Once upon a time... There was a stray cat we named Lancelot. When he first started coming to our outside feeder, he was with a kitten and being protective of it. He would prowl the area to make sure other cats didn't bother the little one. We could see that Lance had been in battle--another reason for his name. He had open sores on his cheek and shoulder and his eyes were pretty well pasted shut.
One night he came alone. We didn't see the kitten again and we're hoping it was rescued. But Lance needed care. To capture or not to capture. We began putting out wet food hoping some good food would help him heal. After a month, the sores did heal and he was appearing regularly morning and night for food. Now if we were on the patio, he wouldn't run. He would sit at a distance or in our garden. I spend a lot of time on the patio working in the summer, and he began to keep me company. I had started our communication by talking to him through a window, then quietly from a distance.
To capture or not to capture. He wasn't neutered and that was a concern along with his pasted eyes and meowing when he ate. Something hurt inside his mouth and seemed to be getting worse. The one side of his face was swollen so we knew it could have been a tooth or an injury to his cheek.
One morning instead of eating at the feeder, he came right up to my husband who had been taking the morning shift. (We have three inside rescue cats to care for. Ebbie and London are 12 and Zoie is a year old.) Then in the afternoon, Lance would come around about the same time every day for our "date." But it was like after that morning, he decided we were okay to hang with and he started staying around more.
I was thinking about fall and winter coming and we put a shelter outside. But my real aim was to get him comfortable with coming into a sunroom off of our basement so he'd have real shelter in winter. As he started staying around more, he would follow me inside. It was like he made that decision overnight, too. He was staying. Doors opened on either end of the sunroom so he didn't feel trapped when he went inside. But he wasn't fond of eating in there. He preferred the patio. He seemed fatigued a lot of the time but if another male cat came to try the feeder, Lance would chase him off the property. (There was another cat who we think was a female. He let her share his food at that point.)
Then one day he wouldn't eat. We could tell it hurt to take a bite. Tuna lured him into a capture cage and we drove to an emergency vet hospital because it was a weekend. That day we learned Lance had FIV, similar to HIV in humans. The vet stitched his lip, neutered him and we brought him to the sunporch to confine him for 24 hours. We put in two litter boxes, one ground and one litter and he used both. All we had to do was lead Lance and he learned and followed.
After he recuperated and was out and about again, he spent all his time here and mostly slept on the patio when we were outside or on a chair in the small protected area between the sunroom and the basement door. He was "ours." And I found being with him actually relaxed me. For that time period, I stopped thinking about work and book promotion and everything else on my to-do list. Lance time because a special time for me, too.
But then a urinary tract infection began. That week if I was sitting on the patio, he would crawl into my lap. He wanted our affection. We were able to take him to our local vet who had to do surgery for a blocked bladder. She also extracted his tooth. He was there for three days and the vet told us he was probably 5-7 years old. When we brought him home, he recuperated on the patio and in the sunroom. He had several different meds to take each day--a muscle relaxant, an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, pain medication and eye ointment. Since he liked to eat, we managed to put most of them in his food. He tolerated the eye ointment but didn't like it. However, after a few days of using it, his eyes were actually open and he often studied my face when he was on my lap. He became a lap cat, often napping there while I taped or worked on my iPAD. Work seemed easier when I was keeping him company.
We settled into a routine. My husband and I spent 5-6 hours a day with him on the patio, in the garden, urging him to eat to take meds, holding him and learning more about him. We found new togetherness by spending time with him. He took walks with my husband around the patio and garden. He was a sweetie and we started of thinking about winter and letting him stay in the basement. We began cleaning it out.
We took Lance for a vet check-up and the vet decided to switch his antibiotic because the urinary infection wasn't cleared. However, when we did that, he had a reaction to the medicine. By the end of the weekend, the urinary problems were back and we were afraid he was blocked again. We took him to the emergency vet. But this time... His stomach was distended, there was fluid, and he had developed a heart murmur. The vet suggested a sonagram and a withdrawal and testing of the fluid. The sonogram showed he had lesions in his stomach and she diagnosed him with peritonitis. I'm not going to go into all that but we felt the best thing we could do for him was to give him relief...and peace.
Lance left a huge hole in our hearts that won't soon be filled. He was a fighter and a lover and the name we gave him fit. Thank you, Lance, for the time you gave us and the gifts we'll never forget.
©2013 Karen Rose Smith
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