I would like to believe that I am not so cynical to not believe in signs from above but this one, this one was so blatantly obvious that one could not help but NOT ignore it.
I lost my best friend, my light of my life, my “reason” on Monday 01/25/2021 and to say that I was handling it poorly was an understatement. I was on “autopilot”, masking my utter sadness and heartbreak behind a false smile and felt so incomplete that I felt would be permanent and just simply “who I was” from now on.
Until Monday 03/08/2021.
I heard commotion in my veterinary clinic I work for with my name coming up several times (which peaked my interest) as I saw a small crowd circling something … something tiny. I as made my way into the small group of women I saw him… meet Maxwell Walker (Maxwell after The Beatle’s song “Maxwell Silver Hammer”) an eight week old pug puppy (though the doctors suspect he may be younger) who is a “swimmer puppy”.
Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is a developmental deformity that results in a puppy having a flattened thorax/chest. They may have mobility issues that with physical therapy can be (for the most part) corrected it just takes a lot of patience and humility.
Max will never replace Maggie ever and in fact he may be nothing like Maggie which I accept and understand also (I used to often joke that I wasn’t a “pug person” but I was an avid “Maggie person”) but I can only hope that somewhere tucked deep inside that tiny little pug puppy is a quality or two that Maggie had for so long – that patience, that calmness and most of all affection.
I know it will take time for Max to grow on me (frankly he’s creeping into my ❤️) and it will take even more time to work on getting him to use his back legs and be more mobile (without my assistance).
If you’ve been wondering why the site and our social media platforms went on a short, short sabbatical it’s because of this little dude. We’re working with him constantly as far as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, puzzles and exercise regularly (in addition to trying to potty train) as well as care for the other part of the crew has managed to occupy the rest of my day (happily of course!).
Please be patient with us as we work to find a happy medium between Maxwell and the rest of the day’s agendas — I promise we will return with gusto! Stay tuned folks!
NYE – a time for people to come together and reflect on the past year while making resolutions for the fresh new year ahead but sometimes it can be emotionally exhausting for some (especially those overly empathetic or sensitive like I am!).
Needless to say the last few months have been a surreal experience – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s… where this year the memories will be different, despite my best efforts to remain inside the comfort of habit of the holidays come and gone I am forced to accept change and must endure the vacuum inside my heart … suffering in waves the sorrow and loss of my heart and soul – Maggie Mae.
I did know know what a “heart pet” was until I started working in the veterinary field — for those of you not familiar with the term a “heart pet” is something of a “soul mate” (but for four legs not two!) and simply a term that has coined an animal that has left such a profound effect on your life in ways you never thought imaginable.
Now, I get e-mails all of the time, “but Suzi what about the rest of the land of adorable misfits at your house?”
I love every single one of my “adorable misfits” and they enrich my life and fill my heart with love that overflows but they aren’t Maggie.
Maggie who was there when I turned 18 years old – so confident that since I was officially an “adult” (insert giggles here) and knew everything there was to know about “adulting” (again insert giggles here).
Maggie who was there when I moved into my first house – who we huddled together on the nights the old furnace didn’t keep us completely warm, or the summer days that were too hot but despite that Maggie always needed to be touching me (or on those real hot days “peel” was a more correct term).
Maggie who was there when I turned 21. Who was there when I experienced my first major break-up, Maggie who gave us the strength to uproot and leave a toxic, abusive relationship.
Maggie who was there when I got married. Who was there when I turned 30.
For every photo with Santa (and the Easter bunny!), for every halloween costume, every St. Patrick’s day we dyed her green (non-toxic of course!), for every Christmas that we carefully laid her stocking out to be filled with gifts and snacks or every New Years Eve that Maggie was the first kiss of the New Year.
You get comfortable — they are there for all of the milestones and in your mind and heart you convince yourself they will always be there.
Until one day they are not.
And then you feel like you are lost and standing in the middle of an open field and it is just a whirlwind of emotions.
