For months, my deep orange tabby, Pumpkin (the one on your left, the lighter one on your right is Bitty), has had this THING dangling from the armpit of his right front leg. When it looked like a blister, I ignored it. As it grew, I scraped together the money to have it removed. By the time I had $600 that didn't have to pay tuition or the mortgage, the tumor was the size of a ping-pong ball, suspended from a 1/4 inch stretch of weary, over-taxed skin.
The biopsy came back, and it was cancer. He's 11-years old and hates going to the doctor. So even if there were chemo treatments available, I wouldn't put him through that. This is the kitten my kids bottle fed from it's third day outside the womb. The neighbor took his mother away, left he and his brothers to die in a flower bed, in spite of my begging them to let me take care of her AFTER the kittens were ready to give away.
The neighbors didn't seem to car, so we took the little things in -- two for us, two for the letter carrier's family. Their little ears went flat and wobbled as they drank from the doll bottles -- the two we had looked like tiny Yoda hybrids. Every two hours at first, then every four. It was a long, hard summer, but it taught my kids love and compassion.
Pumpkin was the kitten we kept. We moved him from Colorado to Washington with three other cats, two dogs, a ferret and a hampster -- along with my two daughters and me -- in a four door Dodge Neon ten years ago when he was barely a year old. Six months after we moved to Spokane, some little a**h*** shot him with a B-B gun. He jumped up through my screenless bedroom window and slowly padded into the living room where I saw his side drenched in crimson. He survived.
Now he has cancer.
Some people think it's crazy for a single mom with two girls in college (two tuitions to pay each quarter) to spend $600 to save a dying cat. And maybe they're right. But he didn't ask me to rescue him from that flowerbed. He didn't ask me to stop the bleeding or seek medical care when he was shot. I literally took his life in my hands when I scooped him out of the mulch that kept him alive for two days, eyes sealed shut, without his mother. And I felt like I owed him something -- like an unspoken promise.
So, we'll do without a few things like food without "ramen" printed on the package for a few weeks. And we'll keep our Punkin-rubby as comfortable as we can until he can't live a life worth living. Then I'll pay another couple of hundred bucks to release him from a body that turned against him, and I'll cry for two days and wait for his ashes to rest on my fireplace mantle.
Love, even for an animal, carries with it responsibility and cost. But when he's gone, I'll know I kept my promise to him. When he's gone, he won't be forgotten.
Love ya, Punky. Love ya, fierce.