A day that should’ve been full of happiness turned into one of the most exhausting and emotionally draining days of my life. I awoke at 6.00am to bring my father to work. He hasn’t driven himself since he was involved in accident in late 2010, resulting in a broken leg and four months recovery. Then my nephew was dropped down to me at 8.00am and I brought him to school for 8.45am, insisting I would have a surprise for him when he got home. My sister asked me not to tell him about Spotty until we knew he was in the clear, but it was the only way I could get his coat on.
I called the veterinary surgery Spotty was said to have been in when I got home and learned he had been x-rayed and sent to the Dublin Society of Protection for Cruelty against Animals (DSPCA). There was no use calling them, seeing as their low funds had meant a lot of redundancies, including the phone staff. I grabbed my [broken] cat carrier and drove straight up, bringing a picture with me incase they needed proof he was mine.
Four months earlier…
Spotty was practically thrown at me by my gypsy neighbours who got bored of him after just two hours of owning him (no joke!). I wanted to keep him, but after a lot of begging and tears, I was soon brought to earth about the negative impact a young kitten would have on my cat of fifteen. We’ve had Duchess since I was little and now she has chronic renal failure. I have read in many articles that a young cat could speed up the dying process for such an old cat, or possibly drive them away. I did try and bring Spotty to the shelter but due to tight funding, they could only take cats that were strays.
My sister kindly offered to mind him until a suitable home was found, but I knew that if she was even a fraction of the animal lover that I am, she would keep him. And she did. Spotty was christened to this adorable little tabby and white ball of fluff by my four-year-old nephew. It was only after he was given this name that we realised his tummy was speckled with grey. Not such an unusual name for him after all!
My own pets never received their vaccinations or a microchip, despite having had at least two of them do a disappearing act in the past. It never did them any harm. It only bit us in the ass when we tried to put them in pet boarding while we were away. Therefore my sister wanted to do things by the book. I escorted her to the local mobile veterinary clinic where Spotty received his first injections, had his gender confirmed and given an estimate of how old he was. Just six weeks. I made an appointment for his second injections with the same clinic, only this time at their headquarters.
I had been volunteering for this particular veterinary clinic for some time now and grown fond of one of the vets named Aisling*. She’s so bubbly and enthusiastic; it’s hard to worry about your pets when they’re in her hands. She administered Spotty’s second injection and urged me to try to keep him indoors until he was neutered. I figured this would be no problem seeing as he lived with my sister, her husband and their son in an apartment and he never seemed to want to leave it. This didn’t last.
January is a big month for my sister: it’s her birthday month and also the anniversary of her relationship (not marriage) with her husband. We juggled between the option of bringing Spotty over or simply going up to feed him when needed (we live nearby). Unfortunately this decision was never made.
On the Saturday my sister and her husband were due to leave, I learned that Spotty had been missing since the Thursday. I had to endure a nine-hour shift worrying about where he might be. I tried to reassure myself that both my cats had gone walkies and returned in the end. My boyfriend came over that night and we conducted a stakeout of the apartment after finding the food bowl left outside the door empty, just twenty minutes after my mother had filled it. Someone was eating it. It had to be Spotty. Sadly our efforts were fruitless.
I went to the apartment every day, mostly when my sister and her husband were in work. I walked around the area listening out for his bell. My mother and my niece had made Missing posters and we had hung six up around the estate. One blew away in less than a few hours; the rest became rain damaged in spite of the polly-pockets we placed them in. We combed websites and posted our own ads but we didn’t receive one phone call. To be honest, part of me was relieved at this because I’ve known people to receive prank phone calls as a result of their efforts in finding their pets. My neighbour was given an address to come and collect her missing cat only to find that the occupants had no idea what she was talking about. She turned around and found a gang of youths sniggering at her.
My mother and I soon uncovered the culprit who was eating the food left out by my sister: a black and white cat that had recently given birth. Sometimes she was seen with a collar but it’s obvious her owners don’t particularly care about her.
When it reached a week and with still no sign of Spotty, I was beginning to lose hope. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I lost all thoughts of ever finding him. I had just been shopping with one of my friends and I decided to drop in to see my grandmother on my way home. My mother upset me first by speaking these exact words to my grandmother, my aunt and my cousin: ‘Spotty never came back’. The use of the word ‘never’ got to me the most as if the case was closed. My grandmother asked how long he was gone before dealing me the next blow: ‘he’ll never come back’. I spent the next twenty-five to thirty minutes in silence, painfully accepting that Spotty was indeed gone. All hope was lost and I felt I couldn’t dwell on it any longer.
Then my mother’s phone rang. It was my sister. She had scanned the websites again and found an ad describing Spotty to a tee, even the area she lives in. I got so excited I called the woman who had posted the ad, Margaret. She worked for a local charity called the Cat and Dog Protection Association. The ad omitted a picture and a description of his collar purposely in order for me to prove I was the cat’s genuine owner. I described Spotty and his collar and to my astonishment it was him!
My joy was short-lived when I learned he had had a bang of a car, or so it was presumed. He had a suspected broken pelvis and was moved to a veterinary surgery not far from my own. I was given their number and dozens of reassurances that I was bringing Spotty home. I gladly passed my number on to the person who found him, who promptly rang me. A young girl, Sally, had come across him on her way home from work the same night my sister and her husband went away. She had heard mewing coming from a bush near the main road and took him home. We both knew that road well and cats could easily get clipped running across it. I took her number so I could update her on his progress and arrange a meeting to thank her in person. I was so happy that I actually trembled. Not a safe condition to drive home in and I wound up clipping a parked car!
At the shelter…
A man slid in ahead of me with a beautiful German shepherd who he had found wandering near a railway station, living off scraps. Once he was brought to another room to sort out paper work, I was dealt with.
‘Hi, I was told my cat was brought in here with a broken leg,’ I explained,
‘Did you get a call from us?’ the receptionist asked me.
In a mouthful and without taking a breath I explained Spotty’s adventures as they had been explained to me the previous night. Both mine and Spotty’s details were taken and I was left waiting in the coffee shop until he was brought out. This was not a speedy process. When I was eventually seen to again, I had to give details for his microchip, which I had no say in receiving. This only annoyed me because they presumed I was his owner and put my name onto it. I should have spoken up but I was just so hell-bent on getting him back that I wanted to hurry. I was given his x-rays and details of his injuries. The shelter did not fix his leg, much to my sister’s fury, but I sympathised with their lack of money.
Next was to the vet. I rang my local vet and explained the situation. They were sympathetic and in spite of having no orthopaedic surgeon in attendance that day, they insisted I come down so they could have a look at the x-ray and decide the best course of action.
My sister got off early from work so she could join me and we brought along my nephew, always forgetting how easily bored he becomes in waiting rooms. We waited an hour on standby. You can imagine our relief when we were told his injuries weren’t as serious as we first thought. His pelvis was fractured, yeah, but it would heal with rest. As for his leg, it was broken but it could be fixed with a simply surgery that was scheduled for us just six days later. In the meantime we have been given medication for his pain and a laxative to ease the pressure on his pelvis.
Looking back I can see why people tried to prepare me for the worst. Cats and dogs go missing every day and it doesn’t always end up this way. Of course I would’ve loved for him to come back in one piece but he’s alive and that’s the main thing. We were told to check his urine for blood but so far there is no indication of any other problems than his broken leg. In just two days I’ll be admitting him for his surgery and we can all move on, with Spotty still in our lives.