Saturday, January 21, 2006
The Short Tail of a Good CatAs a Customer Care Associate for the East Bay SPCA in Tri-Valley it's primarily my responsibility to deal with customers and visitors to our facility in Dublin. Beyond cleaning duties in the morning before we open, it isn't my primary responsibility to deal with the welfare of the animals here.
That doesn't mean I can't spend my free time with them.
Meet Vinnie: an older cat, his eyes a bit cloudy -- he was returned to us after not using the litter box for at least a year. During this time, he never received a vet checkup. (It should be noted that if a cat stops using his litter box, he should always be taken to a vet to rule out any medical issues.)
According to one of our vets, his urinary tract infection was one of the worst she had seen. A blood panel was performed to check his over-all health, especially since he was an older cat. We approximated his age as being close to ten years.
If you've heard about urinary tract infections in humans, they can be pretty darn painful! The same is true in dogs and cats. Poor little Vinnie was in a lot of pain. What's strange is that this whole time -- being moved around to different cages, getting poked by the vet -- Vinnie would make just about the loudest purr I have ever heard, coming to the front of the cage to get pets or chin-scratches. Even if you didn't pet him, he would wait there, purring in anticipation.
We treated the sweet, old man with a special diet and medication. His urinary tract infection was improving. He seemed to be happy as always, good old lovable Vinnie, and in good health.
He came up from the back to our adoption "habitats," to meet his new kitty roommate, Lola. They got along perfectly. Up here he stayed, for nearly a month, quickly becoming a staff and volunteer favorite. His sweet disposition is legendary among us. Obviously he knew he was loved, and we knew he loved us.
One morning, we noticed Vinnie had vomited several times. I alerted LG, and we decided to take him out of Adoptions to visit the. He was happy as ever to be around people, but he had lost a significant amount of weight and his tests showed a problem with his kidneys.
LG fostered Vinnie for a week to see how he did in a home environment--we like to rule out anything in the shelter environment. She kept him only for a day or two. He was missing the litter box again, very lethargic and no appetite. A revisit to the scale revealed he had lost another pound. He was still a purr machine, though.
An emergency vet visit determined that his kidneys were failing, and his quality of life was deteriorating. He was humanely euthanized that day to ensure his life did not end in misery -- and I think we succeeded, even if this was not the outcome I had wanted. He purred the whole way, knowing the attention he got was all love.
I've barely been at this job ten months, and in addition to all the wonderful adoptions, I feel like I've lost some good friends. There have been several dogs and cats I really miss, because I felt it was not yet their time. I often wonder, shouldn't I feel guilty missing these few animals? There are so many out there getting euthanized in shelters because there is just no room. If you follow our progress with Goal 2007, you'll know that we're doing very well in helping to reduce the euthanasia rates of adoptable dogs in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. We've done well with cats, but there's still a long way to go. There are still many feral and un-fixed cats giving birth to unwanted kittens, and they populate our local shelters.
I can't wait for the day where I don't have to worry about animals getting euthanized because there is no space. Then I can know that when things go wrong, like with Vinnie, there will be somebody there to care for them, love them and remember them -- not to be lost amongst a sea of forgotten souls.
(posted for Charles)