Archive for January, 2014

See you on the flipside Smokey

I heard a friend say about losing someone that she always said “See you on the flipside” instead of goodbye. I really liked that, truly hate goodbyes and when I have said way more goodbyes than I care to remember, I latched right on to this saying.

Today, I had to do just that with our Smokey Vaughn. Smokey Vaughn came into our care in 2007 when his pet parent passed away, so we gave him the pet parent’s last name because Smokeys were just too common. Oh boy was Smokey a handful then. He didnt get that much time out of his confined area because he hated other cats and didnt have a single flinch in just attacking them full on. About 10 days a day, someone would say “Smokey Vaughn, knock it off, you are going back into time out” This was a cat with 2 eyes at the time and hadnt been neutered for more than 1/2 his life. Mr Vaughn, although had nothing for himself, couldnt bare to see a cat starve or want for anything. And even though he would lose his patience with Smokey Vaughn because of his aggressive behavior with other cats, he loved him just the same.

Smokey in 2007

Smokey in 2007

We had to shave him alot because he wasnt that interested in being spiffed up, after all he spent many years as a street cat that lived to love the female kitties and that was his main focus, he never really cared about grooming. His long soft hair was quite often shaved in a lion cut. As the vision in his left eye began deteriorating in 2008, we soon found out he had glaucoma. That meant he didnt see out of it anyway and it caused him pain, so we had the vet remove it. We could sense that he was more like himself after that surgery. In 2010, I believe, he began showing signs of the remaining eye being diseased and we knew he was already blind totally, so we wanted him to be free of the pain of that also, so the eye came out.

After the first eye was removed

After the first eye was removed

After both eyes removed and a fresh haircut in 2010

After both eyes removed and a fresh haircut in 2010

It was always so amazing to watch him manuever around a room, of course, he returned after recovery to his same area so he knew it well, but it was when he would turn his head to “look” your direction when you talked to him or he sensed a friend in the room that would also set us into wonder. He never felt sorry for himself, I believe that is a human emotion, not an animal’s. They just decide that this is the way things are now and how will I get around it.

When we moved into our new bldg in 12/2012, we all worried about how Smokey would adjust to his new much bigger room. Pfft! Although someone stayed in his area for a while, there was really no need, the other cats usually moved out of his way and Smokey was getting old and didnt really need much but a litter box, full food and water and of course, his thick quilt on the floor and love. He had arthritis and also had developed hyperthyroidism and recently his kidneys started showing some decline. He tolerated all his meds and the med for hyperT can really be rough on cats, but this survivor boy just took it in stride.

In the past few months, he has had several small crises and he would still rebound back from them. The ironic part in that is that his pet parent was the same way. He had many ailments and when he went into the hospital I would worry he would not be coming out this time, but he did, he found the strength to walk out again, then in 2007 just the day after Christmas, he just didnt. Smokey Vaughn was the same, he would have a crisis and I would fret and we would get a diagnosis and I would worry “is his time close” but it wasnt, and he would somehow come out of it and keep on living.

He knew when his friends came in the room and was always hopeful for a stroke or kind words from even those that he didnt know. He had many friends that would visit the shelter and so many would ask about him and want to visit him. I am thinking about how many hearts will be broken when they get this news.

This morning he suddenly went from ok to in crisis and our wonderful volunteers noticed immediately and got him to our awesome  vet. She called me to give me and update and since inserting his IV catheter for fluids, he had perked up and was looking brighter. Of course, I was thinking, that tough old guy, he’s gonna pull through again. This time it wasnt to be, a couple hours later, our Dr Smith called to say that although he had perked up at first, he was declining quickly again and she felt like I should come and visit for myself.

I wont go into the gory details of exactly what was happening but beside many other things, she had discovered that his heart was just barely beating. Two of the 4 chambers of his heart were barely functioning and from the debris on the ultrasound in one chamber it looked as if clots were forming, his body temp was also dropping, a common sign they are dying.

When I arrived at the clinic, I went to go to his cage, he was lying on his side and not very coherent. I said his name and he lifted his head and I could hear his purr start up. My heart jumped a bit and I could feel myself hoping that another rebound was coming.

Wonderful kind Dr. Smith and Katie a tech helped him and I and a IV pump into an exam room and I cuddled Smokey and he purred like the Smokey I know. I have had to make “the decision” in these cases for way too many times and this one was going to be the hardest. Not only was this wise old soft loving boy loved but he had made so many comebacks. How could I be sure that another one wasnt coming?? What if I made the decision to let him go and he was still working up the strength for another comeback?? I spent about 1 hour curled around him wanting someone else to decide and at the same time wanting no one else to decide but me. After a while, he began to struggle to breathe and his tongue was started to come out and his breathing intensified. I asked Dr Smith some questions and then with anxiety and my heart breaking, I told her I thought it was time but still kept thinking about that so desperately wanted comeback.

Dr Smith let me take all the time Smokey and I needed and when the breathing was getting worse, it had to be then. We both talked to him and told him who would be meeting him on the other side and that to be sure and tell Mr Vaughn about his acupuncture treatments so that Mr Vaughn could shake his head and say “those crazy cat ladies” At one time, Smokey managed to raise up his front leg and lay it on my arm, almost hugging it. I held his head in my hand and quietly and gently he began another journey. His nose was against my coat and then Dr Smith noticed blood flowing from his nose. It broke my heart and convinced me his body had no more to give, another comeback wouldnt have been possible. I kissed him and told him how much I loved him and would miss him and above all, no goodbye, just See you on the flipside Smokey……….Godspeed………..


