We lost our sweet Clide on the morning of 3/5/2013. Clide's story is a great one, and lengthy, so I will come back when my heart is more able to tell it. We rescue Clide from a high kill shelter at age 14. He spent just over the next two years rescuing US, and inspiring me to rescue other senior and special needs cats. I will tell more about him in the days to come.|
3/10/13 - I was asked to write a blog post for a blog called "Cat On My Sleeve". Below is what I submitted. It tells Clide's special story and hopefully gives some insight into why he was such an awesome cat.
Cat On My Sleeve: A Special Cat
On Tuesday March 5 2013, we said goodbye to our sweet Clide. He had valiantly fought a very bad cancer diagnosis. We had thought to ourselves -- if any cat was likely to beat the odds around this cancer, it would be Clide. And truth be told, he probably did "beat" it in the sense that it could have grown and taken him from us much faster. We were gifted with seven extra months with him post-cancer-discovery, and the vast, overwhelming majority of that time was very good -- for him and for us. But last Tuesday, it was time. All the love he had given to me and to our family and household had been a deposit in the Bank of Strength needed to help him in the most profound way: to say goodbye with dignity, without pain, without fear, and with deep abiding love. We made the withdrawal. And while our lives are less joyous without him in it, they are also infinitely enriched in so many ways because he was in it. This is his story.
The first thing you need to know is that I do rescue. It started out easily enough. After the passing of my beloved Grady in March of 2009, I started volunteering at adoption events with a local nonprofit, no-kill rescue. I expanded from there, with this same rescue, to volunteering to care for the cats in one of their Petsmart adoption centers, a bi-weekly pleasure I still perform today. Without minimizing at all the value of these rescues and the great work they do, I have to say -- that type of volunteering, for me, was the "easy" side of rescue. All the cats that came into the rescue were already saved, and they would be cared for wonderfully until they found loving forever homes.
It wasn't until the summer of 2010 that I kind of got unwittingly drawn into what I've come to think of as the darker side of rescue. By that I mean that I started working directly with local County shelters to try to get cats out and into nonprofit, no-kill rescues. For anyone that does this, they know that it's pretty much always a crisis. If the shelter has any semblance of a rescue program, they have a Rescue Coordinator -- some are volunteers, some are paid staff depending on the shelter -- and that Coordinator lets the rescue community know about "urgent" cats in the shelter. "Urgent" is never something you want to see with any of these cats. Simply put, it means that a clock is ticking over their head and if they're not gotten out, they will be killed. [Personal sidenote: I use the word "killed" very deliberately. While the shelters prefer to use the term "euthanized", I believe humane euthanasia is only appropriate for an animal that's suffering. Shelters routinely, through no fault of their own, have to kill animals in their care for space.]
That's how I met Clide. In December of 2010, I got one of the emails from the Rescue Coordinator that indicated which cats "needed out" (i.e., urgent cats). There are always lots of cats (too many) on that list. The list will give a cat's name (if s/he has one), their control number, and, often, a brief description of their personality and a photo. The photos of cats in shelters are routinely heartbreaking. As you can imagine, a shelter is a scary place for a cat. The smells aren't normal to them. The entire experience is terrifying, and their photos -- the looks on their faces -- reflect that fact. Big, frightened eyes; tense posture. Heartbreaking.
People like me get the list and start working our contacts in the no-kill rescue community. We pair up urgent cats with rescues that can take them, ensure that cats have all their necessary vaccinations and are essentially free of anything that could endanger other cats, coordinate the cats, the rescues, transports, fosters, and transfers. The list is the impetus.
"Clide (A344374) Nuetered Black tuxedo -- 14 years old (this poor boy is very friendly -- his owner turned him in despite his senior years. He's good with other cats, but needs dental work.)" It was accompanied by his picture.
My first thought was "OMG he's fourteen." My second thought was "he's totally cute". I was captivated by his picture. He looked completely relaxed, taking it all in. There was something about that face in that picture on that day. I knew that I had to get him out of there.
