We are fast approaching the day of tricks, treats, and random neighbors dressed up as Freddy Kreuger or – even more terrifying – Charlie Sheen.
So it’s only fitting that we should have a special treat here today. But this guest post, from exceptional volunteer Ayla, is no ordinary treat. In Halloween terms, this post is the house that always gives out full-size chocolate bars (and not the weird ones with unidentifiable nuts, either). This is an entire plastic jack o’lantern full of Kit-Kats, with nary a Dum-Dum pop in sight. This…is a treat of epic proportions. And this is time for me to shuddup and let Ayla’s amazing story take the stage.
“Remy and Gitana came into my life in the summer 2002, as kittens. Gitana was a birthday gift from my best friend at the time – we’ll call her S.
“S. had adopted Remy and Gitana from the same foster family, and so they might be siblings. Gitana was about 2 months old, and I hated leaving her alone all day. Around the same time, S started moved in with a boy who was ‘allergic’ to cats. So a month after Gitana, Remy came home!
“The next few months were grand! I watched the kittens blossom, and their personalities began to shine. Remy was a love, who gave kisses and had a motor boat of a purrrrrr. Gitana was shyer, but loved me absolutely. She was my cat, and I was her human.
“On January 12, 2003, I got a shocker. My reserve unit with the military was being activated. I had 4 days to pack up, move my stuff, and find homes for my cats before having to report to active duty at Ft. Dix. After much begging and pleading, my parents agreed to take in my cats…with one detail I didn’t agree with. Remy and Gitana would become indoor/outdoor cats. My parents never believed in keeping animals strictly indoors. That was all I needed, while thousands of miles away, in a war zone - worries about my cats being outdoors! But, at least they had a home until I returned. Later that month, I got another shocker: my grandmother, who had raised me, was in the hospital dying of cancer. I got emergency leave to visit her. She asked about the cats, as she had loved them so. She wanted to come home and see them again, but she passed away on March 6. On March 19th, I flew overseas to the big litterbox.
“While I was in the hell that was Iraq, my parents sent me frequent letters and pictures, mainly centered on the kitties. They brought me so much joy. My dad built a staircase to the window for Remy to go out (Gitana had no problem jumping that distance), and then had to teach him how to go up and down! Raccoons got into the house and stole chicken off the counter on one occasion, and spilled rice pudding all over the floor on another (in the middle of Queens, NY)! The cats brought in birds that flew all over the house. These letters and stories kept me going.
“After I returned, the cats came with me to my new coop in Queens, not far from my parents’ house. They once again became indoor-only cats. In our three years there, Remy and Gitana shared my joys of starting my career and finishing my Masters degree. Through the heartaches of failed friendships and intimate relationships, they were there for me.
“In February 2008, I moved to NJ. Around that same time, I started dating someone…we’ll call him O. (He’s now my husband!) He bought us a third-floor condo. On a beautiful fall day, September 27th, 2008, O.’s mom and grandmother came to visit, and they brought their Doberman, Gari. Now, my cats had probably seen dogs in Queens, but never before had one infiltrated their home! Gitana ran and hid. Remy ran and ran and ran. Gari didn’t chase him, but Remy didn’t know that. As excited as he was, he ran and jumped on a windowsill…
“Remy had always been big (and a little overweight), and the screen just didn’t hold him. I saw him tumble out the window, screen and all, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I yelled his name and ran out the door of the condo, down three flights of stairs and out the front door. When I saw him, I broke down in tears – and Remy hissed at me! As he struggled to stand, I scooped him into my arms and took him up the stairs. O.’s mom and grandmother were frantic by now. They kept saying he was okay, and we all touched his limp back legs. Since we had just moved in, we still had boxes, so I put Remy in one and rushed him to his vet. They took X-rays, gave him painkillers and IV fluids, and told me they didn’t know what was wrong with him and that they wanted to refer him to an emergency vet. I cried the whole way there!
