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The day I have been dreading for six months finally arrived. I took our mouthy little Siamese to the vet for the last time. He has been sick for some time and has been steadily declining after a brief rebound over the summer. Two days ago he had a seizure and lost use of his hind legs for a few hours. By evening he was at least able to walk again, but it was readily apparent that his time had come. I told our five year old daughter to give him a hug and a kiss goodnight. I had no illusions about what would happen when I took him to the vet the next day. Jen wrote a nice post on what this little cat meant to our family.

When Kwoan and I arrived at the vet we were sent right into the examination room. The vet soon came in and reviewed Kwoan’s history, talked with me about how he had been doing and gave him an exam, confirming that he had cancer. He said there were two options. The first was to take him to an animal hospital where they would further confirm the cancer and could do surgery or start chemo. The second was to put him to sleep. As tough as it was I knew that the right decision was the latter. I could not imagine putting him through surgeries and treatments that would only prolong his pain.

The process was fairly simple. One tiny shot under the skin that would make him doze off and then another intravenous shot that would end his life. The staff was very helpful and did everything to make Kwoan and I as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. After Kwoan received the shot to make him doze off he crawled into his carrier and drifted off to sleep. In that moment I thought “Stop, it’s not too late,” but knew that would just be selfish on my part. The vet then took him out of the carrier and gently laid him on a towel. I could see he was peacefully asleep, still breathing. I kept petting his head and rubbing behind his ears the way he loved. They proceeded to shave part of his leg and give him the second injection. A few minutes later the vet checked his heartbeat and informed my that he was gone. The staff then left the room to give me a few moments with him. I said my goodbyes and left him lying there at peace and out of pain.

After arriving back home I knew Jen would be home with our daughter soon and that I would have to break the news to her. She was sad and at five does not yet fully understand what dying means. Later that night I realized that perhaps I didn’t either. I had never witnessed a life at its last breath as I suspect few people have. At the time I think I was a little emotionally numb, just trying to get through something that had been coming for a while. Being there did not hurt so much as the feeling of responsibility. The fact that I brought Kwoan there, that I had made the decision to end his life. Even though I know it was the right decision, it still hurts and I can not help but feel I have lost a little shred of my humanity in making that decision. It is not a decision I can ever undo or go back and “make right”. The finality keeps coming back when I feed our other cat and accidently pull out two cans of food or I realize I don’t have to tip-toe around the kitchen to avoid Kwoan’s tail as he was always underfoot or be woken in the middle of night by his alley cat caterwauling.

From threeweasels.com post "Real Life"

After a year of planning things are finally coming closer to reality. In a few weeks I am off to Guam for about a month and have very mixed emotions about the trip. On the one hand it will be a wonderful experience. I’m going with what I believe to be the best unit in all of the Air Force (of course I’m a little biased, but the unit’s track record and performance may be a more objective measure). All of the people that I will be directly working with are the best of the best. If I were able to hand pick the people in our unit that I would want to work and spend every day with for the next month (or year), the list would not change. We have an important mission to accomplish while we are there, but it is also a beautiful south pacific island and pretty darn close to paradise. There will be opportunities to explore the island, do some scuba diving and maybe just relax on the beach a little.  The other side of the coin is the time away from my family. Last year during the G-20 I was deployed to the other side of Pittsburgh with an Army unit for a week, the longest I have been away from my wife since we first started dating. My wife is incredibly strong and able with our children, she is a truly fantastic mother. Her folks will be around a lot to help out, so I know that house and home will be well taken care of, but it does not make it any easier to be gone for such and extended period. A month is a long time and I am already missing my wife, my daughter and especially our twin boys. I know that my wife and to a small degree my daughter can understand me being away, but at 14 months old, my boys have no concept. They are doing new things every day and their little personalities are just bubbling out. I’m setting up skype and a camera on our big living room tv in the hopes that I’ll be able to see and interact with a little bit, but I know it will not be the same. I have noticed lately that I am a lot more willing to engage with all three children no matter how tired I feel. I guess I am just trying to bank up some quality time before I depart.

Tonight I had a great time playing our rain shortened first game of the the Yinz Team Softball League. Its been awhile since I’ve had a chance to hang out with and it was nice to see everyone. Softball for us is much more a social gathering than a game. There is of course the usual heckling and @woycheck will be forever known as Sally thanks to encouragement from some local youths. I look forward to playing this season. Genuinely a great group of folks that are always fun to be around.

