Saturday, March 31, 2012

One Final Story

I have put this posting off for long enough. Now it's time.

Hawk's life was a hard one. No one knows where it started. Maybe he was someone's cat, maybe he was a stray or feral, but my hope is someone loved him immensely before he came to me.  I know that not to be true however.  I guess the reality is that Hawk's life didn't start until Best Friends pulled him from FLOCK in 2007. What he lived thru there was no life.  He was starved, beaten, more than likely attacked by other cats. Hawk was left sick, hungry, thirsty and alone.  He was thin and sad. He was terrified... as were the other 900+ cats that were inside those hellish gates. But he never gave up.  I have no idea how he survived since so many others were lost in their time at FLOCK, but he pulled thru.  And one day Best Friends showed up. And although there were there to help, he had no use for humans.  Humans were cruel and hurtful, hateful creatures who made him bleed and withheld food and made him sad and angry.  

Hawk held those feelings in for years.  He never would need humans again.  These humans, the ones at Best Friends were kind and gentle and fed him, but he knew better than to trust.  So he lived in rafters high above the floor and watched. For years. He didn't make friends with the other cats that were scared like him. He didn't need anyone or anything. He knew he could count on himself and that was all he needed.  

He knew Mike.  Mike took care of him as best he could.  Mike always left food out and made sure the litter was clean.  Mike always talked up to Hawk, even when he didn't know if he was listening or not.  Mike was kind.  Yet Hawk was too hurt to come around.

Then one day, Mike came to get Hawk.  Hawk was scared and angry.  Mike had a net. Hawk thought Mike wanted to hurt him.  And then Hawk was suddenly in a kennel.  He knew this because he had been in one many times after FLOCK for trips to the vet to get 16 teeth removed due to gum infection and to have multiple treatments for ear mites and eye infections (one so severe that it more than likely left him blind).  Hawk didn't know what was happening to him so he shut down.  

Mike lifted the top of the kennel and reached his hand in. Hawk jumped and cowered in a corner.  But Mike didn't hurt him.  He pet him. Softly.  And Hawk sat frozen, allowing Mike's hands on his coat.  Mike's hands didn't hurt. It actually felt nice.  As Mike pet him he told Hawk that he was going away, on the final leg of his journey, to somewhere call 'home.' 

Hawk may not have known what home was... and maybe he did.  For certain he was scared.  

That day he was whisked away to the Kitty Motel.  After a night there, he was driven to the Las Vegas Airport and put on a plane bound for Wisconsin.  And that's where he met Eve.

Hawk didn't know who Eve was. He was scared, everything was new, everything smelled different, the scenery was new, the people were new... the feeling was new. 

And in a dark room on March 12, 2010, he was let out of his kennel.  There was carpet and soft things and it was warm.  Hawk bravely stepped out, slowly and very low, to look around at his new home:
And under that bed is where Hawk lived.  He slept well and ate when he pleased and at night Hawk sat in the window and talked to the moon.  Maybe he wondered where his rafters were or what happened to Mike or maybe he was saying thank you to the stars.  

Months later, his home changed.  This home was giant compared to his last and there was something else that was new.  Another cat.  She looked just like him. She was young and they called her Bandit.  Hawk wasn't sure about her.  He'd never had friends.  He didn't know what to do with a friend.  But she was kind and sat under the bed with him and licked the top of his head when she saw him. At night Bandit showed him toys and how to get on the counter top to eat butter and what plants were the tastiest.  Most importantly, Bandit showed Hawk how to play.  Hawk never knew what playing was, but the more he practiced, the better it was.  He and Bandit spent their nights, for almost a whole year, running and tackling each other and batting toys and stealing small items from the boy's toybox.  Hawk loved Bandit and Bandit loved him.  They never fought and they were always together.

Hawk was happy.  He ate and gained weight.  He explored at night.  He still talked to the moon when the humans slept and during the day he came out and peeked at the humans that he allowed to be around him.  Slowly within that year he began to come upstairs from the basement and sit while the humans watched TV or chatted with their company.  Sometimes Hawk would sneak behind them and jump on the counter, but most times he would sit perched at the top of the stairs and watch, nodding in and out of sleep.  

