After classes one day during veterinary school, I went to a friend’s house and sat on the couch to visit. Along came a black cat, well, sort of. She was mostly shaved with suture lines like zippers all over her body. Her long, black hair on her head was her only coat. She was purring like crazy and I welcomed the affection. It turned out she had been presented to the emergency clinic in Atlanta where my friend worked. She was a stray injured in the fan belt of a car. She survived to be adopted by my friend and joined her research colony of cats used in her PhD program and running through the house. I was smitten by her good nature and the following fall I adopted her and took her home with me.
Her name was Sugar. She earned the name since she really was so sweet. Sugar was the ultimate lap cat. As soon as a lap formed, she was in it. She was also the ultimate hunter, keeping the country house and yard cleared of vermin. She was much admired by the loggers that worked nearby. I even had an offer to buy her as she was unusual for that area due to her long hair in addition to being such a good hunter.
She was also a good traveler. She made long trips in the car regularly, staying at strange places. She made several moves with me as well. When I started my job as a veterinarian in practice, she lived over the office with me, sharing space with a veterinary technician. To this day, I remember the awful shrieking that was my roommate’s bird. I knew immediately, Sugar had gotten it. I ran to find her outside the cage with feathers all around her mouth. The bird lived, thank goodness.
After I moved to my first real house, Sugar enjoyed being settled in. I came home one day to find her ill, running a high fever. I tested her for Feline Leukemia as in those days there was no vaccine, the testing had been primitive and she was, after all, from a risk colony. My worst fears were confirmed. Sugar had the dreaded cat disease with little options at that time.
Amazingly, Sugar lived 6 ½ years past her diagnosis. She was a spoiled rotten house cat as I knew that tomorrow could be her last day. She dealt with chronic urinary tract disease that included a bladder stone, colitis, and diabetes. Throughout all this, Sugar never missed a meal and had an iron will to survive. She had something rarely seen…truly a will to live against all odds. Finally, she had a stroke. She could only move her right paw. But she used that paw to pull herself around on the rug. I fed her by holding her head up; her appetite never faltered. My friends were horrified that I did not immediately euthanize her. But, she had that will. She improved daily over the next several weeks. Her gait was not graceful, but got her where she needed to go. Three months later, I came home from work to find she had passed on her own. A gift she gave to me. She had been doing very well.
When I think of Sugar, I think of her affection, easy going acceptance of other pets and people, and most of all, that will to live. If only I could bottle her strength to share with other pets.