Saying Goodbye to Pumpkin1
Heads up, this is going to be a sad post. But I wanted to write it anyway.
About a year ago I had a few stray cats start hanging out on my property. One of them was grown and probably a year or so old and the other three were still kittens probably only four months or so old. I quickly made friends with them and before long I had basically adopted them and started feeding them. One of those kittens was Pumpkin1. I named him Pumpkin because he was orange and halloween was coming soon so it seemed appropriate. And the 1 is because his brother is also orange and I named him Pumpkin2. So I had two Pumpkin brothers. lol.
Grown up Pumpkin1
So everything was going good with my new feline friends and one of them even had some kittens which you can read about here and here. Until one morning a couple weeks ago when I noticed something had happened to Pumpkin1. He was limping and had what appeared to be an injury in his groin area. I had no idea what had happened but I assumed maybe he had gotten into a fight with another cat or some other animal in the neighborhood and I just assumed that the limping was because of the pain of the groin injury. Being still semi wild he, of course, did not want to cooperate with me giving him any help so at the time I just figured it was something he would just have to deal with for awhile until he healed up. That night I woke up hearing cat screams. I jumped out of bed and ran outside. It was dark but as I approached I saw a cat or some other small animal run off and then I saw Pumpkin1 laying there on the ground and his groin injury was looking worse and was bleeding. So although he wasn't happy about it I scooped him up and wrapped him tightly with a towel and brought him inside for the night. If I was smart I would have kept him inside from then on, but in the morning he seemed ok and so I let him back outside. He went out and found somewhere to hide, which I think is the instinct of an injured cat, and so I didn't see him for a day or two. Then one morning I found him laying out on the walkway and when I saw him I saw that his injuries had gotten ten times worse. I'm guessing he was attacked again because now his tail had several open wounds and he had ants crawling all over him and I could see maggots growing in the wounds. It was not pretty to say the least. So I got him back inside and set him up in a large plastic pet carrier with a blanket in it and I started calling veterinarians so I could get him some help. The first few that I called didn't have any open appointments for a week and I needed Pumpkin1 to get seen immediately. So one of the vets that didn't have any open appointments told me about the Emergency Pet Hospital of Redlands. They are an "emergency" vet so they don't take appointments they just take walk-ins, so I could take Pumpkin1 in immediately, but being "emergency" also means that they are really expensive unfortunately. But I took Pumpkin1 down there immediately. They were still scared of covid there so they weren't letting people inside and everyone had to wait outside in their cars. So they took the cat inside and I waited... and waited. After three hours they called my phone and told me that Pumpkin1 was going to need a tail amputation surgery and that it was going to cost $3,000. Which is way out of my price range and frankly in my opinion ridiculously expensive. I told them I couldn't do that and so then they just recommended that I get him a shot of antibiotics and some pain medication which I agreed to. Then I waited... another three hours before finally calling to check in and see what was going on and they acted like they had no idea I was waiting outside the whole time. So I walk to the front door where they can see me clearly and I wait... and I wait. I was there well over six hours before I got my cat back and got his medication. They charged me $325 and then before I left the vet asked if I had any questions, I said "ya, why is this place so damn expensive!". Of course he had no good answer. In all honesty it's a horrible place and I recommend that you never take any of your pets there. All the staff there seem like they hate their jobs. Not a speck of kindness or compassion from these people. And then after all that time and money I get my cat back and he still has ants and maggots on him. They had him over six hours and didn't even clean him off. Honestly I doubt they hardly looked at him that whole time. So anyways, after that horrible experience I head back home feeling very distraught and stressed. I get Pumpkin1 inside and give him his first batch of pain medication and as soon as it seemed like it was working and he was a bit sedated I started cleaning him myself. "If the vet won't do it I gotta become a vet myself" I said. The ants were an easy wash off although Pumpkin1 was not happy about the water. The maggots were much harder as they had been digging deeper all day. It was not pretty, but I got in there deep, peeling back the skin to get under it and squeezing them out of the little pockets they had eaten into his flesh to get them all out. I got 99% of them out that night and then got the last 1% when I did a double check in the morning. Once he was all cleaned up, zero ants, zero maggots, I felt much better even though his tail was wrecked and eventually he lost all the fur and skin on it because those maggots had chewed him up so bad, but at least they were gone.
Pumpkin1 and his dying tail
After that I got on the internet and started researching vets in my area. Looking for one that had open appointments and was not so goddamn expensive. And I found a place called Alapalm Animal Hospital which had an appointment open for the following morning and was supposed to be one of the cheapest vets around. They gave me an estimate of $250 for tail amputation surgery which seemed much more reasonable to me. So I got the appointment and the next morning I was there, right on time. Upon arrival I noticed that this place looked like a ghetto liquor store, which was a little disconcerting, but I headed in. Upon arrival it was apparent that this place was extremely disorganized and understaffed. All the staff seemed stressed out. They couldn't find my appointment and had to click around on their computer for 20 minutes before finding it. And although I arrived right on time I waited there for two hours while they helped other customers, some of them walk-ins without appointments. But I was calm and patient and eventually I was taken back into an examination room. I waited there for awhile and eventually the vet came in. He looked at Pumpkin1 for a minute, maybe two, and then started telling me all about how this tail surgery would be "extremely complicated". Honestly I just think he didn't want to do it. How complicated can cutting off a tail really be. But then the nurse came in with the estimate... they wanted $2000. Once again way out of my price range. So once again I head back home completely distraught. But at least here I was only out $35 for examination. So while for basic things Alapalm is probably pretty cheap it's not cheap for major issues and I would once again recommend never taking your pets there as the staff, in my opinion, seemed unqualified and unprofessional.