With the help of more than a few people, I did. His mouth was a hot mess. He clearly needed dental work, which is a not-inexpensive proposition for any rescue or potential adopter. The Rescue Coordinator, God love her, had worked her contacts and had found a local rescue vet that literally donated his dental. That was one hurdle down. The second hurdle was to find him a foster while he recuperated from dental work. A wonderful woman in Baltimore, Karen Stevenson, stepped forward and offered her home for a month while he recovered. All that was left was that he needed somewhere to go, and we found that, too -- to a sanctuary known to rescuers in the VA area specifically for senior cats with nowhere to go. We raised the funds to ensure his placement, the plan was in place, and he left the shelter on January 3 2011.
So how, you might ask, did he wind up with me? Well, that's another story and I won't go into the details because they're pretty irrelevant. The philosophical answer is that he wound up with me because that is where he belonged. I was slated to foster him short-term before he went to sanctuary, and through some remarkable twists and turns, he wound up making his home with us. We couldn't let him go.
But -- the best laid plans of mice and men, right? When Clide came to our home, there wasn't a question or a worry that he would be staying. Ever. Because Clide was one special-ass cat.
First -- the picture of him from the shelter. That calm, wise demeanor emanated from him at every turn. He was an instantly calming presence in our household. His level of content was truly a lesson for the human inhabitants. If you can sit back and take in even the worst day of your life (the day he was surrendered), if you can calmly face a scary situation, you can pretty much overcome anything. There was that sense always surrounding Clide.
Second -- he was hands down the most entertaining cat in our household. He was more entertaining than the other four cats combined. Don't get me wrong -- I love my other four and there's nothing I wouldn't do for them. But in sheer entertainment value, Clide had them by a mile. He loved these crazy foam balls you could get at the Petsmart. They were colorful and painted like soccer balls. If you tossed them to him, he would -- without fail -- hit them straight back to you. If you got some distance and bounced the ball at him, he would get up a head of steam, run at the ball, smack it first with one paw and then the other, Globetrotter-style. When he availed himself of ball-smacking, he would pick that little foam ball up in his mouth and carry it around the house.
He would talk. I know that many people refer to their cats' meow as "talking" -- but Clide would literally talk. If he was by himself on the main floor of the house, he would walk around and make this sound that was -- I'm not making this up -- almost exactly like he was saying "hello". It would come out in two syllables and everything. The first time my husband I heard it, we were in the basement and Clide was upstairs in the kitchen. We didn't believe what we were hearing. He was never upset when he did it, either. He was just walking around, talking to himself. Heh.
Now -- Clide was a big cat. Big paws, heavy, round belly. We switched him to a wet diet which got him down to a more normal 13lbs. from a too-heavy 16lbs. But he was never light on his precious feet even at the better, lower weight. As a result, any running that he did -- and he did it a lot -- was more of shambling gallop accompanied by all the noise you can imagine 13/14lbs. of shambling, galloping cat would make on a floor. He would have made a lousy secret agent, totally unable to sneak up on anything.
He was friends particularly with my petite, 8lb. female Bella. I use the term "friends" lightly. He liked to chase her, primarily because he was occasionally oh-so-fixated on getting his cute pink nose with the black smudge into her -- ahem -- girl parts. Bella, for her part, was not all that into it. So she would sit in our front family room right at the window, watching the birds and Clide would be in the kitchen. He'd spot her, and take off at his loud galloping pace -- almost like a cartoon, really -- and charge into the room. Of course, she'd hear him coming well in advance of any assault on her nether regions and hop up onto the highest level of the cat tree, thwarting his attempt. He never took offense.
He would do the same for any feather stick waved for his pleasure or any laser light aimed to entice him. We'd hear rumble-rumble-gallop-shamble-rumble and there he'd be, enthusiastically chasing whatever toy caught his fancy.
