Jack and Harry came to us from the Maumelle Friends of the Animals in the summer of 2007. Sarah had been asking for a cat for several years – specifically an orange cat. After a few unfortunate situations that didn’t work out – a pair of baby kittens when the girls were too young (the girls were terrified of the kittens and we quickly found them a suitable home with an older child), then a fiendish cat named Kiara who we only can assume was possessed, and Sarah’s beloved Mini Bubba, a stray we rescued that got sick – we took a trip one weekend down to an adoption event at a pet store in North Little Rock. There we found two orange kittens; littermates with the alliterative names of Nathan and Norman.
Nathan and Norman became Jack and Harry – a nod to our human “boy name” that we never had the need of (Jack Harrison). Cats tend to pick their person and Jack picked Sarah at some point. He – and Harry – grew up to be very big boys and both were chill and living their best life.
Some time later, we made a poor decision to adopt Lilly, a Siamese-ish kitten that was equal parts loving to those she liked and diabolical to those she didn’t. And one of those she didn’t care for was poor Jack. She terrorized him, chasing him and just being mean, until he began to live primarily in Sarah’s room, only coming out to eat, drink and use the facilities. Lilly found a new home after my cancer diagnosis. My nerves and our family just couldn’t handle her constant tears around the house and our entire “pet family” dynamic was thrown off. (A note: on the occasions when we have had to rehome our animals, it was done thoughtfully, lovingly, and with great care, to either people we knew or to people we carefully chose and were sure would provide good homes.)
We weren’t a two pet home for very long though as I decided my cancer consolation prize would be two chihuahuas we adopted in the winter of 2012. Everyone seemed to get along but, over time, as Jack got older, he became more reclusive and fearful of the dogs and for the last several years has again taken up permanent residence in Sarah’s room. Sadly, we lost Harry a few years later but we have added Lucy, the elderly wiener dog, Finn and Noah, two kittens born from a stray we took in, and Abby is on her third hamster.
Jack has always been an anxious guy; in fact, his anxiety at times caused him to chew his tail hair off. In the summer of 2020, after we noticed he was drinking water excessively and had a great deal of weight loss, he was diagnosed with diabetes. Sarah has been a champ keeping up with his twice daily insulin injections and, although a commitment, it is a manageable condition. He put some weight back on and continued on living his life in Sarah’s room.
That brings us to today – or specifically to Friday. It was a normal day but late in the the afternoon, Sarah noticed Jack was acting strangely. He was confused, pacing around the room, going under the bed and just standing there. He didn’t seem to know where he was or who the other cats were. Sarah began to suspect he couldn’t see. He wasn’t “tracking” movements right in front of his face and when offered food, he would take it but wouldn’t notice it unless it was directly in front of him.
Beginning to be concerned and noticing that was 4:55 p.m., I placed a call to our vet’s office and was told that the doctor had just left and if we were worried, we likely needed to seek after hours care. We had driven to Little Rock in the past for emergency vet care but I found Out West Veterinary clinic in West Conway was open until 8. I called, made an appointment, and we headed into town.
The wait at Out West was long and the waiting room was packed so we were told we could wait in our car. We arrived around 5:30 and didn’t get in a room until after 7. It was a much longer wait than I have ever had even in an emergency clinic. but I attribute that to it being the only after hours care clinic in the area PLUS it being a regular vet clinic and it being a Friday evening.
Once we were in what we thought was an exam room, the vet tech came and took Jack to the back for an exam. Sarah was understandably emotional as we waited, and waited, and waited for an update. Some time later, the tech came and told us that his pupils were dilated, he wasn’t tracking or reacting, and it seemed that he had no vision at all. Although we had suspected this was the case, it was still upsetting to hear. They presented us with an estimate for bloodwork and I signed off on it, wanting to see what was going on. At this point, we really thought that his diabetes must be totally out of control but we still thought that the vision loss wouldn’t have been so sudden.
Around 8:45 we finally met with the vet and she confirmed what the tech had told us and gave us the lab results. All of his organ functions appeared normal but his glucose was extremely LOW – not high. In doing some quick google searches, I read that hypoglycemia in cats can cause vision loss but the vet still seemed convinced that this was linked to his diabetes and he had been losing sight for some time and we just hadn’t noticed. Although we were relieved that he wasn’t suffering kidney failure or any other life threatening issue, we were still confused as to the rapid onset of the vision loss.
The only thing that wasn’t checked was his blood pressure; the clinic’s machine was down. I made some calls to the other emergency vets in Little Rock and we decided to drive him on down to get that checked out. If it was normal then we would know we had done everything we could to resolve any emergency issues. Four and a half hours and $396.00 later, we left Out West, going to a drive through to get a sandwich because we hadn’t eaten all afternoon. As we were making our way out of town, Jack started rustling about and Sarah opened his carrier to see if he would eat a few bites. He popped his head out of the top of the carrier and began looking around. Yes, looking. With his eyes. I continued driving as Sarah began feeding him and “testing” his vision. She began crying and told me to pull over and we sat in an empty parking lot while we realized he was looking around. He was seeing as well as any fourteen year old diabetic cat with cataracts could!
After a couple of phone calls and some tears, we turned west instead of east and headed home. Once there – and after a quick bath because accidents happened in the carrier – Jack calmly went back to “his” room and hopped on the bed, happy as a clam. It was the most bizarre thing we have had happen with a pet. The next step is obviously to get him into our regular vet and have a glucose check done to see what the correct insulin dosage should be (on the advice of the vet at Out West, he is receiving only a small amount of insulin this weekend; we don’t want to totally stop it but definitely don’t want to give him the usual dosage.)
So what is the moral of this story? Be your – or someone else’s – own advocate! Although I appreciate the care and concern we received at Out West, had we insisted on Jack being brought back to us in between tests, we might have noticed when he was acting more “normally” and saved ourselves a lot of grief and worry. And always trust your instincts. Had Sarah not insisted that something was off on Friday, we might have continued our plans for the evening, leaving him alone and coming home to tragic results.
Our pets are family and we are thankful that our eldest seems to have recovered from his episode Friday and will continue being a good and faithful companion to his girl. Here’s to you, Jack!
Karri Temple Brackett
October 17, 2021