The Jan. 13 news article, “ Tails wagging, no longer dragging,” brought back a long ago memory of a family trauma involving a beloved kitty that had been hit by a car and the veterinarian who saved her.
Kitty’s injuries included a broken pelvis and back leg, with both hind legs paralyzed. She lay quietly on our farmhouse floor in Illinois, somehow still purring constantly as my very young son and daughter comforted her while we awaited the vet. How gentle he was with all of us as he evaluated the situation.
Dr. Zepecki had given the kitten to us many months before at the death of my dad’s two prize thoroughbred yearlings. They were the last for his decades-long breeding/racing endeavor, and our grief for him and about them had been monumental. Zepecki’s gift of a new little fluffball to adore had been immensely helpful to our recovery.
Then there we were in agony yet again. We’d not all that long before left Chapel Hill for me to “start over,” grateful for a position at the University of Illinois and for the assistance of my parents in Champaign as I faced raising two children alone.
Zepecki’s evaluation was not uplifting. He explained that Kitty’s condition was perilous, that drugs could not cure her, that her life would basically be confined to her little bed box. If she wanted out, she’d have to drag her back end wherever she tried to go, and she’d have little strength to do that. Her mental state would deteriorate to a pitiful shell of the cheery companion she’d been.
His opinion: There was only one possible way to return Kitty to her previous active self. It would require filling the bathtub daily to a depth that forced her to swim. Then we would have to put on her leash and pull her back and forth, swimming from end to end in the tub, for 20 minutes. (A cat?)
The kids realized this would be their undertaking if it were to be. They kept their word.
Kitty became an expert swimmer and loved it. She also regained the total use of her rear end and lived a long, happy and very energetic life. In 1977 she rode along on the back window ledge as I drove back to Raleigh to be communications director at the state labor department. When anyone took a bath in our apartment, she was right there, on the ledge, dipping her paw into the water to play.
She continued to love riding anywhere in the car, including to the vet. Her name, no surprise, had become Zepecki, sometimes “Zap.” She was proof daily how veterinarians can save their patients’ lives and at the same time save the quality of ours.
Kudos to Dr. Natasha Olby, the neurologist who led the new study involving two experimental drugs, and to the other researchers also. We will look forward to further tests forthcoming, with positive implications for similarly injured humans too.
The length limit was waived.