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Peyton Manning & His Wife Ashley Say:

"Adopt Your Pets From Animal Shelters & Be Sure To Have Them Spayed & Neutered!"

Photograph Copyright 2002, Eric Smith.  All rights reserved.  Photo and quote are not to be construed as an endorsement of DooDoo Voodoo in any way by the Mannings; they simply support our animal charity work.  We & they believe in saving animals' lives.

 

WELCOME TO OUR RAINBOW BRIDGE PAGE

Here are pictures of some of the wonderful pets who have enriched our lives, but who have now passed over the Rainbow Bridge to a friendly, cheerful place where tails are always wagging, there's always a warm patch of sunshine to lie in and contentment fills the air.  It gives us a lot of comfort to know that someday we'll be back together with these members of our "Gang of Fur."  We're glad to have them in our lives and look forward to petting them once again someday.  Mouse over the pictures to see the text associated with each of them.

You can see more photos and read about some of our success stories on the About Us page.

"Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."
─ Dr. Seuss


Linus was our first rescued cat and is responsible for our becoming so involved in animal welfare.  He at first hated Peaches, our 2nd cat and whom we got as a friend for Linus when she was only a few weeks old, and tried to poop in her food dish, but throughout the rest of their lives, they were best friends.  Peaches was our second cat and was the Alpha Female of our clan.  She had a lot more personality than many people we know and loved to eat!  Edison absolutely idolized Linus and followed him wherever Linus went.  He often could be seen giving Linus a bath, only to be "thanked" with a stern swat when Linus had had enough.  Betsy was very timid and victimized for some years by Linus, Edison and some of the other cats, but the last few years of her life really developed confidence and actually could be found curled up with some of her previous foes.         Linus & Peaches could often be found curled up together.  This picture was taken in 1985.  Betsy wasn't accepted well by our other rescues, so we got Iris as a tiny kitten to be Betsy's surrogate "baby".  Obviously our plan worked!  Timid Chester in a basket Eric's mom made.  Sanibel, who was named for the Florida island because we were getting ready to move to the Florida coast when Sanibel, her siblings and their mother were rescued. DSC05840 IR1.jpg (80309 bytes)  Resize of DSC06039.JPG (22458 bytes)  DSC05752 IR1.jpg (48855 bytes)  issytony4 IR1.jpg (45030 bytes)  Sophie 6142 IR1.jpg (35905 bytes)   
     
     

 

 Linus
Linus was our first-ever rescued cat, adopted from the Humane Society of Indianapolis (where I was later a Board member) shortly after we were married.  We chose him out of his littermates because he was very vocal and climbing the cage to get our attention. To this day, we believe he knew what am important role he would play in the world:  instigating our being so involved in high-level animal welfare and doing so much to help so many animals.  It all grew out of Linus's being in our lives and we are forever indebted to Linus for this.

When it was time to have Linus neutered, we took him to the vet's office and took seats in the waiting area.  They told us to go on home and that they'd call us when they were finished.  We couldn't believe it!  We told them we could NEVER leave our little guy there alone.  They were very understanding, even though we now know that they were likely laughing their butts off after we finally left.  Linus did fine and we learned that you aren't supposed to hang around while your cat is neutered.  :-)

We deemed Linus lonely, so we got a kitten for him and named her Peaches.  He HATED Peaches when we brought her home and over the ensuing weeks he beat the crap out of her repeatedly.  It was so pronounced that I once told the vet that I was concerned that Linus was literally going to kill Peaches.  The vet assured me not...and Linus and Peaches ultimately became best friends.  They would snuggle together the rest of their lives.

Once he bought into Peaches, Linus was fine with the arrangement, but later on, when we started bringing in more and more rescued cats, Linus withdrew.  We feel he never forgave us for messing up his life with so many other cats to distract us from him and his position of importance.

He developed kidney disease and spent the last years of his life very, very thin.  We euthanized him here in our rescue facility in the sunroom overlooking the wooded backyard.  We and our caretaker, Carol, cried our eyes out, not only because of Linus's passing, but because of the enormity of what Linus started.

There are untold thousands (millions, more likely) of animals who owe Linus a debt of gratitude.  He was pivotal and played a very important role in the world.  Now he knows.

 Peaches
Wow.  What a strong-willed kitty.  She was my original feline girlfriend and would spend hours curled up with me while I watched television.

We got Peaches as a friend for Linus (see above).  The first time we left her alone with him in the house so we could go to dinner, we put a little washcloth over her as she lay sleeping on the corner of a VCR in our living room.  She looked like a little angel.  Little did we know that she would grow to be the Rose Kennedy of our animal population.  She absolutely ruled the roost.

We took a trip and asked our elderly neighbors to feed the two cats while we were gone.  When we checked in from the vacation, the neighbor lady said Linus and Peaches were doing well, but "Boy, that little one sure gets all the food."  This was likely an attitude she developed after Linus expressed his displeasure at her coming to live with us by pooping in her food dish.

Peaches developed lipidosis, which is a liver disease cats are prone to when they go a few days without eating.  She nearly died and had major surgery, after which we had to feed her a special mixture via syringe through her abdominal feeding tube.  It took forever to prepare the mixture each time, then took forever to slowly infuse the mixture through the tube, lest she would vomit.  This was tough to do around the clock, but it really helped us bond with Peaches and her with us.  She pulled through and lived a long, happy life after that.  (Shown here is a picture of Peaches lying in the window after her surgery.)

Toward the end, she was losing weight, not wanting to eat and wanting to face away and be by herself.  The tests kept coming back normal, though, and the vets were stumped.  We ultimately decided to do an abdominal ultrasound to see what we could find.  I stood there as they shaved Peaches' side, comforting her and coaxing her into lying still.  Sadly, though, when they shaved her fur, there was a large, purple area under her skin.  It was metastatic cancer, as a needle aspirate and microscope proved.  I could not see trying to keep Peaches alive out of simple selfishness, so I spent time feeding her and petting her in her cage at the vet's, but she even tired of me and turned her back to me, putting her nose into the rear corner of the cage.  I knew it was time.  Our main veterinarian, Dr. David Brunner, and I euthanized her while I held her.  I bawled my eyes out...and am tearing up as I type this.  I loved Peaches dearly and was terribly sorry that she had been feeling so poorly.

Peaches and Linus were very important kitties, as they helped guide us on our lifelong journey of helping needy animals.  Without them, I'm not sure we'd have followed the same path.  We and untold thousands of animals owe them both a large debt of gratitude for all the joy they gave us and all the good they did. 

 Lilly
Lilly belonged to a family who lived across the street from my late father, who lived in the 106-year-old house where I grew up.  While hauling furniture and stuff from Dad's house, I went out into the street to talk with the neighbor.  Lilly followed him out there and she warmed up to me instantly.  I couldn't help but notice how terribly thin she was, so I asked the neighbor about her health while I looked her over.

He said she'd had a few teeth removed 7 weeks prior and that her mouth actually seemed to get worse after that, rather than better.  He said the vet had prescribed oral antibiotics, but that he hadn't been able to get them into Lilly.  I looked at her mouth and immediately suspected sublingual cancer, which we'd seen before, particularly among cats who lived in smoking households (which Lilly did).  Knowing about our rescue facility and penchant for helping ill animals, the neighbor asked if we wanted a new "project."  After thinking about it for a few hours, I told him we'd like to take Lilly to our vet for an examination.  He consented, and the next day, a Saturday, while I was at Dad's house hauling more stuff, Lilly came over to keep me company.  After I finished my work, I scooped her up and she rode home sitting on my lap.

Once we got her home, we fixed up a three-room suite for Lilly in our rescue facility.  She immediately began chowing down on Fancy Feast and Hill's Prescription Diet A/D, as shown here.  We had already scheduled an appointment with the vet for the following Monday morning at 8am, so we had a day and a half to get Lilly settled in.  She took to us and her suite right away, but she hadn't yet met any of the other cats who live in our facility.

