Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In everything that happens, there is a purpose

It's been much longer than I intended between posts. In July I became a volunteer for the rescue group that had so kindly taken the stray kitten from me. So thankful that he would be getting a home, and so much a cat lover, I decided to volunteer some of my time. The last time I had worked as a volunteer was back in the late 90s, when I worked as a newsletter writer for a breast cancer grassroots group, Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition. So I felt it would be both good for me and good for the cats and this time around my fifteen year old daughter would be working beside me.

After only a few weeks my daughter had fallen in love with an orange cat who was named Precious. Only she named the cat Goldie for her orangey coloring. Goldie's personality was like no other cat. When we would kneel on the floors to scoop litter pans in the lower cages she would stand on the cat towers behind us and gently tap our backs to get our attention. The minute one of us would spin around to talk to her she would climb down on our lap and make herself at home. Goldie had a sister who had come to the rescue group with her, both cats 'surrendered' by their owner who wanted to move in with his girlfriend, a non-cat lover. One thing led to another and one Saturday morning I found myself coming home with a cat carrier filled to the brim with two cats, Goldie and Frank (so aptly named because he had Frank Sinatra's blue blue eyes).

The fact that they had not been eating or drinking didn't daunt me. Dave and several volunteers had decided that the two were very depressed. Love cures all, right? So I was determined to bring them out of their 'funk'. To get them back to the land of living, eating, drinking and just plain old happy. They were around eight years old but as a cat 'expert' I knew that wasn't really old. 

The first few days they seemed happy just to be free from the noise and ruckus of living in a rescue among fifty to sixty cats and kittens. Frank, a marblized brown tortie, purred happily but spent his time sitting on the floor, nestled next to the fleet of file cabinets in my office. Since we didn't have much information about their health status I had decided to keep both cats in my home office, isolated from the two cats we owned. Once I had their paperwork in front of me stating they were both Feline Leukemia negative I would then slowly integrate them with my cats. Feline Leukemia is a fatal disease for which there is no vaccine. It's passed from cat to cat when sharing water, food and litter boxes. So I set up a litter box for them on one side of the room and several food dishes on the other. I spent every day offering them different types of food, just knowing that eventually I would find the one that would tempt them back to eating. There was wet food, dry food, dry food with warm water, dry food immersed in milk and even a commercial cat milk I found in the store. There were several water bowls and a continuous water fountain for a nonstop supply of fresh water. And in the beginning Goldie would sip the milk I set out for her. I would see her drink from a bowl or fountain. But Frank would not drink and could not be tempted with any food.

As days went by and they were with me for a full week I did call the rescue and ask for them to come look at the cats. I got so panicky I began to fill an eyedropper with water and drop water into Frank's throat. But I was sure it was just a matter of time. Goldie was drinking but I soon found out not anywhere near the amount she needed.

And then she stopped. The cat who I was so sure was making progress just stopped drinking and eating the few nibbles she had been enjoying. Even our organic milk could not tempt her. I had spent much time with them as they lived in the room where I worked. At night after watching television, but before going to bed, I would go into my office to 'tuck' them in. Frank loved the cat carrier so much that I had left it on the office floor with a blanket in it. He was in it that night, curled up and purring. I stroked him and told him goodnight. I would see him in the morning. Goldie was sitting curled up in her cat bed, also purring contentedly. But as I shut the door I had a feeling that I would have to make a run to the vet in the morning. I couldn't wait anymore for anyone from the rescue to come and take a look. I told my daughter that night when she got into bed to be ready to get up early. I wanted to get to the vet when they opened since we would not have an appointment.

