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Monday, 20 October 2014

Terror, Stress and Mayhem...and a Few Changes, Too

Okay, I've been shamefully remiss. I get that. It's very bad blog practice to leave your readers hanging for long stretches, as they tend to move on to more productive bloggers. For those who have remained to see what I have to say for myself, there is a great deal to cover.

Where I left off...well, I went back to school in an esoteric, online sort of way. I'm still taking my online classes through MIT, which would be plenty to stress me out I suppose. I'm taking two classes in computer science, rather than the four classes a full-time student would be taking. Technically I've already passed the one course, though I'm not yet finished with it. I still have two more lecture groups to go through, homework assignments from the previous two, and one final problem set. Plus I have my final exam which is probably worth a quarter of my final mark. However, with everything I've done so far, my grade is at 66% I think. If I stopped completely I believe I would still pass. That's a bit of a relief in one sense, but I'm pretty hard on myself and intend to finish it out as best I can.

The real issue has been the fact that I've had a very sick ferret for a few weeks. He stopped eating and drinking, and had very bad diarrhea. They already poop about 6 to 8 times a day, so when they have the runs you can imagine how much poop that might be for clean-up detail. I couldn't care less about that, though. I was too busy syringe-feeding Pepper every two hours. I have this stuff the vet gave me, called Carnivore Care (ferrets are obligate carnivores, and can only eat meat - cats are, too, but most people don't know that). It's a very expensive powder that gets mixed with water to varying consistencies, depending on feeding method. Well, it was expensive for the 70-gram pouch anyway. That was almost $40. I found out they had bigger packages, which were 340 grams (almost five times the amount), and they're only $55. I was shocked at the price difference, as was my vet. So the last time I was in there, which was on Friday, I got the bigger bag. The bigger one should last me about a month. The small one lasted a week, so we're talking $140 a month to keep him on this stuff if I hadn't done a bit of research.

Pepper was exhibiting a lot of the same symptoms as my ferret that died a year and a half ago, so I was quite literally terrified. I thought I was going to lose him. However, I checked him for masses, and then my vet did, too, but he doesn't appear to have any. We both think it's an intestinal infection. He was put on one type of antibiotic right when he was starting to show interest in his kibble again, and it made him really sick within a couple of days so I was back to square one with him refusing to eat and being skin and bones again. I had to take him off that, but I did check with the emergency clinic first (it was a holiday weekend here in Canada - our Thanksgiving).

When I brought Pepper back in for a blood test, he was getting healthier again already, and now he's on a different antibiotic. This one doesn't seem to be making him sick, though I have to force him to take it. He completely hates it. If you've never had to scruff an animal that's wriggly like a ferret, in order to force-feed them by syringe when it's something they either despise or it makes them nauseous with the smell, it's hard for me to describe how difficult it can be. You have to be heartless about it, and the only way to do that when you feel empathy toward animals is by loving them so much you refuse to let them die.

Without intervention Pepper would have died, there's no question. It happens extremely fast with ferrets, too. Within a couple of days they can be nothing but skin and bones. Their high metabolic rate means they constantly have to be ingesting calories. They eat about six times a day. Once they stop, what little body fat they have just disappears. Pepper had become a skeleton with a very thin fur coat. That's another thing that changes with the health of a ferret. You can see it in their fur. It got to the point where Pepper looked nothing like himself. His face completely changed. My vet used the word 'gaunt' which is probably the most appropriate description.

My vet couldn't draw any blood from him, sadly. She said it was only the second time in 27 years that she'd failed to get a blood sample from a ferret, and it's not as though he was completely dehydrated at that point, either. I'd been syringe-feeding him for a couple of weeks by then. She said she's had ferrets that weren't even moving they were so dehydrated, so he must have really tiny veins. She'd like to try again, just for us to be sure this isn't something that going to be a chronic issue that needs treatment beyond antibiotics. I think I'm going to wait a few weeks, though, now that Pepper is starting to plump up again, and he's certainly getting his appetite back whenever there's chicken involved.

I'm still syringe-feeding him the Carnivore Care. I've got a good supply of it, and he badly needs to gain weight. Our other ferret, Scooter, loves the stuff. When I have a syringe that's only been partially finished by Pepper, I give the rest to Scooter. He's packing on quite a bit of weight, and his coat is gorgeous now. No, he's not actually getting fat, though I do call him my fat-boy. It's almost unheard of for a ferret to become overweight. They burn calories too quickly.

The end result of it all is that Pepper is slowly putting some weight back on, which means he's getting better, and the diarrhea seems to have gone away. He's been on the new antibiotics for about four days now, with six days to go. I'll be glad when that's over with, because I hate forcing him. It's a liquid, and I have to squirt it toward the back of his throat in order to be sure he swallows it rather than drools it back out. The danger is that animals can aspirate liquids when they're being syringe-fed - especially when they're struggling not to swallow it. It's quite possible to drown them without intending to, so it has to be done at an angle. Same with the food, even when they really like it and they're cooperating.

In the meantime, everyday life will intrude even under the most dire circumstances. I've got websites to maintain and change, I've got show stuff to work on to try to keep us on the air (our station is not broadcasting at this time, and there's no guarantee they will in the future, so we're making some changes to do it on our own for now), and I've got my schoolwork. This is why there haven't been any new articles or blog posts from me for weeks now. Thankfully the people in my life that I have to answer to - to some extent anyway - completely understand my commitment to my pets. I would still do whatever I had to do, with or without their understanding, but it eases the stress to know they're behind me when I make those choices.

I actually blew one of my assignments for my MIT course, because I couldn't concentrate (feedings every 2 hours means almost no sleep, just like having a newborn). I was at the point where it just didn't matter a damn to me. Thankfully they wipe out your lowest assignment score, because all my other assignments had 100%, and my mid-term was 87%, and this one I failed with 41%. That tells you where my priorities are anyway. It didn't help that it was multiple choice, rather than coding. That's where I fell down on my mid-term, too. I hate multiple choice. They're wishy-washy, when they use terms that haven't been covered in the course, and you only get one shot at answering them. I can test my code on my computer before submitting it, and correct any mistakes, so I get those ones right.

I've got a lot of catching up to do with my life right now, including my writing. I've got studying to do, because I'm behind on the lectures and homework. The assignments have due dates, so I've done those, but I haven't bothered doing the day-to-day stuff that doesn't have a deadline. I let everything go that I could, in order to get as much downtime as possible.

There are going to be small changes to The Kovacs Perspective, by the way, but I'll fill everyone in on that as soon as we've worked out the details. I have to make some changes to the website to accommodate what we're having to do, and I'm just now getting the time to work on it. We were hoping we wouldn't have any downtime at all, but when Pepper got sick he became my priority.

For those of you who have stuck around to continue reading, thank you for your support and understanding. For those that didn't, though they won't read this, I do understand why they're not still here. It's the nature of the beast when it comes to blogging. I went from posting every single day, to posting maybe once a month. Hopefully that will change in the near future. I've still got the second programming course coming up, but I'm kind of in a rhythm there now and getting used to the one day a week where my head goes nuts. Oh, wait, I forgot...that happens every day in my head.