Towards the end of the next year, he and his human moved again.  He was back to his old home, the first one with the soft things and the bed.  He still had Bandit and he was still happy, but he was tired.  Hawk started to feel sick often and had trouble making it to the bathroom.  Bandit started taking care of him, very seldom would she leave his side.  He loved her and wanted to play with her, but he wanted to sleep.  He was always tired.  He was losing weight.  Hawk's previous life was starting to catch up to him.  Maybe he knew this and maybe he didn't, but it was around this time that he started trusting the woman who took care of him.  

She was kind and had soft hands, like Mike.  She called him Buddy Cat and told him he was a good boy and a brave boy everyday.  Hawk smelled her hands and then rubbed against them.  And he was happy.  She scratched his head every day.  She sat for hours in the bathroom with him and did her homework and read to him and pet him.  And Hawk purred.  Hawk liked her.  She made him as happy as he made her.  

One day, after being sick while the woman was at work, the woman brought Hawk to the vet.  She left him there.  Hawk was scared that she wouldn't come back.  He wanted her to come back. He wanted to go home again.  The people at the vet were kind and said nice things to Hawk and had soft hands, just like the woman, but he wanted to go home.  They took his blood and gave him x-rays.  Hawk overheard the doctor on the phone with the woman.  The doctor said something about lymphoma and his stomach and a biopsy and incurable.  

Later that day the woman came back. She smiled at Hawk and Hawk was happy.  Soon they were home.  Things were different.  His food had changed and Hawk had to be patient with the woman while she gave him medication twice a day.  At first Hawk hated the medication. It tasted gross and smelled like chicken and it was a liquid and Hawk made a point to drool most of it out.  After awhile, Hawk realized if he took his medication he could sit on the woman's lap and she would pet him.  It was so warm on the woman's lap and she had soft hands.  Sometimes she cried but most of the time she smiled at him and told him how proud she was of him. 

This went on for months. Medications twice a day, different food, and Hawk still felt sick.  He tried to make it to his litter box, but often could not.  The woman made him a giant soft bed in the bathroom with a large fleece blanket that Hawk loved.  He knew just how to claw at the blanket so he could lay under it.  He was thin and still losing weight.  He was cold and the blanket kept him warm.  

Every morning the woman would come in to give him his medication and shower and she always took time to pet him.  She would scratch his head to wake him and he would always stand up and stretch.  Sometimes he would fall over.  His hind legs were often stiff and weak.  But he knew the woman would cry when he would fall so Hawk always made sure to stand tall and be strong, often leaning on the wall for support.  And then the pets would come.  Hawk purred loudly as the woman scratched his head and behind his ears.  She always removed the hair from him and tried to get the mats free from his fur.  Hawk had stopped cleaning himself when he was in FLOCK.  It wasn't necessary to him and the mats made the kicks from the human's boots hurt less. Every morning the woman would pet him and every morning Hawk would stare up at her making his eyes as big as he could.  Hawk's eyes were grateful. Hawk loved the woman's soft hands and the fact that she gave him new soft blankets every morning and looked forward to the pets every day.  

One morning, Hawk felt different.  He took his medication without a fight. He felt tired and couldn't get to his feet when the woman pet him.  The woman cried and told him to get comfortable.   The woman picked him up and changed his blankets.  Hawk didn't mind.  He had let the woman pick him up before.  Her arms were soft and she always held him close.  Still he curled into a ball, but he was always comfortable. 

 Today felt different though.  Hawk laid and purred as the woman pet him and cried.  The woman told him that she loved him very very much.  Although Hawk couldn't stand to make the woman not cry, he looked up at her.  She smiled and Hawk sighed.  Hawk loved her as much as she loved him.  

The woman left for work that day.  It was a lovely day and the woman had left the window open a crack for fresh air.   Hawk loved fresh air.  Sometimes he would hop to the counter and up into the window to smell the smells and watch the birds pull worms in the yard.  

Hawk decided that he would do just that.  The air smelled so good and he could hear the chips and songs of the birds.  In the window Hawk sat; the December breeze on his face, the sounds of outside ringing in his ears.  And as he smelled, everything went black. 