Monday morning, she was seen by our vet, who, unfortunately, confirmed that Lilly did, indeed, have oral cancer.  Lilly was lightly anesthetized and x-rays were taken.  We were all shocked by what we saw:  cancer had eaten away all of Lilly's lower right and front jawbone.  To the left is a picture of the x-ray (it's oriented funny; her lower jaw is pictured and is pointing toward 8 o'clock).  The jawbone was still partially intact on her lower left, as you can see, but the couple remaining teeth at her lower front were just resting in cancerous tissue, not bone.  Lilly tested negative for FIV and FeLV, as well as intestinal parasites.  We treated her with Capstar and Revolution so she wouldn't infest the rest of our population with fleas.

Over the coming days, we had her back at the vet for further examination and a bit of a shave below her chin so she wouldn't drag her (long) fur so much in her food, which she licked at with reckless abandon.  We were amazed by her appetite; she was eating about 2.5 cans of wet food a day.  Her weight was at 5# 3oz.  Due to having no functional teeth to speak of and due to her mouth being so full of cancer (click here for pictures of the inside of Lilly's mouth; they're a bit graphic...and very sad), she could only eat the most pureed types of Fancy Feast and some prescription A/D.  To make it even easier on her, we added extra water, which helped the food go down easier and got her some much-needed hydration.  Lilly's favorite flavor & texture of Fancy Feast was Chopped Grill Feast.  We'd sit right there with her and fluff the food up every couple minutes, all while telling her what a good eater she was and how proud we were of her.  (We've done this with innumerable cats and have found that it does a lot of good at encouraging them to eat more.)

Lilly began to get a bit stir crazy and wanted out of her suite, so we let her out and, boy, was she in for a rude awakening:  there were two dozen other cats in the building!  She did a lot of growling and hissing, but we comforted her and she slowly warmed up to the other cats.  She even was spotted lying right next to another kitty on a ledge on the screened porch overlooking the backyard where the deer graze.  We were amazed at this boldness on her part, but we were also amazed at how the other cats never hissed back or showed any aggression toward her.  It was as if they knew that she was gravely ill.  We'd let Lilly back into her suite and would lie with her for, sometimes, hours, but then she'd want out and would go socialize with the other cats and explore the facility some more.  She was a very self-assured kitty.

At night, we'd lie with her, watching the evening news and some other programs or reading.  She absolutely loved this time and would purr and purr, then curl up on you and fall sound asleep, often with her nose virtually touching yours.  It is such a pleasure to see an ill kitty relax to the point of being able to fall deeply asleep.  (Many gravely ill cats never do sleep; they spend their time huddled in discomfort.)  We'd either sleep with her in the suite, or would shuttle her over to another bedroom in our house.  Pictured here is Lilly perched on her cat tree.  She loved doing this, as it allowed her to survey our acres of backyard and woods.  We have lots of wildlife here, which she loved watching.  (Here's a picture of a deer grazing in our woods Lilly's last day and a picture of "Mr. and Mrs. Duck," our every-Spring visitors, floating in our little pond.)  Lilly was great to sleep with.  Despite being so active (we called her Monkey Girl), she didn't climb on you at night or do anything to disturb you.  She'd curl up on her fleece or in her poofy bed and fall soundly asleep.

Sadly, but luckily acutely, Lilly's breath began to get extremely odorous.  Her mouth swelled dramatically more.  She lost interest in eating, likely due to the pain and the constriction of her mouth and throat from the cancer.  She lost 4oz. in one day, even after eating a can of food and not having a bowel movement.  Cancer was stealing all her nutrition.  This was all bad enough, but what really let us know that she was in significant distress was that she began to pace constantly and yowl and cry.  Not a playful kitty type of cry; a guteral, agonal cry that cats reserve for when they're really hurting.  We believe her constant pacing (more like racing around the facility, at times) was due to her searching for a way out.  As you know, animals often will go off to be alone to die; we believe this is what Lilly was trying to do.  We never let our rescued animals outside, but we have no doubt that if we had let her out, Lilly would have run and we'd have never seen her again.

We took Lilly to our veterinarian to be euthanized, which she was at 5pm on May 20th, 2008.  We held her on our lap in the poofy bed she loved and covered her with a towel to keep her warm.  Her euthanasia went off without a hitch.  Totally peaceful passing.  After Lilly passed away, we took the pictures of her mouth.  We hope these pictures help others keep their pets from getting oral cancer (see further info below).

(We prefer to euthanize animals via the two-injection method, not the single injection some people use, which we find cruel.  The first injection is a large dose of sedative and is given I.M. (intra-muscular).  The body absorbs the sedative slowly, in anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes, and the animal falls deeply asleep.  Once the animal is deeply, deeply under (as evidenced by their extremely intermittent breathing), the veterinarian finds a vein and administers the fatal injection.  Due to the animal being so far under the anesthesia, this second injection is much less traumatic, if you know what I mean.  We do not prefer the cardiac stick or the single-injection methods of euthanasia, as we find them cruel.)

I told my wife, while we were waiting for the sedative injection to take effect (which it did in about 2 minutes in Lilly's case) that we had packed a lifetime of love for Lilly into the 11 days we'd cared for her at our home.  We learned so much about grace and poise from Lilly.  I'm not sure we could ever be as brave as she was during her ordeal.  We always said that Sophie (below) had the best demeanor of any cat we've had in our care (which has been hundreds), but we now believe that Lilly has taken that crown from Sophie.  What an incredible cat.  It was necessary, but difficult, to euthanize her, as she was still in many ways acting like a normal cat.  (This isn't without precedent, though; cats are renowned for hiding their infirmities; this is their way of protecting themselves from predation in the wild.  It's not uncommon for dying cats to appear in many ways to be normal and healthy.)  It was an incredible honor to get the opportunity to care for Lilly.  She has enriched our lives and will live on in our hearts forever.

Cats who live in smoking households are, according to veterinary literature, nearly 6X as likely to develop oral cancer (if they are subjected to secondhand smoke for 5 years).  This is because the smoke settles on their fur, then is ingested and deposited in their mouths as they groom themselves.  Click here for an article out of a veterinary journal about cats and oral cancer.  (The file is in PDF format and is just over a megabyte in size, which may take awhile to download if you have a slow connection.)  Cats in smoking households are also at increased risk of developing lung cancer.  If you smoke, we urge you to please stop, for your own sake and the health of the pets you love.

Here are more pictures from Lilly's time with us at our facility and just before she joined us.  Mouse over the pictures to see descriptive text, where applicable.  Click a picture for an 800x600 version:

  Lilly in her much-deserved "spotlight," thanks to the skylights  Lilly looking out at the ducks in the pond
Lilly loved the cat tree!  Notice the tongue, which was displaced by cancer and was often out  Lilly drooled a lot, often worse than this, due to cancer displacing her tongue
Lilly after having her bib shaved; notice the blood on her lip  Our feeding station in Lilly's suite.  The other bedroom where we slept and watched TV with Lilly
Lilly in the old neighborhood before rescue, trying to eat part of a hotdog

 Georgette
Georgette was one of our rescued housecats and passed away from metastatic cancer on November 16, 2006.  You can read her life story and see photos here.  There is helpful information about what we learned medically from Georgette's battle with cancer.  You can see a recent ad featuring Georgette here.

 Betsy
Betsy was found living on top of a high-rise apartment building in downtown Indianapolis by a gal my wife worked with.  The gal had feeding Betsy canned green beans and whatever else Betsy would eat.  As soon as my wife heard about Betsy's situation, she immediately went over there and brought Betsy home.  We named her Betsy because she was found on election day; this was a nod to Betsy Ross.  Betsy loved us, but was terribly terrorized by our other rescued cats; they beat her up day and night, poor thing.  Because of this, she for years lived under a footstool and in a cardboard box we set up for her.  We thought Betsy could use a buddy and that it might draw her out, so we got a kitten, Iris, to be Betsy's buddy.  They took to each other literally immediately, as shown in the photo above.  As she grew, Iris sort of branched out and quit being so close to Betsy, but we feel their friendship was helpful to Betsy while it lasted.  Toward the end of her life, Betsy got some braveness and even was once seen curled up with Edison, who was the main cat who beat up on Betsy.  She developed a variety of maladies and lost her sight at the end of her life.  The last hour she was alive, even though she was so terribly ill in so many ways, she struggled to get off the mattress we were lying on with her on the floor and stumbled her way to the litter box to pee, then came back to the mattress to be with us.  We hope Betsy now knows how hard we tried to give her a good quality of life.  We love her dearly.

