Monday, July 4, 2011

A Painful Journey...

...And a lesson to learn.

Yoda was born the day after Christmas, 1992. His mom was not spayed, she sneaked out & returned pregnant. His mom's caretaker worked with my roommate & when he was in need of a home, I took him. I'd just adopted a kitty (Tangy) a couple of weeks prior, who'd been sick so I was worried about exposing him to a possible illness. I sat in the vets office, the day that Yoda was to move in, waiting for my roommate to bring him in for a check-up. She came walking in with a carrier box that was rocking & rolling, & he was hollering up a storm. So much so, the woman behind the counter had to pop her head around to see what the heck could possibly be making all that fuss. I admit, I was nervous. I was expecting an 8 week old kitten, not the Tasmanian Devil. We went into the exam room & he burst out of that box. It took FOUR people to hold him so blood could be drawn. Holy crap!

The vet said he looked good, but would call me with the results so I took my new little monster home. At the time, though I'd grown up with cats, this was my 1st time as a parent. I failed the 1st test miserably. When I got Yoda in the house, I let him out & Tangy attacked him immediately. I was in absolute horror! Here was this poor, (then) nameless kitten, who'd been taken from his mom, shoved in a box, had scary strangers stick needles in him & poke him in the butt, & now a giant cat was trying to eat him.

I got Tangy away, scooped up the tiny ball of fear, & locked myself in a spare room with him. I sat him on the bed, knelt down beside him, looked into his eyes, & there it was! I instantly knew his name. He was huddled, face scrunched up, giant green eyes & ears (with tufts of white fur) too big for his head. Yoda!

I grew up pretty fanatical about the Star Wars movies. I'd been to each one (of the initial trilogy) countless times, both at drive-ins & in theaters. Had the trading cards, action figures, iron-on t-shirts (it was the 70's).... I knew Yoda when I saw him. This little kitten was definitely Yoda!

Shortly after, the vet called me. Yoda tested low positive for feline leukemia. My heart stopped. They assured me that it was possible for him to further develop his own immune system & test negative, but that I'd have to keep him & Tangy separate for the next 30 days.

I kept Yoda in the bedroom & split my time between him & Tangy. Poor Tangy was much less than pleased that he was being locked out of a room, especially knowing that there was another cat inside. Here, he'd just gotten a 3rd chance at life, being rescued from a kill shelter, then overcoming some cute kitten is trying to muscle in on the action.

I felt sorry for both of them, but also for myself. I still grieved the loss of my Baby & Menew, the kitties I'd grown up with, who both passed away at 18 years old. I was scared to death that I was getting very attached to a kitty who could die. My heart was just not ready to take the loss. I prayed like I'd never prayed before, begging God to please let Yoda be healthy.

As you may have figured out from the photo above, 30 days later, he was given a clean bill of health. YAY! Now I just had to keep Tangy from trying to eat him. Having had a month to adjust to each other through a door, it didn't go as badly as I feared. Not only didn't Tangy try to eat him, they ended up pretty close friends.

However, in that time period, a strong bond was formed between Yoda & I. He discovered my ear lobes and would suckle one & knead in my hair (for those of you who know me now, but didn't then, I had both ear lobes AND long hair. For those who don't know me at all, my current hair is very short & my ear lobes have been gauged to 1/2", which I might add did not please Mr. Yoda). The suckling went on for years. As time went on, & I went through multiple hip surgeries, we became inseparable. Yoda was my shadow & my blanket. When I got my 1st computer, which I'd sit at endlessly, he's stay in my lap the entire time, sometimes making it difficult to get anything done...which was perfectly OK. How could I resist?

Yoda had a few nicknames, too. Baby boy, bird, yodie, yodie bird, booboo, sweet pea, bear, & my little portagee kitty (I am Portuguese & "portagee" is an improper slang for Portuguese people, but also a term that most have embraced). He earned that name when my roommate brought home some frozen chourico (Portuguese version of chorizo). I was holding him & she let him sniff it, before attempting to put it in the freezer. His eyes got as big a saucers & he made noises I'd never heard any cat make. He was squirming so bad, I could barely hold him. Seeing him freak out, she cut him a tiny piece, still frozen, and he devoured it! He cemented the nickname because he was also pretty savage about bread (a staple at every meal). We lived in an apartment building & had to bring the groceries up in trips. I quickly learned that I had to save the bread for last, as he'd tear through the wrapper & just start eating it like he'd been without food for days. Very strange, but very endearing, indeed!

