My girlfriend Rebecca Barksdale took her family’s little eight-week-old kitten to the animal hospital recently. Little Snowball was limping, and nobody knew what was going on. The vet took a quick look and promised to deliver a thorough report that afternoon.
Since we anticipated a clean check-up, I volunteered to drive to the vet and pick the kitten up myself. However, when the vet asked me to follow her into a small conference room, I quickly realized we were in for something more challenging.
In the room, she shared that our precious little Snowball’s front right leg had been broken. The vet gave me three options:
1. Refer Snowball to an orthopedic surgeon, who would likely perform one surgery now and at least one additional surgery as the kitten grew into a full-sized cat. Investment: Around $3,000 per procedure for a total of $6,000. Most importantly, Snowball would likely experience ongoing levels of pain.
2. Amputate that right front leg, which would leave Snowball looking a bit unusual with only one front leg. The vet said doing the procedure at such a young age would allow Snowball to adjust quickly, learning how to hop around like a rabbit. She added that the kitten would probably astound us with how quickly he moved despite the loss of a leg. The investment was not as much as the first procedure, and Snowball would not experience any substantial pain following about 10 days of post-surgery recovery.
3. The third option was to put him down. Wasn’t even a consideration.
Since Rebecca was tied up in a meeting, I opted to go with the second choice, which has resulted in one of the great blessings and lessons of my life. Crazy as it sounds, Snowball has been rescuing me at the same time I thought I was helping to rescue him. He has forced me to slow down and enjoy some of the simpler things in life, like playing with a rambunctious kitten and valuing the time I spend with Rebecca.
Since Rebecca is swamped planning the upcoming 10th Annual Empowering Seniors Health & Lifestyle Expo on October 5 (an event that will have over 3,000 attendees), I have become Snowball’s temporary caregiver. The way he snuggles up to me and lays in my lap when I sit on the bed is as much a treat for me as it is for him.
As I am typing this column, Snowball is at my side, generously offering to help with my keyboarding skills. With only one front paw, he is a hunt-and-peck sort of kitten as he slkhsu;kwdg’d233345juklop (translation: walks across the keyboard). Pardon his limited typing skills.
That would be an impressive story with a nice ending on its own, but then a few evenings back something else happened. Rebecca learned about a cute little Morkie puppy, which means he’s half Yorkie and half Maltese. You can probably guess what happened, right? Rebecca is now the proud owner of an eight-week-old puppy – which I, again, am “temporarily” caring for. We named this energetic puppy “Doc” in honor of Rebecca’s late grandfather, Dr. Zack Bobo, one of Arlington’s earliest physicians.
I worked from home that Friday and introduced Snowball to our little Doc. Neither was impressed at the start. Snowball hissed and raised his back in defiance, and Doc peed on the floor. Not a promising start.
Sitting with the two of them in a guest bathroom, I saw them slowly acknowledge each other, then sniff each other, and finally start licking one another. I could see the beginnings of a friendship forming.
After an hour of them chasing after each other, it was naptime. Doc plopped down on my bed and Snowball laid his head on Doc. You’ve never seen a more precious sight.
We are working to “housebreak” Doc, and it’s quite a challenge. I keep him in a cage to sleep in at night and while I’m at work. He barked and whimpered when I’d leave him for sleep time. The next morning – my third with him – I was amazed to discover he wasn’t barking or whimpering.
I walked into his room to discover Snowball lying on the floor, just outside the cage, keeping Doc company. Snowball’s presence calmed Doc down.
As I shared the story with Rebecca, I commented on the rhetoric in politics today. “Wouldn’t life be better if people with opposing views could get along like these two animals who are, by nature, enemies? Why do politicians fight like cats and dogs while kittens and puppies get along?”
By the way, Snowball spends the evenings sleeping next to Doc on a regular basis. They truly are best friends. It’s fair to call them “brothers from different mothers” – one canine, the other feline.
Rebecca and I have learned and benefited from how Snowball – the greatest and bravest kitten EVER – and Doc have so unselfishly worked to bring joy to each other, and to us.
Maybe this world has a chance after all. I just don’t want to send Snowball to Washington!
John Fletcher is owner of Fletcher Consulting and Public Relations. www.thefletch.org