A few weeks before Christmas Melissa and I took Carter to see "Santa's reindeer" at Cheekwood, a Nashville botanical gardens that runs some excellent programs for children throughout the year. Carter was enthralled with the reindeer....they were named Jingle and Jolly.....and for days afterward all we heard about was how neat it was to see them and to sit in Santa's sleigh. When you are three years old doing these sorts of things with mom and dad is a VERY big deal. :)
Fast forward to the week before Christmas. Melissa and I had been talking about introducing some pets into our home for some time. We decided that Carter wasn't yet mature enough to handle a dog but for various reasons we thought a cat might be appropriate. One of Melissa's friends heads up a well run cat rescue in Nashville and she mentioned that there were two kittens being fostered at a rural home not far from the farm that were available for adoption immediately. Melissa latched onto this arrangement full on from the start. She set up an appointment to view the cats and within minutes of seeing them they were on their way home with us. Interestingly one of the cats was already named Jingle; when we asked Carter for suggestions regarding the other one's name it should come as no surprise that he immediately suggested the name Jolly.
If one considers life from the viewpoint of an abandoned pet coming home with us would be the animal equivalent of winning the Powerball lottery. You're going to get top notch healthcare, every bit of preventative medicine we can throw at you, excellent feed, companionship when you want it or need it and as much environmental stimulation as it's humanly possible to provide. Jingle and Jolly took to this arrangement immediately. Within hours of their arrival they were running and playing through the house as though they'd lived here forever.
Jolly took to his new home particularly well. Jingle was justifiably nervous of Carter...every three year old on earth is loud and makes sudden quick movements.....and he tended to make himself scarce whenever Carter was around. Not Jolly. Every day he was waiting by the door for Carter and I when we came home from his pre-school and he spent the entirety of his waking hours loudly purring while playing and interacting with Carter and with me. His purr never shut off. If Jolly was awake and not running full tilt he was purring. I'm not at all a cat person but it only took a couple of days for Jolly to win me over. Playing with Carter or sitting in my lap was the highlight of his life. I have never in my life seen a happier or more aptly named cat than Jolly.
About a week ago we noticed that Jolly was off his feed and appeared to be losing a bit of weight. We called the vet immediately and set up an appointment the following day for him and his brother Jingle. The vet diagnosed a heavy load of roundworms in Jolly....not an uncommon occurance in feral cats and kittens. This diagnosis made us all feel better. We started a three day course of wormer and brought the cats home.
In the days following Jolly acted exactly as you suspect a cat with a heavy worm load might act. He was normal most of the time but there were periods of decreasing length where he clearly didn't feel good. We figured it was a combination of the wormer and the internal worm die off and we were pleased that he seemed to be feeling markedly better as time went on. Yesterday was a good day. His energy level appeared to be high and he was full of himself from morning through mid afternoon. He curled up on my lap with his brother and we all had a short nap in the early afternoon. When I got up to feed horses he and his brother changed laps and continued alternately resting and playing on and around Melissa.
Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from my crying wife just as I was finishing up chores at around four pm. She said that Jolly had been lying in her lap when he had a massive convulsion and fell to the floor so quickly that she had no time to react and stop him. By the time I got to the house....no more than thirty seconds after I hung up the phone.....Jolly was lying rigid on the floor and gasping for breath. I told Melissa that he was dying in front of us and that I would go get a gun to hasten his passing if she thought I should. She made the valid point that he may well be having a seizure and that seizures were treatable so we gently loaded him in the car and she rushed to the vet. Sadly I was right in my diagnosis and he died while enroute to the vet.
I've farmed all my adult life and I've been in the meat business for a good portion of it. I've seen....and frankly caused and/or participated in....enough death to have long ago realized that life isn't often fair. But it's always bothered me, and still does bother me, when well cared for young animals of any sort die for seemingly no reason. As such we asked the vet to do a necropsy. She called back this morning with the probable diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis. If that's correct, and I suspect it may be, we can take some comfort in the fact that there was literally nothing to be done for Jolly. Simply put, he was unlucky.
I'm sad for Carter and I'm sad for Melissa and for me but mostly I'm sad for Jolly. He should've had better than he got and he never got a chance at it. Most of his short life quite frankly sucked...abandoned, fostered, finally adopted into a loving home and then died in pain, though thankfully fairly quickly, a few weeks later. In spite of his circumstances he was.....Jolly.....all the time and right up to the very end. His contented purring filled our house right up to the second he had the seizure that killed him. This is his story. He touched this tough old farmer in ways few animals ever have, and the least I can do is share it and never forget him. RIP Jolly.
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