Kitten Therapy: A cancer survivor’s tale

Therapy kittens, Smokey and Bandit
Therapy kittens, Smokey and Bandit

A gap existed in our life in Tucson, we had recently lost our 17-year-old cat. Storm, a black and white feline Godzilla, had traveled the country with us over his life. When we returned from Argentina, Storm was in terrible health. There was a tearful but necessary parting of his soul.

My husband, Jeff, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. His is graced with the care of many talented Tucson oncologists. They discovered a second cancer in the form of a tumor. He has undergone surgeries and different types of radiation therapy. Despite his great attitude, he could use extra love and attention through his ordeal.

We have an incredible view of the Catalina Mountains from our back patio. Yet in moments of despair over his cancer, I know we need something to breathe new life. During the Christmas season I went online to adoption sites in search of someone needing to be rescued. There appeared two mismatched faces at the Humane Society of the White Mountains. These kittens are bonded brothers.

My Jeep headed north to Show Low on a mission. A blizzard struck near the Salt River Canyon. Roads were slippery and snow covered. It was too late to turn back for Tucson. According to my last conversation with the staff at the Humane Society, the two kittens had been sent to a local pet store.

I made it to the Pet Sense skidding through six new inches of fluffy snow. These kittens resided in a very small cage. Their fur was covered in dirt. I could see beyond the filthy coats, they too needed help. I am not sure at this point who was in greater need.

We were placed in a vet's abandoned room, to get to know one another. Immediately, the orange kitten executed a dumpster dive to hide. There seemed to be space to play and they released a bomb of energy in the small room. I did not hesitate to fill out all the paperwork and hand over my donation to the Humane Society.

Upon reaching our cabin in Show Low, they discovered a large bowl of kitten chow and water. The fire was lit and fluffy blankets were abundant. Smokey and the Bandit settled into a long deep napping period.

Every few hours they would awake to tumble and play fight their way around every inch of the cabin. When Jeff drove up to meet him, they settled around his neck and shoulders easily. A six-cylinder purring motor turns on inside them loud enough to vibrate our cabin. They carry their toy beaver to a food bowl to feed him.

Our kittens were very sick; there was a parasite in their stomach. Whatever home they had come from, an animal hoarding situation existed. Our vet in Tucson treated the parasite with antibiotics. Our first month of life together included living with their non-stop diarrhea.

I soon discovered during a high-speed chase scene through the house, there is a phenomenon of "in-flight pooing." There were exhausting cleaning sessions. My vet told me to hang in there, and we would cure the issue. On the second visit, she discovered ear mites which also required more drugs and attention.

Today, we consider them therapy kittens. They are a constant source of joy and energy. We absorb happiness from their young souls. Smokey and Bandit get the crazed kitten look in their eyes before taking down some of the lamps and home decor.

Jeff is in remission on his cancers, and he travels a great deal for his work. While Jeff was in Houston the orange cat, Bandit, jumped the fireplace screen to explore. I was watching television, and unaware of his adventure. Minutes later he jumps on my white sweatshirt in deep trouble. He was covered from head to toe in soot. All I could see are his golden eyes blinking through black fur. I rushed him for a bath with cat shampoo. It was necessary to shut the door, as he was squirming though wash up. On the other side of the door came pounding. Smokey was upset about desperate cries for help. These two kittens can never be separated.

In order to prevent another escapade with soot, we piled books in front of our fireplace screen. Now our friends wonder about our odd decorating efforts. But when the two furry heads rise above the Stickley rocker of napping choice, they understand our challenge.

"We are beginning a new chapter in our lives together," I explain.

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