Despite their not eating, it was customary for these two to make quite a ruckus in the morning. I would come down to hear them meowing and calling me. My son, getting ready to leave for the train, would say "Your friends are calling you" and I would immediately go in to start their day. But this day didn't feel quite right. I came down, looked at my son and asked him "Are they crying for me?" Because he works so many long days he is not aware of the day to day goings on here at home. So he didn't see the importance of my question. "Nope. Not this morning." As I began to turn the handle of the office door, I stopped and said to him "If I need you, will you come in when I call for you?". Puzzled, he agreed and continued fishing in his briefcase. I know what it means when someone says their blood ran cold.  I stepped into that room and Goldie slowly came over to greet me, silently. And I knew before I bent down on my knees that Frank could not come out of the cat carrier. When I peeked in he was there in body, but gone in spirit. Beautiful blue, blue eyed Frank had passed on during the night .I called for my son and he stayed with Goldie so I could remove the carrier from the room. My first thought was that it was upsetting enough that she had had to stand by her sister helplessly as she left this world.

I called the rescue and Dave was very upset to hear the sad news. He told me that I should take Frank's body to the vet. So my daughter and I, both very distraught, had to drive a very grief stricken cat and the body of her sister to the vet. I tried to console my daughter and reassure her that we would at least be able to save Goldie. I was expecting her to need only some medication and perhaps an IV for a few hours.
I have to shorten this long, tragic story as it still pains me to relive it. Medication and IVs were not to be.
The vet explained that she was in liver failure, 50% dehydrated and had several other health problems. Worse yet, they did not have any medical information on her.

"Don't bring cats into your home if you own cats," the vet said to me quickly, and not so kindly. Her concern was Goldie's Feline Leukemia status. And mine was "What had I done?" Had I put my own two cats in danger just trying to save the lives of two cats who were so desperately in need of a loving home? Though I was crying quite hard I was still able to tell the vet that I needed to know. The vet's prognosis was dire. There was little they could do and she probably only had 12-24 hours left. Euthanasia was the only humane choice. And the thought of having to put Goldie a blood test was breaking my heart but I had to know. So the vet went into the treatment room and ran the test. Those were the longest fifteen minutes ever. I sent up a silent prayer to God that if he could please, please spare my cats I would never, ever ask for another favor again. All I wanted was for that test to come up negative and know that I had not exposed my cats to a death sentence.

I know there's a God. I know because He's helped me on many occassions. Though my faith wavers during those different tests in life, I never lose faith. I believe. And so when the vet phoned the front desk and the tech turned to me and said "It's negative" I knew I had to send up thanks. And I did. Out loud I cried out "Thank you God!".

I spent many days blaming myself for not acting faster. I didn't know but should I have known? If I had acted sooner would they have survived? Or was it too late already when I had gotten them (the vet seemed to think so). No one had told me that there were serious health issues at play. Depression I had been told. Does depression kill? Perhaps not directly but the consequences of depression can lead to serious medical problems that can. I've learned that now. But that wasn't what I was trying to figure out. I could read a textbook and learn that. What I was trying to figure out is what the purpose of this whole ordeal was. I spent a week crying, blaming, medicating a headache and relaying my tragedy to fellow cat lovers. Then a good friend helped me find my answer. With her simple words. "God brought you to those cats so that they could die in a home, away from the ruckus and crowd of the rescue. Perhaps the purpose of bringing those cats home wasn't for you but for them to know that in the end they were loved again."

Love. Love cures all. I do believe this is true. And though they weren't cured in the physical sense, they were cured with a permanent healing. For God cures the ailing in two ways: sometimes with a temporary healing, an extension of time on earth(for we are all only here temporarily) and sometimes he cures them permanently by taking them up to heaven. So for now I have chosen to accept that as the purpose of losing Goldie and Frank. It's another life lesson, another test of faith and I hope that I have done Him proud.


  1. Chris, I'm so sorry for your pain and trauma. And for those poor kitties. But I'm glad you were there for them in their last days.

  2. Chris, they did know love for at least a short time. I think you got the words perfect!

  3. What a sad story. How heartbreaking for you and your daughter. I'm glad you have a friend that put things in the right perspective for you and gives you peace.