“Facts are the enemy of truth…”
– Miguel de Cervantes
The Man from
If we had only known what was wrong with the creature, we never would have adopted her.
Still stinging from the loss of two of our three geriatric cats, we felt it was time to bring some new life into our home. We thought Hannah (the remaining elder) would make a good mentor for the newbies. As it turned out, it was not to be. As if Hannah had been waiting until she felt we were settled, we unexpectedly lost her a week after the cats arrived.
Backing up a step...
Not knowing Hannah would slip away so quickly, and after some due diligence on the internet, it was off to one of the local cat animal shelters. Molly already had an idea of several particular cats to choose from. Of that bunch, we settled on two females named Milena and Aquarius, respectively – somewhere between two and four years of age.
At the shelter, Aquarius was the ‘lobby cat.’ She wandered around the open area where bright-eyed potential adopters entered the facility. She had a wonderfully calm personality but probably didn’t have a future outside the shelter. Rescued from Puerto Rico during the hurricane earlier in the year, she was hit by a car that left her faced disfigured.
Degloving is what it’s called – an almost polite term for having had the skin from one side of her face ripped away. Reattached, the cat had an odd look with a drooping lower left lip. Friendly, but not particularly attractive.
I think it was the imperfection that actually appealed to us. Most of us are deformed in some way – inside or out. That's just life.
We knew she would get all the love we could give her. So, after examining our references and making a couple of calls, the shelter said we could take ‘Aquarius’ home. That day, we packed two cats in the car and brought them to our little place on Laughing Coyote Way.
On the way home in the car, we decided on names we wanted to give them – names better suited to our sensibilities. Molly thought Milena should simply be called Lena. I was reminded of a strong woman in the Old Testament with whom David fell in love. Abigail was her name. Yep, Aquarius evaporated and as surely as the “…moon in the seventh house…,” and Abigail – ‘Abby’ for short – entered our lives.
If we had only known what was wrong…
One of the requirements of the animal shelter, after approving us, was to take the newly adopted cats to our veterinarian for a more thorough check-up. Lena was okay, but when Abby went for her evaluation, I got a call from Molly. "Ted, you are going to have to think of a different name for Abby. It turns out, ‘she' is a ‘he.' That was a bit of a shocker, he had been neutered, not spayed, but we could sort that out. The shelter vet had somehow missed the apparently obvious sign. That was the first part of the call.
If we had only known…
During Abie's assessment (renamed for spelling not sound), the vet found there were tears in the soft palate in the roof of his mouth. We knew something wasn’t right when we brought him home because after eating, he would sneeze and some of the food would come out of his nose. We now knew the tears would need to be operated on and repaired.
Worse, or at least almost as bad, all of his canine teeth and two other broken ones needed to be extracted. This surgery would not be simple, and it would be costly.
We had not had the cat for very long. What should we do? Take him back and get another one or commit. It's a funny thing – matters of the heart.
In the few days, this little creature had been with us, we had bonded. More importantly, what would his future be like if we did not take care of him?
We agreed, and after a three and a quarter hour operation, the vet felt the surgery was a success.
If we had…
Unfortunately, the stitches did not hold. When Abie returned to eating, swallowing the food caused the sutures to tear. He needed a second operation. The surgery required some grafting. The vet also did some alignment of the hard palate that had been damaged in the original accident. This time, Abie would not be permitted to eat by mouth.
For the next two weeks, four times a day, Abie ‘ate’ through a feeding tube that exited on the side of his neck.
At first, it was a daunting task. A special diet of canned food was sent home with us. A cereal bowl became the vessel in which to mix and dilute the meal – a kind of soupy material pushed through the line with two, two-ounce syringes. The tube needed to be flushed with water before and after each feeding.
The second day, we had a small obstruction and couldn’t get all of the food in – it was tense. Fortunately, it cleared, and the next two weeks went pretty well. By now, the line has been removed, and the post-surgery evaluation indicated all was well. The sutures held, as had the adjusted hard palate.
As importantly, maybe more importantly, during all of this, our little family unit – now four – continued to grow in love and affection. Molly and I look at one another and wonder how we ever could do without Abie.
The thing is if we had both known how damaged Abie was when we first saw and interacted with him…if the records kept by the shelter had contained the palate tears and teeth issues…had we known his sinuses were clogged with food every time he ate…had we known he would need to be operated on just to get him back to some semblance of normal…well, lot's of 'had we knowns.'
Yeah, If we had only known what was wrong with the creature, we never would have adopted her/him.
Thank God we didn’t!