 Mario
Mario
was an extremely friendly guy who just showed up on our property one day and was with us ever since.  We wished that a forever home would have materialized for Mario, but he was such a sweetheart to have around that we consider ourselves lucky to have had the pleasure of caring for him.

Mario's claim to fame is that we never heard him meow like you'd expect him to...he sort of grunted instead and it was really cute.  Mario was one of those instantly likable cats, and we loved having in our population.

Before we knew how friendly Mario was, he was eartipped as a feral cat (for identification in the wild).  He wore his tipped ear like a badge of honor.

We adopted Mario to what we thought was a really good home once, but he ended up coming back to us through no fault of his own.  His then mom reported to us that he had a really scary incident she called "asthma," but that he came out of it after emergency care.  That's all I remember about the incident, but I believe it may have been more than that...or that something about it would come back to haunt Mario.

Mario had sporadic vomiting for years, but all the diagnostics never really showed anything.  Then, at one exam, he exhibited a very rapid heartbeat.  Given that he never was stressed, even at the vet's, we kind of wondered what was up with his tachycardia, but the vet didn't seem too worried by it.  At a subsequent exam, I seem to recall that his heart rate seemed more normal, so we figured that the previous tachycardia was an aberration.  The vet said she wasn't concerned and that his heart rate seemed normal.  Well...

We then began to note that Mario was losing weight, but otherwise seemed himself.  This persisted a few months.  His sporadic vomiting was no different, so we just kind of kept a closer eye on him.

Then, one day one of our cattery caretakers didn't see Mario in his normal spot and he wasn't following her around, so she went looking for him.  She found him in a room of the facility where he never really went, hunkered down and having extreme difficulty breathing.  She let us know and we immediately rushed him to the nearest emergency clinic.  After getting him into an oxygen cage and loading him with sedatives, they did all sorts of tests, including x-rays and an emergency cardiac ultrasound, which was difficult as heck, given his inability to breathe correctly.  They did the ultrasound super-quick, and it actually didn't show anything remarkable.  We had an intense discussion about everything Mario's condition could be, and none of the possibilities was any good for him.  His breathing became even more labored, even with more sedation, and we agreed that the only humane thing to do was to euthanize the poor little guy.

We had Mario's body sent to a top veterinary school for a post-mortem exam so we could learn from his passing in an effort to help other animals in the future.  Sigh.  It turned out that Mario's death likely could have been prevented, if only we had known.  He was suffering with advanced cardiomyopathy, which is a thickening of the heart wall that causes insufficient blood-pumping ability.  His heart was failing to such a degree that he wasn't getting enough blood pumped through his lungs to exchange old air for new.  If he had given us enough symptoms to lead us, we would have had him cardiac ultrasounded months prior, would have found out that he had cardiomyopathy and would have immediately started him on prescription medications and supplementation.  But we didn't know, and the vet never picked up on it.  Aside from his weight loss, Mario totally hid his illness.  Up until minutes before he began to have labored breathing, he acted absolutely normal.

Here's what we learned.  If a cat is having weight loss over a period of months, get some ultrasounds and other tests done.  Weight loss doesn't occur for no reason.  And if we ever see a heart rate abnormality in a cat again, you better believe we'll follow up on it.

Here's to Mario.  We should all have his love of life, his easygoing demeanor and his "I'm good" spirit.

 Sophie
After we rescued Skippy (below), he was the odd man out in our rescue population and he needed a buddy.  Julie happened to be looking through a northside paper and saw an ad for some kittens.  She called the number and the fellow told her that the only kitten left was the runt of the litter, wasn't very cute and he was sure she wouldn't want him.  Julie said, "We'll take her!"  The guy brought the kitten to us, we named her Sophie and she and Skippy became instant...and lifelong...friends.

Sophie had easily the best, most positive attitude of any cat we've ever had.  She was rarely sick and when she was, it didn't seem to affect her like it does other cats.

She would often dig at your hair or jump on your back if you were bent over scooping the litterboxes.

Sophie's only bad habit, if you can call it that, was that she got terribly upset if she had to ride in the car and she would virtually always vomit...sometimes even before you started the car.  We don't know if this was because of apprehension over going to the vet or apprehension about the motion of the car, but she never failed to get sick.  Interestingly, at the end of her life we shuttled her to the vet's and the surgeon's many times and she never once vomited.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.

When we lived in Florida in the late '80s, there was a frog on the side of our screened entry way waiting for the evening's bugs to come around the light and Sophie, uh, took a liking to that frog.  She sat there on the floor below the frog for hours just looking up at him.  After a long time thinking about it, Sophie launched vertically and almost got the frog...who was over six feet up on the wall!

Sophie was always the "nurse" of our cat population and could be counted on to comfort and give a bath to any of the other cats she felt needed it.  As shown below in the picture I took of Sophie and Skippy on the day Skippy was euthanized, she was a giver 'til the very end.

Sophie during the prime of her life in December of 2000Sophie had gotten thin and had begun to sleep a lot of the time, so we took her to the doctor.  Having had experience with such things, Julie requested an ultrasound of Sophie's heart, thinking that Sophie might be suffering from cardiomyopathy.  The cardiac ultrasound didn't show what we expected, but they went a bit further and saw something in Sophie's lung.  An x-ray clearly showed a mass, so they performed a needle biopsy and the pathologist diagnosed the mass as cancer.  We made an appointment to take Sophie to the surgeon's for a consult.  Julie began to sleep on the air mattress with Sophie and fed Sophie every couple hours around the clock.  For awhile, Sophie took to all the food and water with lots of gusto.  Julie also gave Sophie numerous subcutaneous fluid injections to help keep Sophie hydrated and to keep her more comfortable.

The surgeon examined Sophie and shot more x-rays.  It was his opinion that the tumor was primary, i.e., not metastasized from another location, and that he could remove it and the surrounding lung lobe with good success.  So, Sophie underwent a lobectomy.  Unfortunately, while being intubated for her surgery, the doctors found a mass at the base of Sophie's tongue, which they subsequently removed and sent to the pathologist with her lung tissue.  Sophie seemed to recuperate well for a few days, but then began to decline and her belly got quite distended, so we took her back to the surgeon, who inserted a needle to see if there was fluid that needed to be drained.  It appeared that there wasn't, so everyone kind of scratched their heads.

The pathology results on Sophie's sublingual mass didn't come back from the lab in a timely fashion and Sophie had begun to refuse food and water, even when forced-fed, so we had the surgeons insert a feeding tube.  Unfortunately, while they were finishing up the procedure, the pathology results arrived via fax and contained the worst possible news.  Sophie's sublingual tumor was the most aggressive, fastest growing type of cancer and the tissue showed that the surgeon hadn't gotten all of the cancer.  Her lung tumor was also more dangerously and aggressively cancerous than first thought.

After Sophie awakened from this surgery, we took her home.  She continued to refuse food and water...and even the NutriCal she had previously lapped up like butter...and she continued to decline.  It quickly became obvious to us that not only was Sophie not ever going to get better, she really was feeling like crap and was ready to move on.  So, I slept with her on the air mattress and spent most of the night with her curled up in my armpit while I petted and talked to her.  (She had lost her hearing in the previous few months, but would still respond to the lowest tones of your voice if you got right up to her ear.)  She would intermittently fall asleep, luckily, and sleep soundly and when I'd pet her she'd instantly purr loudly, so I knew she was taking comfort in having me with her.

At 7:45am we euthanized Sophie at one of our favorite veterinary clinics.  Because of the pre-euthanasia sedation that was given to put her deeply asleep before the euthanasia injection, her body relaxed to the point that it released all the stuff that had been pent up in her digestive tract.  It was painfully obvious why she had begun to refuse food and water.  Luckily, this release was mostly reflexive and when it was over, Sophie was deeply asleep.  The veterinarian administered the lethal injection Sophie had been longing for, and Sophie's hurting was over.