Hours later the woman came home.  Excited to see Hawk, she ran upstairs to the bathroom.  She opened the door and stopped.  Falling to her knees, the woman began to cry uncontrollably.  There Hawk lay, cold and stiff beneath the window.  The woman didn't know what to do. She couldn't think, only that this wasn't real, it wasn't fair, this couldn't be happening. It hadn't been but almost two years, he was sick but she was treating him and he was happy, he was just beginning to come around.  This wasn't right, it wasn't true, he wasn't dead. 

Later that evening, the woman took Hawk to the animal hospital.  The nurses showed her to a room and spoke with her about what would happen.  Then they left.  The woman stood next to the counter, sobbing and petting Hawk.  Maybe Hawk could see her as she cried and told him how sorry she was for not being there. Maybe he heard her tell him a thousand times over how much she loved him and how proud she was of him for being so brave every day and trying so hard.  Maybe he imagined how it felt when she kissed him over and over.  

Hawk's journey was over.  

When I brought Hawk home I knew that there would be struggles.  Medically he would have problems.  Emotionally he would take awhile to come around.  In knowing all of that, I tried my best to be patient and go at his speed.  I knew that years could pass before he let me touch him.  I thought it would be years I would get to spend with him.  But that turned out not to be true.  I was only given a year and ten months with Hawk.  I say only because it was too soon for him to go, but in reality, in that year and ten months, he made more progress with his humans than I had ever expected he would.  He allowed himself to trust.  He allowed those around him to be kind to him.  He expected nothing from us, but gave us everything he could.  He was incredibly brave.  He was kind, tolerant, patient, and most importantly he was happy and loved.

I've "met" a number of people throughout this journey.   People like Don Amiet, Linda Borcher and Martha Hutchinson.  People like Mike and Lynn Dolan from Best Friends.  The kind folks from Cloquet that drove down to do my pre-adoption home inspection and not to mention all of you who follow and comment on this blog.  Hawk had so many people pulling for him.  He had a team of people that adored him and were so happy that he found his forever home.  I want to say thank you to all of you.  You have been so kind and generous throughout this journey.  I told Hawk everyday how much you all loved him. 

It's taken me almost five months to write this blog entry.  I couldn't find the words and I didn't want to admit that it was true and that he was gone, but it's time. 

I had Hawk cremated and his ashes sit on my desk in an oak box with a photo of him on the top.  The Superior Animal hospital framed an inking of his paw print for me and from that frame hangs his collar.  He will always be close and that gives me some comfort.  

I try not to be angry about FLOCK or the judicial system that failed to prosecute those responsible for what they did to those 900+ cats, but I find it difficult.  Hawk wasn't wrong in believing that humans can be nasty, hurtful creatures, but  I did my damndest to change his mind about at least one.  And towards the end, I believe that he knew that there was such a thing as kindness, love and respect.  

To those that allowed and propagated what went on at FLOCK, I hold nothing but disdain for you.  Your cruelty and lack of compassion (or any emotion other than hate) lead to the deaths of at least 700 cats, mine being one.  I hope that your actions stay with you for the rest of your life.  

To the judicial system that failed these animals, I am ashamed.  Those responsible need  to be held accountable for their actions and I will not stop campaigning until it is so. 

To Best Friends and their amazing staff, I am forever grateful for your intervention in the FLOCK situation, the creation of The Great Kitty Rescue (here and here) that saved the lives of so many cats.  

To Lynn Dolan, thank you for always being there for me with questions and for crying with me at the beginning and end of this journey.  

To Mike, please know that Hawk loved you very much.  I still remember you calling as I was on my way to the airport to pick him up (damn those timezone differences).

To Linda, Martha, and Don, you guys are amazing.  You never stopped checking in, you always had kind and supportive words and you offered above and beyond when Hawk fell ill.   Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

And finally, to Hawk. I will miss you always and  I will love you forever.  I hope you're playing wherever you are and I hope you're happy.  

In closing, this blog has come to its zenith.  March 12, 2012 would have been two years that Hawk was brought to his forever home.  Although it still hurts that he isn't here, I am honored to have given him a chance to be the cat he was always meant to be.  

This photo was taken the morning that Hawk died.  It is the last photo that I will post on this blog.