In January 2013, my mother and brother spoke of a stray cat, which they had never seen around before, suddenly frequently appearing around their home, that would pop-up randomly in their yard.
My sister had also just temporarily moved back home at the time, and claimed she would randomly seen him as well.
They began leaving out food on the back deck and front porch…and when they would check the next morning, they had seen that the food was gone.
Seeing it could have been numerous different animals that had eaten the food, they started to keep a closer eye when putting out the food, waiting by or frequently checking out the window, hoping it would soon reveal who the mysterious eater was.
Sure enough, they suddenly started seeing the “skinny orange cat with white paws,” that they had been describing as the “newly seen stray,” as the one who was appearing and eating the food.
On February 7th, 2013: which was just hours before the record-breaking snowstorm was to begin, I had made a quick stop by my family’s home before heading back to my apartment.
(Reference: “Top Ten Winter Storms”, “Winter Storm Nemo”, “Blizzard of 2013”, and “Nor’easter Charlotte” – which ended up impacting where I lived the most, leaving 40 inches of snow and ice, 9 fatalities, and several weeks without power).
I was just making the quick stop to drop-off a few things, seeing I would probably be snowed in for a few days if the storm was going to be as bad as they were predicting.
As I stepped out of my car to walk to the front door, I heard a large crash come from the side of their house, where they stored their garbage and recycling bins.
I slowly walked over to where the noise came from, and instantly stopped when the tipped over garbage came into view, for I finally saw this “orange cat with white paws” next to it, digging through the trash that had fallen out…and I wanted to make sure I kept a safe distance from him, so that I wouldn’t scare or startle him.
I crouched down to the ground where I was, and just stayed still, observing him for a few minutes.
I texted my sister (who was the only one home at the time) that I was there, and what I was doing…and to quietly watch from the window, and to come out with food if I could get him to come near me.
I calmly started calling to him to get his attention, to which he instantly squatted to the ground as soon as he heard my voice, began frantically looking around, and got ready to run.
I continued to keep my distance by keeping in the same crouching position, to let him know I wasn’t a threat, and continued to try and coax him over to me.
Very slowly, he started walking towards me.
I continued to talk to him in a soft voice, while slowly offering him my hand with only a few fingers stretched out, giving him time to smell me at his pace, in hope of gaining his trust.
He continued to walk slowly towards me, first towards my hand, where he began sniffing my fingers for a few seconds…then unexpectedly, he suddenly let out an extremely loud cry, and jumped towards me.
I didn’t knowing what was happening, and my initial thought was he was attacking me…so out of reaction: my body completely tensed up, I closed my eyes, and just froze.
Next thing I knew, he was sitting on my shoulder, as if he were a parrot, purring louder than any cat I had ever heard before, and began rubbing against my head and face.
I signaled for my sister to come out.
When she first came out, his first instinct was to dart… but I quickly called him back, as my sister offered him a plate a food, where he trotted over to her, and he than began rubbing all over her as well.
I then noticed he was in bad shape.
Besides him being obviously extremely skinny, he was also missing an eye, and was either excessively drooling from his mouth, or had an extremely bad runny nose.
I knew this poor baby would die if I just walked away: knowing about this pending blizzard they were predicting, and seeing what kind of health condition he was in: he would definitely freeze to death.
I started panicking.
I wanted to take him in to my apartment, but having two other rescue cats, I didn’t know his current bill of health (if he had any contagious diseases he could give to other cats), I couldn’t risk exposing my cats to that if he did.
Having now gained his trust, he followed me into my parent’s garage, where I quickly made him a bed out of whatever materials I could find, while I frantically called every no-kill shelter in the area.
I was facing 2 huge issues:
- It was almost closing time for most businesses
- The storm was supposed to start within 2 hours
I was getting hopeless by my 6th phone call, because they were all turning me away and wouldn’t take him, either because: they were closing, weren’t answering, had no room, staff left early because of storm, etc.
My mom couldn’t take him in either for the same reasons as me, for she also had two cats…and the garage wasn’t warm enough for him.