We have nothing but fond memories of Sophie and her loss is really a tough one for us.  If we could have known that the mass in her mouth was cancerous and so aggressively so, we wouldn't have put her through the lobectomy or the subsequent surgery to insert a feeding tube (which we never even got to use).  But Sophie had more to teach and we more to learn.

Despite what it became obvious Sophie had been holding inside her, she never vomited at home, at the vet's or during all the car rides in her last couple weeks of life here on Earth.  She purred at our touch literally until the moment the sedation injection took effect.  She never lost her ability to use the litterbox or to jump up onto the air mattress.

We've been through the loss of many dear pets and the loss of Sophie definitely ranks near the top of the list of those that were most difficult for us.  We love her dearly and are glad that she'll never, ever, hurt again.  God bless her.

As James Ingram sang in his song There's No Easy Way, "Sometimes the best is no damn good."

By the way, we believe there is a chance that Sophie's demise was related to environmental factors as discussed in our document Household Chemicals, Environmental Contaminants & Dead Cats.  For the sake of your animals and others you come in contact with, please read it.

(Sophie's pictured in the gallery at the top of the page recuperating the day after her lung lobe was removed.  Notice that her chest drainage tube was still inserted and can be seen just behind her bandage.  She is pictured under her favorite blanket during the prime of her life in December 2000.)

 DSC00267_IR1.jpg (131547 bytes)Tony
Our dear friend, Tony, passed away on March 8th of 2003.  Tony showed up at our farm outside Fishers a few years ago and I found tiny little Tony sitting on the hood of my car meowing his head off.  He was soooooo cute and friendly that he instantly made a place for himself in our hearts and in our cat population.  Tony was one of the most loving cats we've ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He never met a lap, a person or a meal he didn't like!  We adopted Tony to a nice gal on the near north side of Indy awhile back, but her schedule changed and she wasn't able to spend as much time with Tony as she previously had, so Tony came back to us and fit right back in to the population.  Tony was always happy and healthy and we adopted him to a great couple on Indy's northeast side around Christmas of 2002.  Unfortunately, during March of 2003 Tony suddenly became ill with what appeared to have been neurological symptoms.  His new family spoon fed him and helped him to the litterbox for a few days, but Tony took an acute turn for the worse and suddenly passed away as the family rushed him to an area clinic.  A post-mortem exam showed nothing amiss, but given that Tony had been so healthy 'til then...and given his symptoms' similarity to those of Chester and Iris (see this document
for more specifics), we believe there's a chance that somehow Tony's demise could possibly have been related to the other cats'.  As you can imagine, we're still in absolute shock at Tony's rapid decline and passing.  We and his adoptive family are glad to have had Tony in our lives, though obviously for not nearly as long as any of us would have liked.  By the way, as you can see from one of Tony's last pictures above, he didn't always remain "tiny little Tony" and we often joked that for Tony, every day was Fat Tuesday.

 Skippy
We rescued Skippy while we owned and operated a Jack's Pizza outlet in Fishers (north of Indianapolis) in 1987.  Skippy was a polydactyl kitty (like Hemingway's cats, he had extra toes) who just came around our pizza place...and was with us ever since.  Skippy was a really friendly cat; he was the first one people---especially children---would gravitate to when they visited us.

After we moved to Florida in 1987, Skippy (who was quite a door-dasher for awhile) sneaked out into our attached garage, unbeknownst to us.  Later that day, Julie went out into the garage only to find Skippy virtually lifeless.  (We subsequently figured out that while in the garage he had gotten into a litterbox Julie was disinfecting with Lysol liquid; the cleaning fluid had burned his paws and when he licked them, he got poisoned.)  She drove Skippy at high speed to an emergency clinic in Ft. Myers and thanks to their treatments of activated charcoal, fluids and lots of TLC, Skippy pulled through.

Sometime later, Skippy developed bad renal trouble and had a surgery to enlarge the opening through which he urinated.  This helped him quite a bit, but he always sprayed after that.

Like many aging cats, Skippy developed renal insufficiency, so for some years he ate Hill's Science Diet K/D and received regular subcutaneous injections of fluid.  The fluids really can help make a renal kitty feel better...and in Skippy's case, the extra fluids helped us always know when he'd sprayed in our facility (due to the extra fluid volume)!

Late in his life, Skippy developed diabetes and was on insulin twice a day.  For a few years we were able to regulate his blood sugar with insulin, but toward the end, his glucose levels were extremely erratic.  A few times we found him catatonic & confused from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and had to rush him to the emergency clinic for fluids and karo syrup.

We helped Skippy live as long and with as good a quality of life as possible for many years, but near the end he just began lying in one position for long periods of time with his eyes almost, but not quite, closed.  It became obvious at the very end that he just couldn't get comfortable and felt like crap all the time, so we knew it was time for us to give him the only remaining gift we could.

Resize of DSC06043.JPG (24030 bytes)We held Skippy on our laps facing a window that was looking out onto a pretty day.  We talked to him and about him for the 15 minutes or so it took him to gently fall deeply asleep from the intra-muscular injection of a cocktail of anesthesia agents the vet gave him.  When he was really deeply asleep, the vet gave him an intravenous injection the ended his life...and his suffering.

Skippy had 18+ good years and, boy, did he live 'em!

(Shown at the right is a picture of Skippy's best friend, Sophie, giving him one last bath on the day he went over the Rainbow Bridge.  Little did we know at the time that Sophie had lung and oral cancer and would join Skippy just over a month later.  Her oral cancer wasn't found until they intubated her for her lung surgery.)

 Miss Kitty
This often misunderstood girl passed away 12-7-02 from renal failure.  She was the sister of Edison & Sanibel (pictured above) and was born in the Spring of 1987 right before we moved to Florida.

The siblings' mom, Dixie, for whom we ultimately found a home in Florida, had hung around one of our businesses and when we sold the business in late '86, we decided to take her home to live with us.  Well, things didn't go as planned.  I trusted myself to take Dixie to our Broad Ripple home loose in the van, not in a pet carrier.  Unfortunately, when I pulled into the driveway & gathered her up, she scratched at me, jumped from my arms and bolted away.  I tried for hours, even with Julie's help later, to scour the neighborhood looking for Dixie, but to no avail.  We then made up flyers and put them on all the doors within about half a mile in each direction, but no one ever called to tell us they had, or had seen, Dixie.  Naturally, we were heartbroken.  We had a personalized collar and tag waiting for her at home and had even already made a spay appointment for her...but now she was gone and I was beating myself up over being dumb enough not to put her in a pet carrier AND then let her get away.

Months passed until one morning when I was getting ready to drive to Florida to scout for a job and a house in preparation for our move there.  Julie had gone to a 24-hour convenience store to get a bag of ice for my cooler (Julie always makes me cheese & banana pepper sandwiches on rye when I travel; you should try them with Durkee's sauce some time) and on her way saw a cat far down the road from the convenience store.  Out of habit, Julie drove down that way and as she approached the kitty, she recognized the kitty as Dixie!  Even though it was early morning, Julie got out and began knocking on doors until she found a lady who said that Dixie had been hanging around & that the lady had been feeding her...and her kittens!  OH NO!  It was bad enough to let an unspayed cat jump from my arms and get away...but now she'd given birth to kittens!?!  Imagine how we (and specifically, I) felt!  Well, Julie explained the situation to the lady, gathered up Dixie & the kittens and brought them home with her.

We took Dixie and the kittens with us to Florida and were able to find a good home for Dixie, but kept the three kittens.  The kittens never were very healthy; Edison had only one functional kidney and needed quite extensive reconstructive renal surgery to save his life, Sanibel fought inflammatory bowel disease and Miss Kitty also had only one functional kidney.  Edison's one kidney finally gave out, as did Miss Kitty's.

Toward the end of her life, Miss Kitty suffered a severely broken leg and required a 4+ hour surgery to repair it.  She lost her hearing and would often startle when you finally entered her field of vision.  She loved to eat "special" food with some of our other special-needs cats twice a day and really was quite herself until two days before she needed to be euthanized.  Miss Kitty, like many cats, loved to shove her nose into your armpit or into the little area between your thumb & forefinger when you made a fist.  She did NOT like to go to the vet and often made a LARGE scene...to the point that one of the most gentle & patient veterinary technicians we know told us that Miss Kitty was the only cat in the world who scared her.

