“The cat came back, the very next day, I thought he was a goner but the cat came back. He couldn’t stay away!” I first heard this folk song at my parents’ farm and fell in love with the humor and the joy and the persistence of that cat. There is something to cats having nine lives.
Onyx has come back again and again. Lately, he’s been to the emergency vet and our vet while gasping for breath and limp–dying. I thought he was a goner. The vet, Dr. Guedet, called us to the x ray show us how the two front lobes of his lungs are collapsed, his heart is pushed into his trachea, bending it. He gave him a Depomedrol shot and said he needed to do research. It’s not a good sign when the experts say the x rays look interesting. We started him on a broncho-dilator and talked about putting him on an inhaler or prednisone. The inhaler would be least damaging to his system because it delivered the medication locally.
I left the doors open while hanging out laundry, because I don’t like closed doors, and Onyx walked out. Typical cat he wouldn’t let me catch him, trotting into the raspberry bushes, but he wandered around the side of the house and asked to come back in. Ten minutes outside was enough to earn him a trip to the emergency vet. They wanted to let him stay overnight in oxygen but I said the steroid shot would bring him back.
We’ve ordered the Aerocat, a gizmo designed for cats so they can use an inhaler. We ordered the inhaler. The pharmacist at Walgreens took pity on us and signed him up for a discount card. We get $25 off or this would cost $50 every two weeks. His inhaler was $230. We are blessed to be able to afford to keep him alive. He is so fragile our vet didn’t expect him to live this long, but the steroid shots he has been given have brought him back, each time.
We were delighted when Onyx appeared at the bottom of our field and worked his way to the barn. He would hiss and meow at the same time. We wondered what happened to him, whether he’d been dumped for spraying or for being black. He felt like he was part of the farm’s bounty–like the trees that tower over our door yard, trees that guard, that I look to when I walk down the road, turn and come back, or the ability to look all the way to the Milky Way at night.
When his back paw was gloved (the skin pulled back, so the bone was exposed) our vet said he was such a nice cat we should try to save him. We could either amputate his leg or do laser treatments. I was ready to let him go at that point–he was just a barn cat. There were no guarantees he would not spray in the house, no guarantees he’d get along with the dogs. (We’d brought him in when the winter had turned bitter but he sprayed our bed, so he went back to the barn.) But she had already given his shots and a flea treatment. She offered to keep him at the office for a week and do follow up laser treatments at cost. It was a grace and a gift that she insisted we give him a life, especially since Nate died a few weeks later, especially since he offered free doses of oxytocin as he rubbed into our hands asking for strokes.
When he was recovering we started with Onyx’s crate in the barn, but the chickens terrified him. Then we moved him on the porch but thunderstorms terrified him. Then he came inside. He lived in a crate for six weeks with the dreaded cone. We would pack him up to go to the vet for a laser treatment several times a week. And then his paw was healed. Fur and all. Remarkable the power of light. The dogs accepted him and he knew how to use the litter box. No more spraying.
We joke about how he is our thousand dollar free cat. But how can you turn away from a cat who came when I called, all the way off the fence line, a quarter mile away, and he hadn’t come in the house yet? How can you turn away from a cat who jumps on the couch and lies down next to you, asking for his head to be petted, who throws his back against your back in bed, his fur soft and alive next to your skin? Or a cat that climbs into Bruce’s lap during TV, sharing his affection equally? He has taught Little Dog how to be comfortable with a creature she’s never seen before, confidently walking past her ogling him, on tiptoes. He has kept Night in line.
During President Obama’s Democratic Convention Speech Little Dog barked and Bruce woke from his chair and said I’m going to bed. (She is more watch dog than any of our dogs have been, barking when Bruce comes downstairs or walks back in the house. I’ve not solved that yet.) Then Bruce came back down stairs and asked where Onyx was with a panicked look on his face. I pointed under the table. Onyx looked proudly up from a dead mouse. Bruce picked it up and threw it out. I grabbed a chocolate kiss and sucked on it.
About halfway through Obama’s speech I heard the closet door move and saw Onyx had cornered another mouse, what I call a nickel mouse, because it’s so small. I called Bruce again though Onyx was crouched in stalking mode. Bruce found mouse droppings in the corner of the closet and grabbed the Shop Vac. I grabbed a Hershey’s nugget, loving the chocolate against my tongue. When Bruce went back to bed I went back to hearing Obama endorse Hillary. When our president grinned between words, I grabbed another kiss. Later that night I heard Onyx eating the mouse and went back to sleep.
What has your experience been with free gifts that ended up being not so free but true gifts even so?
If you want to read more of my writing, check out The River Caught Sunlight here.