[Warning: Graphic Content]
So I’m a dog girl. I’ve had cats in my life, but never really warmed up to them like I have to my dogs. I’ve loved my cats, don’t get me wrong, but their famous feline standoffishness was always turnoffish to me- a girl who wants to cuddle for a long time. You can imagine then how I might feel about a stray cat. Enter Charlie. Well, enter stray cat my husband Ed would quickly name Charlie. Unlike me, my hubby is a nondiscriminatory animal lover. That’s right- dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, ducks, birds, you name it- domestic and wild alike. Ed is not a vegetarian because he likes the taste of veggies better. You’ve heard the saying, “I won’t eat what had a face.”
So for the past few years, my hubby has been feeding Charlie- the scrawniest looking cat you’ve ever seen. Ugly gray with a quarrel-bent right ear and a creepy gait, Charlie stole Ed’s heart from day 1. If only I could have made that cat disappear. All I could think of was the myriad of diseases that thing must have and the herpes Ed was risking passing to our indoor pets with every sympathetic stroke (yes, he touched him!!). I’ve done my best at keeping distance between Charlie and everyone and everything else in our home. I’ve even given that cat dirty looks and scowls to keep him away. No matter, love conquers all, and he knows he gets love (kindness, food, sympathy) from Ed, so he waits until Ed gets home and then disappears. It has been historical cold here in Michigan this winter, and Ed has been more concerned than usual about Charlie. I figure outdoor cats have mastered the art of finding food and warmth no matter what the season, so I’m not outside yelling for Charlie, unless of course my husband is not here and asks me to.
DAY 1- We had just returned from church and Ed went right to the back as usual to call out for Charlie. I was in the bedroom when I heard him say, “Oh my God!,” and I ran nervously to the back. What I saw is branded in my mind like a 3-second perpetual looped video: Charlie was running to the door with what looked like half of his face hanging off, skin dangling as he ran. My animal-lover son caught a glimpse and turned quickly away. His older brother came out confused and quiet. Ed was determined to get Charlie inside regardless, with warmth and food to eat, and affirmed he had been in a bad fight. One horrific glance was all I needed to be on the phone with emergency vets…Florence Nightingale Ed calls me, I discovered with animals too.
Praise God, I was able to find a 24/7 vet not too far away that was able to see Charlie. We didn’t know how we were going to get him into the van- long story short, I grabbed a Christmas storage box from the attic, Ed cut holes in the lid, we plopped in a towel, then Charlie, and closed the lid. No resistance, thank God; Charlie sat still the whole ride, I guess instinctively trusting. The doctor quickly examined Charlie noting the large claw that apparently swiped through his bloodied face, hitting the left eye, and noting a smell he believed to be an infection. He explained his plan to sedate Charlie, utilize the skin left in a “cut and clean” procedure and check the eye. He recommended neutering while under, gave us the estimate and told us to call in a couple of hours. We went home, prayed for Charlie and thanked God we were able to help.
Things were more complicated than expected the doctor told us when we called back- he had found a serious wound above the eye that required stitching with the paltry flesh left there, and the vicious swipe had caused a hole in Charlie’s cornea. I am beginning to really feel for this scrawny, now even uglier outdoor cat. The doc said call back in a couple hours when Charlie was expected to be waking up, and we did, only to hear more bad news: Charlie might lose his eye. Not because of the cornea hole, but because he was not blinking it. There was likely muscle and nerve damage to the eyelid, and if Charlie couldn’t blink he would have to have the eye removed. Doc advised re-anesthetizing and sewing the lid shut to encourage tissue healing and hopefully blinking. My mind is moving so fast by now, adding up all the changes this cat is going through- having half his face torn off, being put in a box and driven to a vet for probably the first time ever, examined and anesthetized, waking up with stitches in his head and far less male, now being put back to sleep to wake up again with one eye sewn shut. I began wondering if we should have brought him in at all, after all, he had self-healed from his other fights, albeit much less serious ones. We agree to sew eyelids and hopefully save Charlie’s eye.
