Yesterday we lost one of our own, Freddy.
Freddy was that little yellow tiger and white cat you saw roaming around the office. He had no fear and constantly frustrated big dogs as he wandered up and around them. He had a certain routine during the warm months of the year. In the morning he’d wait as Katie C. cleaned the kennel area and when the back door was opened he darted out (as though he wasn’t even allowed outside!). He’d spend the morning sunning and checking things out at the edge of the woods by the creek. He’d return in the afternoon to greet all our afternoon visitors and wait for dinner.
Photo by Sarah Cochran
Whenever I would come in after hours to check on a patient, as I pulled in the front, the doors were illuminated by my headlights and he would always be sitting, looking out, as if he’d been waiting on me. I always thought of this as a mystery as we knew he spent evenings sleeping on our desk chairs, evidenced by his hair on the seats that invariably ended up on our posteriors when we sat down.
Freddy had Bartonella, a disease of cats that causes abscess formation, dental disease, and chronic upper respiratory inflammation. It is managed with certain antibiotics whenever symptoms occur, but is incurable.
Yesterday afternoon he did not return from his morning outdoor explorations and we found him passed, down by the creek. His passing was unexpected but we all knew his affliction would eventually overcome him. Despite our sorrow, we found solace that he died doing what he loved.
I vividly remember 11 years ago when he was presented to us by a Good Samaritan. She had found him unable to walk and all four legs suffered from bite wounds that had caused severe damage to the lower joints of the legs. His achilles tendons were torn apart and he had fractures in the bones of the tarsi *(ankles) and carpi (wrists). In addition, his right eye suffered irreparable damage. We all felt that under the circumstances, the best and most humane treatment for this little feral cat was euthanasia. So, we prepared him and I had the solution pulled into the syringe. The whole time he was being cradled by our tech he purred and slept. As I prepped his vein he awoke, continued to purr and watched me with his one good eye. My assistants also watched me with their damp eyes.
Well, that was that.
I couldn’t do it and decided I would dedicate my skills to repairing this little broken but loving kitty...
Eight surgeries later, he had the bad eye removed and his legs were held together with plastic cables and wires. Through each procedure he’d persevere and look at us as if to say thanks.
He rewarded us with eleven wonderful years of loving companionship and kept us amused with all his antics. He was the smallest of our band of cats, but definitely the boss. He’d make dogs crazy with his teasing and pick certain clients to use their laps as a napping bed. He’d also spend hours nuzzling into the laps of Sarah and Kati as they worked at the front desk. A former assistant, Kelsie, even trained him to ride on your shoulder- which eventually led to him “asking” to be picked up for a ride by stretching up on his back legs and scratching you with his claws. In the winter he’d squeeze into a cat bed occupied by one of his housemates and gradually stretch and push them out. He definitely ran the show.
As the next few days and weeks pass we’ll realize even more how much he meant to us. Katie will continue to watch for him in the morning, Kati and Sarah will come to realize that he won’t be there to warm their laps in the winter, the front door window will be empty when I pull in after hours, and I won’t need to remind people about the hair on their derrieres.
Yet our grief will heal knowing that Freddy had a great life with us. He was destined to be a short lived little feral cat, but because of us, he became a mascot that was loved not only by us but also hundreds of our clients. We will truly miss you Fred, as will our clientele, and thank you for eleven magnificent years of of having you in our family.
Written by Dr. Miller with a few additional stories and commas added by Sarah M.