Miss Kitty's kidney gave out and she got so dehydrated that the veterinarian couldn't get a needle into her vein to euthanize her, so we ended up giving Miss Kitty an injection of Telazol in what little muscle she had left (she was down to 6 pounds) in order to sedate her enough to euthanize her.  Telazol takes a few minutes to sedate a kitty, so during this time we petted & talked to Miss Kitty and she even ate a few bites for us!  Luckily the Telazol took effect over the course of five minutes or so and Miss Kitty slowly stopped eating and just went deep asleep.  At that point the vet was able to give Miss Kitty her euthanasia injection in a vein in her back leg and she gently passed away.

It was terrible that Miss Kitty had to go through such a long leg surgery to repair her broken bone, but she actually was recovering quite well, had largely regained her use of the leg and was due to go back to the vet three days hence to have her leg checked.  Her surgery was almost a blessing, though, because it made Miss Kitty really appreciate all the time we spent with her at the clinic and at home while she was secluded and recuperating.  We're glad that we spent so much time with her during what proved to be her final two months on Earth.

I often told Miss Kitty that she wasn't that mean...that others just didn't understand her.  By the end of her life, I think she finally figured out that we weren't so bad either.  :-)

As Helen Keller said:  "What we have enjoyed, we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."

 Marty
Marty was a stray we found while searching the east side of Indianapolis for property for our nonprofit spay/neuter clinic.  We found him in a vacant lot on East Washington Street and he had almost been asphyxiated by a collar that was dramatically too tight.  It seemed that someone may have put a collar on Marty when he was a kitten, then he ran away and no one ever loosened the collar.  It was SO tight that it took a year for the indentation in his neck and fur to go away!

We found a home for Marty with a kitten we'd rescued named Cinnamon...and when the boys' adoptive parents & their little girl got transferred to the Pacific Northwest, we took in Marty & Cinnamon for fostering while the family found a home and got settled in.

Things were going well having Marty & Cinnamon with us in our guest room until we came home from dinner one night to find Marty had pooped and peed all over and was dragging his back legs lifeless behind him.  We rushed him to the emergency clinic and it was determined that due to undiagnosed cardiomyopathy (a loss of the heart's ability to squeeze hard enough, often accompanied by a thickening of the heart wall), Marty had developed a blood clot and it had lodged at the fork of his aorta and blocked the flow of blood to the lower part of his body.  Marty seemed to respond to blood thinners & fluids while in the hospital and it seemed he was regaining the blood flow to his lower body.  We took him to a local veterinarian for an ultrasound of his heart and, sure enough, he had cardiomyopathy.  Luckily, no additional clotting was seen in his heart, so we took him back to the emergency clinic so they could keep an eye on him.

DSC05753 IR1.jpg (31459 bytes)We went to dinner and when we got back in the car, the phone rang and the emergency clinic said Marty wasn't doing well.  We drove there as quickly as possible and by the time we arrived, Marty could barely breathe due to having thrown another clot to his lung, which caused his lung to collapse.  There was nothing that could be done to save Marty and even if there had been, there was no assurance that he wouldn't keep throwing clots, so since he was suffering so, we euthanized him.

Marty was a really sweet cat and we still can't believe he's gone.  It happened so quickly!  Earlier in the day, he looked great at the vet's office during his ultrasound (shown here)...and a few hours later his lung collapses and he can't breathe.

We're grateful to have had Marty in our lives and glad that we happened upon him on East Washington when we did so he didn't die of asphyxiation and got to know the love of a sibling and a wonderful family for what seems like way too short a time.

And Cinnamon?  He lived for awhile in our rescue facility...without his brother, without his mom & dad and without the child who used to love him and hold him near.  The good news is that then he was adopted to a professional women with a really cute house, one other cat and a good-natured dog, so he's now living the life of Riley.

 Chester
Chester was a frail, very timid long-haired kitty I found living under a house to which I was delivering a pizza while we were in the pizza business.  When I delivered the pizza, I asked what the plan was for the little white guy (he wasn't 4" long) and they said he'd probably just live in the yard by the river with all the other strays who hung around their place.  They told me that Chester was too afraid to come out and hang with the other cats and that he'd just been staying in the crawlspace under the house.  I knew that wasn't going to be much of a life for him, so I asked them if they'd consider letting me adopt Chester.  They said yes...for $25.00.  I went back and told Julie about Chester and it was determined that we could keep him, so I drove back the next day to get him.  They weren't home, so I left the money and a note for them and coaxed Chester out from under the house.  When I took him back to the pizza place to show Julie, she thought he was SO ugly 'cause he was filthy dirty, matted and covered with fleas (it's amazing that he didn't get heartworm, which cats get from being bitten by mosquitoes, of which there were many in the woods by the river).  We took Chester home and stupidly gave him a flea bath, something which can be quite dangerous for young, frail, unhealthy kittens infested with fleas.  The water was dark pink from all the fleas and blood, but Chester survived (no thanks to us, probably) and lived with us for many years.

Chester often got mats in his long hair and even with experience, I once cut his neck open while trying to remove a mat.  He never let out a peep, though, and after the stitching at the emergency clinic, he was high as a kite from the pain medication they gave him.  We always joked that that might have been the best...and worst...day of Chester's life!

Chester had a disgusting habit some other cats do, too:  he ate other cats', uh, unswallowed, food.  We joked that Chester loved a warm meal.  (Sorry for that disgusting tidbit!  I'm sure some of you can relate, though.)

Chester's demise was quite, quite odd and is discussed in the "Household Chemicals, Environmental Contaminents & Dead Cats" article you'll find a link to further down this page.  Amazingly, his brain lost its ability to open and close his epiglottis (the flap that covers your windpipe when you swallow so nothing goes down into your lungs).  Out of the blue, Julie found Chester choking and gasping for air, none of which was getting to his lungs due to his epiglottis being closed.  We drove him to one of the area's most technologically advanced clinics at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour, where he was sedated a bit so a breathing tube could be passed into his trachea.  This bought us some time, so they x-rayed Chester and tried everything they could to figure out what had gone wrong with him.  A couple hours later, after the breathing tube was removed and he came out of the sedation a bit, we all decided it was safe to take him home to see how he would do because he seemed to be okay.  Unfortunately, the choking and gasping returned in a couple hours and we immediately had to euthanize Chester to end his suffering.

Like they say, when you can't breathe, nothing else matters.

 Chenaynay

We recently returned to Indianapolis from a trip to Northbrook, IL, (northwest of Chicago) where we had taken a rescued kitty for a visit to a veterinary neurologist.  The kitty's name (given to her by the previous owner) is Chenaynay and she has been intermittently losing the use of her rear legs.  Local veterinarians couldn't diagnose her any further due to a lack of a local neurologist.  Unfortunately, the MRI and spinal tap showed that she has inoperable cancer of the spinal cord at thoracic vertebrae #3 and #4.  We're back home now and Chenaynay is resting comfortably.  Aside from the periodic loss of function of her rear legs, she looks absolutely normal and healthy, which is amazing given her circumstance.  She's eating like a champ, is using the litter box (even when she has to drag herself to it) and is still exhibiting plenty of cat-like behavior.  We're monitoring her quality of life very closely and are, of course, spending lots of extra time with her.  She'll tell us when she's given up the battle.

If you are in the Midwest and have an animal with neurological issues, we feel good about recommending the doctor Chenaynay visited.  If you need his contact information, please contact us by e-mail.

Update:  Unfortunately, we were forced to euthanize Chenaynay about a week after returning from our trip out of state.  She lost the ability to control her bowels, bladder and the entire lower half of her body, and it became obvious to us that she was ready to go.  We had our veterinarian come to our house in the woods, where we had set Chenaynay up on a table looking out at our pond through her favorite windows, and we petted and talked to Chenaynay during the 15 minutes or so it took the sedative to take effect.  Until the very end she was enjoying her favorite cardboard scratching pad, but the rest of her body had simply given up working correctly due to her cancer of the spinal cord.  Shown below is the last picture we took of Chenaynay before the vet arrived.  She looks really out of it, but wasn't; she was enjoying scratching at the pad.  (Click on the the picture to see a larger version.)  We'll see Chenaynay on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge one day...where she's already whole and happy again.

