Pretty soon now, I’m going to be digging a grave and saying good-bye to Gibson. Gibson is only eight years old. It seems so unfair that I have to lose him so soon. His litter-mate, Tinkerbell, who has never been without him, will mourn as much as I. Daisy, who adores Gibson above all others, will mourn him most of all.
One afternoon, eight years ago, I was working in my backyard when the neighbor children ran over to show off their new kittens. I was shocked to see them running around with kittens that couldn’t have been more than four weeks old draped over their shoulders. There were four kittens; two white, one black and one grey. The kids told me they had found the litter in the bushes outside the nursing home where their grandmother lived. They assumed that the mother was gone and brought the kittens home with them.
As the weeks went by the kittens lived, much to my surprise, but I noticed that they weren’t thriving. On one occasion I noticed one of the white kittens, who was now developing dark spots and points, fighting over a piece of chicken with some fire-ants. The kitten was growling and occasionally stopping to swipe at its face but it would not let go of that piece of chicken.
One day I heard someone next door asking one of the kids if they had fed the kittens that day. The child hollered back, “I fed them yesterday!” I then listened to an argument about whether or not kittens needed feeding everyday because cats are hunters. That did it for me. That day I started enticing the kittens over to my yard with bits of chicken and tuna.
It didn’t take more than a day or two before the kitten were climbing through the chain link fence into my yard. They were so tiny, even at approximately eight weeks old, that they could fit through the links of the fence. I don’t know why I had let the neglect go on so long but I wasted no time in fattening them up.
Every morning and every night I would take bowls of food out and call, “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” and four little balls of fluff would race into my yard and devour all the food and all the love I could dish out. They were as starved for love as they were for food. And, of course, they were all little angels.
But they weren’t putting on weight and they weren’t growing, even after several weeks. So, I took the runt of the litter, the little black one, to the vet. She was infested with round worms, tapeworms and ringworm. The vet didn’t think she would live but he gave me enough medicine for the entire litter and sent me off without much hope.
Back at home, I paid a visit to the neighbors and confessed that I had taken one of their kittens to the vet and gave them the bad news. Then I informed them that I was going to take the kittens, lock then up on my porch and do my best to save their lives. I didn’t expect to get much opposition and I was right. The family wasn’t all that well off financially and I think the mother was really looking for an excuse to get rid of the kittens. So, I put together some little kitten beds and moved the babies onto the porch.
I bathed the kittens, treated their ringworm and dosed them with the medicine the vet had given me for their round worms. It nearly killed them all. They passed huge clumps of round rooms - clumps almost as big as the kittens themselves. It was ghastly. I had to force water down a couple of the kittens and they all were sick and lethargic for a couple of days afterward. But they lived. And soon, they thrived.
In a couple of weeks I had four of the feistiest, happiest kittens imaginable bouncing around on my porch. They played and they loved and they crawled all over me when I was with them. And, of course, the neighbor kids were asking about them, expecting to get them back. I’m here to tell you, I had no intentions of sending them back to be starved and neglected again.
Fortunately, I was about to move to a new house. What could have been a difficult situation was solved by simply packing up and moving away – with the kittens.
When I took the kittens in for their first shots the vet was so surprised and pleased to see them all healthy and happy and he oooed and awed over the baby pictures I took in. But I wasn’t out of the woods, yet. I had two adult cats at home and four kittens. That was just too many cats. So, I put an ad in the paper and started looking for homes for my little miracle kittens.
I wound up finding homes for two of the kittens. It was late summer and there were dozens of ads in the paper for free kittens, so I guess I was lucky to find good homes for even two of them. This left me with two permanent additions to my household; Tinkerbell, the little black runt, and Gibson, the kitten that I had seen fighting over a piece of chicken with the fire ants.
They were absolute and utter joys. They were also little terrors. I began calling them The Wrecking Crew because they climbed curtains, scratched on the furniture, raced through the house knocking things off tables and counters and made life absolutely miserable for the two adult cats. And I loved them more every day.
Gibson and Tinkerbell are now eight years old. The two adult cats that were in the family when they were babies have all died of old age. And Gibson has cancer. He has a lymphoma in his intestinal tract that causes him to vomit frequently and prevents him from getting all the nutrition he needs out of his food.
I put him through one course of chemo therapy that did give him some relief. Two squirts of liquid down his little throat twice a day. It upset him so much that he ran and hid from me for over two months. I just couldn’t put him through any more of it.
He’s been getting thinner and thinner over the last few months and now he’s just a little bag of bones. There is always a spot of vomit on the floor or the bed or the couch that needs cleaning up and he sleeps almost constantly. But he still wants to go outside and patrol his little backyard territory. He still brings his little toys to me for a game of fetch and he still cuddles up in the big chair with me at night and purrs like the little angel he’s always been.
Someday soon I’ll have to take him to the vet and ask to have him released from his suffering. Then I’ll bring him home and bury him in the backyard that he loves so much. For now, he’s not in much pain and he is still enjoying his life. I’m spending as much time as I can with him, giving him all the treats he wants, taking him outside as often as possible, doing my best to make his last few weeks as happy as possible. When he goes, I won’t have any regrets. But I’ll miss him. I’ll miss him so very much.