Eva’s Journey – Second Chances and Lessons Learned

This is a story of a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of how some encounters are simply meant to be.
This is a story of the perseverance of the feline spirit.

This is Eva’s story.

Eva FB

Guest post by Renee L. Austin

Second chances are hard to come by, especially when the crazy pace of life can cause us to miss the fact that there was an initial opportunity to begin with.  And when there is a chance to change a life, one’s own or someone else’s, a second chance is even more precious – particularly when that life hangs in the balance…

I’d seen her at least a week, maybe two weeks earlier, climbing an embankment on the side of the road.  Even though there were no houses or barns nearby, the collar she was wearing stood out, and with some degree of relief I gave her just a fleeting thought.  I was in a bit of hurry and traveling the back dirt roads. Well, by December they’re usually treacherously slick and muddy narrow lanes flanked by the dull browns and grays of winter.  I have no business using them when they are so bad, but haste often overcomes common sense.

The next time I came upon her was in an even more remote area.  She was wandering ahead of me up the middle of the road through the freezing rain.  She was so un-cat-like; helpless looking and forlorn, head down, shoulders slumped, plodding through mud the consistency of pudding.  She seemed totally unconcerned with my car pulling up behind her and barely glanced over her shoulder before slightly quickening her pace.  Dejection and misery radiated from the little body.

When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts.  She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel.  Before I even got us turned around we were both covered in the mud she’d carried in with her.  The inside of the car was a mess, too.  And there I was, late-late-late, headed back to the house with a stray tortoiseshell cat loose in my car with cautionary thoughts churning of rabies, crazed tortie attacks, and wondering how I was going to explain this one to the folks at the emergency room.  She rode standing in my lap, shivering and smelling of cold, wet earth and winter, front legs wrapped tightly around my neck, face pressed hard against my cheek. It turned out that my biggest concern was being able to keep the car on the road while trying to see around her head.

It was much later that night after I’d returned and had time to really study her, that I understood just how close she must have been to the end – that she already must have decided there would be no more chances.  For however long she’d been on her own, and whatever had sustained her thus far, those resources and energy stores were gone. She was spent.  Clearly there was no longer any expectation of help.  Hope had faded and simply ceased to exist.

I remember looking down at her and thinking ‘no room at the inn’.  We do have a full house, and I’d been waffling back and forth between frustration and acceptance over the rate and circumstances at which the fur-footed population was increasing here.  Not only that, but I’ve been so slow to heal after losing my two special friends, each my heart and my soul.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to find space for others amidst the broken pieces.  In that moment I tried to close myself off even more, and then the little gray cat looked back up at me, stumbling and losing her balance in her weakened state.  The drawn face filled with anxiety, showed all of the uncertainty and desperation she’d been carrying-for who knows how long.

It’s been a year now, and this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door – when she’s not off raiding the kitchen.  She could stand to lose a pound, maybe a bit more, but that’s something we’ll deal with much later.  Her enthusiasm for all food is rooted, I’m certain, in her having been so near starvation when I picked her up.

Eva walks with an awkward waddle as she follows me whenever I move throughout the house.  Her back, neck, and hip problems are always apparent-even more so-when she first awakens and tries to work the stiffness from her sore joints and muscles.  The chronic cough from a heartworm infection sometimes wakes us all in the night.  These things don’t seem to prevent her from playing by herself in my office while I work, or from efficiently devouring the contents of my plate if I look away for even a moment, or from applying teeth and nails if I decide too soon that she needs to get down.  She is a happy cat – as long as things go her way.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no hope.  Just hunger and cold and loneliness, and a hopeless fading day by day.  And then I marvel at how, with my crazy schedule and ever changing routes, there could have been the teensiest possibility in all of the minutes and hours and days and miles, of coming upon Eva a second time.

A couple weeks ago I was driving the back way through the rain and gloom and saw a gray form moving up an embankment.  I kept going and then stopped, backing carefully until I was even with a little gray tortie cat.  She wanted nothing to do with me, but as I drove away and worried that she might just simply be frightened and still in need, I realized that I had at least stopped for that first opportunity.  I tucked my own concern away, and have not been back through there since.  Some things are meant to be, some things are not. You can’t be sure until it happens, or doesn’t happen.  The latter is the tricky part, isn’t it?

One thing I do know is that we have to be willing to stop and back up for a moment-and keep our hearts open, even if there’s only just a tiny bit of space among the pieces.

Editor’s note: Eva passed away in September 2014. 

Renee Austin is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service.  Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more.  For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.

26 Comments on Eva’s Journey – Second Chances and Lessons Learned

  1. Dano
    December 18, 2015 at 10:00 pm (4 years ago)

    Yes happy anniversary dear Eva, and owner

    Reply
    • Glen
      December 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm (4 years ago)

      I always liked this story.

