Doc by Karen Banda / Mommy

1995 was one of the worst years of my life. In June my husband and I separated. I was living alone in “our” apartment but also the owner of a house we’d bought but never moved into – not sure what direction to take or even if I wanted to go on. I couldn’t bear to be alone and spent little time at home. I slept on the sofa unable to sleep in “our” bed. That all changed in November. The day after Thanksgiving my sister was in a car accident. Sunday night after visiting her, my mother and I were walking toward my car when I heard what sounded like a baby’s cry. Through the darkness I saw a little black and white figure running toward me. I realized it was a kitten. It ran past everyone else in the parking lot straight to me, sat on my foot and stretched up crying. Not a meow, but “eh eh? eh eh?”

Unable to leave it, I scooped up the kitten and brought him home for what I hoped would be a brief stay until I found a place for him. I certainly didn’t want or need a cat – or so I thought.

I named him Doc just to have something to call him while he was with me. Soon I realized how appropriate that name was and that as far as Doc was concerned, he already was home. That night I settled onto the sofa to sleep. Doc established his spot, which never varied throughout our life together. He curled up on top of me and began to purr. For the first time in months I fell asleep quickly, smiling. A visit to the vet revealed Doc was at least 6 months old, though he was so tiny he looked weeks old, weighed just over two pounds, and had four deformed feet. Otherwise he seemed healthy. However, his diminutive size and deformities were outward signs of his actual physical condition.

Doc became my little shadow, following me around wherever I went in the apartment and hopping into my lap whenever I sat. I began looking forward to going home each day, eager to see that little face and hear his “eh eh?” greeting. My psyche needed healing. Doc took care of me and eased my pain. One month after his arrival, Doc was diagnosed with bladder stones and had a urethrostomy – the first of many physical problems and visits to the vet.

In March 1996 I decided to move into the house, and Doc and I took up residence. It would never have been possible a few months earlier, but with Doc there I wasn’t alone. The bond between us was strong. Doc was always there to comfort me with his “eh eh?” if I cried, jumping into my lap and rubbing his little head against my face. He saw me through my divorce and the loss of my job. Doc was my little guardian angel.

In October, another kitten I named Tigger joined us. Five years passed. I always slept soundly sandwiched between two warm, purring bodies. Because of Doc I continued to heal and became active in animal welfare. It wasn’t the life I’d planned, but with Doc and Tigger it was enjoyable and rewarding. The only issue was Doc’s continuing health problems.

In 2001 Doc was diagnosed as having a liver shunt. Blood vessels which would normally bring blood to the liver to filter out impurities bypassed it instead and deposited the impurities into his bladder, causing his infections and stones. Dr. Samson explained that surgery might not be possible, but if it were the procedure would be hard on his little body and there was no guarantee of success. The option was to continue monitoring him, frequent urinalyses and daily antibiotics to minimize infections. Through it all Doc retained the fighting spirit that kept him alive on the city streets until he rescued me.

In August I noticed the telltale signs that Doc’s problem returned. We made more visits to the vet for treatment and medications, but the symptoms persisted.

2002 proved to be no better for Doc, and I didn’t realize our time together would soon end. The last week of his too-brief life, in February, was horrible for him. Monday night I arrived home to find he’d vomited sometime during the day. At first I wasn’t alarmed, but then suddenly he began to retch violently. This continued through the night, and I brought him to the vet the next morning. X-rays revealed a large bladder stone. Surgery was scheduled for the following Monday morning. No blockages were found that might be the cause of the vomiting. He was given medication for gastritis and allowed to go home. The medication didn’t help, and the retching continued.

Those last few nights with Doc I once again slept on the living room sofa, this time to be near him and save him from climbing the stairs to bed. Just as he had that first night we were together on the sofa in my apartment Doc snuggled on top of me, curled up and purred. However his sleep was punctuated with bouts of retching and this time I slept fitfully. By Thursday he was back at the clinic for IV fluids and medication and stayed overnight. The next morning I learned he was blind. In tears I rushed to the clinic where I held him for hours, telling him how much I loved him and needed him and couldn’t bear to lose him. Saturday, when test results indicated no hope and he slipped into a coma, I held Doc close while Dr. Samson ended his suffering. An hour later I reluctantly placed him on the table and kissed Doc good-bye one last time.

Doc left me as suddenly and unexpectedly as he had come to me. But because he found me when I needed him most, this time I was strong enough to go on.


Love always my sweet petite,
Karen Banda