Yoda got pretty large, in both directions. Being a new cat momma, I made the mistake that many do & gave in to all of his begging. When his 2nd vet, who I really liked, reprimanded me, the light went on & I knew things had to change...but it was tough. I switched both kitties to a lower calorie food & dramatically cut the treats (& no more people food! That one was the biggest heart-breaker). It didn't seem to do much. I swore Yoda would just lay closer to his food, as not to waste any energy, lol.

Thankfully he loved to play!!! I had never, & haven't since, seen a cat that could move like him, in mid air. Or one that could be at a stand still & get the kind of air under him that he could. Certainly not one his size! I'm 5'3" & his head could shoot even with mine, from a sitting position. That's like Kevin James pulling a Micheal Jordon. Impressive, wise Yoda!

Eventually a bit of the weight came off, but he remained "big boned."

Time went by & my roommate moved out. I also went through a terrible break-up, which left me a train wreck. But I had my boys. More than ever, they were my world. It's hard to keep feeling lonely & sad when you're literally spooning a cat the size of Yoda each night.

Did I mention his purr, his cry & his footsteps? I could hear him crying from the next house over. As for the purring & foot steps, those could be heard in any room of the house. I had hardwood floors & use to ask him if his momma wore combat boots. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.... He was big & loud, & full of sweetness & love. He worshiped me, even when I didn't love myself, & I learned what love truly was & worshiped him right back.

So now that you have some kind of a picture as to who Yoda was & how we felt about each other, I will fast forward some, to when we lost Tangy. Poor Tangy had gotten ill, many years later, this time more seriously, though he was managing. He'd gotten lovier than ever (for him), which felt like a sign to me. One day while cleaning, I discovered he'd passed. I was devastated. I still swear the sound of the vacuum threw him over the edge (living alone, I had gotten very lazy about such things). As heartbroken as I was, I worried about Yoda, who took it very hard. He developed the most mournful cry, that seemed to come from his toes, the minute I was out of his sight.

Within 2 months of Tangy's passing, it was decided that I would move to New Hampshire, to live with Michelle, whom I've since married. Yoda had only known that apartment, but I thought getting away from it might actually help him. Happily, being a ball of love, he quickly adopted his new mommy, who called him bear. He never lost that mournful cry, though.

[The rest of this post is meant as a warning, as well as a lesson, especially for myself. I don't wish our hell on anyone. It has been four years since Yoda was killed, but the pain is still excruciating. I relive that day every year & I pray that, by airing the events, and exposing his "vet," both of us can get some kind of closure. Though I will name the vicinity of the clinic, it should be considered a lesson to everyone, to always listen to your gut. It seems unconscionable that a veterinarian could be so bumbling & callous with regards to the most helpless & innocent, but it happens. It is our job to protect our pets, even from those we should be able to trust.]

All seemed to be going well when, almost a year after we moved, I noticed that Yoda wasn't eating much. Not a characteristic of a "big boned" kitty. He'd been a very healthy, indoor cat so I hadn't taken him to a vet in NH yet. I found one close by, in Boscawen, NH & made an appointment.

Yoda's new veterinarian was a young lady, who had a cat tattoo on her leg. I'm a big fan of tattoos & my mind reasoned that if she was passionate enough to have a cat permanently tattooed on, I could probably trust her. I have to fight the urge to say what I honestly think it represents, in retrospect.

The vet did blood work & determined that Yoda had a thyroid issue. She wrote a prescription & said his appetite should return within a couple of days. Very happy news, but that wasn't quite what happened. In a couple of days, he did eat a bit more, but then I was quickly back to coaxing him. At the same time, I also noticed he wasn't moving his bowels. It made sense. No food in, no food out. Also, if he was constipated, like any living creature, he probably wouldn't want to eat.

