As a nurturing person how could I not love animals? But what I didn’t realize was how becoming a home health nurse would put me in many situations I would rather not see. Often times, I remember certain patients by the pets they have in their home. A nurse will ask me a question about someone and I’ll say “is she the one with the two cats and adorable Chihuahua?” It is then I remember exactly which patient we are referring to. I have animal control programmed into my phone and have notified them on a few occasions of animals in distress who have come across my path. There has been many times I have been forced to just turn my back and drive away leaving a litter of kittens or puppies to fend for themselves. This goes against everything I was ever taught or believe in, however the sad truth is we have an epidemic on our hands. On a daily basis I see dogs and cats roaming free on the streets. Who knows where or who they belong to….probably no one.
A responsible pet owner must have limitations and I have met mine with three dogs in the house already. My latest, Little Girl, who found me one afternoon, is a beautiful yellow lab mix. I was “positive” she belonged to someone. She was housebroken, crate trained and the perfect lady. Who would let such a well-behaved dog just go? The plan was to take her in, find her owners and get her back home. Flyers were posted, ads were placed and after two weeks of no response I had my answer. She belonged to no one. In the meantime, I spent my evenings listening to sad songs, crying, worrying over what would happen to this precious animal. I decided to take her to the vet and much to my disgust discovered she had heartworm! Please, if you have a dog be sure it is on heartworm prevention!!! If you don’t you are risking spending a lot of money or watching your dog die a terrible, slow death.
So, with great hesitation (and the support of my understanding husband) I decided to have Little Girl treated. This is a long (as in months), painful process for the dog but we made it through. After about 3 months and an amount of money I am embarrassed to admit, Little Girl made a full recovery. I promise I did make an effort to find Little Girl a home. I called every rescue league in the area, advertised her “to good home only.” All the shelters were full and the couple calls I did get for her were people who wanted to keep her as “an outside dog.” To me, there is no such thing. If your dog isn’t welcome inside your home why do you even have one? Dogs are social creatures that at one time lived in packs. It is totally unnatural to expect a dog to be happy tied to a dog house alone day and night, except for an occasional outing. I would not let this be Little Girl’s destiny. So, that was it, my husband finally agreed and she joined our family where she will live for the rest of her life.
Just the other day, I went to see a patient way down the bayou. It was a very run down house. As I stepped onto the porch and pushed aside the piece of plywood door, I saw a sight that still haunts me. There lays a tiny kitten covered in flies barely moving. I thought it was dead until I heard the tiniest of meows. When it noticed me it struggled to stand and managed to rub it’s frail body on my leg. I couldn’t touch it, yet, because I had a patient to see and who knows what kind of germs the kitty had. I took care of the patient and asked about the cat on their porch. It wasn’t theirs and they didn’t want it around. So many thoughts ran through my head. Am I crazy to take in yet another stray? Is my husband going to divorce me? I had other patients to see and I didn’t even have a cat carrier in my car so now was not the time for a rescue.
I drove back up the bayou with tears in my eyes. How can this be happening to hundreds of thousands of God’s creatures? It is everywhere and I cannot save them all. I saw my last two patients and went home to do my notes. As I entered the house Little Girl greeted me with her big brown eyes and wagging tail as if to say “look at me, I was worth it wasn’t I?” And with that I grabbed my carrier, drove 20 miles back down the bayou and plucked that kitten off the front porch without a word.
I wasn’t sure whether the kitty would make it through the night. Her eyes were literally glued shut with infection and she was skin and bones. My ever-forgiving husband (and closet animal activist) immediately set up the big kennel and the kitty was finally safe. I was relieved when she ate and began to show a little life. My original plan was to take her to the animal shelter where they informed me she would be promptly euthanized. I planned on taking her there first thing in the morning, after all, the kitty was suffering and even if I did get her to the vet I absolutely cannot keep her. As I said, responsible pet owners (even animal fanatics like me) must have limitations.
There was only one hope and I knew the chances were slim to none. In desperation, I emailed a woman by the name of Tracy at an aweome no-kill shelter called My Heart’s Desire. Was I ever surprised when she immediately emailed me back and said they would take the kitty into their shelter!! I scooped up that precious cat and let her know that it was going to be okay. The next day I took her to my vet who examined her and gave me medication for her eyes and two antibiotics. He estimated her to be about 8 weeks old. She weighs 1.7 pounds.
So, I guess the message to my fellow nurses is beware of home health if you are an animal lover. You will see things you do not want to see. I have been forced to let so many abandoned animals go and will continue to as long as I do home health because of the sheer number of them. But somehow this little kitten pulled on my heartstrings just hard enough and now she at least has a chance to be healthy and happy thanks to a wonderful rescue league.
I am calling her Cocoa because I found her in Cocodrie, LA. She looks like a Siamese to me. Two days of love and medicine and she is already a different cat. She will make someone the perfect friend. I pray she is adopted by someone who really cares and is as dedicated to her as any member of their family. Please wish her luck!