Some Perspective This mission started unintentionally. In 2011 after my cat died unexpectedly from renal failure, I waited two months, and then went in search of two kittens.
Somehow I ended up at a shelter in one of the suburbs, and fell in love with a little Manx-Siamese – not a kitten, but a special needs six-year-old that had been adopted and returned three times. Izzy, I was told, was not up for adoption again due to the previous failed adoptions, none really her fault.
The birth defect that left her without the last two vertebrae in her spine – the feline form of spina bifida – made her higher maintenance than other cats. However, two of the three adopters returned her because of transitions in their lives that precluded having a cat. The other one burned out after caring for her one year, but was very sad to give her back. (If I didn’t have my husband, I am not sure I could do it without professional help some days).
She and other Manx cats born with this condition are unable to pee or poop without human assistance. Ugh – I hate bodily fluids, but as a social worker and human being, it seemed terribly unjust for her to live in a shelter the rest of her life (even though they loved and took great care of her). It made me more determined.
I got my husband to come and visit her, and although she threw up on his shoulder, he agreed that we would take her in lieu of two kittens. The shelter required that we come out every other day for a month to learn how to care for her – we did. Finally, we got to bring her home. She has been such a gift! Izzy has a very healing presence. At the time, I was going through several losses; Izzy lay on my chest every day, purring and healing me with her gentle, loving spirit. She continues to do that at times, but seems to know when we need it.
Experience Fast forward four years. Izzy is now almost 10-years-old. PJ – as in Pearl Jam – the 18-year-old cat (that I had since rescuing him after a head injury in a parking lot at three months) died from renal failure. After eight months, I adopted a cat that I am sure is PJ in another incarnation. His name is Eddie – as in Vedder – and Buddha Belly – and Yoda – and Ed, etc.
I have dreamed of starting an animal sanctuary for years. This spring I finally decided that with our combined experience in caring for multiple pets with injuries and illnesses, we have the skills to specialize in pets with disabilities/special needs . Patience and persistence are the primary requirements – and the ability to stomach some pretty gross stuff. My resume includes:
Caring for Chelsea, my black lab that was hit by a car resulting in paralysis in her back legs – I worked with her until she was able to walk again, with no professional assistance.
Raising a cat with a crushed skull that managed to survive with little more than a crooked jaw and underbite. He lived to be 18 and died from renal failure.
Taking care of my cat, Batman, after he was electrocuted and partially paralyzed in his jaw and mouth – I nursed back to health.
Caring for Roben, Batman’s sister that dislocated her back leg, requiring a 30-day vet stay and on-going rehab at home. She lived to be 10, and died from renal failure.
Senna, my beloved golden retriever, was adopted at age three. He had heartworms when I adopted him, requiring treatment that left him cognitively scarred for life. He also had severe separation anxiety accompanied by self injury when away from home. Additionally, he had a mini-stroke, it appears, as one side of his face drooped a bit. Senna lived to be almost 16. He had difficulty with one back leg that we managed with acupuncture, pain medication and a harness for lifting him on the stairs and into the car. We had to let Senna go on July 12th after a serious illness that he did not recover from as in the past. It was heartbreaking, but in his best interest to prevent further suffering.
The list goes on…
Enter Merlin (aka Muffin (with no legs)) One day while perusing Facebook, I saw a national post from Pet Finders about this sweet little cat named ‘Muffin (with no legs)’ – what??? He was in Wisconsin and needed a special home. The human who had cared for him since birth was no longer able to provide the care he needed. I inquired and sent in an application, although I didn’t expect to get a follow up call; they preferred a house without dogs – I had two.
A day or two later, I got a call for a phone interview. Two days after that, they checked my references and confirmed with me that I would come to Wisconsin (from Denver!) to get him. We scheduled to the time, and I took off.
I learned when I got there that 18 other people from all over the US and Canada applied to adopt this baby at the same time. My application was chosen because I take such good care of my pets – and work from home to offer supervision – and keep my pets until they die – and provide wellness services that include dental cleaning annually – and so on.
And Enter Oz (aka Oberlin) I had also inquired about a Manx in Michigan with the same congenital disorder as Izzy. While on the road to Wisconsin, I got an email about this little guy (he is really very big!). They were going to send him to Utah as a foster placement. I called my husband (he helps Izzy poop and I usually help her pee) to see he was up for a second cat that needed help peeing and pooping – this can be messy and disgusting if they don’t eat just the right diet. He said okay, so when I left Eau Claire, Wisconsin I headed in their direction to meet them with Oz.
Home Sweet Home It was a four day trip, the last two with cats in tow. They were very well behaved on the ride and in the hotels. Both have settled in nicely with the other two cats and dogs. After some preliminary checking each other out from a distance, they all play and tumble together, except Izzy – she is the only female and alpha, if such a thing exists with cats. She prefers to be alone or with humans.
Stay tuned for the trip to Texas story that brought us Phoenix and Sasha!