It was the morning of June 30th. I woke to the sound of a very loud purr in my ear. When I opened my eyes, Yoda's face was right beside mine, & my arm was wrapped around him. My beautiful boy, so happy & full of life. He looked & acted perfect. Being a worrying mom, I thought about the lack of bowel movements & when I finally talked Yoda into getting out of bed, I called his vet. She thought it would be a good idea to administer an enema. I was to bring him in that morning & told that I could pick him up in a couple of hours.

When I arrived to get Yoda, he was waiting in his carrier. He was howling & when they sat him beside me, I peeked in to tell him we'd be home soon & he'd be OK. After paying, I scooped him up & went to the car. I put the carrier on the back seat & looked in to try & calm him (like many cats, he hated to leave the house). What I saw gave me great concern. Yoda's head was tilted to one side. His eyes were huge & dilated. I was parked near the door & ran back in to say something was wrong with him.

The technician who had administered his enema (she told me when she brought him out to me), followed me to the car to have a look. She said she saw what I saw & carried him in to see the vet.

The tech asked me to wait momentarily while the vet examined him, & a few minutes later they called me in. I was horrified. Yoda was pacing, head cocked & no balance. His cry was abnormal & desperate, & his eyes were glossy & dilated. I was hysterical.

Someone came in with a chart & after the vet looked it over, she said that she didn't know why he was acting the way he was, as everything seemed normal. I could leave him, but all they would do was watch him so it was probably better if I took him home, where he'd be more comfortable. That part was the only thing that made sense.

His vet decided to give him some fluids first, just in case the enema had made him dehydrated. The fluids pooled on his side, under his front leg, & that's where they remained.

I got him home & was beside myself watching him. My precious boy seemed to be miserable & restless. He would try to sit for a few seconds, but then would begin pacing again. There had been no improvement & I knew that the clinic was getting ready to close so I called them again, completely panicked & crying.

I spoke with his vet, who tried to calm me & remained confident that he should improve. She said that if I continued to be concerned, I could bring him to the 24 hour emergency vet in Concord, but said that all they could do was watch him. Knowing how stressed he got, & how stressed he was, I was again talked into keeping him home...but everything felt so wrong.

More hours went by, without improvement. However, he finally sat quietly, in a dark corner of the bedroom, tucked behind the dresser & the hamper. I kept checking on him, but his eyes never closed (& remained dilated).

I was emotionally exhausted! I thought that as long as he was still & no longer crying, perhaps it was a good sign & I should try to get some rest. Michelle was watching TV so I asked that as long as she was awake, would she please keep checking on him...of course she agreed. She checked on him every hour, apparently with no change, until she fell asleep on the couch.

At 6:20 AM, I awoke to a blood curdling cry. My heart sank as I literally jumped off the bed. Yoda was laying at the foot of the bed, chin on the floor & all four legs straight out, like Bambi falling on the ice. I gently tried to get him to stand, but he just sank. Limp. I SCREAMED for Michelle to get up, as I scooped him up into my arms & headed for the door. "We have to go, NOW," I yelled. I didn't mean to yell, but I had never been more afraid in my life. Thankfully Michelle understood, shook the cobwebs & grabbed the keys.

I sat in the backseat with my baby, talking to him through my sobs, begging him to be OK, & telling him how much I loved him. He was talking back, but it seemed like it was taking every ounce of energy to speak.

It was very hot, this first day of July, even at that hour. Michelle had the AC on full blast & I sat him on the seat, in the hope of keeping him cool & more comfortable, as I prayed to just get there & let him be OK.

Michelle called the emergency vet to let them know we were on the way.

When we arrived, I ran in with him. They took him from me & asked us to wait while they examined him. When they finally brought us in, the vet had stepped out of the room. There he was, an IV in & heating pad wrapped around him, crying madly & restless.

A few moments later, the vet came in with the news. Yoda had acute liver failure.

Shock! How could that be?! How could this happen? He seemed perfect yesterday morning. After the enema, he was checked by the vet. How could she miss that?

My heart was broken & my head was swimming. I begged the vet to contact Yoda's vet. Something had to be wrong! This can't be happening. They took his blood less than 24 hours ago.

That's what I thought, anyway. When the Boscawen vet returned the emergency vets call, she told them that they didn't take any blood from Yoda.

