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Monday
Oct152012

The Value of a Life: Grace Love Munchkin's Story

On August 28, one of our volunteers came across a black cat dragging her back legs in the street. The volunteer, figuring the poor cat had been hit by a car, brought her into OAR. Her prognosis: the cat would probably need to be euthanized.

But OAR means it when we say we are "no-kill" - if a cat is mendable, and the mending will not cause undue suffering, OAR staff and volunteers will do what we can to give the cat a chance. And so, rather than ending her life that morning, the cat was taken to a veterinarian for x-rays and treatment. She became "OAR Cat Hit By a Car" at the vet's office (that's a name to remember!), and the x-rays revealed she had a badly broken back leg, broken tail, and fractured pelvis. In spite of the broken bones, though, there was no internal bleeding, and she was eating, drinking, and using her litterbox normally. There was hope!

Our glimmer of hope was dashed, though, when this sweet girl tested positive for FIV and Feline Leukemia. She would need to have her leg and tail amputated, but with the prognosis that a double-positive test gave her, all the vets we spoke to recommended euthanasia. The surgery would be hard on her, and the vets didn't think she would ultimately survive the recovery period.

We were faced with the toughest decision anyone in animal rescue ever makes: when to end an animal's life. The sweet little girl in front of us did not seem aware of the stakes; as she sat in her carrier, on the verge of losing her life, she just kneaded her blanket and purred softly. Her eyes were half-closed in contentment. In spite of her injuries and the pain she must have been in, in spite of the poking and prodding at the vets and at OAR, in spite of whatever hardships had led to her being alone and badly injured on that August morning, she had put her trust in us, and felt safe. The moment was heartbreaking.

We would like to tell you that the decision that followed was informed by science, or by medical experience. That we made the decision because there is a margin for error on the blood test for FIV and Feline Leukemia. That we have personally seen that margin of error play out with cats in our shelter, cats that have tested positive when they did not, in fact, have the disease. And while that's all true, what was at the foundation of our decision not to euthanize that cat on that day was our overriding commitment to the value of every animal's life, and our promise to every cat that comes into our care to do everything we can to give it a happy, comfortable, safe life from then on. The cats we see often haven't had that privilege before reaching our doors. They are cats that have been abandoned, neglected, left alone on the streets, and, in this case, injured badly and left to die. We owed this cat more.

And so our plan was simply to give her all the love and baby food we had, give her lots of kisses and belly rubs, and keep her pain-free while we determined her health status. And we finally gave her a name - Grace Love Munchkin.

Our commitment to Grace ended in the happiest way: a week after her initial FIV/FeLV test, we retested her, and she tested negative. Her bloodwork was looking good, so Grace Love Munchkin had her surgery and came through just fine. We didn't want to put Gracie Love up for adoption until we could confirm the negative test result, so we held her for a month - maintaining a constant diet of love and baby food, of course! - and tested her again. Grace Love Munchkin was, indeed, negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia. We had made the right decision.

Now, this bundle of fluff and love is available to be adopted. She has been a reminder to us every day since August of why we do what we do, and why we must take very seriously the care and commitment we give to these vulnerable creatures. She has been a reminder to us that every life deserves consideration and care - that lives are not a matter of numbers or dollars or convenience, but are individuals who knead their blankets and purr while you weigh their worth and their fate. We think she will help remind you of that too.

Grace Love Munchkin right after her surgery 

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