And for every storm there comes a rainbow! For as much as I was mourn and miss my holiday traditions with Maggie Mae … I am starting brand new traditions with Maxwell.
Happy New Year Friends! Just like all of you I am sure that 2021 was full of highs and lows, dips, stomach dropping adventures — but we made it! Here is to hoping we all have a happy, healthy & prosperous new year!
A HUGE thanks to Caitlin McAuliffe at Meow as Fluff for this beautiful write up and video for Bifford’s cause! You can visit them (also be sure to “like” them on Instagram and Facebook, too!) At http://meow.af/ or more Bifford specifically at: http://www.meow.af/bifford
Meet The Handsome Wobbly Cat Who Was Adopted And Returned Three Times Before Finding The Perfect Forever Home!
When Suzi Langer was asked to foster Bifford, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), for the animal shelter near her home in Youngstown, Ohio, she didn’t have any experience caring for animals with special needs. However, when Suzi learned the fluffy black feline wasn’t thriving at the shelter, she reluctantly agreed to foster him.
“He was getting bullied and beat up on by the other cats, and he was depressed, lethargic, and not really eating,” remembers Suzi, so she picked him from the shelter in early 2014. “I opened the top of the worn green carrier to see two warm golden eyes staring back at me. Bifford sat there, quietly in the ‘turkey stance,’ and he seemed to almost be overwhelmed by his changing situation.”
However, when Suzi learned Bifford’s history, she quickly understood why he appeared uneasy. On October 9, 2011, Bifford and his litter mates were born with cerebellar hypoplasia, a non-progressive neurological condition that affects balance and coordination. “This may occur if a pregnant queen is vaccinated for feline distemper (FVRCP) using a ‘modified live virus’ vaccine,” explains Suzi, “or if the mother suffers trauma, malnutrition, or panleukopenia [a highly contagious viral disease].”
Sadly, when Bifford was just nine days old, he was rejected by his biological mother, so he was bottle fed by a good Samaritan. Due to his lack of coordination, the good Samaritan also assisted the wobbly kitten by helping him use the litter box and cleaning him, but she eventually surrendered Bifford to the shelter because she was unable to provide him with the extra care and attention she believed he required. “She claimed that he needed 24 hour around-the-clock care in order to survive,” says Suzi.The note that was attached to Bifford’s carrier when he was surrendered
While Bifford was eventually adopted, he was returned to the shelter by his first family because they were going on vacation. His second family was unhappy because although he was able to use the litter box on his own, he didn’t cover up the mess, so they also returned Bifford to the shelter. He was adopted by yet another family and was returned to the shelter for a third time, but not before he was subjected to profound cruelty.
“The ‘owners’ had attempted to lock Bifford in an empty hot tub because they wanted him to ‘die with dignity’ and ‘contain the mess,’ ” explains Suzi. “It breaks my heart to think about Bifford patiently waiting for his ‘family’ to return and with each passing minute he slowly loses hope that they were coming back for him.”
Fortunately, within moments of bringing Bifford home on May 9, 2014, Suzi fell in love with the adorable special needs cat, and she and her husband decided to adopt him! “Bifford was a clumsy, affectionate, verbal little dude and had no reservations with enjoying the ‘clingy’ life attached to his mama’s hip!” says Suzi. Plus, Suzi knew being an adult black cat with special needs would make it harder for Bifford to find a forever home, and she was confident she and her husband would be able to provide him with the care, time, and attention he needed to thrive.
Initially, it was difficult for Suzi to resist the urge to coddle Bifford, especially because cats with cerebellar hypoplasia have issues with balance and coordination that frequently cause them to stumble and fall. However, as it became apparent Bifford was unlikely to actually injure himself, Suzi eventually realized she didn’t need to be quite so protective. “Just like toddlers, sometimes it is OK to let them stumble and fall,” says Suzi. “Of course, be there for them always, but it is OK to give positive reinforcement that it is OK to stumble and sometimes fall just as long as they always get back up and keep on truckin’!”
