the more I realize that much (most?) of what I took to be my personal character is really basic human psychology. When we are hungry and move towards the kitchen (or when we are accepted by others or are getting things done) our brain drops the hormone dopamine, giving us pleasant, positive feedback to encourage us on our way.

Another example of this underlying psychological programming is how we humans appreciate order. This is (at least in part) because the unknown must be assessed for possible risk. If not dangerous, it is still problematic, requiring more effort.

Our poor over-tasked brain is always looking for order, searching for know patterns in something so that it can go on to evaluating the next perception. If you know something, then you can close the book on it, at least for a while. If the car starts when you turn the key, then you don't have to consider what is going on under the hood.

Emerging from adolescence one of my first observations about the adult world was that almost everyone believes that they know almost everything.

Again, this is not some particularly rampant character flaw. Rather it is our overworked brain compartmentalizing, often incorrectly or imprecisely, the overwhelming amount of information streaming in through our senses: "I get it. I've got it. Right."

The older I get the more I come to believe that spiritual Awareness is just stepping outside of our basic human psychology, becoming aware of our existentially-programmed perceptual tendencies, witnessing what we habitually assume.

Watching the watcher we move into a naive, childlike wonder. Socrates' claim to fame was that while everyone thought they knew and didn't, he knew that he didn't know.

Things break down. The cats get sick, stop being their entertaining, lovable selves. and require much more attention The hurricane passes through and orderly city functions cease. The Taliban take over Afghanistan and we are reminded what real insurrection and aggression look like.

In the US disorder is at large. The car doesn't start. We have to start thinking about what is under the hood, what we have been taking for granted, what we are in danger of losing.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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