Finally, it dawned on me: to try calling PAWS, who was a shelter I donated to every year.
Despite the fact that they were about a half hour drive away from where I lived at that time, it was my last hope.
I was desperate, and was willing to drive anywhere at that point to save this guy’s life.
When I tried contacting PAWS, I had just reached someone as they were closing, and most of their staff left early due to the blizzard that was approaching.
I begged and pleaded with them, told them what was going on, and I was desperate for help.
The lady I spoke with said she would keep the shelter open, just to wait for my arrival, and take him in.
I borrowed my mom’s cat carrier, and quickly rushed to PAWS as fast as I could.
In that short few hours I had with him, especially on my car ride there (where I was singing to him to keep him calm on the way to the shelter, especially because of all the traffic from people leaving work early due to the pending blizzard), I realized I had instantly become attached to him already.
When I had arrived at PAWS, they had me fill-out forms as they took him… and halfway through filling out the forms, I stood-up and walked over to her and said, “I already decided I want to adopt him.”
They said they couldn’t “reserve” pets before they were adoptable, especially because he looked in bad shape and needed to be seen by a vet first, and go through a lot of testing, but they would make sure I was first on the list of people they called when he was deemed healthy enough to be on the “adoptable” list.
I donated to them for being so kind, and for saving this poor baby’s life, especially at such last minutes notice (and they had gone out of their way to do so), when all the other shelters had shunned me away.
Please donate to them, for shelters like this need to be recognized, and be fully supported by all the help they can get (which rely on your generous donations):
I realized as the days went on, I became more than attached, and found myself calling like an obsessed worried mother, even though he wasn’t even mine, constantly calling and emailing PAWS about his health condition, and any possible update they could give me.
They were more than kind and patient with my constant inquires, and kept me fully updated.
Unfortunately, his eye had been previously surgically removed, and he was already fixed.
Which meant he was previously owned.
They estimated he was about 10-years-old.
After searching databases for anyone looking for him, and checking for a microchip… then seeing how badly he was sick (and what his intestines and stomach was filled with…estimating how long he has been eating “garbage” on the streets for, as well as seeing how severely malnourished he was), they sadly came to the conclusion that: whoever had previously owned him, had literally thrown him out like a piece of trash, and abandoned him: leaving him to die.
This made me physically ill.
How could anyone abandon their pet (something I could never comprehend, since I treat mine like family), but especially one they KNEW was special needs…they just left to fend for himself on the streets?!
How completely heartless can someone be?
I don’t care what the excuse is, even if the circumstances were extreme: why not give him to a shelter?
But nevertheless, this made my final decision: I was going to adopt him no matter what, because I wanted to give him a second chance at life, and show him he didn’t deserve that.
Also knowing lots of cats live their whole lives in shelters without ever being adopted (if I could adopt them all, I would), and now knowing he was a “special needs cat” in addition to being an older one, which are two things that make him last to be picked on most people’s adoption list…I knew if I adopted him, he would definitely be able to have a second chance at life…and that was the only way I knew I could guarantee that.
Because he had been out on the streets for so long, he had to be medically induced into a coma to get him treated quickly with all the antibiotics he needed to be cured of everything that was wrong with him (severe upper respiratory infection), and then begin being treated for his severe malnourishment.
On March 9th, 2013, as promised, PAWS called me to let me know (they had named him “Dickson”) he was now healthy enough to be on the adoption list.
I literally dropped everything, and raced down there.
On my drive down there, I started having thoughts of:
“What happens if he doesn’t remember me?”
“What happens if we don’t have that connection we did that one-day we met anymore? Should I still adopt him? Or is he better off without me?”
As I walked into the shelter, I instantly recognized him in the “Adoptable Cat Window,” socializing with all the other cats.
I told PAWS before I filled out the adoption paperwork, since it had been a month, I wanted to see if he would still recognize me, and asked if I could possibly visit with him first.
As they let me in to the adoption room, he was playing with the other cats. I quietly saw down in the chair that was in the room.
