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Sonoma County Gazette
By the time Misty's splint comes off.
By the time Misty's splint comes off, she’ll be thoroughly accustomed to living indoors with people. The evacuation, and now her injury, have become life-changing events.

A Christmas Miracle

Dec 2, 2019


We always enjoy a Christmas miracle and somehow the veterinary hospital always manages to provide a candidate. This year’s “miracle” is more of a personal, rather than a medical miracle. As inCharles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Misty’s Miracle has come as a change of heart.

I met her over ten years ago. She was a fiercely independent feral cat who lived between the property lines in our community of Carmet.No one could claim to be her owner, as she was very clearly her own cat. 

Someone had captured her and seen to it that she was spayed, as her tipped ear announced to the world, and rumors went through the neighborhood that there had been someone, once, who fed her and some other feral cats. 

I would see her, a vibrant and beautiful silver tabby, but only at a distance. I would call to her, as had so many others, but our calls would only be met by her cautious stare. She would look but never approach us. Having been trapped once, she seemed to have no intention of ever allowing anyone to approach her ever again.

We would leave food for her, me and some of the neighbors and visitors who frequent Carmet, and when the food was far enough away from possible human interference, Misty would deign to accept the offering, always with a cautious laissez-faire. She would rather starve than risk trusting the humans.

But when  Barb  moved Smokey, her elderly, formerly-refused-to-stay-indoors Grass Valley yard cat into our home in 2009, Misty began sneaking into our garage to share his food. Smokey had become Mr. Mellow by that time, and while he still refused to live in the house, he had no problem with Misty’s visits (or with the skunk who moved in for a few days - but that’s another story). Smokey loved sleeping on my car, and really had no concern about anything, so Misty became if surreptitiously, a member of our family.

At some point,  Smokey got so old  that he needed daily care and we moved him to the hospital. Amazingly, this stubborn old Siamese adapted in minutes to living in the facility and became our beloved  BBVH mascot. He lived with us for several years, and loved everyone, dogs, cats, and humans alike, before leaving the world at the age of 21 years. We still miss him.

BUT Smokey’s promotion to  Hospital Cat left the house in Misty’s possession. She was now accustomed to me and Barb, as well as our dogs, and our cats whom she met through the window glass. She took over the deck as her own personal domain, and would often hang with us during late night dips in the spa. Barb had made Misty a personal project and before long Misty was happily awaiting breakfast every morning.

She looked askance when, having distracted her with a meal, we would sneak a gentle stroke down her back. As time passed, Misty became quite a fan of back scratches and even allowed her ears to be rubbed. It was a long slow process, but as years passed she grew more and more accepting of our affection. She even started rubbing up against our ankles when we prepared her dinner plate! After a while, she would actually enter the house, though only a few steps, and visit for a little while, but only if the door was left open.

Then came the fire evacuation: What to do with a mostly-feral cat? We packed up our pets and most precious belongings, not knowing when we would be coming back — and knowing that there might be nothing left when we returned. What would happen to Misty? We couldn’t just leave her.

There came a moment of truth:  We were minutes from the power shut off. It was time for dinner. I called Misty and tapped on her food can to signal feeding time, and she arrived with her usual enthusiasm. I picked her up and clutched her to me, then carried her into the house and dropped her into the waiting cat carrier. 

Surprisingly, I was not bleeding! She cried a little, very uncomfortable with the whole strange situation, but accepted it as if she knew there was something very wrong — and wound up spending the next four days locked in a folding pet kennel in the back seat of my pickup truck.

It was a life-changing event. Misty accepted the confinement (and frequent special meals) with calm and grace. She wanted out, and would almost certainly have run for her life if released, but accepted our attention and enjoyed being nuzzled and scratched. When we finally returned home, she resumed her old routine as if nothing untoward had ever happened!

But her reprieve was brief. Within a few days, Misty was limping, unable to bear weight on her front leg. Encouraged by my previous success, I picked her up and placed her in the carrier for a trip to the hospital. On examination, it was evident there was a boney abnormality. X-rays showed Misty’s leg to be broken in two places. She had clearly been run over by a car.We anesthetized her, placed a splint on her leg, ran a hundred blood tests, and cleaned her teeth. She is an old cat and had some problems, but nothing horrible.  The biggest problem was the splint: She would have to wear it for at least a few weeks. There was no way we could bring her home.

But Misty didn’t mind. Yes, the hospital is weird and she’d rather be home, but she quickly learned to enjoy the attention of the staff. She’s not worried by the traffic or noise and has her own large dog run in which to recline. She has lots of company and makes friends easily. By the time her splint comes off, she’ll be thoroughly accustomed to living indoors with people. The evacuation, and now her injury, have become life-changing events.

Who says you can’t teach an old cat new tricks?

The Family Pet by Dr. Michael Trapani


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