Clide really, REALLY hated having either his belly or his bum messed with, however. I first discovered this on his very first vet visit once he came to me. My affable, laid back, wise-eyed old man turned into a growling, hissing, grumbly mess when that thermometer came out. While he didn't get growly or hissy when I tried to brush or tickle or generally mess with his belly, the result was as entertaining as anything Clide did. See, Clide would immediately resort to "bunny legs" at any assault on his belly. He had this irresistible penchant for laying on his back -- fully on his back -- when relaxed. This, of course, made me feel inexorably drawn to his fat white belly, whereupon I would touch it. When that happened, he stayed on his back, but both back legs came up repeatedly to "flick" my fingers away. Bunny legs. No matter how bad a day I was having, bunny legs -- and shamble galloping -- and Bella & toy chasing -- and talking -- and ball-smacking -- made it better. Always.
He also loved him some lovin'. Brush his face and his big, loud, ever-ready purr would come out in full force. Scratch his head or chin and you'd get the same. He'd let me pet and scratch and brush him endlessly. Provided, of course, that I didn't stray to his belly or his bum.
So what I haven't mentioned in talking about what a great cat who infinitely enriched my life Clide was is that he was also special needs. He had chronic stomatitis -- so badly, frankly, that eventually we removed ALL of his teeth to help address it. He was also diagnosed with feline diabetes in the summer of 2011. Through the help of many wonderful cat lovers with both stomatitis and diabetic cats as well as a healthy dose of vet care, we were able to manage both conditions with a minimum of stress. The extractions helped the stomatitis (leaving him to now gum anyone who offended him by touching his belly or his bum), and we managed his diabetes by switching him to a high quality, low carb, commercially-available wet only diet. I learned much of this through Diabetic Cats in Need and through the Felinediabetes.com website and message board, and I am eternally grateful for their assistance in helping me help my sweet boy. He deserved everything and then some.
I hadn't really talked about his special needs, however, because I really never believed that that's what defined Clide. But I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the bond that is created when you care for a special needs cat, because it's inescapable and very, very special. While I didn't think of Clide and immediately think "diabetic" or "stomatitis" or even "cancer", all of these things (as they occurred) did require my attention and thought. While, for the vast majority of his time with us, he actually required very little attention around the diabetes or the stomatitis, when he did need care, giving it to him really deepened our bond. Don't get me wrong. He didn't particularly love it when I would home test his blood sugar. But there was a part of him that knew that I was doing what I did because I loved him and because I wanted him to be ok. That bond and love is something Clide knew. And the same was true with Grady before him, who had kidney disease for the last 18 months of his life. They knew that we loved them enough to really treat their care and wellness as priority. I can't explain it -- but the bond with a special needs cat is somehow just a little deeper.
I'm still pretty raw from his loss. But in addition to all the wonderful things that he gave to me that I've mentioned here, I have left out the biggest impact he made on my life and that he will continue to make on other lives. It was because of Clide -- because he was so freakin' awesome and amazing and enjoyable and brought so much love -- that I got involved in senior and special needs rescue. So many of these wonderful cats are overlooked. They are, without strong advocates and people willing to step forward and foster or adopt them and without rescues willing to take them on, doomed when they get to a shelter. After getting to know Clide, the idea that all these great senior cats with special needs would be overlooked just wasn't acceptable. He was special because he was Clide (still is, just not here). But part of what made Clide special, I believe, is the fact that he somehow understood how seriously the deck was stacked against him when he landed in that shelter. That made the advent of our loving home, I think, something that Clide was mindful of. I can't really explain it -- but these seniors and special needs cats seem to understand that the fact of their rescue is a rare and special thing, and they pay that back in spades. They know. And in knowing, they have more gratitude and love that they give freely once they know they're safe.
After all -- doesn't every life deserve to be saved?
Because of Clide, I've been directly involved in at least 50 rescues of senior animals in my area. I've had a contributory hand in others -- I've lost count. All because this one special cat made me want to ensure that other people -- families, individuals -- had an opportunity to know how unique and satisfying a rescued senior cat with special needs could be.
That's his legacy. That, along with the indelible mark he's left on my heart and soul, lives on.
If you open yours, the rewards will be amazing, and you'll be humbled by the gifts that one little special, saved life will grant to you.
In loving memory of my Glorious Clide -- 1996 to March 5, 2013. You are missed, you are loved, and you still make a difference.