I’ve heard a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It seems to me every thousand mile journey I’ve been on begins with that single step, followed by a sharp drop, and a thud. Then I get back up, put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I’ve never quite determined what that sharp drop is or why journeys can’t begin uneventfully. I guess because then they wouldn’t be journeys?
Oscar. Oscar is a pretty amazing kitty and oh so sweet. We suspect Oscar had been hanging around for the better part of the last year. Late last fall we began feeding him (isn’t that how it always starts?) to see if he would get to know us. After a week he would eat on the front porch, a week after that you could sit with him while he ate, and it took yet another week to tame him down enough to get him in a carrier so he could go to the vet to get an abscessed foot fixed. He didn’t seem to qualify for the description of feral but he definitely didn’t trust people and was very skittish. His first receipt from the veterinarian’s office doesn’t have his name (because he didn’t have it yet) it simply says “wild kitty.” On that first visit, the vet took care of his foot, neutered him, and got him all the necessary shots. Once he came home, he got his name and quickly became part of the family. Oscar joined two other kitties, Wally and Boo; a dog, Rowdy; and a horse named Smokey. Being a mostly outside cat, he is a great hunter and we think probably was quite the traveler. He also likely has a talent for dumpster diving, based upon the green cloud that seemed to follow him in from outside some mornings.
Oscar is a kitty who values his independence and still loves to curl up on the couch with his humans. He is, in his heart, a lover. He loves “big pets” as my husband says and thinks nothing of sleeping upside down sprawled out on your lap for hours. In comparison to the other two kitties, who are most interested in which human is going to feed them next; he just wants to know who is going to love on him.
Exactly one week ago, my husband woke me up Saturday morning and said simply and calmly, “You need to get up. We need to take Oscar to the vet; his leg is banged up a little bit.” Oh how that calmness masked the gravity of the situation. My husband had gotten up to make coffee and had discovered Oscar, not curled up in the little house we built for him, but rather sprawled half inside with his back feet hanging out like someone who had lingered too long at the bar the night before. When he emerged, he couldn’t walk on his left front leg and his pretty white paw was curled under. He was in such pain! My husband had held him up so he could eat his breakfast before he woke me up. The normally loving kitty hissed and growled as we bundled him up to go to the veterinarian’s office. Probably somebody’s dog got ahold of him we thought. He’s getting too comfortable because he’s around our dog. He’d come home a couple days previous looking like someone’s dog had given him a bath… Maybe his shoulder is just dislocated and the doctor will have him fixed up and not hurting in no time. We dropped him off with the promise that the doctor would be arriving in about an hour and though he had a busy day, he would take a look at him.
An hour later, they called to verify it was okay to take an x-ray of his little leg. The Doc suspected it was broken. Yes, please do, we said. The next phone call would come shortly after and the horror of what they discovered would stop our world cold. The x-ray revealed that no, no one’s dog had gotten him, some person had SHOT him with a .22 caliber rifle. Oscar’s little elbow was shattered and there was nerve damage causing the paw to knuckle over. He’d be in near constant pain if we allowed it to heal on its own. The best and only option (other than the unspoken option of euthanasia) was to amputate the leg. He would have a good outcome with three legs the Doc said, he’ll heal up and do just fine. I can’t breathe even now writing that. We trusted the doctor implicitly as the last 1,000 mile journey had involved a horse who had a very bad injury and that one healed up solid as a rock, just as he had said. But then there was the hard discussion…he was an outside cat, was this the best thing for him? What about the cost? After agonizing over the situation, we determined that the cost be damned – we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t give him that chance for a good outcome – and that we would help him as best we could to adapt to this new way of living. I also worried how we’d keep him safe. Obviously letting him be outside at night had been a mistake but he so loved to go and hunt! We’ll cross that bridge later we decided.
So it was to be. Monday morning, after a very long weekend, Oscar became Oscar the tripawd kitty. Doc said surgery went well but he’d be pretty groggy and it’d be best to come visit him on Tuesday. After a long Monday and a Tuesday morning that seemed to take forever…we took the drive to visit Oscar Tuesday at lunch time. Both my husband and I were fearful of what we’d find. I’d read that post surgery depression was common and that personalities were often different, at least at the outset. When the veterinary assistant called out “Oscar your family’s here!” the response was the familiar “squeak, squeak” from Oscar. He can yowl with the best of them but his go to is that squeak. He had eaten everything they offered him, used his box, and was ready to be out of the hospital cage! He purred and purred when he was petted and was just so genuinely happy to see his people. It was (almost) like he didn’t know that leg was gone, he was just so happy not to be in pain.
We were able to bring him home that day. I think he was happy to be in a familiar place. Since he was generally outside, he doesn’t have the run of the house when no one is home the way the other two kitties do. He’s all set up with his own little room. It has water and food, a box for him, and a seat he can get to easily and look out the window. Though he’d prefer not to be shut away, it helps him stay out of trouble and rest while he’s healing.
A week post-incident and not quite a week post-surgery, he’s content to sleep a lot. He gets around like a champ but does show some expected frustration about that missing limb. Overall he seems to be doing well. He eats, drinks, and does all he’s supposed to; plays a little bit with toys and is happy to be loved by his humans. He’s even been allowed to venture outside (supervised of course!) for a few minutes. We live out of town where the neighbors aren’t exactly next door, but we’ve talked to almost all of our nearby neighbors about him. We know much more about who didn’t do this to him than who did. It’s a comfort to know there are fellow cat lovers around us and though he’ll not be allowed the freedom he had before, we know there are a lot of folks looking out for him.
His stitches are to come out Monday. We’re not sure what the next step forward will be in helping him to be healthy and happy but right now we’re taking one day at a time and we’re just glad to have him to love.