 Zorra 

It was interesting how Zorra left us on 1-12-13.  My wife had a birthday the day before and we'd been tied up with birthday-related dinners and stuff for the previous few days.  The morning after, though she'd been fine up 'til then, Zorra began to acutely exhibit very labored, rapid breathing.  Luckily, our cattery helper was on duty that morning and saw Zorra's change in respiration.  We quickly got Zorra into the car and took her to our main vet's, where it was obvious to all of us that Zorra was ready to leave us.  She was given an intra-muscular sedative and, over the next 20 minutes, gently went deeply asleep.  Our vet then administered the injection that ended Zorra's suffering.  It was absolutely peaceful.

Zorra had been ill for many years with anemia, cardiomyopathy and renal failure.  Julie had given Zorra thousands of infusions of subcutaneous fluid and had spent countless hours custom compounding Zorra's many medications (she was on 7 at the time of her death).

We had previously placed Zorra into two homes:  once with JimBob and once with her sister Sally.  Neither stuck and she spent the rest of her life with us.  Given all the daily attention and care our rescued cats receive, she didn't get the short end of the stick.

Zorra loved to be brushed and never missed an opportunity to curl up with others, especially large, male cats.  She could often be found in a pile with Harley, Rudy, JimBob, Tiger, Blackie and others.  They miss her terribly, not only because she would lie with them, but because she would knead on them, which we called "giving them a massage."

 Jake 

Jake was one of three cats my father left behind when he unexpectedly passed away in 2007.  Jake was always a large cat, but, due to the stress of being in our rescue facility and away from my dad, Jake began to put on a lot of weight, ultimately tipping the scales at 30 pounds.  Jake at times exhibited difficulty breathing, so we took him to our vet, where it was discovered that he had a lung mass.  We kept an eye on the mass over time and it did grow, but never seemed to get out of hand.  One night, while sleeping, I heard my father's voice.  Not a dream, mind you, but just a voice.  I did not see my dad; I just heard his voice say, "It's time, bud.  He's having trouble breathing."  (My dad and his brothers called all the other guys in the family "bud.")  Shortly after that, Jake acutely began to really struggle to breathe, so we were forced to take him to a 24-hour clinic for euthanasia.  Unfortunately, Jake was sooooo heavy that the vets couldn't euthanize him conventionally and Jake really began to struggle.  He ultimately succumbed to what we believe was essentially a heart attack.  It was a very unpleasant experience for Jake...and those of us who were attempting to help him over to the other side.

 Rudy 

Rudy was such a sweet cat.  He had an old soul and we called him The Mayor, as he seemed to sorta be in charge of our rescue facility.  He was very generous, often going around to give other cats a bath.  Other cats loved to curl up with Rudy.  His passing left a big void in the rescue facility's society.

We had once adopted Rudy to an elderly woman, but when Rudy developed kidney disease and it was obvious he needed care we could provide him, he came back to us.  We were happy to have him back and to be able to care for him in the manner he required.  His gentle spirit and quiet confidence are missed.  :-(

 Harley 

2003 August 13, 2015

Harley was one of the most special special-needs cats we've been privileged to care for.  It is my honor to spend some time telling you about Harley, as he has much to teach us.

Harley's story begins on the street where I grew up.  My father would often work on refinishing and repairing antiques in the garage and driveway, and had begun to tell me about a big, friendly, black cat who'd been hanging out with dad.  The problem was, the cat apparently belonged to a fellow with a drinking problem who lived down the street.  My dad expressed concern over the cat's wellbeing, but then called me in a panic when the drinker told dad, "That cat's so fat that my two boa constrictors wouldn't even eat him."  Oh, Lord.  We made plans for me to rescue the cat the next time an opportunity presented itself.

Soon, my dad called to say that the drinker had gone to hang out at the local tavern, so I dropped what I was doing and jumped into the car for the 40-minute drive over to the old neighborhood.  When I got there, dad was there and had put the garage door down so the cat couldn't wander off.  Being an experienced cat guy, I thought it'd take couple minutes to get the cat to come to me and I'd take him to the vet for a checkup and an overnight stay before neutering.  Well, it didn't exactly go that way.

The cat took great delight in playing hide and seek in the garage.  He wasn't feral; he was obviously just playing hard-to-get with me.  Darkness began to fall and dad had to go open up his pizza shop for the evening, so I stayed in the garage and spent the next few hours --- in the freezing cold and not dressed for the occasion --- climbing around in the filthy, crowded, dark loft and trying to make friends with the cat.  By the end of the ordeal I was about ready to wring the little bugger's neck!  After all those hours of hiding in the loft and elsewhere, he sauntered down and looked at me and meowed from atop my dad's rolling barbecue grill.  The hunt was over.

Here's the garage and the loft, though back then the loft and garage were full of stuff; it was quite a sight in there.  You can imagine how much fun it was to spend hours trying to get my hands on the cat, particularly after dark and with no heat.  I could barely feel my feet in my penny loafers!  (Click all photos for larger versions.)

Well, I ultimately did get my hands on the kitty, who we named Harley (after my father's favorite uncle), and I did take him straight to the vet clinic, where he proceeded to spray on our vet's book bag!  Here's Harley while he was in the hospital:

Harley recovered well, then we introduced him to the rest of our rescued cats, who took to him right away because of his extremely sweet demeanor.

Harley quickly became everybody's favorite cat to curl up with, as he made a good body pillow!  One of his favorite cats throughout her lifetime was Zorra, shown below (left) with another of her favorite friends, Tiger.  She used to not only like to lie with Harley; she would knead on him for long stretches at a time, with Harley loving the massage.  We think he got more out of the kneading than Zorra did.

Top to bottom:  Harley with Carlos, Harley with Rudy, Harley with Blackie & JimBob (Harley's best friend, as you'll learn more about soon) and Harley with JimBob again and again.  Notice JimBob's feeding tube.

Harley had a habit of hating to be locked out of rooms.  If we needed to close a door to sequester a cat for the night or give medications or clean, Harley would stand outside the door crying and "painting" the door with his front paws, much like a dog would who wanted to have the door opened.  It sounds cute to hear about...and it was, for about the first 15 seconds.  After that, it got pretty maddening!

A number of years ago, Harley began to have G.I. issues and it was discovered that he had I.B.D. and megacolon, the latter of which causes a ballooning of the colon, thus causing stool to stop moving through and to harden.  This caused Harley all sorts of issues, as you can imagine, and multiple times he had to go under anesthesia to have these obstipations cleared out manually and with enemas by the veterinarian.  It soon became clear that Harley would be better off to have the offending part of his colon removed, so a subtotal colectomy was performed.  Given his can-do demeanor, Harley took all this in stride and rejoined the rescue facility family without incident; his rejoining the clan put everyone at ease, as the missing piece of the puzzle was back where he should be.

He continued to have some bowel-related issues throughout his life, but these were well managed with diet, supplements and medications.

A few years ago, Harley became very, very ill and diagnostics in Indianapolis and at the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine showed that Harley had developed a large cyst around his kidney.  Purdue attempted a groundbreaking surgery to reduce the fluid build-up.  Harley underwent the surgery fine and the procedure went as planned, but it didn't prove to have the functional benefit we'd all hoped for, so poor Harley had to undergo another, more involved surgery in Indianapolis.  This surgery worked fine and Harley came through with flying colors.  If you'd like to see two photos taken during surgery to remove the fluid sack around Harley's kidney, click here and here.  These are not all bloody or anything, but are close-ups of Harley's kidney.  They're quite amazing, actually, but may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Here's a poster one of our rescue facility caregivers did for Harley while he was in the hospital for his kidney surgeries:

Here's Harley, back home after the surgeries, looking barely any the worse for wear:

Harley was a large cat when we rescued him, but gained weight over the years and got to the point where he was quite sizable, as shown here.  The second photo was taken after his kidney surgery.  In case you're wondering, yes, we did ask the surgeon if he could do a tummy tuck while he was in there.  :-)

Harley was a gentle giant and never got into scrapes with other cats.  He also liked to do things that made us refer to him as a big goober, such as climbing into a cabinet in the rescue facility.  My wife, not expecting to find a cat there, said she just about soiled herself when she looked up and saw Harley hiding in the cabinet:

Harley was diagnosed with a heart murmur and some rhythm issues, so he was put on medication to help slow his heartrate.  As you'll learn in a moment, at the end of his life we feel that this drug actually worked against him.

