By Roz Rogoff
Goodbye SmudgyUploaded: Mar 11, 2012
Two years after I moved to San Ramon I adopted a cat from Tri Valley Animal Rescue (TVAR). I named her Mame because she looked like a Maine Coon Cat, but not quite. I was told Mame was 1-1/2 years old.
She was a happy cat for about five years. Then she started moping around so I took her to the vet. Actually I wound up taking her to several local vets including a specialist in Walnut Creek. She was diagnosed with a heart problem and a cancerous tumor. The Walnut Creek vet said she had three months to live. He also said she was over ten years old; so she was much older when I adopted her than I was told.
The specialist vet was right unfortunately, and she died three months later, but I tried to make her as comfortable as I could for the short time she had left. It's always difficult to lose a pet, but at least I saw this coming.
After Mame died, Tom Cushing suggested I become a cat foster for TVAR. Cushing, whom you may know as the Raucous Caucus guy here on the Express, is also involved in animal rescue, especially Border Collies.
I followed up on Cushing's advice and contacted TVAR and offered to foster a cat. One of the TVAR people, I don't remember who, told me to go to the East County Animal Shelter (ECAS) in Dublin and take a pregnant mom. The TVAR person said the mom would do all of the work and the kittens would be easy to adopt. So I followed that suggestion and took home a black and white pregnant kitty from ECAS. I set up a place for her in my guest room and after two plus months she had a litter of seven kittens on October 25, 2005. Six were fine and one was stillborn.
Mommy Cat, as I called her now, took wonderful care of her kittens. My mommy however, was in trouble because Hurricane Wilma was crashing through Palm Beach, Fl. Mom had to leave her condominium until the storm passed and the damage could be repaired. She didn't want to put out my bother in Maine, so she came out here to stay with me.
I had to clean up the guest room and move Mommy Cat and her six two-week-old kittens into my bedroom. A neighbor loaned me a medium dog crate, in which I put the kittens and Mommy Cat. I would let Mommy Cat out at night so she could eat and use a litter box in the bathroom. Mammy Cat was a trooper and handled everything just right. I didn't handle my mommy too well and she returned to Florida as soon as the power was back on in her building.
When Mommy Cat's kittens were old enough to be spayed and neutered, I took them to adoption events. I decided I would keep Mommy Cat and one of her kittens. I picked one of the males with a funny spot on his face, and called him Smudge.
Mommy Cat taught Smudge to hunt mice and rats and all kinds of varmints. My house is along South San Ramon Creek and she would go down there and bring back snakes and lizards. One day she didn't come back. I looked for her and put up signs but I never knew what happened to her. I like to imagine she is living in the lap of luxury in a home nearby, but more likely a fox or snake got her down by the creek. I walked the creek and called for her, but I never found her or saw her body.
I still had Smudgy, and he learned to hunt. He was quite rambunctious at two years old. He would jump three feet into the air, clap his paws together on a fly and pop it into his mouth. It was quite a sight. I wish I had taken a video of him, but I didn't take any photos of him and now I won't be able to. He died of congestive heart failure Friday night.
He had changed in the last year. He gained a lot of weight, stopped hunting, craved a lot of attention, and even bit my hand in December. I took him to two local vets and they said it was fleas. Yes, he had picked up a lot of fleas outside, but I knew something else was wrong. He was trying to tell me he needed help, but I didn't know how serious it was.
Last Wednesday I noticed him sitting up and breathing heavily, like panting. I had given him some scraps from a hot sausage and thought it was from the sausage. I noticed him doing it again on Friday and thought I would take him in to Bishop Ranch on Saturday.
Around 9 pm he seemed worse so I called the Bishop Ranch Emergency line. When I told the receptionist he was breathing through is mouth, she said to bring him in right away. I put him into a large carrier, but he didn't go in straight. I think he might have been on his back. I put the carrier in the back seat of my car and headed off to Bishop Ranch at 9:24 pm.
Smudgy was crying in the back. I thought it was a good sign that he was well enough to be noisy. The crying got more intense and I figured the best thing was to get to vet as quickly as possible. I probably should have pulled over and checked him in the carrier, but that's one of those "if only I had done that, it would have turned out better," rationalizations.
I took San Ramon Valley Blvd, because I thought it would be faster than Alcosta. But I was stopped for two minutes at the light on Bollinger. There was hardly any traffic, but one car was stopped in front of me. Smudgy was crying louder and louder and then he stopped. I knew that was a bad sign but I couldn't get away from that light.
It took another two minutes after the light changed to get to Bishop Ranch. Smudge was lying very still on his back when I took the carrier out of the car.
When I brought him in the technician took him in the back immediately. She said they were all set up for him. I was taken into an exam room to wait. After a few minutes the technician came in and told me Smudge had stopped breathing and his heart had stopped. She asked if I wanted him resuscitated. I said "Please, yes." But it was too late. He died in my car while I was stuck at that light on Bollinger Canyon Road.
I can't blame the stop light. I should have brought him in sooner. He tried to tell me something was wrong. He was doing that open mouth breathing on Wednesday, but I didn't realize how serious it was. He had a heart murmur, which I knew about, but Dr. Kristi Peterson who was on call at Bishop Ranch when I brought him in, said his heart had thickened and wasn't working anymore. She said he might have lived a few months on medication, but there was no cure.
At least he shouldn't have suffered so much, especially in the car when I could tell he was in pain. I'm so sorry about that. He was the smartest cat I ever had. I hope he finds his Mommy Cat where ever he is now.