Sometimes a pet comes into your life when you least expect it. With six rescued cats, our home and hearts felt complete. We didn't plan to add a seventh cat to our lives, but sometimes life sends you down a different path. I met Sassie on a beautiful spring day in May 2014. As a volunteer with Homeless Animals Rescue Team (HART) in Northern VA, I volunteered to meet and photograph four cats. Their owner, Kelly, had suddenly passed away at her home in a tragic and sad way. I went to Kelly's home to evaluate the cats and report back on their adoptability. The cats had been living in Kelly's home without her, and family members were coming over every day to care for them. When I left Kelly's house that day, I whispered in my head and my heart that I would do what I could to help her cats. Little did I know how true this would turn out to be. Two of the four cats were kept by the family, and the other two, Kit and Sassie, came to HART to find new homes. Kit and Sassie moved into a cage at Petsmart where Kit was adopted after a short time. Scared and confused, Sassie hid behind her litter box. Shy, cautious, and frightened, she waited. And waited. She waited for someone to come and fall in love with her, but at more than 10 years old, finding a home for her would probably be difficult.
Time passed, and one day a fellow HART volunteer noticed that something was wrong with Sassie. Sassie had been vomiting, and her belly was bloated and distended. She was immediately taken to a vet. Sassie had the royal treatment, including blood work, exams, and X-rays. Then she was seen by a second vet for an ultrasound. Sadly, it was determined that she had a serious mass in her belly. The tests showed that it was located near her stomach and was pushing her intestines off to one side. There was talk of surgery and quality of life, and while some rescue groups may have ended her life at that time, my friends at HART were determined to help her. Surgery was scheduled.
I volunteered to drive Sassie to the vet for her surgery. Afterwards, we were told that her tumor could not be removed because it had spread to the vessels that attach to her vital organs. Remembering the promise I made in my heart to her mom Kelly, I brought Sassie home for what I assumed would be her last days. That night, with her belly full of stitches, she curled up in my lap and purred like a lion.
Sassie was timid when it came to exploring the house and stayed in one room for a whole month. Giving her the time and space she needed, she eventually came out to meet our other cats. She also discovered the bed. She jumped up on it, purred like crazy, made happy paw “biscuits,” and claimed the bed as her own. It had been a long time since Sassie had snuggled in the bed with a human. She had a home again. While technically it was a foster home, it was without a doubt her forever home.
Weeks started to pass, and little by little, day after day, Sassie was feeling better. Like a true miracle, prayers were being answered—the fluid in her belly started to go away, and at 11 years old, she re-discovered her inner kitten. She felt like playing all the time. She ran through the house and played with the other cats. She rolled around with toy mousies and threw them in the air only to catch them again. Her distended belly started to appear smaller and smaller. While no one could explain why or how she was feeling better, we had to believe that kitty dreams could come true.
After an amazing seven months of healing, playing, purring, running, and tossing toy mousies in the air, we received the most amazing news: Sassie’s latest vet visit determined that what was thought to be a tumor is likely a non-cancerous cyst. While still complicated and serious, this was certainly news to celebrate! No one knows for sure how long she has with us (or how long any of us have with our cherished pets, for that matter), so she reminds us on a daily basis how important it is to appreciate every day. Sassie is not only our forever foster, but our cat, our girl, and part of our family. While we felt before that our home was complete, we now understand that she is the part that truly completes our lives, family, home, and hearts.