On Friday we finished the electric project, and successfully tested the system. Flipping the main switch and having all the electronics systems come online without the previous worrisome flickering, and then hearing the engine start and run was magic to our eyes and ears.
The next thing on the pre-sail-departure checklist: comfy pets.
|Chloe in Mr. Toad on a boat project day|
Chloe has been coming to the boat with us every day and has just about mastered getting on and off the boat from the pier. Getting up and down the companionway ladder by herself required some patience, a pocketful of her favorite treats, and a whole lot of encouragement. She's just about got it although sometimes she high-centers on the guillotine door. I'll have to put some thought into what I can drape over it that will give her some traction and protect the wood from her scrabbling nails. She picked her own favorite cushiony spots below decks, so then it was just a matter of placing washable fuzzy blankets in those areas, and we bought a small patch of fake grass for pee breaks on long crossings or other days when it's not possible to get ashore. She was first potty trained with one of these long ago so I expect she'll remember and the training on this should be easy. She already has a well-fitting lifevest with a sturdy handle so she's set for getting between boat and dinghy. And she's sailed with us on our two previous sailboats so we know she's a good little sailor.
|Chloe considering her strategy for the guillotine door|
The cats had never been on a boat before and I needed some time to make the transition smooth for them. A small litter box might fit under the ladder, just need to locate the right sized box and place it. By wrapping the pole that acts as a companionway ladder rail I planned to turn the bottom half of it into a Mom-approved claw-sharpening station. A spot in the window under the dodger would make a warm and stable spot to hang out, all that's needed is some non-skid applied to the bottom of a cat bed with high, stiff sides and Stewie or Starfish would have a warm, sunny spot to keep the captain company. Some hidey spots would probably be welcome if the sailing gets rough, so bedding was shuffled around to clear some dedicated space and it was lined with washable pillows. Perhaps some small hammocks hanging from the handhold rails inside would make for a comfy ride with a window view, that will require some measurements and materials sourcing, I will put some thought into that and pick that project up later. A big fish-retrieval net on the rail and a float on a line already in the water would be a good idea, in case one of them fell overboard and required rescuing.
|Starfish took her snuggling responsibilities seriously|
Checklist in hand we buttoned up the boat and went back to the RV. Starfish was acting weird. We had put her on antibiotics on Wednesday to address the snotty nose she would get occasionally but it didn't seem to be helping. She demanded to be let out, and then just wandered over to the neighbor's place and howled at them. The cranky old neighbor lady rather loudly announced that she was old and just needed to be put down, interesting to me how she completely missed the irony as she shouted from her trailer steps in her ancient gravelly voice, with her hands on her hips and her feet in slippers. It was Friday night of Memorial Day weekend and the vet's office was closed.
|Starfish cruising the nation from her sunny window spot|
Saturday she perked up quite a bit in the morning, so we gave her another round of antibiotics and some loving and went to the boat for a day of assembling and testing the dinghy. By the time we came home she had taken a turn for the worse, I tried to get her to eat something and she turned up her nose at all the food, even her favorite treats and then threw up on the floor. As the night wore on we took turns comforting her as she became more and more miserable and sometime in the night one of her eyes stopped tracking properly and she couldn't balance by herself. Sunday morning found us at the nearest emergency vet hospital over an hour away just after it opened. Filling out their checklist "does your pet have: change in personality, lack of appetite, pain, vomiting..." check, check, check, there was no box for probable stroke/completely miserable. I held her as she relaxed and then left us in the most pain-free way possible, on a quiet and comfortable couch in the back room at the emergency vet hospital.
|Starfish stole my new blanket in Montana and refused to give it back|
Sunday afternoon the four of us held one another tightly.
|Stewie visiting the bar in the campground Keys, Christmas Day 2019|
On Monday I was watching Stewie on the patio. The neighbor cats had come by to say hello and he wasn't chasing them out of our campsite with vigor like he used to. He looked so thin, and at the same time was growing a little pot belly. We'd noticed it a couple of weeks ago and put him on worm meds, despite no worm evidence, as that seemed the likely culprit. But he'd finished the first round of treatment and didn't seem to be gaining any weight back, despite eating with his usual gusto. I decided to get him in to see a vet first thing on Tuesday morning, thinking maybe we'd just selected the wrong worm medication.
|Stewie relaxing on the patio with us last week|
On Tuesday morning the local vet took one look at him and snatched him into the back room, siphoned a sample from his little pot belly and found fluid in his abdomen.
FIP. Or a failing heart. Fatal. Soon.
Might be days and might be weeks.
The room swam out of focus. Not again. I can't do this again. How did we go from probably worms to fatal so quickly? We have a beautiful life and Stewie is a big part of it. I have already taken measurements for his sunny window bed and expect that he will love this next phase of our journey. How long had it been since he last frolicked on the lawn with Chloe and me? A week? Days?
It will be painful. You need to make a decision to end his suffering. Now.
So for the second time in three days I pet my cat and whispered loving goodbyes to him as he slipped away from me.
|Stewie frolicking on the lawn in Oriental during our afternoon walk just a few weeks ago|
Lance and I went home and held Chloe tight. In just a few days we were reduced from a RVing family of five to a sailing family of three. At bedtime I reluctantly wiped "comfy pets" off the checklist and shuffled to bed where, for the first time in 15 years, there were no little furry bodies to welcome me.
|Starfish the heat-seeking missle hogging the propane heater in Yellowstone|
Starfish lived to be 15 and Stewie lived to be 14. Everyone we've met across the nation will remember them well. While Starfish ruled her kingdom from the sunny RV window, Stewie was always the campground celebrity as he made the rounds to visit our fellow campers wherever we went, or accepted loving pets from fans as he followed Chloe on our daily walks. Together we have traveled all across the USA - twice - and have seen some amazing sights in this great country of ours. They had an excellent life, were well loved and are greatly missed.
|Stewie the Savannah cat stalking elk in Yellowstone|