This summer I have picked up a few books that have renewed my interest in reading. The first book is 1776 by David McCullough and was recommend by my National Guard Group Commander. I was familiar with the American Revolution, but this book really brings it to life. It is more than just a recounting of dates and facts of the time. It brings in letters and notes from those involved and pulls you into the emotion of the period. It shows the precarious nature of our nation’s founding. All the little events and details as well as the larger issues that threaded the needle to our independence. Truly a must-read.

1776 led me to another McCullough book, John Adams, which covers the life of one our most important founding fathers. I am only a few chapters in, but am enjoying reading about Adams views on the Continental Congress and his role in The Declaration of Independence. Adams’ letters to his wife, Abigail, provide an amazing amount of detail into not just their relationship, but the relationship Adams had with the colonies and what became our country. Beautifully written and hard to put down.

The next book I am digging into and enjoying is a bit more personal as it is by a close friend, Worthy Evans. I have known Worthy since my active duty Army days back at Fort Hood. Worthy was always a bit eccentric, perhaps a little quirky and certainly not your typical soldier, so naturally we hit it off right away. He spent a significant bit of his free time writing in his journal and many (perhaps too many) years later the fruits of his labor are available for the world to see in his poetry collection, Green Revolver. Some of his poems bring me back to our Fort Hood days, not the soldier aspect of things, but the Worthy observation of people and events described in a way uniquely his own. It is a wonderful collection that takes the ordinary, digs in and finds something unseen, familiar, yet new.

I may post more here as the summer rolls on, but I always try to post a review over at GoodReads.

Kwoan - Kittie WithOut A Name So tonight I took our mouthy little Siamese to the vet for what I thought would be the last time. He’s been sick for awhile. In the past year he has lost about two thirds of his normal weight, going from about 15 pounds to about 5 now. He is usually very active and chatty, but lately he just eats and sleeps. Even by cat standards he is a hyper-groomer, always ready for show, so when he started to get mangy I knew it was not good. We give him as much food as possible, but he’s still losing weight. So I went to the vet with the expectation of not bringing him home. The vet suggested we run a few tests before we give up. He has been on thyroid medications for about a year, but his test showed still elevated thyroid levels. Otherwise his blood tests looked normal. The vet cautiously told me that this does not preclude another issue, such as cancer, but we can try doubling his medication dose and see if he responds over the next week or two.

Kwoan came into my home as a rescued stray when I first started dating Jen, almost seven years ago. It took him all of about two minutes to get comfortable in the house, meet my other cat and start his usual mouthiness. We had trouble coming up with a name, a problem with us as Jen’s cat is simply named Kittie and my old cat came pre-named. Ultimately, we gave him the non-name of Kwoan, which stands for Kittie WithOut A Name. I love my pets, but am also realistic about things. When we had our first child we had to send a cat to the shelter, because we simply didn’t have time to keep up with his health issues and non-use of the litter box. I try to keep things in perspective. Children are family members and pets are residents of the household. I never refer to my pets as kids, children, etc. Yes, they bring me joy and are nice companions, but nothing compared to my kids, not even in the same universe. Still, taking our Kwoan out of the house for what may have been the last time was no less fun or heart wrenching. The thought now of having to do this again and having to explain to my four year old daughter again, that Kwoan may not becoming home just tears me up inside.

I do not want to make the decision to put him to sleep, but I know that it comes down to me. The vet also mentioned that if he does not respond to the higher dosage that he can refer me to an internist at an animal hospital. I really want to see the mouthy little Siamese get better, but I’m really not willing to go down a long path that involves multiple potential “last” trips. Not to mention the cost. It may sound cold, but the reality is spending a large amount of money to keep my cat alive for a few more months or even years means taking something away from my family. I can certainly justify a few hundred dollars, but at some point I do have to put a price on this cat’s life. And that maybe the toughest decision of all…

Basic Scuba Equipment

I decided to pursue my scuba certification as I’m headed to the South Pacific for a few weeks and the diving there is supposed to be beyond compare. Tonight marks my second of three pool dives before heading to the open water of Strawberry Quarry near Grove City, PA. After doing all the required reading and the first two classroom sessions I couldn’t wait to hit the water. The pool classes work on learning basic skills, primarily focused on what to do if things go wrong. It is important to remain calm as rushing to the surface when you are 100 feet down can have dire consequences. I was able to try all the fun stuff like using my dive partner’s spare regulator, feeling what it’s like to run out of air, losing my mask and getting it back on and cleared and trying to stay neutrally buoyant at varying depths. The best part was having a little time to just swim around and look up at the surface from the bottom. Even in an indoor pool it was an amazing view. I can’t wait to see all the fun stuff out in the open ocean.