More Changes for Charlie- Ed picked him up late last night after hours of belaborous surgery and anesthetizations. Having many facial and head stitches and one eye sewn shut, outdoor Charlie looked worse than imaginable- like someone had tried to quilt his face together unsuccessfully- and now he had an e-collar confining him as well [See Photo, hard to see him hiding!] We took him to our small laundry room off the kitchen- a familiar area where Ed feeds him- unfortunately it has no inside door. As Ed lifted him out of the box, Charlie immediately jumped to the back door which he knows exits to his world, scraping and scratching to get out. What a sad sight. We knew we couldn’t let him out- he had to remain indoors as we had to return with him to vet in 10-14 days to remove stitches and re-assess. But we weren’t really set up for him inside, and then there were our two boys and domestic cat and dog. Yeesh, what a mess. We set up a makeshift litter box, informed the boys to keep their distance not knowing what to expect, and expectedly half my night was spent wondering what I would wake up to…a torn up house?, excrement in various places?, a torn off collar and opened face? I prayed to go to sleep.
DAY 2- God is Good! I awoke to Charlie curled up in the corner, just trying to make do. Pain killers and sedatives still in his veins, he appeared strangely domesticated. His face was a mess; I couldn’t see either eye. God, I felt bad for him. Charlie had to still be in some shock, and now with new noises like 70-pound Harley-dog trampling toward him, the washer, dryer, stove timer and micro bell, he could only have been dreaming about an escape plan to his off-limits outdoor world. If he only knew this was temporary- a means to a better end for him. Which got me thinking… God, our wonderful Caretaker, so often must be thinking the same about us: “If only_____ knew this was temporary- a means to a better end for him/her.” I thought about how I need to trust God more in the darkest times; if I can care this much for a scrawny outdoor cat, how much must He care for me? Then I realized- I AM that dirty, scrawny, disease-ridden outdoor cat! I AM that ugly outsider! God in His great mercy and love GRAFTED ME INTO HIS FAMILY through the blood of His Son Jesus! Praise Him!! I was an alien, a foreigner, a breaker of His law, yet He saw me and loved me at my worst. I brawled, spread germs, and scraped to live- ugly I was- yet He didn’t give me scowls and dirty looks to get rid of me- instead, like Ed with Charlie, He took me in and loved me. He restored me, made me whole, and beautiful!
My hubby left for work, I locked our indoor cat and dog in the bedroom, drove the boys to school and headed right for Walmart. I thought, if Charlie needs to be inside for two weeks, I’m going to give him the best chance of healing and recovering! I bought a spring dog house with opening large enough for that clumsy e-collar, fleece padding, a separate new litter box, a gate to keep Harley-dog out, more cat food, a scratch board and a couple of mouse toys. I came home to Charlie still in the corner, and I set everything up as quickly and quietly as I could [See photo] Now if only Charlie would move from that corner!
Hour after hour went by. I can’t count how many times I heralded, “It’s okay Charlie!,” wanting to erase the mean image he had of me from his mind to be able to comfort him, wanting to replace the unkind voice with a kind one. He wouldn’t move. I set fresh food out; he wouldn’t eat. He needed to hear his “master’s” voice… the one he trusted, the one he KNEW loved him (of WHOM does that remind you?). I couldn’t wait till Ed got home to give Charlie comfort and assurance, to speed his healing. I checked on Charlie before Ed got home with flashlight to face from a distance and noticed blood around his sutures, a lot of it. As if his face could get worse. It was. I called the doctor’s office, emailed a quick pic of Charlie’s face [See Photo] and was told not to worry- that was normal since stitches were pulling on skin causing inflammation, causing blood. Call back if blood is “dripping” out, they said. Okay, thank you again. Good Lord, this is only Day 2. Eddie is home! Charlie hears, relaxes, and moves a bit. Yes Nan, GOOD Lord!
Prayer Request: That Charlie does not lose his eye, his instincts, and his will to live.
Tomorrow is Day 3 for Charlie..… Tune in!!
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