Nearly seven years later, Bifford is doing better than ever, and while he still wobbles when he walks, he’s incredibly happy and active. He’s also surprisingly self-reliant, which Suzi believes is a product of the more laid-back approach she’s taken towards Bifford’s cerebellar hypoplasia. “Today Bifford is more independent, able to climb into bed at night with us, and overall be a more self-reliant little dude,” explains Suzi, “and I believe that’s partly due to the fact that I am not a ‘helicopter’ mother and constantly swarming over him.”
However, this doesn’t mean Suzi and Bifford don’t have an extremely close relationship. In fact, there’s nothing this affectionate boy enjoys more than cuddling with his mom and dad, but he also adores spending supervised time outside during the spring and summer. “He never goes outside unattended and always wears a brightly colored harness with a leash on it,” says Suzi. “He loves to try and catch lightning bugs, ‘catching’ flowers blowing in the breeze, and all around running and gallivanting in our large open field next to our home.”
Even though it’s very obvious Bifford has an excellent quality of life, Suzi has encountered people, including a vet tech at a local clinic, who mistakenly believe cats with cerebellar hypoplasia are suffering and should be euthanized. She’s also found other common misconceptions are that cerebellar hypoplasia is contagious and that it gets worse over time, neither of which is true.
“These amazing babies are just as capable of living a long, happy, healthy life with minimal ‘special requirements,’ ” says Suzi. “Cerebellar hypoplasia animals — and many other specially-abled animals — are affectionate, strong-willed, resilient, amazing beings and we as humans can gain a thing or two by adopting these special babies and watching them go!”
After all, Suzi speaks from experience, because since adopting Bifford in 2014, she and her husband Michael have opened their home to a variety of special needs pets, including Bart, a one-eyed, partially blind cat; Roscoe, a Rat Terrier with epilepsy; and Maggie Mae, a deaf Pug who recently passed away from transitional cell carcinoma. “They are well-loved and well-cared for and do not require any extra care at home — just a little patience and understanding!” says Suzi.
It’s a grey, dreary, rainy, bleak day. The fluorescent lights of the local laundromat sit harsh and heavy on my hazel eyes as I watch the dryer tumble my bedspread over & over, I became entranced by the light hum the dryer was making and the monotony of its assignment at hand.
And for a moment I feel “normal” again, whole if you will but in the blink of an eye that moments gone and passed and my mind brutally taunts me…that for the first time in 14 years I am all alone, you are gone and now I am trying to remember my life before you blessed it, how I functioned, how I made it through my days but honestly — I can’t.
As much as I sift and comb through the complexities and anxieties of my mind, I cannot even pretend to remember a time before you because honestly that time never mattered.
Fourteen years seems like such a long time until you’re living without your “shadow” , your best friend, — your soul mate… then it starts to feel like a tiny drop in the ocean if you blink you miss it. And it’s true fourteen years was not at all long enough and here I am craving and yearning for more seconds, more minutes — as if trying to barter with the cruel universe that stole you from my life.
They say losing your “heart” pet changes you and that you are not the same after that. You convince yourself that won’t be you, but it will be. This is a pain that everyone takes on when they fall in love with their “soul” pet that amplifies every minute you further fall in love with them by the time you are at that horrible fateful goodbye the pain is so ungodly unfathomable it teeters on physical pain.
I teeter in and out of denial that you are actually gone and are resting comfortably among the stars (I would say quietly also but given your sweet, adorable, lumberjack snores I retract the “quiet” statement!) because some days my mind plays tricks on me – eagerly anticipating you to come bouncing from around the doorway with your ears flopping up and down like tiny velvet pig-tails and your little curly tail tightly curled resting on top of you like a bun.
Maggie Mae there will never be enough words, enough ways to explain or describe how much I miss you. WE miss you. The house feels like a vacuum with you absent from it, a repair not easily fixed. I miss you sorely but know that as long as I continue to talk about you, educate & advocate AGAINST horrible places and practices of “businesses” such as “harbor pets”, “petLand” and the “backyard breeders” they do business with…then I know you are never too far from my heart and soul. Love you my sweet girl.