      Reply
      • Renee Austin
        January 10, 2016 at 9:24 pm (4 years ago)

        Thank you Glen. I revisit it from time to time as well. Hope all is well with you and your Kasey. ~Renee

        Reply
        • Glen
          January 11, 2016 at 6:49 pm (4 years ago)

          Renee

          Thanks, however, I lost Kasey on May 21, 2013.

          She was rescued at age 8 or 9 in 2008 and I remember saying, “well, at least I can give her 4 good years” but, it wound up being 5 years.

          While academically I may have understood this, her loss was still very difficult for me. I still miss her greatly.

          In the last two months of her life, we adopted Gigi, a large, long hair, placid, ginger faced torti with white.

          We were not seeking out another cat but this mature girl was really in need of a home, she had been rescued in bad winter conditions when she was less than a year old. she had 4 years with her family then they had their own tragedy and she lost her home. She is a very nice cat and has been a great addition.

          She got to live with Kasey for the last few months. Normally Kasey, the “Warrior Queen” was not very tolerant of other animals, but she really accepted Gigi. Even though they were different temperaments, I called them “sisters from different litters”.

          Gigi has taken on some Kasey behaviour, wanting to be with me when I am home, fussing by the door when I go outside and waiting form me when I come home from work.

          I am not sure under the circumstance if I rescued Gigi, or she rescued me.

          Reply
    • Renee Austin
      January 10, 2016 at 9:20 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you very much Dano. It’s a very special time of year for us all here. ~Renee

      Reply
  2. Ingrid
    June 24, 2010 at 6:40 am (9 years ago)

    Happy belated second chance rescue anniversary, Kasey!

    Reply
  3. Glen
    June 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm (9 years ago)

    “We just passed the 2nd anniversary of Kasey’s second chance, May 21, 2001”

    A typo, Kasey’s 2nd anniversery of rescue was May 21, 2010.

    Reply
  4. Glen
    May 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm (9 years ago)

    We just passed the 2nd anniversary of Kasey’s second chance, May 21, 2001 so I thought I’d add a few more insight into how she came home.

    Kasey sowed the seeds of her rescue years ago.

    I am prone to migraines. We had a problem at the company facility in 2001 where Kasey lived and a bunch of us were there dealing with it, she wasn’t very old then.

    The stress level was high and I had a migraine come on. I must have looked bad because my boss insisted I go up in the storage room and crash, which I did.

    I woke up, feeling better and the first thing I heard was a loud purr, Kasey was my “nurse cat”.

    That set a bond with us but we had 4 cats at home at the time and her lot wasn’t bad there at the plant, back then. So I would bring treats for here n my work related trips.

    The years went by and people came and went at the facility. Her “protectors” transferred to other sites and the new ones were not as benevolent. At best, most ignored her, others went out of there way to abuse her. Through it all, she maintained a friendly attitude and did not get mean or skittish.

    She deserved better.

    As I mentioned in the earlier posts, I was up there on a plant shutdown in April 2008 and I saw enough; next time I was up there in May, I took a cat carrier.

    I just wish I had taken her out there a year or so earlier before some jerk (I better not write the real word I prefer to use) injured her leg.

    At least she has a good life, now.

    Needless to say, I have a friend for life now. She is very expressive and is calm when I am around, she becomes active about the time I come home from the office and usually waits for me.

    Since she had her first vet exam when she was brought here, unfortunately, May also means the obligatory annual vet visit. She still doesn’t like the carrier and the car ride (at least this one’s only 7 minutes). She does behave well at the vet and is happy to go back in the carrier to go home. The check-up was all good and she doesn’t hold a grudge over the trip and settles right back into her daily routine.

    Happy May 21st “gotcha day”, Kasey!

    Reply
  5. Ingrid
    January 24, 2010 at 10:33 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing mores stories about Kasey, Glen – I feel like I’m getting to know her through your words. I love that you got her a padded trunk for easier access to your bed. Clearly, she felt that it was nothing less than what she deserved 🙂

    Reply
  6. Glen
    January 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm (10 years ago)

    Second Chance Cat and Infirmities

    Like Eva, Kasey’s past life resulted in some infirmities.

    When she gets up, her back legs are stiff. Once she gets moving, she can walk OK, run fairly well; but she cannot jump or climb.

    In her case, it was some injury that brought her to this, I suspect from some deliberate act.

    She has been checked out by a vet, who confirmed this; there is not much that can be done. She gets her daily glucosamine pill (the most important part is the pill is served wrapped in a small bit of cheese).

    Fortunately, she is now a protected, indoor cat and seems comfortable, happy and quite willing to play.

    Kasey has “imprinted” on me, one of many things that shows this is that she sleeps on the bed at my feet.

