“Even unconditional love must be earned.”

Once I had two cats: a tabby (Dmitri) and a blue Russian cross (Vincent). Around 1999 Vincent died of cancer. Poor Dmitri fell into depression, he’d go into the garage yowl and yowl. How my heart broke, clearly the yowl, after so many years, rings clear, painful.

After a few weeks it was time to look for another cat, with the goal to ease Dmitri’s pain. This woman who often babysat my cats also rescued cats in Abbotsford. I ventured out there and found she had all kinds from kittens to old cats, and the moment I entered each one was vying for my attention. Except for a tiny orange ball of fur by the front door.

Of course the ball of fluff had my attention!

He curled into a tighter ball as I touched him. Then he looked at me. He only had one eye! My heart melted.

I wept to hear his story: he’d been rescued from this crazy woman and her basement full of male-only cats. This, clearly, mentally deranged person took cats off the street, threw the poor beings into her basement and would only throw food down at them and nothing else. Apparently in the stink and filth there were many dead cats down there too. The story raised my bile and fortified my wish to rescue this poor soul.

I paid a fee and put him in my pet carrier with a mix of emotions: anger, pity, determination, hope.

On the long drive to the vets he scratched so hard at the carrier door that his paws began to bleed. At the vet, I waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually the vet emerged, saying the cat is in bad shape with a long list of ailments: flees, an immune system problem, inflamed gums, scabby, dry skin, and clearly in constant pain.

The vet suggested two things: take him back to where I got him, or put him down.

There was no hesitation or consideration: I’d take him home. A profound passion, desire, struck me: I want to save him.

A name was found: Duncan. This was after the one-eyed actress Sandy Duncan (sorry, vague reference – see lots of Disney movies in the 1970’s). It fit perfectly.

Entering the house, I placed the carrier in the center of the living room. Dimtri came along, hissing a little at first; but he, well, I like to think that he knew Duncan was in need of love as Dmitri quickly accepted this little orange ball.

For the first six months Duncan never came out from under the bed. Still there are scars on my hands from having to dig Duncan from under the bed for his twice-daily shot of cortisone. This was to try to calm his gum inflammation and immune issues. Only allowed soft food, he had a stunted meow as he couldn’t open his mouth very wide.

In time, many vet visits revealed more about his horrendous past. An x-ray uncovered the side of his skull with the missing eye was slightly flattened. The only plausible explanation: as a kitten, with his skull still soft and forming, he was hit with a blunt object that deformed his skull and likely led to the loss of his eye.

After much patience, love and many vet visits, a solution to ease his immune problems: pull all teeth except a few in the front. It was a tough decision, but the long-term effect of cortisone shots would be harmful to his liver.

With immense trepidation I brought Duncan to the vets for the operation. There were risks, he didn’t have a strong immune system and being so tiny… the vet told me: prepare for the worst as she put him under and pulled teeth.

At home, after the operation, Duncan slept, it seems for about two days. Then, he slowly began to “come alive” as, for the first time really, he explored the house.

Then a short time after the operation something miraculous happened: I was watching TV when Duncan came along and jumped up into my lap!

The only time he’d come close to me is when I went close to him!  Usually during feedings or giving medication.

As he curled up on my lap I froze, not sure what to do and not wanting to scare him away. Hesitantly, I stroked him and he did another miraculous thing, he started to purr. To that point I never heard him purr.

I wept with joy and I still tear up today thinking about that moment.

It was quite clear that those teeth were the source of not only his standoffishness, but his pain. When they were gone his personality changed. He became curious, playful and would scamper around the house so full of joy.

I will never forget this profound lesson in patience, kindness and love; a first-hand example of a being’s resilience in the wake of unspeakable abuse.

It was all a long time ago, in another life, but this will stay with me forever.

Photo and story © 2015 by DC Lessoway

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