So now I was feeling helpless wondering what the hell I'm gonna do because the tail surgery was seemingly out of my budget. But I talked with my brother and a few of my friends and they all speculated that maybe Pumpkin1 didn't really require the tail surgery and could possibly be able to heal without it and they encouraged me to try to get some more opinions. So once again I was back on the internet looking for another vet to get another opinion. Eventually I contacted the Valley Animal Hospital and was able to get an appointment for the next day.
Valley Animal Hospital
The Valley animal hospital is actually really close to my house, which was nice. Upon arriving I noticed that this facility was quite large and very fancy. Which at first it worried me that since it was so nice it would be expensive , but as it turns out they are actually very affordable. I arrived a little early for my appointment, but I didn't have to wait long. All the staff, from the receptionists to the doctors here were the opposite of all the other vets I had been to. All very professional, very compassionate, and very helpful. Dr. Tracy took her time and thoroughly examined Pumpkin1. She did also recommend the tail amputation surgery, which would have been much much cheaper here than at the other vets, but she also noticed other things and before doing any surgeries she wanted to take some X-rays because she suspected there could be more problems that I wasn't aware of. So we did the X-rays... and she was right. It turned out that Pumpkin1 had a broken pelvis and broken sacrum, which is the bone that connects the tail and the pelvis. Dr. Tracy guessed that maybe Pumpkin1 got hit by a car since it takes quite a bit of force to break the bones. Also upon examining the X-rays she noticed that the broken pelvis bone was obstructing his ability to properly pee and poop. He wasn't unable to pee or poop, but it was not working the way it's supposed to and she could see that his colon and bladder were both backed up. So now everything had changed and the situation went from a tail injury to a much more serious internal bone injury effecting bodily functions. One that would take an extreme surgery with screws and plates that would cost multiple thousands of dollars and still not completely fix it. So with the pelvis surgery being way out of my budget, and the tail surgery not going to fix the main issue, it was recommended that I get him euthanized. Which of course broke my heart and had me crying. And I couldn't bring myself to do it so although I knew it was probably inevitable... back home we went.
At this point although I pretty much knew that euthanasia was the inevitable outcome it was really really hard for me to accept it. And I still had plenty of pain medication so I spent the next few days just taking care of him, making sure he was comfortable as best I could, feeding him as much good food as he wanted, and petting him and loving him as much as I could. During this time a friend of mine pointed something out to me and as soon as he did I knew he was right. Here on my property there is a brick wall that had a circular walkway through it that we called the "moon gate". The top arch of the gate had been cracking and deteriorating for awhile and recently it had collapsed. I just hadn't put the two things together, but after thinking about it I'm almost positive that Pumpkin1 was walking along the top of the brick wall and when he walked over the moon gate it finally collapsed smashing him up in the falling bricks and concrete.
The collapsed moon gate
So now the mystery of the initial cause of injury was solved, but I still had to deal with the inevitable future of Pumpkin1. Although I was spoiling him as best I could, I could tell he was uncomfortable and unhappy. And the bottle of pain medication was getting lower and lower, so I made the call to Valley Animal Hospital. Unfortunately it was a holiday weekend and I hadn't realized that so I did have to wait a few more days. And luckily I did have just enough pain medication. Then on their first day back open they called me and were able to get me a same day appointment. Which was a relief but also so bittersweet as I knew this was my last day ever with my friend. I spoiled him all day and just tried to love him and pet him as much as I could trying not to cry and worry him and just assuring him that I loved him and would be there with him all the way until the end. I got his grave site ready and eventually the time came.
Pumpkin1 on his last day
Getting the grave ready
It was so hard. Even now, a day later, it's really hard typing this. I arrived at the vet on time and didn't have to wait at all. And although on the way there I kept telling myself I was gonna be strong and not cry in front of the people there I couldn't help it. Luckily the staff were all very compassionate and supportive. Honestly I don't know how they do it, emotionally it has to be such an extremely hard job to do. Eventually Dr. Tracy came in and gave Pumpkin1 his first shot, a sedative to calm him. After a few minutes I could tell it was working. Then a few minutes later Dr. Tracy came back. I kissed him on the head and said my last goodbye and then she gave him the second and final shot. After that it was only a matter of 30 seconds or so and my little Pumpkin1's heart stopped beating and he breathed his last breath. God it was so hard. I brought his body home, and after a few drinks to calm myself down, me and my friend took him out and buried him on the far side of my property next to Monkey, my kitten that unfortunately died a few years ago. It seemed to be the appropriate spot. And so... well.. I guess that's about it. I'm going to miss Pumpkin1 a lot, but luckily I still have ten other feline friends to keep me company. Seven I consider mine and three that are still more wild but just seem to like hanging out on my property. And I am very happy to have found the Valley Animal Hospital and will be taking all my pets there from now on. Dealing with those other vets was so stressful so it is a real relief to know that I now have a great place to take them that I like and trust.
Pumpkin1's grave in front of Monkey's grave
So, in conclusion... I'm very sorry for such a sad post, but I just really felt like I needed to write it. To those that read it, thank you for caring, I appreciate you. And so, until the next (hopefully much happier) post, thanks for reading!