Last Tuesday, we were tagged in a post (100+ comments, 40+ shares) about a grungy old cat staggering around Kingsburg like the village hobo. The target, an older grayish white male, looked awful in the pics—covered with grime, eyes crusted over, congested, drooling—but something about the pics said “fixable” so we offered to sponsor his treatment if someone could corral him and hustle him north. From there, the post spun into a series of sightings, handwringing and offers to help until Shelly Farmer-Brough announced she had the furry lout secure in her garage, some 8 blocks from his initial sighting and ready for transport.
With the big guy off the street, Kingsburg rescue superstar Brenda Prado arranged transport and late Friday, I met Charlie as he was now known at the vet. I’d spent the better part of the day loitering in the lobby checking on a kitten brought to us from Modesto with multiple fractures, coordinating follow-up for other “fixables” and spay/neuters, but I had some vested goodwill from KF jackets I’d dropped off for vet staffers so I figured I could sneak one more old-timer in for a look. I walked out the door and came back like Columbo with a carrier, “Oh, one other thing…”
Upon inspection, Charlie was a bony 7.5 pounds, unfixed, no chip, 13-15 years old judging from the wear on his teeth and thick cataracts, badly congested and anemic but with strong heart and no apparent injuries. The vet’s initial reaction, “I’d say let him go, but I know you.” I dismissed the notion, “Come on. He’ll be a great turnaround. Worst case, we’re hospice.” Superfoster Stephanie Yeats Cymanski, onsite picking up neuters, agreed and once a snap test confirmed FIV+/FELV-, the vet gave him antibiotics and a steroid and we headed back home for spa work.
We need another lifer like we need a subpoena, but I know my demographic, and once Mama Su saw Sir Charles, she immediately shooed the kittens from the laundry room and started prepping for his bath. “O…M…G. Where did you get this one? He’s filthy! Nail clippers and towels…go. And keep the little ones out of here. And tell Natalie we need fluids.” Sir Charles was in.
After a quick mani/pedi and uncrusting his eyes, Mama Su plopped Sir Charles in the laundry room sink, covered him with Dawn like she’d pulled him from an oil spill and started scrubbing. I’ve seen a lot of sketchy cats and helped bathe more than a few, but I’ve never seen a cat lie down and relax for a bath. Sir Charles did just that and spent the next 30 minutes enjoying being lathered, massaged, brushed, rinsed and repeated until the water was gray and he wasn’t.
After fluids, more brushing and chicken liver pate, Charles was in for the night, and the before/after pics are some of most heart-warming we’ve ever been blessed to enjoy. Two days later, Charles is still old (can’t fix that) and his congestion hasn't fully cleared, but after some good sleep and better meals, he’s regaining his strength and enjoying the rest of his new and better life.
But rescue is a cruel gig, and at work on Friday night, I was posting updates to Charles’ original post and enjoying the reactions and high fives, when our Head of Operations called, “We need you down here right now.” One of our security guards had found a Siamese kitten hit by a car in an adjacent lot while completing his rounds. The little one was gravely injured but alive and I rushed to a local emergency room for what I knew would be bad news. As I write this, I can still see her eyes, lying quietly on a towel in my lap, knowing that she was in serious trouble but without any show of panic. The perverse circle of life was a soul-crushing end to an amazing day, but the harsh reality is that until we solve animal overpopulation in the Central Valley, there will always a cloud over the joy of what we do.