One of the hardest things to leave behind when we moved to the island was our family and the knowledge that we would have limited contact with them. Our children were grown but the grandchildren were there to be enjoyed and spoiled. So it was with some trepidation that we left our loved ones behind. Over time, we have made trips back to the States to see family and catch up; reacquaint ourselves and enjoy them, but it also produced sadness knowing how much we missed in the development of our grandchildren and our awareness in sharing the future events of our children.
We acquired many pets on the island; some have passed on to our great dismay and sadness while others have been added over time. These became our “children.”
Originally, while building our home a litter of puppies was born on our property. We chose to keep our distance from them because, at the time, we had no way of sheltering and feeding or caring for them. But, when one small puppy died a few days after its death due to starvation, we took the remaining pups under our wing to look after as best we could. I named them Winken, Blinken, Nod and Mr. Stubbs. Each dog had its different personality and look. While the 3 females were rather attractive puppies, Mr. Stubbs was a short, squatty dog and everything on him looked out of place! But we loved them all and took care of them. During the first year, Blinken disappeared. We came back to the property each day to continue building and found her missing. Mr. Stubbs disappeared a short while after that and we have no idea what happened to either dog. Winken lived on to be about 10 years old and succumbed to brown tick disease, a terrible death and Nod (lovingly called “Fatty”) is still with us and is now approaching her 12th year.
Two weeks ago, Nod was out in the back yard rambling up the back hill. She has some trouble with her hip and her weight and very seldom leaves the porch except for those instances when all the other dogs spot something and run off in a frenzy of barks. Nod and I were out back and I returned to the house. While at the kitchen window a few minutes later, I noticed her behavior had become rather strange. She was by the clothesline pole shaking each front paw like it had something on the bottom of it. I called to her, she wagged her tail but did not come. Instead she began walking backwards. I called to my husband and asked him to check Nod to see what was wrong. He went out and called to her but she continued her odd behavior of walking backwards. Mike then picked her up and brought her in the house. By this time her back leg was shaking and she was clearly in distress; confused and frightened. She was having trouble controlling her hind legs and walking without bumping into things. She finally collapsed and was panting.
We went to her and took turns consoling her and trying to keep her calm. She seemed anxious and apparently wanted to be able to walk, but at each try she fell down. We finally got her to stay in one spot and about 2 hours later she managed to walk to the water bowl and then laid down next to a cabinet with her head resting on the side. We continued to watch her, at a loss for what to do. She laid in this position for another 1 ½ hours and when we went to bed, Mike carried her into the bedroom to lay beside our bed. She was no longer panting or shaking and spent the night by our bedside. During the whole ordeal, Nod's tail continued to work!!
In the morning she was improved albeit a little shaky. We have no idea what happened and think maybe she had a slight stroke. She seems to be her old self now and shows no signs of permanent damage by whatever struck her down.
This past week, on Tuesday, we heard our 3 dogs out in back under a tree barking. I went out and saw a black cat up in the tree meowing. I managed to put all the dogs on the porch and lock them there and returned to see the cat still up in the tree. Later in the morning, Mike asked me where the cat was and when I went out, he was no longer in the tree. I started calling “Kitty, Kitty” (seems to be the international way of calling a cat) and I heard a “meow.” There on the ground by a fence was the cat. I picked him up and brought him in the house.
We have two other cats, both born on our property, who, for some reason, have a very low and muted purr. I thought maybe it was because they did not want to make their presence known to potential enemies and you had to place your hand on their throat to feel the purring. Well, this cat had a motor that would not quit and a purr that could be heard 5-6 feet away. Upon further checking we noted a 2” patch of skin on his right side that had been torn off quite recently and it was evident that when fully healed no fur would grow there. Also, the right back heel had a 1” swath of skin peeled off. Evidentially this cat had been caught by something or someone and only got a way leaving parts of his skin behind. I also noticed that he was missing half of his upper lip and had scarring on the bottom one. Either he was born this way or had lost that too in a struggle. It was an old wound and had completely healed over. This poor cat, who I figured was about 1 year old, had been through a lot of trauma in his lifetime.
We decided to keep the cat and he seemed quite happy to stay. He was famished and ate well. He followed me everywhere like a small puppy and was underfoot in the kitchen. Because the dogs had not been introduced, we kept him in the house and I would carry him down to the beach during the day to see if he would relieve himself. I let him out at night in the back since the dogs were penned on the porch and would check about 30 minutes later and let him back in.
On Thursday morning “Spook” (which is what I decided to name him) woke us up with loud purring and walking over our heads to see if we were awake. The cat and I were in love! We got up and got ready to go to town and since one dog was in the house and the others sleeping off a late night return to the house the evening before, I let the cat out on the back step as we have one bird out of a cage in the house. She sometimes falls down and I did not want the cat attacking the bird.
We went to town and did our shopping and 2 houors later returned home. I immediately headed for the back step but no cat. I called “Kitty, Kitty” and no answer. My worker came up and said the dogs had seen the cat and chased it and he put it downstairs in the bodega to keep it out of harms way.
We searched and searched the bodega before we found the cat hiding under a table. I brought him up and could tell he was in trauma. He was dirty and I bathed him in the sink. When you can bathe a cat without much struggle, you know something is wrong! I wrapped him in a towel and spent most of the day with him. We thought it was just the trauma of getting chased by the dogs but when he threw up a total of 7 times that day, we then thought maybe he had gotten into something poisonous. By bedtime the cat was really listless and had not drunk any water all day and was weak. We gave it water every half hour with a syringe and I noticed that the roof of his mouth was white. Finally, I put him in a pet kennel on a big, fluffy towel. I checked on him during the night and he remained there apparently sleeping.
Friday morning he managed to take a few drinks of water from his bowl (I carried him to it) but he was very, very weak. I laid down with him to keep him warm and told my husband we should take him to Susan’s on the other side of the island as maybe he was just dehydrated. We prepared to leave and then I noted that the cat seemed to be worse. His breathing was coming in jerks and as my husband went about getting ready to get the boat, the cat died in my arms.
Even after only 2+ days of having this beautiful animal, I was heart broken. He and I had bonded so quickly and now he was gone. I’ve lost my lovely bird, my sweet dog and now this cat who gave his love to me.
We will bury him in our little pet cemetery and miss him as much as any other pet I’ve had. It is truly difficult to have pets on this island for there is no one you can turn to for aid. Susan has done so much to help animals and does whatever she can do but she is on the other side and her knowledge is limited. We found out later that the dogs had caught the cat and roughed it up. I did find a small puncture wound on his back leg and don’t know if they broke something which may have punctured his lung or what damage was done, or, if just the trauma caused his death. I do know this, I will miss his loud purr and his attention and love.