He then looked over and noticed me.
When he did, he let out that same loud cry, just as he did the very first time I saw him, as he came running over to me, leaping onto the table next to me, then right onto my shoulder.
It felt as though we never had time apart.
Of course I instantly filled out the paperwork, paid the adoption fees, paid a little extra (since I know I was a nuisance for bothering them so much), and we began our journey home, to what would now be his new home.
My other two cats (who are twins, both pure black cats: Sami and Kali, also both rescues), have been indoor cats since the day I adopted them at 6-months-old, and I had forgotten they had never seen another animal before in their entire lives, besides each other.
When I first introduced them to Winky (which was just a nickname a friend called him before I adopted him, which ended up becoming his name, but I mostly called him Winks for short), they both puffed out with wide eyes, and ran and hid, as if they had just seen a ghost.
They didn’t know what to make of him.
I couldn’t help but laugh, because they probably didn’t realize this was another cat, just like them.
The first couple days they still didn’t know what to make of him.
But then Sam came around, and as brothers do: they play fought, wrestled and tumbled around with one another, and chased each other around the apartment.
Once Wink had gotten comfortable, he didn’t hesitate to eat his food as quickly as possible, and then quickly push Sam out of the way and eat his too.
(Kali preferred dry food to wet food, and Wink didn’t care for dry food, so they never had an issue).
Wink quickly went from thin to Chubby… and he was the happiest, most social and lovable cat I have ever had.
In July 2013, I moved into my house I had bought, which gave the 3 of them lots more room to run around.
Especially moving from the “city” to (what my friends like to call) “the woods”, their favorite spot was the 4-season porch, where they could sunbathe or watch all the various birds in the forest.
Wink instantly decided he was man of the house, and didn’t hesitate to mark his territory on every piece of furniture, or dominate every food bowl…even the dogs.
There had never been a family member or friend that wasn’t jealous I had him, for they wanted a cat just like him for themselves.
He didn’t care who you were; he instantly loved you, wanted on your lap or to cuddle with you, and just to be with you.
He loved being held, and when you did, he always loved to climb on your shoulders or head, and just sit there.
He was even obsessed with cuddling with my Golden Retriever, even if she was just walking around the house, he constantly had to be rubbing on her.
He loved everyone, and everything.
(Even my friends, that “hated” cats, loved him!)
He honestly was the most beautiful cat I have ever had, inside and out.
Sadly, March 2015, I noticed a random lump in his mouth.
PAWS warned me he has really bad teeth and decay, and would definitely need them pulled in the future, so I instantly though it was an abscessed tooth, and made an emergency appointment with my vet.
But instead, I heard news I never expected to hear…
“The good news is, his blood work came back he is very healthy, and his X-Ray showed his body is very healthy… but unfortunately, that lump in his mouth is a tumor, that is spreading to his throat.”
My heart completely sank.
How could that possibly be?
The vet I had met with was filling in for “my vet” I had always gone to and trusted, but he was away at a conference, so I rescheduled an appointment with him, because I needed to hear it from his mouth.
I saw him the following week, and he loved Wink instantly, for he reminded him of his first cat he had ever owned.
He was still acting like the same old Wink, rubbing up against even my vet like they had known each other forever, so I was having trouble accepting how this could possibly be.
He felt around in his mouth, and said he was 99% sure it was a tumor.
He gave me a month supply of antibiotics, but said to check-in with him after two weeks, to see if they were helping (making the mass smaller): for that will be the final determination if it was a tumor or an abscess.
But by the way he was acting, he still had a lot of life left in him.
I had high hopes it was an abscess, since the antibiotics started making everything bleed and puss instantly.
But as the weeks went on, I saw him start to struggle with eating more, and scheduled another appointment for my vet to see him.
When he went to see my vet last week, he said the mass had rapidly grown, and had now shifted his jaw, which would mean it’s definitely a tumor… and the only option I had was to have it removed: which required removing half of his jaw, and then several rounds of chemo.
