During the next half-year we were a happy threesome sharing the Weiss home. Johnnie playing with her toys, Frankie still delighted in massacring the bear, even with her seven missing teeth, by flinging and chasing it over and over. And, Mr. Mom was the recipient of their endless love and pleasure in their play .
The return of gingivitis
Frankie and Johnnie were now fully grown. My two cats no longer shared the love seat. Johnnie would not go near it. Could it be Frankie as boss cat told Johnnie to get lost; was the seat off limits to her after more than year of sharing?
Even with her missing seven teeth Frankie’s bear suffered the consequences of her torturous play. In grasping and flinging the poor thing, its ears were torn to shreds. Taking a fairly heavy cloth I cut and sewed on new ears to the bear replacing the old ones. It made no difference to Frankie, the bear was hers, and hers to send flying through the air which she did with much gleeful abandonment.
The love seat now was Frankie’s alone. Could it be as they matured their needs changed? Did Frankie really give Johnnie notice she was no longer welcome to share the seat as they had in the past? Remember, Frankie ruled the Weiss household as far as her housemate cat was concerned; Johnnie played second fiddle in Frankie’s orchestrations.
I was now aware that my cats’ habits changed frequently. While both Frankie and Johnnie at times would separately rest or catnap on the Captain’s Chair, the love seat was off limits to Johnnie. In fact, she would not even go near it. Frankie also adopted the four dining room chairs’ velvety cushions as resting and sleeping places. She would change from seat to seat at different times. Turkish towels were quickly put on each cushion to protect them from possible staining. Again, Johnnie never went near one to sit or relax or sleep. Yet in so many other ventures they were close as two peas in a pod. Greeting me as I came in the house was not a one-cat operation. Both cats had to greet me with their love that was mine to accept. This was not an option. Frankie must have known at this new period in her life that she had to share me with Johnnie, who jealously would push forward for me to acknowledge her greeting. Strangely, Frankie in her need to be boss cat never objected when Johnnie did this. I can only assume she knew my love was to be shared by both and, neither would be left out from my touch or greeting. Or did Frankie lose some of her bossy 'I come first' attitude?
My happiness during this period of our shared life sadly was not to last.
Once again, Frankie was not eating. She’d smell her food and walk away. This time, I knew what I had to do. Opening Frankie’s mouth gently, as I held her in my arms, the gingivitis had returned, her gums were reddish. Minutes later, calling Marlton, I made arrangements to have Frankie checked out. Her vet, Dr. Rothberg was off duty, and having no choice, another doctor would look at her to confirm my layman’s examination.
On the drive to Marlton, my mind was reviewing all the options Dr. Fiorito had given me after her original surgery to remove the infected seven teeth and treat her gums. It was not too good. We could try some oral medicine that might arrest the disease. The best option was not to delay the removal of all her teeth. I could not bear the thought of my beautiful Frankie being a toothless cat. Let alone dreading the thought she might not survive this drastic dental operation. I could not feel too happy with any of the options. My world at this moment was one of despair. The life of this beautiful and loving Calico was in my hands alone. What was I to decide? The cost, money-wise, meant absolutely nothing. Frankie, her presence in our home and to give her an opportunity to live her life as part of my life as a feline was not optional, she had to be given every possible chance.
The examination left one of the two choices; we decided to try the oral medicine first and see if it would help alleviate the gingivitis. It was to be given twice daily. Wrapping Frankie in a large towel and with some difficulty I opened her mouth and delivered the prescribed dosage. It was not an easy job doing this twice daily; suddenly Frankie decided to cooperate and my struggle with giving the oral medicine lessened. So did the gingivitis and Frankie was eating again.
Using the medicine, Frankie was her normal self for quite a while. But the gingivitis was relentless, it returned with a vengeance. It would not let my Calico, my ray of sunshine eat, it hurt too much. We had finally run out of options.
I had to bite the bullet as far as Frankie was concerned.
In previous conversations with Dr. Rothberg, I learned dogs and cats do not chew their food. Rather, it is swallowed, with nature taking over from that point. It’s a throwback from an era millions of years ago. We see our dogs gulp down a meal in mere seconds; the house cats are a little more delicate and luxuriate in their swallowing of food. Even with domestication of both species, nature still did not interfere with their eating habits. Their ancestors had no choice, fresh kill meat was to be swallowed in chunks, another competitor with their keen sense of smell was likely to come along and try to steal the kill. No time was to waste in filling their need for food and stomachs.