“At the emergency vet’s office, they took Remy from me and told me everything would be alright…but now I know they only said that to get me to stop crying. The first doctor who saw Remy’s X-rays said that he had sustained a fracture to his spine, but that it should only affect about 20% of his mobility; with surgery, he could be back at his usual self. A few hours later, the doctor’s boss told me that this hopeful scenario wasn’t to be. Remy had actually fractured his spine in two places. He would have regained his ability to walk if it had been just the first fracture, but the second one, right under his shoulder blades, had completely severed the spinal column. Even with surgery, Remy had only a 10% chance of walking normally again. I don’t remember much of that conversation, other than a discussion of Remy’s quality of life. I broke down crying again and asked the doctor if I could call him back. O. and I discussed our options, between sobs. He said he was supportive and would stand by me no matter what.
“In making my decision, all I could think about was Remy running with his tail up, showing me the tan patch that made me liken him to a white tail deer, and how I would miss that. I thought of his beautiful eyes and couldn’t bear not seeing them or hearing his purr again or having him lick me. I just wasn’t ready to let go. So for selfish reasons, I called and told the doctor to operate and try to save my cat’s ability to walk.
“And I’m glad I did.
“They operated that week. When I visited, Remy was ok, although heavily sedated, so he didn’t interact with me much. They let me go back into the hospital area, since they didn’t think it would be wise to move him. Seeing him in that crate, with his back shaved, I just cried and cried. On the third day after his surgery, they brought Remy out to a visiting room and left me be with him for an hour. I had some food with me (Remy loves to eat), and I tried to feed him. Remy just laid on his side purring, but didn’t acknowledge me at all. At that point, I asked him if he wanted to go - and I asked myself if I was doing right by my cat. I was ready to let him go. Again, I cried and cried, and this time so loudly that a vet tech came in and asked if I was ok. When I told her that I was worried that Remy was unresponsive to me, she said that his pain meds were quite high, and that I should give it a day before making a decision. So I did…and again, I’m glad I did.
“Around this time, I made a plea for help in a comment on my favorite website, I Can Has Cheezburger. So many people were nice and offered their advice in response. One person sent me a link to an article about Tabby’s Place’s Tashi! It gave me hope – and, a year later, I would begin to volunteer there.
“The next day, Remy’s pain meds had been reduced a bit, and he started looking up at me. He ‘made biscuits’ with his paws when I pet him, and only purred when pet. For the next month, I visited him daily after work. There was movement in his back legs, though the doctors told me it was just reflexes, and that I shouldn’t get my hopes up.
“After a month’s time and several thousand dollars (it took me over a year to pay off that credit card), Remy was cleared to come home. I had to buy him a crate, as he had to be immobile for anothe three months. For my own reason, I got Remy diapers, wee pads and baby wipes.
“Like Tashi, Remy needs to have his bladder expressed 3 times a day. Poop just comes out on it own, hence the diapers. I have learned the signs of when Remy needs to poop and can now coax it out of him with baby wipes while I express him. After about a month or two of his being home, I expressed him one day to the horror of blood in his urine! I called my vet and took him in immediately. Fortunately, it was only a bladder infection, which cleared up within a day thanks to antibiotics. This happened twice more in the next several months. But, as I learned how to properly express Remy’s bladder, it stopped, except for occasionally when he boards. Whenever I go away, be it a long weekend or 2 week trip, Remy has to either come with me or be boarded.
“Gitana is still a darling, but she doesn’t really like Remy; she puts up with him. I think it might also be that he is unable to give certain social cues.
“Remy now lives with us in our new house, with all hardwood floors. Its much easier for him to move around. He loves looking out onto the deck and backyard. He still gives me kitty kisses, and he still is a love to everyone (except my hubby). He can no longer run with his tail up, but he sure does get around just fine and fast on two legs! He can no longer jump up (which has actually helped me better manage his weight), but has no problem jumping down on his own.
“The main thing is, I didn’t give up on him. It might be a little more work but he’s an otherwise healthy cat, and thriving! And for that, it was worth it.”
Ayla, amazing Ayla, what more can I say to all of this love than Amen? Tashi, all the Tabby’s Place cats and I salute you.