Drying My Tears

I’ll never forget a conversation I had over the phone one day at work – “It’s cancer.”

As the veterinarian gave me the test results, I don’t remember anything except for one repeating thought – NO! PLEASE NO! But no matter how much my brain was screaming, it was true…my sweet little girl kitty, only 12 years old, was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor said more, but I didn’t hear the words.

I remember hanging up the phone and going to the restroom for a good cry. After work, I went home to hug her and kiss her…and cry some more. Tears for her, because I didn’t want her to go through the painful decline and death that’s associated with cancer. Tears for her twin sister who would miss her. And some selfish tears because I would also miss her when she was gone. Many, many tears.

I remember crying in the doctor’s office when I asked the most difficult question I would ever ask in my entire life…“What’s her prognosis if she doesn’t have the cancer medication?” The pain and side-effects of the cancer taking over her little body sounded so much worse than the treatment, so I decided on the treatment.

Then, double whammy – her twin sister was diagnosed with diabetes just a short three months later.

My sweet little girls have four paws, whiskers and sharp pointy teeth. They both retract their nails when mommy holds them and they growl, hiss and one of them even screams when mommy’s not the one holding her at the vet. For this reason, they have their entire vet’s office scared of them…they have all the techs SO fooled (One of my kitties – just to look at her face, I swear she’s laughing the whole way home after each visit.) But for mommy, they are such marshmallows, so I hold them for blood draws, shots and cysto's.
During this past year, I learned how to give pills (sometimes four pills in one sitting), B-Vitamin shots, insulin shots and test for glucose levels (you test a cat by pricking their ear, in case you were wondering). I had to change their food, watch their water intake and monitor their meds. (Although, during all of this time, I still didn’t learn the ‘cat-neck hold’ as I call it. After all, I’m mommy…I don’t need to hold them, they just stay for me until their medications are done.)

Eventually, my little diabetic patient went into remission (actually, twice so far) and my cancer patient’s weight is up, she’s feeling good and she’s a happy kitty lazing on the couch. I spent so many months taking care of my little girls, now I need to take better care of myself and my soul.

So, this past Thanksgiving, inspired by my father who volunteered at a soup kitchen for several years, I decided that’s what I’d do with my holiday time off from work. Now…what kind of volunteer work? Well, some people have told me that I’m the only one their felines would let pet, so I had an idea to see if there was an animal shelter around who needed some help. After all, I’ve had my cats for 13 years now and I feel that I understand cats well. Also, they seem to like me. After everything that my vet’s done for my kitties this past year, I wanted to do something to give back or pay forward on an animal level. I vaguely remembered someone telling me about a cat-only shelter, so I hopped online and did a search.

Then I found it…the place I’d quickly get hooked on… http://www.ninelivesfoundation.org/ I called them and asked if they needed volunteers. A cheerful and very thankful woman told me that they always need volunteers to help with a multitude of things…cleaning cages, swabbing the deck, doing dishes, donating supplies, or even just ‘holding’ some of the babies (to the doctors, it’s called socializing…to me, it’s called cuddling.) I made an appointment to go in for a visit before volunteering, so I’d have a general idea of what to expect.

I remember my first volunteer day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I spent the day moving recuperated cats from the ICU cages to the front for adoption day and moving other cats from their cages to the visiting room for prospective parents to meet. Talk about my favorite job ever…actually this wasn’t a job – I just spent the day holding and cuddling cute little felines – one of my favorite pastimes.

Then, we took a field-trip to rescue some cats and kittens from the breakwater in Moss Beach, California before the winter high-tide came in (we’ve rescued and found homes for 5 of them so far). Later that night, when I got home, I hugged and kissed my own kitties (who’d been sleeping all day, no doubt, and didn’t even realize that I’d been gone).

Since that first day, I now clean cages, dishes, ears and wounds. I have brushed hair, detangled fur and clipped kitty-nails. I have fed, watered and successfully trapped ferals. One morning, I even took someone home with me to see if he would eat better than he was at the shelter (the shelter calls it foster care…my cats called it an intruder.) I also introduced my neighbor, who adopted two kitties from the shelter.

Now, I go in each Saturday and spend the day helping where I can. I recently told the vet in charge, Dr. Monica Thompson, DVM, that I’m a bookkeeper for my day job and I offered to update their records…looks like I’ll be able to help in a few different areas, although the cuddling, I mean, the socializing is my favorite.

If you want to adopt a furry little feline, volunteer, donate or foster, please call (650-368-1365) or visit their website, http://www.ninelivesfoundation.org/ Personally, I’m very happy with the friends that I’m making (both feline and of the human variety). It feels so good to help cats find homes and giving some much needed TLC to the ones who live there. It’s ironic though…these remarkable little felines give me much more TLC in return, and I look forward to going back there each week. And because Nine Lives Foundation is a no-kill shelter, I know that when I leave each day, either (a) everyone will still be there when I return, or (b) they went to a good home, either permanently or for foster care.

I’ve found something here that I love and plan on doing for a long time to come (even if my cats won’t tolerate any more house-guests :)

Sonya Dow
Writer of Romantic-Suspense and a Happy Volunteer for Nine Lives

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