It was a paradox how hind end paralysis hadn’t really slowed down Max, the Maine Coon cat.
He moved through time with grace, the utmost of curiosity and sheer determination, regardless of his physical ability. As a patient, he had become an incredible teacher to all who witnessed him and clearly, we all needed more of Max — more of his courage, his zest for life and his indomitable spirit.
It was unheard of in veterinary medicine to catheterize a patient’s bladder for as long as I had with Max. He needed time to heal without the strain of use but the longer the catheter remained, the more likely that it would damage Max’s delicate tissue and result in scarring and no ability to use his bladder. It was walking a tightrope — too soon and Max wouldn’t have time to heal — too late and he’d be damaged beyond repair, either way a death sentence.
I asked for guidance from the universe, held my breath, and removed his catheter. As Max continued to practise standing and willing his legs to move forward that day, he was now, truly on his own.
Would his spirit and willpower triumph over the damage done to his spine by a bullet intended to cause him grave harm?
The following morning I came to collect Max for his promised trip to the beach. I had never been so delighted to scoop a litterbox — there it was, a small but precious clump of urine! We were headed in the right direction and it was time to head to the beach to celebrate. The atmosphere at the SPCA was festive as I crated Max and shared my plans for the day. I had no idea that Max would never return to this place that had spared his life.
Max managed the car ride with ease and looked about with wide-eyed curiosity as I loaded his crate into my sailing dinghy and called Shasta, my dog, aboard to join us on our victory trip. We sailed across the bay on calm waters and I beached the dinghy on the sandy shores where I had imagined bringing Max not that long before, dreaming of his freedom. I had so wanted to share this place with him, so he could have respite from kennel confinement, the ever-present smell of his urine, and the heat of the sand warming his body and now, here we were.
The fresh, warm breeze brought the symphony of smells of all things briny and he pushed his big maned head against the crate door, eyes closed, nostrils wide open. I watched him breathing in this new, salty world and then, with great honour and pleasure, I picked up his crate and carried it up above the tide line to dry warm sand. Forever more, in exquisite detail and slow motion, I will remember opening that crate door that could never have confined a spirit as indomitable as Max’s and setting my patient free. He pulled himself onto the sand and into his new life with Shasta and I, grinning from ear to ear on the beach. So was I.
Dr Brenda A Bernhardt is the owner of Cowichan Veterinary HouseCalls. Contact her at 250-932-5552 for housecalls or telephone consults. You can also check out Dr. Brenda’s website www.cowichanvet.com and see her new line of organic remedies and wellness products for radically healthy pets.