Cat Story - The right kind of medicine

by Paf Barrios
(Winfield, Kansas)

My story starts a few years ago when, as I searched for an adult bengal cat to rescue, I had hit a dead end. I went to a breeder sight to see if they would have a retired female at any time soon, but the breeder said no. While I was on the website, I filled out the application and my background as a veterinary technician so if anything became available, they would know that love and experience would be available. About two weeks later, I received a call from the breeder, that they had a 3 week old kitten that had survived it's mothers attack, but that was in very grave condition. She said that if I would like to try and save him, he would be mine. I couldn't sleep that whole night knowing that the next day I would drive to the next state to meet my precious little one. I vowed to do all that I could to help him survive.

My heart was pumping as I approached the car where breeder and kitten were waiting. As my eyes caught sight of him for the first time, my heart went straight for my throat and I could hardly control the tremendous emotions that were taking over. As she laid his little body in the palm of my hand, I could see how hard his fight for life had already been and would continue to be. Both sides of his neck were gone, clear to the tendons. He was weak and would require twenty four hour care. My daughter Anna, who shares my love for animals, was there with me to warm and nurture and feed our new family member on his ride home. The first week was the most trying, as he would rally and then collapse after any activity. So, the pocket of my apron became home for him during the day so that he could get the care he needed and his bed at night was on my shoulder under my ear. As time passed, he slowly began to get better until finally, we were relieved to see that his survival was going to be a success.

I wasn't sure what to name him. He had a long pedigree name, but he was my baby. I decided to name him Puddie, it was what everyone called him. AS he grew, his neck finally healed up and I was thankful that there was no problem with him eating or swallowing. Most Bengals are pretty vocal, but Puddie has a tiny voice due to his injury. Tiny voice, but an extremely large prescense. He knows no strangers and when someone comes, he greets them and insists that they learn how to play. On one occassion, I had friends over for dinner who raised dogs and weren't at all fond of cats. I always put my cats into their kennel until I find out if anyone is allergic or afraid of cats. This was an opportunity that I just couldn't resist, so I let him out. Puddie immediately approached the man and sat at his feet. He looked at me as though the man smelled funny, (perhaps like dogs). Puddie rubbed and bumped the man's legs until he had to reach down to give him some kind of attention. When he touched his silky coat, he couldn't keep his hands off. He picked him up and as he sat him in his lap, the sun from the window lit up the glitter in his coat. All the man could say was how beautiful he was and he has never liked cats, but he really liked Puddie. He even told Puddie "good bye" as he went out of the door. You just don't talk to a cat unless you are hooked.

As Puddie grew and matured, I had him neutered as was agreed upon my taking him in the first place. He is show quality accept for the scars on his neck. I was working more that one summer as time progressed, Puddie started losing his hair from midway back. The local vet did everything he could to figure what was going on. Puddie was an inside cat, no fleas, no allergies, but his hair just kept falling out. I changed water, food, bedding everything that I could think of. I thought maybe he was lonely while I was gone, so I called the breeder back and asked again whether she had a retiring breeding female. She didn't, but she had a bengal female who had been placed in a home that became abusive and had taken her back. She was emotionally a wreck, but we decided that perhaps I could give her the care she needed to recover, so off to the next state I went to get her. Beanie is a rough coated bengal, and when I saw her, she wasn't much to look at, but the fear in her eyes were just what I needed to see to know that she was for me and Puddie. When I got her home, I put her in a room with litter box and food and water and opened the door just enough for Puddie to get his paw through. They didn't
see each other for one week and then I figured it was time to give them their first meeting. He was his wonderful assertive self, and she was terrified and ran like the wind. During this time, what had troubled me so is that she would not allow me to touch her. Not to pet her, and most of all, never would she give me the chance to pick her up. I left them alone to bond. As a previous breeding female, whenever Puddie would get near her, she would scream. This turned into growls. Never however were there physical aggression, so I let them set the terms of their relationship. It only took a few days before I noticed that she was allowing him to lay on one end of the couch. The rest is pretty normal accept my relationship with her. For the first two years, Beanie allowed Puddie to be her confidant. They finally slept together and played together. I, however was only allowed to bend down to pet her periodically and then she would run away. When friends would visit, she would hide until they were gone. I will always wonder what terrible thing she had to endure at the hands of an unloving human, but I will never know.

Much of this story is something that people have heard in many cat lover stories, but there is a final chapter. Last year, I had what I thought was a sinus infection. Puddie was always smelling the right side of my face and sometimes annoying me so much I had to remove him from my lap because it was so intense. I didn't think anything about it until it got to the annoying part. I decided to see a dr. and was treated for a sinus infection. Puddie kept up his sniffing and rubbing on the right side of my face. After the infection had cleaned up, I decided I would see a dentist, maybe I had a problem there. Nothing was found. Puddie still persisted with the sniffing my face. In about a week, I started to have a pain on my cheekbone on the right side of my face. I laughed at Puddie and told him I finally understood his insistence so I went to the dr. one more time. The pain was really not hardly noticeable unless I pushed on it. I was referred to another dr. and a biopsy was done. I went to the dr. for the results and was informed that I had squamous cell carcinoma. Sinus cancer. Rare and not genetic. After the dr. visit that day, I went back to work to report to them and was told that eleven people had to be laid off from work and I was among them. Needless to say, by the time I went home that day, I was overwhelmed and felt pretty helpless. I will never forget as I crawled into bed that night, Puddie crawled up next to the right side of my face and went to sleep. The following week, I had surgery to remove the large aggressive tumor. The surgery left me very disfigured as the cancer had infiltrated my cheekbone and had to be removed. I have to wear a prosthesis in my mouth to replace the right side of my palate that had to be removed as well. Without it I cannot eat, swallow or talk. AS a result of chemotherapy and aggressive radiation I have lost the vision in my right eye and my sight in the left eye is growing dim. During my recovery from the surgery, and the treatment, I spent many hours in bed, sometimes days. I have had to move to my children's home because I can no longer drive. During this difficult time in my life, one thing has been a constant. My faith, my family and the ever present nurturing of my two wonderful Bengal cats. If I am in my bed, they are there. They never move from my bed if I am feeling unusually sick. One of the most exciting things that happened to me during this long recovery is that my little Beanie, approached me and laid down on my chest. As she laid there, she began to purr and I thought I would try to put one hand on her. I am not sure whose heart melted first hers or mine. From that day, she never rejects my affection,nor do I reject hers, the bond of trust has been connected.

Tomorrow, I get the results of my six month cancer check-up. I know that whatever the results are, Puddie and Beanie will be ready to comfort me and get through it all. Words just don't express the breadth of fulfilment my babies have given me. They are just the right kind of medicine for what ails me. I have wonderful pictures but don't know how to put them on the computer.

Comment by Kate
What wonderful story, thank you for sharing it with us.

if you do want to add some pictures we would be happy to see them. Send them s attachements to my contact me email address and I will add them to your page.

best wishes Kate

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