    However, the bed, at 28 inches, is too high a jump for her, so I used a 16 inch high plastic storage box at the foot of the bed, making it two, short achievable jumps to get up and down. The box was tacky, but functional.

    I recently picked up a little 16-inch high padded trunk, on sale.

    It is the right height and in addition, provides a space where an untidy guy like me can get a few things out of sight.

    The first night was 100% successful; she loved the trunk for use as an access.

    In addition, she loves the padded top. On the first morning it was in use, when I got up she jumped onto the trunk from the bed, but unlike with the utilitarian box, she stayed on the padded top of trunk.

    She settled down there in a posture like a “Sphinx statue” and took on a contented, regal demeanour, looking very much like Batest, the ancient cat goddess, as she watched me get my stuff together for the day.

    Reply
  7. Fredda
    December 23, 2009 at 10:56 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story. As the proud partner of a 20 year old tuxedo tabby, Jasmine, I realized the bond between cat and human can be something wonderful, indeed.

    Reply
  8. Glen
    December 22, 2009 at 10:58 pm (10 years ago)

    I have sad thoughts, too, over times in my life when I have been unable to act, for one reason or another, to make a difference, even though I really wanted to.

    I think that is why it is so rewarding to me to have been able to bring Kasey home, or to read a story like Eva’s; these life’s victories are all the more special.

    In regards to; “Also, regarding the way Eva reacted when I first called her; I was completely taken aback.”

    I would like to say that Kasey reacted similarily to being rescued, but………………….

    I finished up a meeting near the facility where she lived and showed up there in the early evening.

    She had settled down in a favorite spot when I came in.

    She did not like the cage and the first hour of the trip brought unceasing protest, second hour was about 50/50 and she was quiet for the 3rd and final hour. It is tough for a cat to leave the only home she has ever known, even if it wasn’t great, while jammed in a pet carrier, which was a new experience.

    She was quarantined in the garage, which she settled in quite quickly, with various comforts for a couple days, until she had her vet check up and shots, then introductions began.

    Fast forward to today;

    She slept at the foot of the bed most of the night, I am off on vaction this week, I awoke at 7:30 to the “eeps and squeeks” song from the kitchen, she was lonely. (Kasey does not have the classic cat food commercial “kitty meow”)

    She had her glucosamine pill (to help with an old injury), in a small piece of cheese (the cheese is an important part of the day).

    She slept on my lap for 20 minutes while I watched the news & weather after breakfast. After that she chased a string, then rested in various places in the house, all day. Then sat on my lap through a movie on TV. Now she is snoring near my computer area.

    I think she would say it was worth that 3 hour ride in a pet carrier and life is good, now 😉

    Reply
  9. Renee Austin
    December 22, 2009 at 1:04 am (10 years ago)

    Glen, you did a great thing for Kasey. It certainly sounds as though she woul not have survived much longer under those circumstances. She must be so thrilled to be with you now. Regrets aside, what matters is that you gave her another chance. I’ll go back and read her story.

    You remind me of a time when I waited too long and I’ve never forgotten. I had managed to find homes-with permission-for a number of my former neighbor’s barn cats. Each of these cats were wonderful and clearly wanted families. His only hold out was a little Siamese mix, ‘Sherry’, that I finally decided to just simply take. The night before I was to collect her, she was struck and killed by a car. That stays with me.

    Also, regarding the way Eva reacted when I first called her; I was completely taken aback. In all these years I’ve had dogs react like this (like the Ridgeback that I picked up on the same road the other day 😉 but I would not have expected this from even the most friendly of cats. It all seemed staged, almost. I joke that she recognized the sound of my car-you can hear it from a mile away, I’m sure.

    It has all worked out for us, hasn’t it? I’m not sure who is the luckiest-the humans or the kitties.

    Reply
  10. Glen
    December 21, 2009 at 10:30 am (10 years ago)

    Some further thoughts on Eva that I missed;

    “When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts. She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel.”

    When I read that, I thought that sounded like the behaviour of a cat that was very used to people and friendly(and one that was able to recognize the best offer and option she could possibly get).

    Reply
  11. Glen
    December 21, 2009 at 12:20 am (10 years ago)

    The story of Eva did have some basic similarities with Kasey, although the circumstances differed. One is that I do know her history.

    I posted her story on the “Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats” in an October 30th, 2009 at 6:53 am entry.

    The similar themes are;

    1.) I went through a similar rationalization that you did, in my case “Oh it can’t be too bad there for her”, “We have two cats, I doubt she’ll fit in”….etc. But in May 2008, I had seen enough and acted on it.

    2.) She was a cat out of place; she craved attention and kept seeking it out in spite of the constant, scheduled personnel shift changes where she lived. She never knew who would treat her well and who would not. Her demeanour with people was that of a pet cat, even after the bad treatment.

