Remembering Familiar Faces at Pet Camp

Masai was the world’s greatest cat for 17 years.  He ruled Pet Camp, living mostly in the lobby but occasionally passing through the dog campsites (partly for his own amusement and partly just to show the dogs that he could).

He greeted every client, both human and pet.  He climbed into purses, snuggled into dog beds and checked out the cat carriers.  He knew which dogs to play with and who to stay away from.  He spent the first 8 years of his life trying to explore the bigger world which inspired us to build Cat Safari’s greenhouse so cats like Masai could feel like they were out in the wild when they were actually safely inside.  When we had to put him to sleep in December 2013 he had already lived with kidney disease and been on subcutaneous fluids for 5 years.  Masai lived life to the fullest.  And, until the last days, was active, alert and running the show.

We were sad, but full of good memories.  Within a day Pet Camp employees were asking for a kitten.  Sure, we had Jersey, but she was more aloof.  We needed another mascot.  We needed another Masai.  Let’s wait, I counseled.  The right cat will appear in our lives.

On Memorial Day weekend a neighbor found a tiny kitten near Third Street.  Afraid for her safety, she brought her to us figuring we would know what to do.  We did.  She was tiny enough to be bottle fed, but she wanted none of that.  She went straight for the good stuff – kibble and water and canned food.

She was a torti with bits of black and orange so she needed a Giant name.  We wanted her to patrol the lobby, and she was crazy active so Hunter was the moniker that fit best.

In the beginning we kept her mostly in my office since she was too young to deal with a chaotic lobby.  Within weeks she had put holes in every piece of paper she could find and delighted in making paper blizzards.  So Hunter was released to the lobby where she learned to peer over the counter to spy on the dogs, made the front desk staff share their chairs with her, and attacked the printers.  In short, she had the bold, brave personality it takes to become an office cat who would rule over 150 dogs.

Her best friend was Oscar, our 15-pound terrier mix.  They played tag, wrestled and chased each other’s tails.  But when Hunter needed a nap her favorite spot was Splash’s big, warm, furry belly.

This weekend Hunter was lethargic and had a low temperature.  On Monday she walked away from her pal Oscar and slept on a computer instead, so I took her to the veterinarian.  During the abdominal exam it was clear she was not happy.  Hmmm, maybe a blockage.  Kittens put everything in their mouths.  Well, she hasn’t even been spayed yet so if we have to do abdominal surgery at least we can knock everything off at once.  I left her with the veterinarian to run some blood tests and take an x-ray.

An hour later I got the call from the clinic.  When your veterinarian asks where you are before she reports the findings, you know it’s bad.  Hunter’s kidneys were huge and her bloodwork was crazy abnormal. Her condition was probably genetic and definitely not survivable.  She was in excruciating pain so we put her to sleep.

Hunter only lived for 5 months and relished every minute of it.  Working with pets every day you have to embrace the circle of life.  Pets’ life spans are so much shorter than ours, you love them for about 15 years knowing you’ll have to let them go and celebrate their lives so that after they’re gone you can fall in love with the next dog or cat.  But Hunter’s time with us was so short I don’t have enough memories to celebrate, so I’m not ready to fall in love again. I just need some more time and then Pet Camp will get another office cat, someone who’s bold and brave with a take no prisoners attitude. Just like Masai.  And Hunter.

Thanks for reading.