When I looked at Bessie’s injured paw Tuesday morning, I was horrified. What had been a slightly swollen but normal-looking paw had changed. It now looked more like a limb that had been caught in a meat grinder. The bones of her paw were exposed, because she had stripped away the dead flesh. It was gruesome. (Here’s a picture if you’re interested.)
You might remember how this whole mess started. Bessie somehow got her paw caught up in the threads of some fabric under my bed. The harder she pulled to get away, the tighter the threads became. She was trapped, but never made a sound. I even saw her underneath the bed 24 hours before I realized there was a problem, but she acted so normal that I didn’t suspect a thing.
When the vet saw her last week, he thought the flesh was still healthy enough to survive, but he told me to watch out in case it turned hard or crusty. Bessie noticed it was dead before I could, and she chewed it off by Tuesday morning.
I had her back at the vet’s office just a few minutes after I found this. I thought she might have to have much of her paw amputated, but I still didn’t understand how bad it was.
The vet told me I had two options. The first was to amputate her leg at some particular bone. After he explained all of that one, I waited for the less-radical option — maybe just cutting off part of her paw or a portion of her leg. But then he told me the only other option was ending her life. Amputating the entire leg was the only way to save her.
(Without going into a lot of the details that he explained to me, you can’t just leave a leg bone sticking out back there for a cat, because he’ll keep trying to use it as a leg, even though there’s no paw there. He’ll keep punching through the skin and it will stay infected permanently. That’s the condensed version.)
I had to leave Bessie at the vet, because they wanted to try to get her strong enough for surgery. If she’s good enough by this morning, they’ll operate today. If she’s still not strong enough, they’ll wait and do it Thursday or Friday. If you judged by the irritation in her face at the vet Tuesday morning, right, you’d have thought she was strong enough to kill someone.
The cost was a problem. I wasn’t prepared for the $1,500 price tag that the vet estimated, much less the $1,800 that the office manager told me a few minutes later was more realistic when I included follow-up visits and care for the probable small complications. When I was working in politics, an unexpected expense of a couple of thousand dollars would have been unpleasant, but it wouldn’t have been that big a deal. I was making a lot of money. But I gave up that high income as I moved away from political consulting. I had no idea how I was going to pay, but I knew I had to save her life.
I was a bit discouraged as I drove toward home. I posted the update on Facebook for my friends who had seen the news of her turn for the worse, and I mentioned the cost. One of my friends suggested that I set up a fundraising page. Honestly, my initial reaction was to think it was a sweet, but impractical, idea. Why would anyone out there be willing to shell out $1,800 to help a cat they didn’t have any reason to care about?
But several people encouraged me to try. I got a number of private messages from people letting me know they wanted to help. I still found it hard to believe, but I set up a page at Indigogo. (Here’s the project page.) I didn’t expect much, honestly, but I was surprised to find amounts trickling in — $25, $30 $50, $75 and so forth. Then in the late afternoon, someone gave $1,000. I still don’t know who it is, because the name wasn’t attached to the email notification that I finally got, so I still have to figure that one out.
As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, the amount raised stood at an incredible $1,580. Just about 12 hours after I discovered that I had a serious need, the vast majority of it was covered. The amounts have varied greatly, ranging from $5 to $1,000 from 27 different people so far. Friends were posting the link on their Facebook pages and their friends were donating. I don’t even know a lot of these people, but I love and appreciate every one of them.
This is a typical comment. It’s from a woman in Washington state who I had never even heard of until today. She made a donation and then made this comment on the Facebook page of our mutual friend who had posted the link:
When I was about 12 years old, “Boc,” our orange farm cat went missing for about a week. He finally came back, but his hind leg was shattered, probably from being hit by a car. We didn’t have the money to get it repaired or amputated so Mom and Dad put him down. I couldn’t save Boc, but at least I can do something for Bessie.
Humans are creatures of such extremes. I see the ugliness in them so much of the time. When you have your eyes on the political world, you can’t help but see it. But there’s incredible generosity and kindness in many people, too.
If you’re among those who donated to help Bessie, I want to thank you. The money means a lot to me, but the fact that so many people have been willing to step up and help means even more to me personally. It makes me happy, and in an odd way, it gives me just a little more faith in people than I sometimes feel like having.
Update: By late Wednesday morning, the goal had been reached. Bessie is scheduled for surgery Wednesday afternoon.