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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coal- a cat - a love story

A friend of my mother's had a son who adopted a cat from the Toronto Humane Society.  Stephen and his wife Andrea adopted Coal knowing full well he had congestive heart failure. They had four wonderful years with him but had to say goodbye just last month. Here is Coal's story.

The Urban Hunter — Coal



It is 3:4oam, technically Friday morning.

I can't sleep! The "urban hunter" is on my mind?

Yesterday at approximately 3:30 or quarter to 4 pm I was racing out to Oakville with Coal. He passed away on route. His last breath taken while I sped! Just he and I! I guess our last drive together.

I really miss him! It is only 12 hours since he physically left us.

The light is ON at the back door. Usually reserved for when Coal would stay out all night. I would do this as I wanted to ensure he was protected from and raccoons or other, making sure he could see his house. Tonight he isn't coming back.

Cats as they are, are private, and have an uncanny ability knowing when they are to die. Andrea called me while I was at a work appt . She said he isn't doing very well. Andrea really has a way of seeing this. Every other time Coal would present a flare up due to his disease, she would pinpoint and with i00% accuracy, I would then race to the specialist's clinic. I raced home and saw him in the back yard hiding behind a blue spruce. Andrea had been watching over him. She brushed him and brought water and his favorite wet food. We knew this was likely his last day. He came out from behind the brush and made his way to the house, the Congestive Heart Failure finally caught him. I picked him up as he struggled to make his way into our house; Andrea now panic struck guided Anderson away distracting him with an ipad. I didn't wait! I scooped up Coal as he laboured with every breath to stay with us. I gave Andrea and Anderson a chance to kiss and give a quick pet. Anderson very much unaware and Andrea all too aware as to what was happening. So the "urban hunter" decided to come home to die with his family and have his dad, me drive him rather than be alone.

We got Coal from the Humane Society of Toronto. Andrea and I went there to adopt. So many cats, so many cages. Andrea spoke to one of the volunteers about this one cat in particular. I think chino or something like that he was called. Whatever the name it wasn't working. We decided on calling him Coal, just like the coal used to warm a home. We even spelled it that too. Coal was to be our new warmth. There was also a checked `X" on the card outside his cage. Andrea asked what was with that? The answer. "Oh, he has a "disease". We looked at each other. What disease? CHF. I knew exactly what he had. Andrea and I looked at each other. Coal was going to not only be our family pet but Andrea's first. When we met the vet on staff she was relieved she didn't have to explain CHF. She also was really relieved someone was willing to take this cat home. We knew if we took him it would be expensive but we didn't care. Actually, more importantly was how difficult it would be with a cat or any animal for that matter who has to have administered meds. It is like trying to put your hand over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. I mean really try placing your hand down a cat's mouth with not z pill but 2 different pills. Gheez I used to wear one of those butcher gloves you buy at Williams and Sonoma as a version of protection. Sure the glove could stop a ginsu knife from cutting your finger off but not coal's bite.

Coal was initially placed on Plavix and an Ace inhibitor. How ironic! BMS, the company I used to work for sold these exact meds. These meds would fall by the wayside once Coal's new vet/Cardiologist realized how severe Coal had CHF.

Coal's chart was virtually non-existent. We didn't even have an accurate age for Coal and hence we never really new Coal's age. The Humane Society guessed 5 yrs old or so. Coal stayed with us for about 4 1/2 years. So was he nine or possibly m to 12. We don't know. What we know is he had been removed from that god-awful cage. He was able to have people hold him, pet him, get a good bellyrub, yes he would let us do that. Yes, cats are generally independent and usually "do their own thing" but there are those few that hang with people and they era really special. He loved being brushed and chasing a ball or two. Really loved the wand with the rope attached and could he catch that string or rope faster than the runner-Usain Bolt. Anderson would do this at times with Coal and the two of them got a real kick out of it.

Coal was rescued from the Hamilton shelter. The Hamilton shelter had Coal scheduled to be put down before Toronto picked him up. Toronto Humane intervened and Coal was sent to Toronto. Much controversy surrounded the Director who many said was not rationale in his decision making with respect to how cats were being treated at he facility. It meant the director never wanted to let any cat get "put down". So in some respects, how can I blame him? If Hamilton had had their way, Coal would not have joined us. Period!

