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Raspy feline adopted before a Christmas Eve euthanasia

Cottonwood Journal Extra of Cottonwood, Arizona

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Paws Around Town

It was a cold winter evening back east. At the time, I managed an animal shelter and we were just about to close on Christmas Eve. All the staff were talking about their plans, grabbing their jackets and getting ready to leave for the evening when we saw headlights coming down our snowy drive.

I stepped outside to see an upset women. She jumped out of her vehicle and handed me a box, telling me this sick feral cat was running around the church property. 1 assured her we would take care of the cat and off she went.

As I walked back in the shelter, the staff — already bundled up to hit the road — all stared at me. I could tell they all wanted to leave. I slowly opened the box and there lay a sick old tomcat. His yellow fur was dull, no facial fur was left due to his eyes and nose running. Most of the staff agreed to euthanize him. I told them I would take him to isolation and determine what I was going to do. I wished them all a Merry Christmas and off I went into the isolation room.

As I got him out of the box, he let out a raspy meow. I quickly thought, "Okay, this boy is not feral." He let me handle him and enjoyed being taken care of. Since he was old and sick he really wasn't adoptable and would be euthanized. I looked at this old guy and we stared quietly at each other. It was Christmas Eve. I wrapped him in a blanket and loaded him in my car.. I decided to be his advocate and our master bathroom became his home for the next several weeks. I was determined to call him Angel as I felt he was like a Christmas angel. That was short-lived when I brought him home and my husband and two boys said that was a girl's name. This old tomcat quickly became known to us as Rusty.

After some vet care, Rusty was a good old cat. He was 14 years of age, missing most of his teeth and half of his ear had been chewed off, my family thought from one of his battles. He was the toughest cat I ever met. He was like Garfield on steroids. I was greeted by him at the top of our stairs everyday with his raspy meow. He wouldn't move for anyone. Even the dogs would walk around him. He had rapidly claimed the upstairs of the house as his domain. He never tried to get out of the house. You could leave the front door wide open and he would look at you like, "So?" He knew he had it made. I guess he had enough of the outdoor life.

I could see in this boy's eyes he had been around the block a time or two. When it was time for bed, he would run up the stairs meowing. Rusty would jump in bed first and actually go under the covers, nudge my arm and would want me to put my arm around him. This was a nightly ritual. I had never seen a cat like this before. He had many knowledgeable years behind him and taught me a thing or two.

Senior pets have so much to offer. Many times, they require less training. Rusty adapted to getting neutered and being an indoor cat quickly. He became the family's conversation piece. Whenever we had family events, our traveling family members would ask where that really old cat was, is he still around? Everyone got a kick out of his personality. Rusty's fur became beautiful and all his hair came back in with the right care. Okay, so he was still missing half an ear and his teeth, but he didn't care — he was given a chance. A chance for a family to love him.

Instead of being out in the cold snow, he was in a warm bathroom that Christmas Eve. By the following year, he had graduated to full freedom of the house with his own private food bowl. Whenever he wanted more food, he would meow by his bowl. Rusty even groaned with every bite of food in pure excitement.

After a few years, Rusty's heart started giving out. We had him on medicine until I knew he was living more for me than he was himself. After he left this world, I drove home silently and thought about the first time I had the pleasure of meeting him.

The decision I made that night changed his life. We have the power to embrace senior animals with the dignity they deserve — the story their eyes tell and the love they have left to give. There are many senior animals that need homes. Think about them, they need you. And as I learned, maybe we need them, too.

Paws Around Town was written this week by Lisa Diacik, Camp Verde Animal Control and volunteer at Cottonwood's Adopt for Life Center for Animals.

Copyright 2014 Cottonwood Journal Extra, Cottonwood, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 15, 2014

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