In 1990, I rescued my first stray, a feral calico named Chloe I spent six months coaxing into the house and the next decade wondering if she’d kill me in my sleep. She had a crooked grin from a fang broken on the mean streets of Brentwood, terrorized the neighbor’s German Shepherd and at twelve sent a coyote backpedaling with a snarl/hiss combo that would scare you sober. She slept on the bed every night but had a thick vet file with ESCAPE ARTIST and BITES on the cover and sent techs scrambling for welder’s gloves whenever I walked in with her under my arm. She was one part honey, four parts honey badger and a metaphor for every relationship I had then or since.
In 2003, kidney disease proved to be the one predator Chloe couldn’t savage and after a couple of months watching her struggle with treatment, I made the hard decision to let her go. When the sedative took and her body went limp, it took me the better part of a day to compose myself and I spent the next month researching feline kidney disease and alternatives. It was futile and irrational, but it’s human nature, and to this day if you were persistent with permutations of her name, capital letters and special characters you could drain any credit card I carry.
Like most rescue folks, we go through loss too often—an unexpected health turn or untreatable disease, a call about a run in with a car or something further up the food chain, a litter too soon to the world or too late to us, a shelter cat marked urgent when there’s just no more room. We tell ourselves to remain detached, but we never do, and every loss leaves us wondering what we could have done to alter the outcome. The impact on our emotions and the wine rack is costly, but therein lies the beauty of the trade. If it hurts, what we’re doing must mean something, and if it didn’t, well, we’d be wasting our time.
Lex came in early December with more problems than JayZ—puncture wounds, paraplegic (spinal damage), emaciated and to add indignity, ringworm—but he was a cheerful little waif, quick with a purr when we took him in. Our crew spent the last four weeks working on his comfort and repairs, but on Friday, he took an expected downturn. After a night in the emergency room dealing with sepsis, low temps and white blood count, he bounced back, but as the day progressed and reality kicked in, we knew it was time to let him move on. It was heartbreaking—the little rascal kept purring throughout—but he had better care than most, kept his spirit through hardship and has others tearing up and writing about him when he’s gone. I’d take that. Lex.