Ark Animal Sanctuary (week of February 7, 2018)

Last spring, we took in a cat that had been living on the streets. When he came to us he broke our hearts he was thin his fur was missing in places and when we looked into his eyes there was nothing but a blank stare.

He would tremble in fear every time someone went near him.  We named him Baxter and we made a commitment to him that someday life would be good that he would not have to be afraid. Our goal was to look into his eyes and see a happy cat with no fear, that his fur would be healthy and shiny and that he would learn to trust humans.

Once at the vet Baxter tested positive for F.I.V., which is feline AIDS.  Baxter had just been handed a diagnosis for which there is no cure.  Even more determined to give Baxter the life he so deserved we did not flinch at the diagnosis.  We knew AIDS was not a death sentence only another bump in the road.

From that day forward the healing process for Baxter began not only health wise, but emotionally.

Baxter, a resident at the Ark Animal Sanctuary since last spring, passed away Thursday, Feb. 1, from a cancerous tumor. Before his passing, however, Baxter formed a special bond with Ark Animal Sanctuary manager Lorraine Monfils.
(Courtesy of Lorraine Monfils)

Days went by and Baxter would be held every day and patted and brushed but it was if no one was inside. He was a shell of a cat with no emotion except fear. At first he was kept in a cage so as to make the transition easier. Baxter was so afraid he did not move much.

Weeks went by and then the first glimmer of hope arrived. He would set up in his cage and watch every move that we made. That day we increased the size of is cage so he would have more room.  It was evident that he was moving about but only at night. The weeks turned into months and we moved Baxter’s cage into the AIDS room so he could see the other cats move about and slowly get introduced to them.  

A few more weeks went by and we decided to release Baxter into the room. This transition did not go well. Baxter was terrified and stayed in the same spot all the time. He wouldn’t move to eat or use the litter box.  When I would walk into the room he would come running to me looking for security and comfort.  Fearing that we had lost all of the trust we had gained, we decided to move Baxter into a room by himself.

After moving Baxter into a room by himself we were finally able to see Baxter in a whole new light. He started grooming himself — he had the shiniest thickest fur and his eyes were bright and alert. Baxter was a happy healthy cat!

Then one day it finally happened, I was petting him and playing with him and I heard a faint noise. I was shocked he was purring for the first time since he had arrived at the sanctuary Baxter was purring.  This was music to my ears and it actually brought tears to my eyes. Baxter was a happy cat.

All the weeks and months of love and attention had finally paid off.  When I went to the sanctuary in the morning to clean I would let Baxter loose in the hallways to run, play and explore and he took full advantage of it.  He would race up and down the hallways and play hide and seek with me. He had the cutest little swagger as he would walk away from me. I loved this cat and he loved me. We had developed a bond that was unbreakable.

Baxter continued to thrive in the months ahead.  One day, I noticed Baxter did not get up to run or play or even eat, I figured he was having an off day. Those days continued and it was evident that Baxter’s mouth was bothering him. An appointment was made at the vet and until then I took Baxter home with me to monitor him.

Once at the vet they opened his mouth and it was evident what was wrong.  A very large tumor had taken over Baxter’s mouth.  They took his temperature and there was no fever which was not a good sign.

The next step I opted for was a biopsy, but the growth was so hard the needle wouldn’t go in another negative. The tumor was a fast growing cancer.  There was nothing that could be done.  I was both shocked and horrified.  How could this be happening to this sweet handsome boy.  Baxter was just begining his new life, but sadly it was not meant to be.

At 9:40 a.m. on Thursday Feb. 1, I held Baxter in my arms for the last time.  Baxter knew exactly what was happening and was at peace, he just needed me to open that window so his spirit could fly away. I stayed until Baxter was gone and my heart was broken. Rest in peace sweet boy, I will see you again someday at the rainbow bridge.

Thank you for your continued support and as always thank you for reading our column.

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