He also has lost 2 ½ pounds in those short two weeks.
I asked him, if this was your first cat he reminds you of so much, would you do it?
He responded, “Honestly, no, I wouldn’t. He would have to relearn to eat, since he would be missing half of his jaw, and then his body would have to go through a lot with chemo. I would never do that to any of my own pets. It’s too much for them to go through.”
Not only was I in complete shock, since this came out of nowhere (and suddenly), but I was also completely heartbroken.
I didn’t want to believe it.
I refused to believe it.
Wink had barely been in my life for two years… he can’t leave me yet.
Although I trusted my vet, I wasn’t about to give up on Wink.
I began researching the best cat doctors in the area.
I needed a second opinion, for my own piece of mind.
As soon as I contacted her, she immediately made room to see Wink the very next morning (this past Saturday).
Her being one of the best cat doctors in the area was definitely correct.
She was compassionate, and spent a full hour with him, treating him as if he were her own.
But she too, unfortunately, wished she had better news for me, but said only cancer would be able to shift his jaw as far as it did.
She gave him high protein food to help him gain some weight back (or at least maintain it), and meds she referred to as “Kitty Tylenol”, and told me to enjoy the time I had left with him, for it wasn’t long, and I would know when it “was time”.
(My vet had said the same.)
She also said she would contact me on Monday, to see how he was doing.
I spent the weekend with Wink, struggling with accepting this, especially since he was still acting normal.
I decided to contact a close friend, who was there for me when I went through one of the most traumatic events in my entire life October 23rd, 2012.
She knew how much Wink meant to me, and how he truly helped me get through that traumatic experience, (for I had found him shortly after).
For that reason, I felt: I didn’t save Wink… that he had saved me, and I wasn’t ready to let him go.
I told her I was struggling with the fact that, I definitely decided I would not put him though surgery and chemo, for I would not wish them upon anyone, not even myself.
But I felt like the decision to let him go was not only cruel (euthanasia), but it was also my way of telling him I didn’t want him anymore…which was the farthest thing from the truth.
I just had run out of options. It was either surgery or let him go.
I had tried absolutely everything…
She explained to me: The decision to let them go, it’s actually an act of love, for you love them enough to end their suffering while they still have their dignity, instead of prolonging the inevitable for your own selfish reasons because YOU can’t let go, and they end up suffering more.
As I spend time with him over the weekend, while thinking about what she said, I noticed him starting to suddenly begin to deteriorate fast.
He was still eating and going to the bathroom like normal, and being lovable and cuddly, but he was severely struggling to eat.
He ran to his bowl as soon as he heard me opening the food like normal, but then when trying to eat, not only did he struggle trying to do so, but he was almost giving up trying because it was either too difficult for him, or it was too painful.
I also noticed he would scratch at his face when he was done, as if he knew something was there and he was trying to remove it (for I know cat’s don’t understand what things are, just that something is there and making them uncomfortable, and they are trying to fix/remove whatever it is), and then I realized that was were the blood was coming from. He was cutting his mouth and/or gums by scratching at it.
Suddenly, I just couldn’t watch him eat anymore. It was too painful for me.
It shattered my heart into pieces.
I didn’t want him to have to struggle like this.
And I felt I was now responsible, for making him have to struggle like that: For if I couldn’t stand to watch it, how could he bare to go through that?
I called him over to me, for he loved sitting on my lap.
When he came over to me, he tried to jump on my lap, and instantly lost his balance.
That’s when I knew, it was his way of telling me: it was time.
I asked my family to come visit him yesterday (Sunday), for I felt in my heart he was telling me he wanted to “go home”, and I wanted them to see him one last time.
The last time they had seen him was over the Holidays.
As soon as my mother, sister, and brother arrived… my mother was the first to come into the room where I was with Wink.
Her cheerful smile instantly turned to sadness, and she was completely silent.
My eyes started to fill with tears.
Her first words out of her mouth were, “Cait, it’s time.”
My brother came into the room to see him, and just took one look at him before bursting into tears, and walked back out.
