Day 4 of my 12 days of pets, I introduce to you: Dart.
I moved to Florida in the summer of 2006 and started working at a humane society the week after hitting the ground. As I made the introduction rounds, I remember meeting Dart, a long-haired black cat who had patches of fur missing. He, I learned, was our “clinic cat” meaning that he had basically been deemed un-adoptable due to his temperament. Apparently he was an odd-duck of a cat who didn’t do well-being kenneled (which is how most cats are presented during the adoption process), did not like other cats, and, for some unknown reason, pulled his fur out.
As all of you fellow animal lovers know, most cat households are multiple cat households so that was a strike against him. And, not being nice while in a kennel tends to turn people away. Add on the fact that you’re pulling your fur out…well, you might as well get comfortable at the shelter. Thankfully, our shelter appeased Dart and his wishes were fulfilled in the form of free-roam of our veterinary clinic for shelter pets.
Dart would monitor medical procedures, keep an eye on patients waking up from anesthesia, and make a mess of eating his dinner and scratching around in the litter box. He also loved to scratch on the toes of shoes and the thigh area of pants. So weird. But his quirky behavior and distinct “bark” when entering the clinic grew on me. And I found myself checking on him daily.
Soon came Lily and Lucy and I was absorbed by the responsibilities of caring for two baby cats. Funny enough, Dart was by my side. Everyday, I would bring Lily and Lucy with me to work so that they could be bottle fed every couple of hours and spend their days snuggling with their litter mates. We kept the kittens in the clinic so I would see Dart at least three times a day. As the kittens grew and began exploring the clinic, Dart would supervise. Wary of the little things crawling around in his space, he would occasionally swat at one as if to say “this is my house, I am in charge.” Sometimes the little ones would slide five or six feet across the floor and get up and run right back to him. It was hilarious. And, I think, good for their development.
In time, I was buying Dart a special food to help his itchy skin and his fur started coming back. He wasn’t pulling at it desperately anymore and I encouraged our adoption staff to try putting him up for adoption again. We were able to bring him up to the adoption center and gave him more free rein. If memory serves me right, he was adopted for a short time but was returned for one reason or another. At which time, he went back to the clinic because he had begun pulling his fur out again. Everyone concluded that he would spend his life at the shelter and that we would be his family.
A year and a half later, Dart sustained some kind of injury (probably from jumping) and, unable to move, was in excruciating pain. Our veterinarian determined that euthanasia was the only humane course of treatment. I was heartbroken…devastated…but to hear his cries and see the pain in his eyes, I knew. I knew it was time to say goodbye. A few of us placed our hands on him as he breathed his final breaths. I cried from the depths of my being and assured him that I would pick him up one day at the Rainbow Bridge. He would always be my family.
I don’t know what Dart’s story was before he arrived at the shelter. But, I know the legacy he’s left behind. Some of my greatest friendships were forged at that shelter and those friends and I still talk about Dart. He is absolutely omnipresent in our lives.