About a year from the end of Harley's life, a caregiver accidentally brought ringworm into the rescue facility (she was fostering kittens for a rescue group at the time), which began many months of vet visits, cleaning, isolation, medications, tests and more for all our rescued animals.  We made many adjustments to the medications and other treatments and, at the urging of one of the veterinarians, shaved our long-haired cats so as to minimize their fur and to make topical treatments work better.  Below is a photo of Harley right after he was shaved.  Notice how much less friendly he looks with his facial fur trimmed back!  He was still a larger cat, but had lost weight over the years and was no longer the tub he had once been.  He didn't look as thin in person as he does in the photo, but he had definitely lost weight.

(Many of our cats got thinner and healthier when we switched them to a grain-free food, Blue Buffalo Wilderness cat food, which we highly recommend.  We get it delivered by www.chewy.com and appreciate their prices and their service, though we wish they'd pay us to say so.  :-)  We've found that what you spend extra on the food is more than made up for by reduced vet bills.)

It was at the same time that the veterinarian noted that Harley's kidneys were not working well, so he was put on yet more medications, plus subcutaneous ("subcu") fluid daily.  He was a real trooper about taking his regimen of pills.  He was on TONS of medications.

Unfortunately, shortly after the above photo was taken, Harley began to withdraw, hide under blankets and face the wall, all of which are sure signs that a cat is ill.  We took him to the veterinarian due to his not eating and his exhibiting labored breathing.  Sadly, an x-ray showed that Harley had a greatly enlarged heart.  Not only that, his kidney values were quite poor; they had worsened a lot in just the three weeks since the vet diagnosed him with renal insufficiency.  His blood pressure was sky high and he was terribly anemic.  The vet instructed us to take Harley to the local emergency clinic and specialty center for an immediate echocardiogram and further tests.  We did so and met with the vet, then they admitted Harley to the hospital.

They performed the echocardiogram the next day and it showed that Harley had a greatly enlarged heart, cardiomyopathy, a murmur and fluid collecting around his heart.  He was receiving IV fluid and his usual meds, but nothing else, as the doctors were discussing what to do.

It was at this point that we realized that the heart medication he'd been on for some time might have actually been working against him.  His anemia had caused his cells to be starved for oxygen and his heart was trying to make up for the deficit by working harder.  Normally, Harley's heart would have been beating both faster and harder, but the heart medication was keeping his heartrate down, thus all his heart could do was beat harder.  This proved to be a very bad thing.

We visited him that evening and found him to be much less himself.  He was less engaged and it was apparent he was not feeling well at all.  Looking back on the visit and the photos, we both commented that Harley looked scared.  Here are photos taken of Harley during our visit:

The doctors powwowed and decided to put Harley on Viagra to open up his blood vessels in an attempt to help his heart not have to work so hard.  They discharged him and we brought him back to our facility, much to the delight of all the other cats, who really seemed to have missed Harley.  He did well the remainder of the day, then really seemed to crap out, as if the stress of the day had really taxed him.

Because of all the vet visits and such, I had gotten very behind in my work, so I stayed up late that night.  At about 2AM, I poked my head into the room where Harley had been hanging out, just to check on him.  It was dark, so I used a flashlight to check out the room.  At first, I saw two other cats (JimBob and Tiger), but not Harley, so I was shining my light around the room, looking for Harley.  Then I noticed that he was actually in between Tiger and JimBob on the dark blanket and had blended right in in the dark.  He was looking around in bewilderment, as if the flashlight's beam was disorienting to him.  I made a clicking sound with my mouth and called his name, at which time he looked right at me.  He was in the sphinx position and my sense was that he was ok, so I said goodnight to him and the other boys, then went to bed.

That was the last time I would see Harley alive.

Despite the late hour, I had much trouble dozing off and didn't fall asleep until about 4AM.  Around 9AM, Julie ran in to tell me that one of our caregivers had found Harley dead.  We ran to the room and found Harley deceased, lying on his side and partially under the blanket.  Incredibly, JimBob was lying by Harley.  He had been with Harley when Harley passed away and he stayed right next to his best friend for many hours after Harley's passing.

Later, our caregiver put JimBob on the washer/dryer "table" so he could receive his subcu fluid and his tube feeding (he had lost his ability to swallow as a side effect of the harsh medicine he'd received for ringworm).  One of our other special-needs (mostly blind + ear disease) cats, Stevie, was lying in Harley's spot, waiting for JimBob to take his usual position in the other poofy bed.  The room felt very empty without Harley's presence.  To this day (two days hence), the other cats seem out of sorts and sad.  Harley was so integral to the rescue facility that he leaves an even bigger void than another cat would.

After an animal passes away, we always reflect on the animal's life and what we learned from their life and their passing.

From Harley's life we learned to exhibit grace and poise even in the toughest situations.  Harley had an extremely positive attitude, even when he was very ill or had had surgery.  He just never let anything keep him down.  Certainly, we should all try to be more like brave little Harley in that regard, though we may never measure up.

From his death we learned to trust our own instincts about our animals' health.  When the emergency clinic didn't seem to be placing as much urgency on Harley's predicament as we felt was warranted, and when they didn't give him the oxygen that we asked about, and when they didn't initiate the Viagra treatment that they thought might take some burden off Harley's heart, we should have been more vocal and advocated harder for Harley.  Would he have lived?  No one can know, obviously, but there is a chance that he might have.  Heck, if we had known he was going to struggle to breathe and ultimately pass away, we of course would have euthanized him and saved him the suffering.  The takeaway is that we urge you to stay rational and objective if you find yourself in a similar dire circumstance with your animal, but to not let yourself be railroaded by the medical professionals.  If your gut tells you that things aren't being done that should be done, express your concerns.  Stand up for your animal.  They're not only counting on you; their life may depend on your advocating on their behalf.

Harley, we love you incredibly and are so blessed to have had you in our lives as long as we did.  You were a very important friend to JimBob, Zorra, Rudy and many other cats during your lifetime, and they greatly benefited from your friendship and positive energy.  Your passing leaves a big void in our rescue population and in our hearts, but we know that we'll all be reunited someday and that your spirit is still with us.  You're one of the greatest ever, Harley.  We miss you even more than we thought we would.
 


We've been blessed to have loved, and unfortunately lost, more animals than just these and we'll post their pictures & stories when we've compiled them.  For a bit of an in-depth case study of how some of these pets came to pass away, visit our DOWNLOADS page and check out our article Household Chemicals, Environmental Contaminants & Dead Cats.  We feel that every cat owner should be aware of some of the points we raise in the article, so please check it out for the sake of your special friend(s).


A Poem For Cats
Author Unknown

And God asked the feline spirit
Are you ready to come home?
Oh, yes, quite so, replied the precious soul
And, as a cat, I am most able
To decide anything for myself

Are you coming then? asked God.
Soon, replied the whiskered angel
But I must come slowly.
For my human friends are troubled.
For you see, they need me, quite certainly.

But don't they understand? asked God
That you'll never leave them?
That you souls are intertwined for all eternity?
That nothing is created or destroyed?
It just is...forever and ever and ever.

Eventually they will understand,
Replied the glorious cat.
For I will whisper into their hearts
That I am always with them
I just am...forever and ever and ever.


Here's a sad story someone found on the Internet and forwarded to us:

The Longest Walk:

  A Day In The Life Of A Humane Society Employee
by Teri Campbell - Reprinted by permission

It is Wednesday afternoon. I make my weekly walk through our shelter and contemplate the number of animals we'll be able to bring into here tomorrow. Four cages in the dog's kennel area, two in the isolation room and three empty cat cages are available. Depending on the size of the available dogs, it appears as though we'll have nine to thirteen openings this week. We've had several adoptions in the last few days and are lucky to have this much space available. It's never enough though...if every single cage were open it would still not be enough. There are always more unwanted animals than we can house.

