Blaze is a lucky boy. We don’t know exactly what happened, but the 10-year-old tuxedo cat was transferred to the Oregon Humane Society from another shelter that couldn’t deal with his medical needs. Blaze had a badly broken arm, and since OHS has a state-of-the-art medical center in partnership with Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, they were equipped to handle his injury.
That was in January 2018, but 2 months when the leg still wasn’t healing, the doctors decided they needed to pin the bone. That’s when I came into the picture.
In March, I brought Blaze home to foster until the pins could come out, 8+ weeks. During that time, Blaze had to be kept from jumping, running, even playing strenuously. I have a kennel, so that’s where dear Blaze got to spend most of his time. It’s a nice big kennel with a window and a view, but it’s still a cage, so I spend lots of time with him, bringing him out for a break where I can watch he doesn’t hurt himself.
Did I mention Blaze has to wear a cone to keep him from worrying his pins? Poor sweet cat.
It didn’t take long for Blaze to tell me what he likes best in the world: sitting on laps. So for a few hours a day, we sit and watch Dr. Who on my phone.
Every so often, Blaze has to go back to OHS for a check-up and today was the day. Doctor says he’s healing nicely, but still another 5 weeks before they can do radiographs to see how well the break is doing. Apparently arm breaks take a long time to heal and his age of 10 doesn’t help.
Blaze and I are very thankful he’s getting the help he needs. I can’t guess how much this treatment would cost if OHS wasn’t footing the bill. As it stands now, OHS only treats animals in their care, but they have big plans. They want to expand the current Holman Medical Center to offer veterinary care to the public—and especially to those with limited financial means. Read the story below, published through OHS to learn more about their ambitious plans, and also read a true to life story about another OHS cat who got the best care he could under present circumstances, but the outcome leaves us wondering if, with a community hospital, they could have done more.
“One of the initiatives of the New Road Ahead is a community teaching hospital. The foundational premise of the hospital is to make veterinary care available to all in need regardless of finances. This saves the lives of animals who might otherwise be euthanized or relinquished to OHS due to the cost of veterinary care. From the human side, it alleviates an emotional strain to make a difficult decision to say goodbye to an animal family member simply because the ability to pay for a life-saving procedure or for ongoing treatment just isn’t possible. In the end, the goal is for a pet to stay in their home, living a healthier life.
Our first story is about Humphrey, a cat who was returned to OHS multiple times due to medical issues. Unfortunately, not all stories have happy endings. The story of Humphrey the cat is such a story.
Humphrey’s story, by Humphrey’s Pet Pal, Kathryn Woods
When I first met Humphrey he was a thin diabetic cat with a lovely red and white tabby coat and an endearing habit of taking his water in a paw and licking it off the paw.
All his teeth were removed surgically because of stomatitis, a mouth infection which can be painful and cause cats to lose their appetite. His personality was mellow, and basically the reason for the Yellow card was mostly medical. He was weak and had diabetic atrophy of some of the muscles in his back legs and could not squat well to pee.
We sometimes played a little with feather toys through the cage. Sometimes I just talked to him. One day I read his paperwork and found out this sad story. His owner surrendered him because he thought he needed to be euthanized because he was so ill. Humphrey had the classic signs of diabetes, eating all the time but losing weight, drinking all kinds of water, peeing all the time and in places other than his litter box. He was weak and looked pretty sick. The owner was not able to provide a vet exam, special food, insulin, regular exams and glucose checks needed for a cat since he was a low income pet owner. He surrendered the cat even when told the condition was treatable, because he could not afford the treatment.
Humphrey was moderately friendly and liked scratches behind the ears. He sometimes graced us with head butting, or even purring. I kind of did PT with him, trying to get him to use his hind legs and strengthen them. He used the litter box in his kennel with no issues. He liked a snack allowed diabetic cats of Bonita flakes. I made him sort of stand up to get his.
He was strong and cute and appropriate weight and ready when adopted by a man and his wife who were taught about diabetic cat needs during a consult in a showing.
He was gone several months, we hoped his life was happy.
Then one day he was back. The man got deployed and his wife moved to a place that did not allow any pets.
Humphrey was now overweight. He was incredibly tender on his belly, and his blood glucose was in the 400’s. He was much worse than I remembered him. An exploratory operation was done and they found he had pancreatitis which was why his belly hurt and he was much less amenable to touching and handling, even though he had been fairly easy the first time. He had a red card (and I had just gotten my Heart Pin so I was able to remain his special pal.) He remembered me and while he was never easy he was tolerant and allowed me to touch, pet and brush him. His diet and insulin were attended to by the careful ACT’s and vet staff. He was rarely shown. His legs were weak again. He still liked fish flakes and still liked to sometimes take water in his hand, but he was a lot older than his age when he came back.
We did not play so much. We talked a lot. If I was absent I asked another volunteer to look in on him.
Finally he was adopted again, this time by a nurse who knew a lot about diabetes. Sadly, he only got to have that home and his adopter only got to enjoy his company for one night. He had a massive stroke the next day and was humanely euthanized.
This story has one of the saddest endings I know.
I wondered all along if the first surrender could have been prevented. The first owners actually showed many signs that they loved the cat and did not want to give him up. They had not taken him to a veterinarian because it was too expensive, so though he was 7 or 8 years old he had not had well kitty visits and shots, or counseling. A low price for regular checkups could by itself save many cats from being surrendered or even euthanized for the wrong reasons.
We get cats who like Humphrey, are middle aged, diabetic and really nice cats but someone has to relinquish them because of the price of ongoing care-special food, insulin, regular testing. Yet when all is worked out the cat can thrive and remain a friend and live a lifespan similar to that of other cats-maybe 13 to 18 years.
Even his second surrender has the possibility behind it that the adopters were not able to keep up the cat’s medical needs and so he got worse.
I will never know. My life was enriched by knowing Humphrey and there is a Humphrey shaped hole in my own heart, which will fill when I see him on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, and he is whole and well and friendly and purring again.”
—Oregon Humane Society The New Road Ahead Volunteer Committee