Was Frankie destined to be a toothless Calico cat? How would she react having no teeth? Whoever heard of a toothless cat? Would she live the life of a normally protected cat? Would she even live through such a drastic dental procedure? Could depression set in due to loss of her teeth? Cats can and do become depressed for a variety of reasons, much like their human counterparts.
All the above thoughts were racing through my mind. I had to decide. Time was of the essence. Frankie was not eating and losing weight, the gingivitis was unforgiving. My demeanour was that of a person deeply in love with a Calico cat who feared the worst in putting her through the consequence of the loss of all her teeth.
The cat I loved dearly, her future was in my hands, if she came through this surgery, it would be as a toothless cat. In retrospect, I had no more options.
Calling the Dental Surgeon, I made arrangements to bring Frankie in for the surgery that would leave her toothless. I felt sick inside, to think that my beautiful Calico, Frankie, if she lived through this new trauma, would be a rare cat, a Calico cat with no teeth. In my desperation, I went onto the Internet on the computer; finding no reference to toothless cats. I was not favoured with solace in knowing that other house cats came through such surgery and lived a fruitful and long life with their loving keepers.
Was Frankie and her keeper destined to be a first in the annals of cat keeping as house pets, Frankie as a toothless Calico, and me, her keeper?
The date was April 14, 2000; I was presented with a whopping bill for Frankie’s blood tests, X-rays and other tests necessary to the surgery in removing all her teeth.
But even before that, I had to leave Frankie overnight for all the testing to make sure she’d be a subject healthy enough to withstand the unholy removal of all her teeth. On my way home, I reflected on the nearly three yearlong beauty and closeness of our feline and human association. I had to be careful, I was driving on the highway and could not allow my vision to be filled with the mist and tears I felt coming up. The Dental Surgeon gave me the thought that Frankie would come through OK; but as her loving companion and keeper during the past years, I could not help but feel apprehensive.
This beautiful Calico cat that had stolen my heart knew nothing of what she was to go through early the next morning. Extracting all her teeth in an effort to save her life would not come cheaply, both in money and worry. It was the only way to arrest the curse of the gingivitis that one of her parents had given her in their genetic makeup. The money meant little to me. The worry was something I could not help. Three years previously, I lost my wife Evelyn. Now three years later, I could possibly lose Frankie. Marrying Evelyn was the best thing I ever did, adopting Frankie and Johnnie was the second best. I did not want to suffer another tragedy.
Frankie’s fate and my happiness now were in the skilled hands of the Dental Surgeon. While she had extracted many feline teeth, her response to my question, “Do you know of any toothless cats?” The response was no. She helped cure gingivitis in other animals, but Frankie presented a problem she had never gone through.
Even the famed University of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital gave Frankie a clean bill of health when I took her there a few months after the first seven teeth were removed. No one knew the gingivitis would return with such viciousness.
I was told a phone call the next afternoon or early evening would advise me on Frankie’s reaction to her teeth removal. It was about 6:00 PM; I still did not have the phone call I impatiently waited for. Having a miserable and tasteless supper at home while cleaning the dishes, the phone rang; Frankie had come through in fine fashion. My heart felt good. I was to pickup Frankie the next day at my leisure.
What leisure? Frankie was coming home as soon as I had breakfast. I told Johnnie, her housemate, who was in bed with me all night that I had to go get Frankie.
Reaching the Dental Hospital, with the blue carrier I bought three years ago when Frankie had all her teeth and was only five months old; today at three years of age, she’d be coming home toothless in the same carrier.
In adding up all the expenses involved during her years fighting the gingivitis, the total came to about $2750.00. I considered the price a bargain just as long as Frankie was now hopefully free of that disease. The prognosis was good.
Frankie was more than happy to see me as I came into the room were she was waiting to be taken home. As I looked at that pretty Calico face the lower lip was swollen from the teeth extractions she’d gone through earlier. After giving me instructions on her care and some pills I was to crush and put into her food, I paid the bill and we were on our way home, once more to become a family threesome.
The picture showing her swollen lip could have been taken the day she came home and went into the Kraft bag, her second play home.
I cannot remember if Frankie had anything to eat. But I do remember her crawling under the sheets and causing me a back ache that night. Snuggling up tight against me, in my sleep, I could not move around. Humans do not sleep in the same position all night.