A Retreat – and Hospice – for Older Animals…

I have no business visiting the pet section at PetSmart as it invariably breaks my heart, and occasionally results in my bringing an extra cat home. Such was the case about two weeks ago when I ventured into the glassed in area at the Rohnert Park store and saw “Sylvie,” an 11-year-old feline who was sleeping soundly all the way in the back of her cage. This wasn’t the first time I saw her – I had seen her every Saturday for the past month as I stopped in to do our weekly pet food shopping. And every week, Sylvie was in the same position, curled up asleep in the back of her cage.

The difference two weeks ago was that she remained asleep amidst a blizzard of activity as the pet volunteers had brought in kittens. The place was packed with people picking up and holding the younger ones, while Sylvie and other older felines went unnoticed.  The lady that runs the rescue operation remarked that at her age, no one was going to adopt Sylvie.  They had lowered the price on her cage from $85 to $25, and ultimately, she said, if it meant that she had a good home, that I could have her for free.

When my wife, Robin, came in to look at her, she immediately thought that Sylvie was sick based on the condition of her coat and her basic look.  The rescue said they had no medical records, but that she was in good health. We took her home, and Sylvie immediately slinked underneath a dresser in the spare bedroom, where she stayed for most of the duration of her time with us.

I will cut to the chase and say that Robin was right – Sylvie was sick.  The following week after we brought her home, Robin took Sylvie to our vet, Animal Hospital of Cotati, and ran blood.  We soon learned that Sylve was in end-stage kidney failure. We brought her home and put her on antibiotics on the off chance that perhaps she was fighting an infection.  No dice. Her bloodwork showed that her condition had worsened. This from a cat who, besides hiding under the dresser, had an incredible appetite, loved to have her belly rubbed, and was affectionate.

I told Dr. Hinkle from AHOC that I was willing to come by after work to put the cat down.  Or she could do it without my being there so the cat wouldn’t have to suffer.  “We may not need to,” she said.

It turned out that Dr. Hinkle had met some people from a Brighthaven, a nonprofit, holistic animal retreat located 10 miles away in Sebastopol. BrightHaven is dedicated to the rescue, care and enhancement of the lives of senior and disabled animals.  If they would take her, and she was pretty sure that they would, Sylvie could live out the rest of her natural life under the care of Gail and Richard Pope, a couple who has opened up their home for this endeavor, and with the assistance of volunteers take care of the most fragile of the animal kingdom.  And it’s not just cats.  From their website, I can see that Brighthaven has at least one pony, and a dog that pulls himself around on a makeshift wheelchair (while a cat nuzzles against him in the pic).

I didn’t stop by the vet to put Sylvie to sleep. Instead, I let Dr. Hinkle at AHOC put Sylvie on fluids for a couple of days. When I dropped in this morning to pay our bill, I learned that a nurse had taken Sylvie home for the night – and that she was waiting to be taken to Brighthaven.

Things happen the way they are supposed to, I guess.  We got Sylvie out of that damned cage. Then our wise and caring vet helped us get Sylvie to a better place.  One that is about ten miles away, and where her special needs will truly be addressed.

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