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Norwich Bulletin - 4/13/2008

A Hard Day

We who work in rescue are always looking for happy endings. There is nothing better than seeing an animal who was neglected or abandoned, become a healthy, happy companion and go to a loving and permanent home. This is our goal for every animal that comes into our care. This is the reason we do rescue work. Unfortunately, sometimes good rescues go sad.

The call came from another rescue organization that was trying to remove over seventy-five Siamese and Oriental Shorthair cats from a home in Montreal, Canada. It seems that a few years ago, this gentleman decided to start breeding Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs, but found he could not part with a single, solitary kitten, and so he began a collection of cats.

In the beginning I believe he was conscientious - he even altered some of them, even though he would not place them into other homes. But as time went on, there were more and more cats, more and more cleaning and acting out by the cats who were beginning to feel crowded, and eventually it all became overwhelming. That's when it all started to go downhill.

The cats were no longer being monitored and they were breeding indiscriminately. The females were being bred too often, the kittens were more sickly, there was serious in-breeding. The house became uncleanable (I tend to make up words when appropriate), and this man found himself in big trouble.

His one saving grace in my book is that he called for help before animal control came in and took them away. But there were far too many cats for just one rescue and so a group of us were asked to help. My first group consisted of seven young cats.

ome of them were very social and others had obviously not had a lot of human contact. After all, they had only known one human their entire lives. But these seven cats got their vaccinations, they were altered and placed into wonderful homes. Great rescue - end of story? Not this time.

Another call came about four weeks later - could we take more - there were 22 cats left. I split them with a Massachusetts rescue and drove to meet the cats about seven p.m. When they were put into my van and I started back to Colchester, I began to hear sneezing and some wheezing. I immediately headed for the vet's office so they could be dropped off, given their shots, altered and checked out for an upper respiratory.

When I got to Colchester Veterinary Hospital and began checking the cats in, I was appalled by their condition. In fact, I could not believe that this was the same rescue that I had participated in only a month before. Eyes were seared shut and there was a general nose discharge from every cat. So I left them all there to get some fluids and medications. These cats had just gone through a 13 hour ride and they were tired, hungry, sick and stressed.

Within twenty-four hours most of the cats had pneumonia. They were being given round the clock attention. Most were not eating and required some force feeding along with fluids. I received a phone call that warned me that the prognosis was not that great.

Two days later I received an unbelievable call. I was told that it was doubtful that ten out of the eleven cats would make it. Three of them especially were in bad shape and would I please come in after work to see them. After finding out that these three were having difficulty breathing and were basically comatose, I authorized those three to be euthanized right then and there. After work I went to visit the other eight to see for myself what was happening to these poor cats.

Meanwhile I had found out that these cats had never been immunized - ever. They were given rabies shots in preparation for them to cross over the Canadian border and this resulted in compromising their immune system. Once the cats were exposed to other humans who worked with rescue, and were taken out of their home, they became stressed and open to a herpes virus, which many times can be brought about by stress. But these cats had no immunities and could not fight the virus.

When I got to the vet's office and went into the ICU, I saw seven sleeping cats and remarked that they did not look so bad. Until I touched one - the moment he woke up his breathing became extremely labored and I could see how much energy it was taking him to try and take a breath.

But what really told me what was going on, was his eyes. He had given up and was asking me to let him go. That night I let all but three cross the rainbow bridge. One cat was still bright eyed and eating and two of them did not have the hopeless look in their eyes. I figured I would give them the weekend to see if they could recover.

They didn't and throughout the weekend they continued to fail. None were eating, they were being given fluids hourly and they too were ready to leave. And so I stood there crying, along with the vet techs who had worked so hard to save these little creatures - along with the vets who were also very sad and disappointed because they had done everything that they possibly could have.

But it just was not meant to be. A good rescue, gone sad.

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