He didn’t need to say anything.
I said to my mom, “I feel it’s cruel to put him down, or any animal down… but I also feel he’s no longer living, he’s just existing, and I can’t do that to him anymore”.
She responded, “He’s still happy right now. Do it while he’s still happy. You don’t want it to get to the point where he’s in severe pain and suffering. Right now, it’s not fair to him anymore. He’s still continuing to act happy for you.”
Later on, he started withdrawing from me.
The most social cat in the world, was now finding places to hide from me.
He would always come out when I called him, but I realized he was doing it for me, not necessarily because he wanted to.
I decided to call the vet this morning, who I had gotten the second opinion from, since she seemed much more compassionate towards Wink.
I told her I made the decision to let him go… and I wasn’t doing it for me, it was for him.
She responded, “I couldn’t tell you what to do, but if that were my baby, I would have made the same painful decision. You’re doing the right thing.”
His appointment was made for this Thursday, and she was even kind enough to come do it at my house.
His only hope at this point is a miracle, as he’s slowly deteriorating more each day.
He’s beginning to be in and out of it: where he’s his normal self one minute, and then he doesn’t want to eat or socialize the next, and just hide.
If I could have one wish, it would be to save him.
If I can’t have that, I wish I could just have ONE more summer with him, so he can loaf on the 4-seasons porch, sunbath in the sun with the skylights open in the warm summer sun, and watch the birds.
If I were to put him there right now, I’m not sure he would even care.
I can tell he just wants to be comfortable and left alone…but still shown love.
He’s telling me in his own way: He’s ready to go home.
I decided if that’s what Wink wants, I’m not going to stop him, try to force feed him, or anything anymore.
I just need him to know how much he’s truly loved, and despite how much I don’t want to let him go, I will respect his decision.
I want him to know how much I love him, have always loved him, and will never stop loving him, nor will I ever forget about him…and a piece of me will truly die with him when he leaves me.
I hope he never forgets about me, and there’s truly a “Rainbow Bridge”, and that he will be there waiting for me someday, where I will get to see him again.
I know he had previous owners before me (who just abandoned him and threw him away like garbage, leaving him to die)…but never forgets that he belonged to me too.
I’m so sorry, Wink, if I didn’t make these last two years of your life the best they could have been.
I truly tried my hardest, and you were loved more than you will ever know.
You will truly be missed by all.
(Especially by my family, and your “siblings”: Sami, Kali, Sadie, and Holly).
You touched the lives of everyone you met, and you will leave behind a hole in everyone’s hearts…especially mine.
I will always hang-up your Christmas stocking every holiday, and make you a pumpkin every year.
I will keep your paw print in a safe place, for now that’s the only physical part of you I will have left, even though you will always be in my heart.
I never imaged you would leave me this soon…
but I am, and always will be, beyond grateful you came into my life: for you truly have changed my life in ways you’ll never know, and the thought of having to live without you is unbearable…
I will miss every little “unique” quirk about you…
Home will never feel like home again, especially without your loud meow when I first get home, just like the loud meow you gave me the very first time we met.
Not hearing your paw prints walk on the floor during the middle of the night, now just to be replaced with the sound of silence, will constantly be a reminder that something special is now missing from my life, and it’s a void that will never be filled.
No other cat will ever purr as loudly as you, or cuddle as closely as you.
You have the purest heart, which has taught me many things about life, and no matter how many cats are in my life after you, there will never be another you.
You will always be in my heart, no matter where you are, or where I am.
I hope your new home is everything you wanted and more…and I send you there with nothing but love, and the best of luck on your next journey.
I truly hope it’s a great one.
Please forgive me for having to do this on Thursday, and please understand it’s because your heart is so strong (as it always has been, and how I learned to have a strong one)… and that’s why this is the only way I can end your suffering, despite how much suffering it will leave me… for that’s how much I truly love you.
I will always put you wants and needs before mine.
God wants you to come home now, so I know you will be in good hands, and I am setting you free.
Just never forget… You will always be my baby.