Last year on this date, I think I mentioned that I really didn't want to keep marking the occasion of Mike's passing here. But I've realized that to not make note of it would be wrong. Suzanne and I get a little morose this time of year and posting here helps me "get the poison out" a little. I'm going to mark the date a little differently this time.
By now, everyone knows how much Mike loved animals, particularly cats. That wasn't exclusive to him. The Wieringos, at least our immediate family, are all cat lovers. So, I think it's appropriate that, this week, Suzanne and I adopted a sweet little kitty that Suzanne has named Danger. Danger has had the most rough beginning to his life that anyone could imagine.
I'll start at the beginning.
After Toonces died a year ago, Suze and I knew we would eventually get another cat. There could be no replacing him but Charlie had never spent much time alone. Mike worked at home and when we brought him in to live with us, he had Toonces to hang out with. So the last year has been a little lonely for him. Suze and I joked that we needed to get him a "snack", meaning a little kitten to play with. We kept putting it off because we didn't know how he would react to a new cat in the house and it was still too soon after Toonces. We weren't ready.
Then the sister of one of my co-workers was coming back from a road trip and stopped at a diner in Charles City. She and her traveling companion noticed a cat in the parking lot, a cute little gray tabby, not much more than a kitten. Where his tail used to be was a raw, bloody stump. Something had torn his tail off. The people in the diner said the kitten had been hanging around the diner and they'd been feeding it. The two ladies left but couldn't get the kitten out of their heads. They realized they couldn't leave him there like that and went back and retrieved him.
Back in Richmond, they took the cat to their vet and, after several visits, lots of antibiotics, and a surgery to amputate the rest of his tail, he seemed to be on the mend. He also had ear mites, worms and back pain. But he never lost his playful good cheer.
My co-worker had heard me mention that we were thinking about getting a friend for Charlie and asked if we wanted to adopt the little guy. We went to meet him and Suze fell in love instantly. I wasn't so sure. He had so many health problems, I didn't know if we could give him the attention he needed with our work schedule. But my co-worker's sister said she'd keep him until his tail was healed up and he was so adorable. So we agreed to adopt him.
Last week, we brought him home. We continued with his antibiotic regimen and kept him in a large cage in the basement, away from Charlie. He must have been lonely down there but would perk right up when we would go down to spend time with him. And he was a little chow hound. His butt wasn't pretty but seemed to be healing.
Then, last Wednesday night, I came home late and Suze told me that Danger was acting like his wound was hurting him. I went down to look and he had blood running down his hind legs. I panicked and immediately ran him to the emergency vet in Carytown. They kept him for two days and nights and discovered that his infection had gotten much worse. He had an abscess near his tail. The doctor said it looked like whatever had taken his tail had bitten his hind quarters and that had started the infection. It was pretty bad.
They cleaned up his abscess and hit him with some heavy antibiotics. They said we needed to keep a close eye on him because his skin was really thin at this point and may tear. When we came to pick him up, he looked so pitiful with his arm bandaged where the I.V. was and the little blue E cone he's had on since the first day we met him. We took him home.
We cleared all the furniture out of one of our guest rooms and set up the cage in there where we would have quicker access to him and he'd have a nicer area to play in when we let him out for exercise. We started him on the antibiotics cycle we were given. It's pretty powerful and they warned us not to let it sit in his mouth or throat. Fortunately, the little guy eats like a garbage disposal and we just tuck the pill in his food and it's gone in seconds.
Yesterday morning, I went in to check on him and it seemed like the skin on his entire right buttock had sloughed off. There was nothing but raw meat. Again, we bundled him up and ran him to the vet. The same doctor was there and her face fell when she saw him. Our hearts sank. She took him back and about fifteen minutes later came back to tell us that this was a good thing. Yes, he had an open wound but, with proper care, it should heal nicely.
For the last 24 hours, he's been running around the guest room as if he was perfectly healthy. Suze and I are relieved beyond words. The emotional rollercoaster we've been on since bringing him home has left us drained. Little Danger still isn't in the clear but his outlook is much better than it was when my co-worker's sister found him in that parking lot. Suze and I have laughed and cried more in the last week than we have in some time. Charlie has parked himself outside the guest room and knows something is up. We're not going to introduce them until Danger is fully healed up and given a clean bill of health. We're crossing our fingers.
What's all this got to do with Mike? A couple of things.
This is the fifth anniversary of Mike's death and it's almost like the universe knew we needed something to take our minds off that fact and sent us little Danger. Danger's story is so similar to Charlie's and their personalities are so much alike. I know Mike would have instantly fallen in love with his new "nephew."
Second, little Danger's veterinary care has been pretty expensive, I'm not gonna lie. Frankly, without the buffer of insurance, it's actually higher than my own recent medical bills. It's been worth every penny but, under normal circumstances, we'd be a little panicky about it. We are most definitely not rich. But Mike left behind some money. After Mike died, lots of well-meaning folks had suggestions for what we should do with it. Go on a trip. Buy a new car. We've done none of that. Each year, we've siphoned off what the law says we have to and donated that either to an animal shelter or to the scholarship fund. This year, it's going to Danger. We've adopted a "money is no object" attitude toward his care.
He's an incredibly sweet, loving cat and he deserves every chance at life we can give him. It's what Mike would do. We know this because he did it himself. With Charlie. Now he's helping us do the same for Danger.
I would be remiss if I didn't end this with a reminder that there's still one day left to donate to the M-Day benefit for the Hero Initiative in honor of Mike and the great writer/editor Mark Gruenwald. If you can, please contribute.