Saturday, January 28, 2012

In for a Dime, In for a Dollar – The Tale of Two Kitties

Part 1: Fuzzy

This 2-part guest post is by V.K. Whetham, considerately filling in for me as I continue to not get my new Vet Tech Tales posts prepped in time. Patience, new Tales really are on their way! Meanwhile, enjoy V.K.'s lovely tail, er tale ...

Previously I have written about my love and dedication to the canine species. But my devotion to the animal kingdom does not end there. I had the privilege of growing up in a household that tolerated all manner of pets. We owned a particularly cool parakeet named Peppi and a fish aquarium. And, we had one great dog, named Trooper, who passed away at the age of 13. What we did not have, however, were cats. My father is extremely allergic, and this condition must have caused him to disdain the feline species.

My siblings and I have all adopted cats after leaving home. I suppose a psychologist would have something to say about this. After all, Dad can’t be in a house with a cat without breaking out in tears and hives and gasping for breath. It makes visiting his children difficult, to say the least.

I, on the other hand, would argue that our adoption preference is less about our relationship with our father and more about the character of cats. Both dogs and cats humble me, but in different ways. I pray God will make me the person my dogs think that I am and thank Him for my cats who remind me daily that I am not that person yet.   

We have two cats who allow us to live with them at this time, and they came to us uniquely. Cats seem to find their Person while people tend to find their dogs.

My first home was a small country house about a mile outside a rural town. It was a great place to live. Our backyard butted up against a cornfield. There were no street lights on our dead-end, dirt road that we shared with only a handful of neighbors. They were all great people, willing to lend a hand whenever there was a need.

There was only one spoiled apple pair in the bushel. And they lived directly next door to me.

They were nice enough. They had two young girls who enjoyed playing with and watching over my younger son. But I could tell they were a troubled family. The mother didn’t work and the father was frequently “laid-off.” The children were often dirty, with tangled hair, and were out at all hours of the day and night.

I could tolerate all of that. My real pet peeve was the propensity of the family for adopting puppies and kittens that always “ran away” before reaching adulthood. Phoenix wrote about a similar experience she had and she termed such people “puppy hoarders.” I had never thought about it like that – I just considered the family to be irresponsible.

Year after year, I watched the family adopt one puppy after another, one kitten after another, usually in the spring. The puppies and kittens would disappear sometime in the winter. The neighbor across the road told me all about it before I even had a chance to see it for myself. She swore one of their dogs was found miles away and adopted by a kind farmer.

The situation saddened me, but I hoped the missing dogs found better homes since the family didn’t spend much time with their pets after winter set in. It was too cold to play outside with wintery wind and freezing temperatures and the pets were never let inside.

Ten years ago this past fall, the family moved away to the city, in hopes of finding a better job, better schools, a better life. They left behind four cats, all barely a year old. The house they lived in was rented out and, dutifully, the renters dumped cat food on the porch every day for the cats. No care, no love, no dish, no water and no shelter.

The fall passed and then came the brutal winter with its freezing temperatures. My son, at the tender age of eight, would go out looking for the cats during the worst nights. We would feed them and give them shelter, but they refused to stay inside. One after another the cats disappeared until the only one left was Sasha. And Sasha was pregnant.  

The night before Easter, she came to our door. It was very cold and we let her in. We fed her and then we went to bed. On Easter Sunday we awoke to find that she had given birth to eight tiny kittens.  

We raised them until Sasha weaned them and she began to insist on being let out. I decided to take the kittens and her to a no-kill shelter in the city where I thought they had a better chance of being adopted into loving homes and not being left outside in the cold as mousers.

My son asked if he could keep one, and I agreed. He chose a particularly feisty kitten that he named Angel. I have no idea why. She was anything but -- always underfoot, always racing through the house and getting into flower pots while her littermates were content to rough house in their box and take long naps.

By then it was spring. The crocuses and daffodils and tulips were blooming. It was warm and sunny. The weekend before I planned to take the kittens to the shelter, we took them outside to romp around. They loved the grass and the sun. One kitten, named Fuzzy because of his long hair, took a liking to a bush and crawled under it.

After a few minutes, Fuzzy came out with a two-inch thorn sticking out of his lower eye lid. It looked like it could have been all the way in his eye. I am bit less squeamish now than I was then, but I make no apologies for my scream, tears and panic. It’s not every day you see a thorn sticking out of a kitten’s eye!

After gathering up the kittens and Sasha, we rushed Fuzzy to the vet. I watched as he unceremoniously pulled the thorn out of Fuzzy’s eye with tweezers and then rubbed antibiotic ointment into it. Fuzzy showed no sign of distress the entire time; in fact, he was, quite curiously, purring. And, as I remember it now, he was purring with a smug look on his face.

The vet looked at me and I looked at him. He is one of those really cool vets who don’t believe in making fortunes out of caring for animals. He said, “He needs his shots and he’s old enough to be neutered. You can make payments.”  I kid you not. He was that abrupt and that matter of fact. What could I do but nod? Fuzzy had already cost me a vet visit. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

The next weekend, Fuzzy stayed home while his siblings and his mother took a trip to the city.

To this day, I am absolutely convinced that he knew about his pending trip and decided he wasn’t going anywhere.

Fuzzy is a great cat. He is totally and absolutely devoted to my son. He follows him from room to room like a dog. He also bonded with the cat, Stryder, that already lived with us. They became best friends and behaved like brothers. Most of the time, Fuzzy and Stryder would hang out together, groom each other and sleep soundly side-by-side. But, like brothers, they sometimes didn’t get along. Fuzzy would torment Stryder deliberately by swishing a tale in his face or nudging him out of the food bowl. Stryder, the tougher and more mature of the two, would tolerate this up to a point, but usually the teasing would end with a race around the house and Stryder thumping Fuzzy on the head.

Then along came Shadow.

"Part 2: Shadow" will continue on Monday.

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