WHAT?!! How?! After seeing him in that condition, how could they neglect blood work? What the heck did they do while I waited? What was she reading in the chart?

I never felt so angry & betrayed in my entire life. Yoda woke me on Saturday morning, happy & full of life. He was given an enema & was now in end stage liver failure. It seemed as clear then, as it does four years later. Something went wrong when they administered the enema (a puncture?). Then the doctor, who's suppose to care for the wellbeing of innocent lives, neglected to take basic steps in diagnosing him, causing him unnecessary agony, & ultimately his life.

I now had to put my anger on the back burner. My precious love was laying there, suffering. I now had to muster the strength, through endless tears & pain, & do what was best for him, by verbalizing the green light for him to be euthanized.

I kept crying & kissing him, telling him that I was so sorry, over & over. I'm so sorry, Yoda. I'm so sorry, baby. I love you, baby boy. I'm so sorry, booboo.

To this day, I'm still saying I'm sorry. He needed me to care for him. To look out for him. To protect him.

I put blind faith in someone that I trusted was there to care for him. To help him. To heal him.

I love you, Yoda, & I'm still so sorry, baby boy! I will love you & miss you for as long as I live. I pray that you're at peace. I pray that I will find peace. And I pray that someone will learn from our story so they will avoid the same agonizing outcome.

God Bless You Yoda
Mommy loves you!


  1. I can't stop crying. Oh Wendy, am so sorry that you had to go through this- my heart is breaking. I hope that you will find peace. Thank you for sharing this, but most of all thank you for sharing Yoda with the rest of us. Will remember him & his playful, loving spirit & the good times, and not the that little Tasmanian devil!love you guys. xVKO (@lstylchicnvegan)

  2. Pets are such loves. You of all people are one of the kindest and most compassionate people I know. Like anyone that spends any time with you, Yoda knew he was loved. Enjoy the great memories of him. Big hugs!

  3. Thanks for sharing this story. Yoda sounded like an amazing companion who left the Earth way too soon. Sending you warmth during this tough time.

  4. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Our animal companions are just as much an integral part of our families as any other members. I know that Yoda must know how much you loved him. Sending you all my warmest thoughts & love! xoxo

  5. That is so painful Wendy. I am so sorry you had to go through this and that Yoda had to endure what he did. Thank you for sharing this story.

  6. Wendy, my heart breaks reading this post. I'm sorry that this happened to you. My advice is that you need to find the strength to forgive yourself. You did everything you could. You did not make bad decisions. You trusted yourself and made decisions you thought would help Yoda. I'm a dog person, and I had dogs in my life ever since I was born. I got my own dog when I was 8 years old. Her name was Suzy. When I was in college, my mother moved and gave my dog away because she didn't want to take care of her any longer. Soon after I had moved back home after college, my mother found out I was gay and was not happy with me, to put it lightly. My life at home was very miserable and unstable and I didn't have the courage to fight for my dog when I was basically fighting for my own life in my family. Fast forward 3 years when I was on my own, living with my partner....We adopted a dog, Lucky Star. In the first two days of having that dog, I swear to you, my dog Suzy's ghost haunted me in my house. I thought I saw Lucky following me in the middle of the night when I went to the bathroom. And when I went down to pet him, there was nothing there. I turned on the light and he was sleeping in his bed. It took me a while, but I realized that must've been Suzy. And I had to think why would she be here? And I realized that there was unresolved business between us. I wasn't there for her in her final days. I know she must've been looking for me, waiting for me. And it hurt me to realize that I wasn't able to be there for her and protect her wherever she was. Anyway, the next day, in my own way, I spoke to her and apologized to her for not being there for her. And I had to forgive myself for the way it all went down. I didn't know any better and I wasn't strong enough to know better. It helped me a lot to have that conversation with her. So just keep that in mind when you think of Yoda. xoxo

  7. I have sat here and read this and cried my eyes out.
    Oh that poor poor baby. Bless his precious heart.
    Sadly this happens more times than not with the people that are suppose to care about our animals. I hope to god she isn't there anymore. If she is, I hope to god she has wronged her right in some way.
    As much as you loved Yoda, you know he loved you just as much and wouldn't want you to hurt this way. I hope you have been able to find some piece Wendy. I know it must still be so hard to think about.