It's Thursday morning now. A morning like every other morning except for the weekly task that looms before me every Thursday. You see, part of my job is to go to the Harrison County Animal Control Center and "choose" animals there to take to our Humane Society Shelter...animals scheduled to die on Friday morning...more animals than we have room for.

There is a full house of animals at the Animal Control Center this week. As I walk down the gravel road that separates our facilities I can hear them barking and see some of them in their outside cages. Every single cage is filled to capacity with several animals in each one. Animals that never asked to be on this earth or in this place.

When I open the door to the kennel area, I am greeted by a chorus of excited doggy voices. They each seem to beckon me to "look at me, choose me, love me....."

In run one is a large litter (9) of chow mix puppies, each one equally adorable. Run two holds a very old Golden Retriever, two small briar scarred Beagles and a shy German Shepherd. Run three holds four dogs held for biting and four has two Terrier mix puppies, five shepherd crosses and a small puppy so mixed in breed no recognizable one can be named.

Run five holds several dogs unavailable for adoption at this time and six holds twelve different puppies varying in size, shape and breed. Each one competes for my attention, providing antics to convince me to pay attention to just them.

As I start down the second side of the shelter, my heart drops. Run seven holds four confiscated dogs whose owner is being charged with cruelty to animals. These particular ones have been starved. Two large, withered Coonhounds and an old shrunken Beagle lay together in the corner of the cage and a pregnant female Coonhound lies on the outside. The female is so thin each rib is apparent. Her hair is dull and lifeless as is her eyes. She barely has the confidence to look me in the eyes and I am glad. I'm glad because I don't want to see the pain that lives inside of them...glad because I am ashamed that one of "my kind" did this to her.

Her stomach protrudes awkwardly from her thin body...almost pulling her to the ground because of her weakened state. Food bowls are filled to capacity but these animals no longer have the desire to eat and are so ill the food goes untouched. As I turn to go, the pregnant females tail slaps ever so slightly against the concrete floor. As cruel and horrific as mankind has been to her, she still longs for the kind word or soft pet she knows must be in them.

Runs eight through twelve hold more of the same. Relinquished pets who aren't "cute" anymore or who ate little Jimmy's favorite toy. The St. Bernard mix who "got bigger than we expected (?)" and puppy after puppy whose owners thought they could find a home for them but couldn't. Puppies who have never known love or a real master and who for the majority of them, never will. Older dogs ready to die whose owners either didn't have or wouldn't spend the money it would take to put them to sleep at a private veterinarians office. I see dogs who are frightened, depressed and unable to understand why they are here and where their master has gone...dogs who because they are so withdrawn, will not find a new master in time.

Now I must "choose". I walk into run one and bend down to examine the chow mix puppies. When I get to floor level, my lap is filled with the wiggling, licking puppies. Each lick says thank you...each glance one of pure adoration. I choose four, two boys and two girls, choosing simply by sex as each one is equally wonderful.

Many of the animals I am looking at are too sick to be adopted out and therefore must be passed over by me as well. Their illnesses are caused oftentimes by the negligent way they were treated before they came here. Many die of parasites and controllable diseases that could have been prevented had they only received a little care...a worming or a vaccination.

In run three I take the two terrier mixes and the small unrecognizable breed. From run five I take a lab mix puppy, a half grown German Shepherd and two cocker crosses. I only have two spots left and I've just finished side one! I retrieve a Boxer mix from run nine and in twelve a Beagle puppy. I've reached my limit but there are so many more left. The animals look at me hopefully, wagging their tails and bouncing against the cage fronts. "Don't leave," they seem to say, "I'll be a good friend to you if you'll only let me try." I try to avoid their eyes and actions and remain focused on the fact that I was able to save the thirteen dogs in tow. I try not to hear their cries...try to pretend they're not back there...the way so many do when they leave them here.

I enter the cat area expecting the worst and I am not disappointed. Every cage is filled with every color and age assortment imaginable. I only have three available cages and there are at least thirty five animals in these cages. I pick three tiny kittens (I can put them in one cage and still have two choices left), a large white female about one year old and a large black and white neutered male whose owners "suddenly developed allergies."

My two kennel technicians walk over to help bring our pets to the shelter. Eighteen animals will be taken out of here by us this week (an unusually large amount) and we are still leaving over fifty animals behind that are available for adoption. Why can't we make people realize there is absolutely no reason to let their animals breed indiscriminately? I only wish they could see what we see every week of every year.

We take our charges to the shelter and settle them in their new temporary homes. Each one is given a raised platform or a soft carpet to lie on, a full food dish and fresh water, a chew and a toy or two. Shots and worm medicine are administered and baths are given. It's been a long day for us all. The animals settle into their new surroundings and we go home.

It's Friday now. If possible this day is often worse than the last. This is the day of the week that the animals we left behind are killed. We drive our cars by the closed facility and try not to imagine what is happening inside. Before long, we can hear the doors open and a thudding sound...a sound we know all too well. You see, this is the sound of their now lifeless bodies hitting the bottom of the truck that will take them to their final stop. The sound of the many creatures who only yesterday looked to me for comfort...who asked me to choose them...who only wanted one last chance.

I try very hard to focus on the good we do. I don't want to downplay the tremendous effort it takes to save and place the many animals we have, but I cannot forget the ones I didn't save...the occupants of the truck that leaves the Animal Control Center every week.

I walk back to the dog runs and view our newest arrivals. Everyone has had their cage cleaned, eaten breakfast and are now napping or pulling on their littermate's tail. I bend down to the little Beagle I just brought in. She gratefully licks my hand and then my cheek. Her eyes are so full of adoration and gratefulness. I try to look past the tears in my own and for one moment forget that I'll have to do this again next week.



TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH, 2001, WAS A BUSY DAY
FOR THE ANIMALS IN HEAVEN
We received the following via e-mail and thought it was appropriate to post here on our site.  We're sure it'll tug at your heartstrings as it did ours.

US_FLAG.GIF (7572 bytes)WELCOME AT RAINBOW BRIDGE
by AlexanderTheodore Bouvier, Fourth Year Resident

On the morning of September 11, 2001, there was an unprecedented amount of activity at the Rainbow Bridge.  Decisions had to be made. They had to be made quickly. And they were!

An issue not often addressed here in Heaven at the Rainbow Bridge is the fact that many residents really have no loved one for whom to wait. Think of the pups who lived and died in hideous puppy mills:  no one on earth loved or protected them. What about the many who spent unhappy lives tied in backyards? And, the ones who were abused. Who are they to wait for?

We don't talk about that much up here. We share our loved ones as they arrive, happy to do so. But we all know there is nothing like having your very own person who thinks you're the most special pup in Heaven.

Tuesday, September 11th, a request rang out for pups who were not waiting for specific loved ones to please volunteer for a special assignment. An eager, curious crowd surged excitedly forward, each pup wondering what the assignment would be.

They were told by a solemn voice that unexpectedly and all at once over 4,000 loving people had left Earth long before they were ready. All the pups, as pups do, felt the humans' pain deep in their own hearts. Without hearing more, there was a clamoring among them ..... "May I have one to comfort?"  "I'll take two, I have a big heart."  "I've been saving kisses forever."

One after another they came forward begging for assignment. One cozy-looking fluffy pup hesitantly asked, "Are there any children coming? I would be very comforting for a child 'cause I'm soft and squishy and I always wanted to be hugged."

A group of Dalmatians came forward asking to meet the Firemen and be their friends. The larger working breeds offered to greet the Police Officers and make them feel at home. Little dogs volunteered to do what they do best: cuddle and kiss.

Dogs who on Earth had never had a kind word or a pat on the head, stepped forward and said, "I will love any human who needs love." Then all the dogs, wherever on Earth they originally came from, rushed to the Rainbow Bridge and stood waiting, overflowing with love to share --- each tail wagging an American Flag.

 



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