Blind cats see with their hearts

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The Best of Days, the Worst of Days

All rolled into one day. People tell me “wow, I couldn’t do your job, it would be too hard” and others “wow, your job must be alot of fun”. Strangely, they are both correct, and as far as emotional toll, some of the best days and the worst days can be all rolled into one day. Today, January 17, was one of those days.

This is Sunday, he is about 10 years old and was recently diagnosed with nasal lymphoma. I heard horror stories about radiation from some friends. Sunday acts just fine except his hampered breathing and the mass growing between his eyes. I wanted to let him live out the rest of his time feeling 1/2 way good so I didn’t pursue any treatment. Today, I took him to see the oncologist because the mass is getting so big and yet he still acts like he feels pretty good. We were thrilled to find out that the type of lymphoma he has responds really well to chemotherapy and if it goes into remission, which a high percentage do, it could give him an average of 2 more years. Now, that is quite a long time when your average life span is around 15 years. So, we were all excited and feeling so hopeful that Sunday now had a good prognosis and he actually began chemo today (BTW, cats don’t have the horrible side effects that people seem to from chemo, another big plus! It’s hard to look at Sunday and not feel hurt and a bit squeamish because frankly, its hard to look at the masses coming from his face. BUT, its hard to watch anyone that is ill but that doesn’t mean you don’t try to help them get well if there is that possibility.)

Sunday cat 13

Later today, we got a kick in the gut. Peanut was a cat that had been adopted out twice and returned twice, for no fault of his own, at that point, I decided that Peanut was no longer up for adoption. When he had been put back into the shelter both times, it was just so hard on him adjusting again. Both times, he thought he had a home, but didn’t. In 2013, a man looking for a cat visited our shelter and for some reason, zoned in on our Peanut and wanted to adopt him. Our front desk girls both told him, he’s not up for adoption and told him the reason. He just pursued it more, wanted to speak to the person that made these decisions, that was me. So I spent 30 minutes with the man, first of all I explained about him being returned and how hard on him that was. He appeared to understand and agree but proclaimed he wouldnt dump him back into the shelter. So, then I explained to him that he had to be given an eye med every day and as long as he did that, Peanut’s eyes would probably stay well. I explained that we would provide the eye meds but obviously he would have to administer them and contact us when he needed them refilled. We were able to do one follow-up call to the adopter and he said Peanut was doing well and he wasnt having any issues.

When the next follow-up call was made, the msg said it was not accepting calls. Our follow-up volunteer was worried, I was just hopeful that he wouldn’t have let me down and was maybe out of phone minutes etc. She tried several times to no avail. So, today our worst fears were realized when the adopter walked through our door to once again dump Peanut back into the shelter. Yes, we were happy he didn’t dump him on the streets but the worst part, he stopped giving Peanut the eye meds some time ago and he almost appears to be blind!! So this adopter just either lied during the entire discussion with me or maybe at that time he felt the need personally to make some grandiose rescue to make his own self feel better and after a while of caring for Peanut, he was just too selfish to continue to take care of Peanuts needs and just let him exist.

I keep pondering “With SO many cats listed for free everywhere and available at many other shelters for lower adoption fees and with no special needs, WHY WHY WHY would this guy choose to go through this discussion and convince me that he was going to be Peanut’s angel?? Why??? I just dont understand. So, now Peanut is back with us, I am glad he is here and not dumped on the streets but I just don’t understand this adopters reasoning when he begged and pleaded and promised to care for Peanut forever. Now Peanut is started on many eye meds with more to come and back into the shelter. My heart is literally ripped out and stomped on. I have apologized to Peanut many times since this afternoon and there will never be anyone able to talk me into allowing him out on adoption again……..not the way this story should have played out. I am so sorry Peanut, please think good thoughts and send prayers that we are going to be able to save his eyesight. I just keep saying Why??

Before this last adoption  Peanut Coconut adorable

After being returned to us again today Peanut cat 13

And then this little pitiful Tuna that was rescued by a Good Samaritan and brought into an Emergency Vet. They gave him care and then asked if we would take him into our program. Well, they said he was young and very sweet but didn’t prepare me for what I was going to be seeing. This little boy just barely survived and he still has a long way to go before he is well. What a sweet boy he is but is just so sad to look at right now. He is eating well, we are happy about that, just too bad that we cannot help him to blow his nose. Another sick kitty tough to look at. The tips of his ears will probably fall off from frostbite to them but he purrs and paw paws if you even look his way.

Tuna kitten 13

I am very grateful that we have all three of them and they are all getting care. I am grateful they have a place like HELP Humane that believes all life is precious but am sad that animals have to go through such horrible things and they are all dependent on the goodness of a human being willing to help them. I am grateful for the staff and volunteers that are so amazing and will help these precious babies to regain health and be surrounded by love and our supporters that help us to afford the vet care. I will be working at keeping that in my thoughts instead of the sadness about it. It wont be easy, but I will keep trying. Please send good thoughts and prayers for our babies.

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