    Like Eva, this was not a good place and it took its toll, physically.

    3.) In the spring of 2008, she was in a bad way. In her last year before I took her home she sustained her injury to her rear, left leg, which made her unable to jump or climb. She also did not have a good diet and was losing fur.

    Her “advocates and protectors”, by chance, were being transferred to other sites. I know she spent some winter nights outside in our harsh climate and with her condition, overall, I don’t think she would have survived the winter of 2008/2009; she too had run out of chances

    It was a bold move for me when I was up in the area for a meeting and I brought a pet carrier with me. She didn’t like the three-hour drive but I don’t think she wants to go back, now 😉 I sometimes feel bad it took me too long to act and that I should have taken her out of there a couple years earlier.

    However, I am very happy I made that decision in the spring of 2008, I think she is, too.

    Reply
  12. Renee
    December 20, 2009 at 11:16 pm (10 years ago)

    Daniela, Eva sends you a big happy kitty smooch.

    Glen, Thank you. You bring up a good point. I did leave out that the collar was a flea collar. An effort to relieve a guilty conscience for dropping her? I’ll never know. I do have a sense that she was simply lost-maybe a barn kitty who wandered or got in a truck and accidentally traveled a distance? I keep wondering if her back injuries are from encounters with farm animals, being in such a rural area. The one thing I always worry about with rescues is inadvertently ‘kidnapping’ someone’s beloved pet. I did put up notices and took her to the shelter with me to go through reports. In spite of her poor condition I do think that someone out there loved her-at least that’s what I’ll let myself believe. For now she’s here, warm and safe, and in charge-so she thinks.

    Best to you and your Kasey. It sounds as though we are all equally fortunate.

    Reply
  13. Daniela Caride
    December 20, 2009 at 9:05 pm (10 years ago)

    You bet, Ingrid!

    Reply
  14. Ingrid
    December 20, 2009 at 8:51 pm (10 years ago)

    I agree with both of you, Glen and Daniela, that rescues really show us that they appreciate these second chances. And I think that for most of us, these rescued animals enrich and change our lives, too. Makes you wonder sometimes – who was really rescued 🙂 ?

    Reply
  15. Daniela Caride
    December 20, 2009 at 8:48 pm (10 years ago)

    Glen, it’s really great you rescued Kasey. I agree that rescues can show an extra gratitude for life with us. My three cats and one of my dogs are rescues, and they are always appreciative of life at home.

    Reply
  16. Glen
    December 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm (10 years ago)

    It is especially good when everything comes together and you can give one that “second chance”.

    I wonder, with her having a collar, what caused her to be where she was found. Lost, dropped off?……it is hard to say.

    I don’t like seeing any cat “out there” but I think it is especially tough on one that has been domestic, as indicated by the collar, then having circumstance causing them to have to fend for themselves. I know how things often work out in the world and it is a hostile place for these animals.

    You wrote; “this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door”. I think rescues can especially show this behaviour.

    It is a different circumstance, but I know I gave my rescue torti, Kasey, a second chance. She was in a tough environment when I took her home in May 2008, I doubt she would be alive now, if this hadn’t have happened.

    Kasey’s behaviour is much the same with me, as what is described for Eva.

    That’s a great story, thanks for putting it out here. I wish Eva lots of happiness.

    Reply
  17. Daniela Caride
    December 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm (10 years ago)

    How wonderful! Give her a kiss from me.

    🙂

    Reply
  18. Renee
    December 19, 2009 at 10:45 am (10 years ago)

    Daniela, Eva is here in my lap as I’m reading your comment. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  19. Daniela Caride
    December 19, 2009 at 9:54 am (10 years ago)

    Wow, Renee

    What a beautiful story! I cried so much. I am so happy Eva found you. Thank you for saving her, and for sharing such a wonderful part of your life with me.

    Reply
  20. Renee
    December 18, 2009 at 11:08 pm (10 years ago)

    Thank you, Debbi. And thank you, Ingrid for the opportunity to share Eva’s story. She has so much in common with other creatures and people in need. I know there are so many out there still waiting for their special chance.

    Reply
  21. Ingrid
    December 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm (10 years ago)

    I feel the same way, Debbi. And I’m sure Eva would agree that encheesladas would be a fitting anniversary celebration.

    Reply
  22. Debbi
    December 18, 2009 at 2:44 pm (10 years ago)

    I get a lump in my throat everytime I read, remember or tell this story. My goodness, talk about perfect timing and what better mommy could she choose!! Happy Anniversary Eva. Maybe you could celebrate with some encheesladas!!

    Reply

Leave a comment

First time visitors: please read our Comment Guidelines.