The True Cost of Unconditional Love
Fourteen years ago, a small cat and her two kittens started coming into our yard to play. We enjoyed watching them and spent a few weeks inching closer and closer to them, trying to gain their trust. The little mother, however, was having none of it, and would tell the kittens to scurry back under the fence to safety any time we came near. We didn’t give up. We started putting food out for them and shortly thereafter discovered that one of the kittens had a mind of his own. Despite his mother’s hissing and growling, he pranced right past her and came up to my husband, purring loudly. The rest, as they say, is history.
Miss Shaina and her two boys, Shadow and Lil Scamp came to live with us in the house soon after. The weather channel had been warning about a storm moving up the coast and we were worried that their shelter, a woodchuck hole in our neighbor’s yard, would not withstand the inevitable rainfall. We set up a cage and covered it with towels to hide our approach. We set a bowl of tuna inside and waited. As soon as the three were in the cage, we ran up to it and shut the door. Lil Scamp and Miss Shaina continued to eat, if I recall, but Shadow clung to the side of the cage hissing and spitting the entire trip into the house. (The storm completely destroyed the den they had been living in.)
We isolated them from our other cats and set them up in a room we had kitty-proofed. Shadow quickly learned to trust us and the whole family has been a joy to have in our home.
Lil Scamp was diagnosed with diabetes around the age of five. He has needed insulin shots twice daily ever since. Anyone who has ever tried to manage feline diabetes knows it is not an easy road. They act lethargic if they have too much insulin, and they act lethargic if they don’t get enough. Glucose reads via a needle stick in the ear has become a common event in our house, and we have gotten to be pretty well-trained where his medical needs are concerned.
About seven years ago, his glucose levels were jumping all over the place and he ended up in ICU at the veterinary hospital. We almost lost him that week. He eventually came home with a new kind of insulin, and a handful of other medications that he would need daily.
He was a trooper. Every day at 7am and 7pm we gave him his medicines. If we were late, he would come find us. He tolerated weekends when we had to stick his ears every two hours to get a glucose curve, purring despite the bruised ears. He even allowed us to medicated him singlehandedly. No other cat in our household has done that – it usually takes one person to hold them down and another to pop the pills in their mouths.
He assisted us over the years in training new kittens who came into our house. He would show them how to keep their coats beautiful and when no means no. He would be their napping partner or their trampoline depending on the kitten’s mood. He taught them to bunny hop over the fern in the living room and explained the benefits of catnip.
He never stopped purring, a motor that had an upper register that would kick in when he was really happy. He had extra toes so he always looked like he was wearing his daddy’s shoes. He had a tri-colored nose and a marshmallow belly and he was nothing but pure love and trust from the moment we saw him.
We lost Lil Scamp on Saturday. His disease finally wore his little body out and we had to make the hardest decision that pet
owners staff parents ever have to make. Both my husband and I were devastated. Still are.
Looking back on the last 14 years, his care had a high price tag – all the vet bills, the insulin, syringes, glucose test strips, prescription food, and so on. But even knowing now what we were in for, I wouldn’t have made a different decision all those 14 years ago. We never considered looking for another home for this happy little kitten family and we are so much richer for having had Lil Scamp and his mom and brother in our lives all this time.
Some will read this and focus on the dollars spent and think that is the “cost” I am referring to in the title. But anyone who has been fortunate in their lives to be chosen by an animal like we were – they will understand that the cost is the heartbreak at the end. Making the final decision for a beloved pet is the most difficult thing you will do as a pet mom or dad. It is the hardest thing, but also the last gift for your pet. I believe they are often ready long before we are; they are merely waiting for us to be able to wrap our minds around letting them go.
We miss him and I know the other cats miss him, too. There is a Scampy-shaped hole in our hearts. We will never forget Lil Scamp and the love he gave to us.