I remember Andrea and I pacing around this one section of the cat sections. And every time, we were drawn to this one cage. He never let on about anything. Coal never begged or pleaded. His intense eyes spoke volumes. Andrea knew right away he was the one. We brought him somewhat timidly home since no one really knew how along the CHF was. We only knew he would require allot of care and that was all right.

At first we were told not to let him out because he needed meds zx daily-day and evening. So responsible as we were, Coal would still sneak out and scare the sh*#" out of us. Hell, we finally adopt this cat and now we could potentially lose him outside and he needs meds. Many a time, we had neighbors", Vicki and Greg who were awesome at finding Coal. Vicki a vet tech herself had a keen sense on what Coal would do and where he would likely go.

When we moved from Armadale ave., Coal had no problem adjusting. In fact, Andrea and I as parents realized that when Coal left he would actually come back. Humm go figure! So we trusted our Coal to do just that. By now, the specialists were amazed at his health. Coal had been with us for over 3 years and they were baffled he lasted that long. Who says LOVE can't hold off death! Coal was proving medical science wrong.

Well into coal's fourth year with us, we were now giving him needles both lasix and lovenox once daily. This too would only prove to help temporarily. The exams would start to show deterioration. We had him tapped about a month ago. Tapping means draining with a medical procedure to remove fluid from the lungs. Costly as that was, it helped. But we were warned. The disease was gaining on him. Open door policy came into effect. Coal if he chose and weather permitting, Andrea and I have the go ahead to stay out, all night if wanted. And he did! We would nd gifts the next morning! I would go and clean up many mice before Anderson would go out and play. Yes, most recently a cardinal that really pissed off Andrea. A few chipmunks and some things we may never know.

Remember Coal grew up on the street and from the tough part of steel town- Hamilton. He had an already shortened tail, a cut over one ear and I am now guessing a shortened selection of a cats "nine lives", if you will. Hence why I am titling this eulogy the "Urban Hunter". He hunted most probably to survive while on the streets of Hamilton.

So here too, even with a new home, filtered water, the best cat food dry and wet, wool blankets and a free range of the house he still had instincts to hunt. So be it!

But here in lies the real Coal. Our family member! It was Coal protecting us while we lived at Armadale. Anderson was still an infant and the City Works had dug up the streets. Guess what? Rats and not small field rats. The rats from the sewage system- outright dirty vermin. Coal had been outside in broad daylight and caught one. So yes, he protected us. We had to buy traps because we weren't going to use poison. Anyways, there was a cesspool of a backyard some 6 houses away whose "sh*"t hole of a yard- a garbage dump would be prettier and safer too, was housing the rats. While we liked the idea of Coal protecting Anderson and us from them, Coal did get sick.

His white blood cell count went through the roof. A thousand bucks later and an overnight stay, and not at the "Ramada', Andrea and I knew not to let Coal kill anymore. Technically his heart was not supposed to be pushed to that extent.

So here is the low down on an animal that Andrea and I are so proud of. He could kill another animal in an instant. He could cuddle up and get a belly rub. He could be teased, chased and even attacked via Anderson with a hit we would not approve of and yet never hurt us. He would stay on the landing when we went to bed. When we had some night nurses and doulas to help out with Anderson in the first month, he would stay outside Anderson's room- watching if you will. He chased mice out of our house and most of all would be happy to lick your hands or face in a heartbeat.

It was sunny this afternoon and the sun shone on him. He got to be outside and he got a good brushing from his mom. He was given his favorite wet food and as he knew time was close- he chose to come in to die with his family, possibly his only family.

When I arrived back from the vets. The sun still shining, pushing Anderson on his swing and even though Toronto had no wind, low and behold, our chimes that rarely move unless a tsunami was to strike rang load and clear. His energy has passed over and I thank him for having joined us on this journey.

Mom and Anderson and dad love you Coal - our urban hunter.

Many thanks for the kind care from all the staff especially - Tessa, Terri, Kristina, Jen and Dr. Jackie who looked after Coal during so many emergency visits. Lastly a special thanks to Dr. Sandra Minors and Sara - Coal's cardio team.

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