Bearing Witness focuses on the plight of individual animals. Our mission reminds that a species is made up of a multitude of individuals, each unique and integral to a web of relationships. While many are rescued, millions remain fated to suffer without relief or recognition. Here we pay tribute to these valiant heroes. With your help, we can make the remainder of their lives peaceful and filled with respect and care.
Fred and Bunny
Bunny and Fred.
This issue of Bearing Witness features veteran Fred Salber and Bunny, and their eight years together.
I waited until I had the remains of my cat back before I wrote this. The cat in question, Bunny, was a part of my family for 8 years. In the last week of her life, she was having trouble getting to her cat box and making a mess all over our house.
The doctor said she had the equivalent to Crohns disease— kitty Crohns. This cat was very much a part of our family. My daughter posted on her Facebook page describing how Bunny used to sit at our Thanksgiving table with us. Bunny sat on the Thanksgiving table with us. She was talented enough to open the cupboard where her food was kept. The day we put her down was the most difficult day I have had to deal with in a long long time.
I am a combat veteran of Iraq. I lost two friends and saw things that to this day still haunt me. When I came home from the war, our cat at that time, Tigger, greeted me at the door. He was old for a cat—16 years—and I knew that cats don't live much longer usually than that if they are healthy. Tigger was a help to me but before I could rebond with him after being away so long, he became ill from old age and passed away. I was saddened by his passing. On the day he passed, he came up on my lap and snuggled with me almost as a way to say good-bye. While at work, my daughter called me to say he had passed away. It felt odd not having a cat in the house. For about six months our house was empty.
One day my wife's friend who lived with us, Tigger's Mom and guardian, heard from a co-worker that there was a litter of kittens and if she wanted one or two. Our friend came home and asked my wife if she wanted to adopt two kittens. My wife agreed and they went to the house to get the cats. Only one was left. They came home with this kitten who would become part of our family.
She was a scrawny thing, the runt of the litter. She stumbled over her back feet and hopped around like a rabbit (hence the name Bunny). As she grew up we all spoiled her. I was the worst culprit. My wife would later say we were eating buddies.
Bunny would be there for me when I had bad dreams or had a bad day. She reciprocated love when love was shown to her. Cuddling and purring when I needed it. Something in my psyche told me I did not have to explain anything to her. With her it was going to be ok and she let me know that. I now understand why returning vets are encouraged to get a four legged furry friend. Seeing the videos of servicemen and women reuniting with their animal family members is an awesome sight.
Almost two weeks ago (from the time I am writing this) I was awakened at about 8:30 in the morning by my wife and my middle son crying. Bunny had not made it to the cat box again. She had messed on the chair that she slept on, not to mention the rest of the living room. My wife and son took over an hour cleaning up.
My wife had called the doctor to make an emergency appointment. On the ride to the vet's office, Bunny meowed in the back seat while my son tried to comfort her. When the doctor came in, she poked, prodded, and weighed Bunny. After we explained what was going on we were given the diagnosis. We were given options along with euthanizing Bunny. The doctor left and we had to decide. The toughest decision we all have had to make.
Considering what would have been in store for Bunny we decided to euthanize. I felt like I wanted to throw up. The staff was very compassionate and, as best they could be, loving towards our situation. When Bunny had passed I cried. One of my best friends had died. I hugged Bunny and gave her a final kiss before the staff members took her away. My wife and son were just as upset as I was. We hardly spoke on the way home.
Today we picked up Bunny's remains—ashes from being cremated—from the clinic office. She was placed in the sewing basket she loved to chew on with her toys. Her favorite toy, Mr. Bear, sits on top, almost as a guardian of his live furry friends' final resting place.
The day Bunny passed I went to the web site Psychology Today and found Dr. Bradshaw's article that she had written when her cat passed from feline cancer. That article did two things for me. It put in perspective my relationship with Bunny and it made me feel normal to have the remains of our family member put in a place that we will be near her on a daily basis. We will get another cat(s) and treat them as family too. It will take time and when that time arrives we will be ready. Until then, this house is empty.