August 28, 2020 started like any other day at the foster office of the Oregon Humane Society. I was there to pick up a new foster cat, Barry Manilow, a sweet brown tabby of undetermined age. Barry had come from a hording situation and was afflicted with a condition I’d never encountered before, plasma cell pododermatitis, also known as “pillow foot.” When I looked it up online, I saw photos of cats with foot pads resembling a pillow. They didn’t begin to prepare me for what I found with Barry.
Barry’s pads were swollen to the point of hugeness. The front pads were pendulous, raw and bleeding. Here is the email I wrote to the foster department the next morning:
“Poor Berry! His little foot pads are bleeding every time he takes a step, and even when he’s sitting quietly. Whatever healing scabs there were are coming off like layers of skin, leaving raw flesh. This is compounded by the fact he likes to jump on everything. What a mess! He is the sweetest boy, but I’m at a loss about the bleeding.”
Foster responded immediately, offering to take him back, but I declined. I would cope with the mess and try to keep him comfortable rather than have him go back to the shelter. His doctor suggested keeping him kenneled for the major part of the time to reduce his walking. He was happy with that, loving his bed and my big kennel with its nice window view of birds and trees. I gave him a tablet so he could watch “Bird TV” and hung ribbons and shiny things from the ceiling. When I let him out, he enjoyed being with me and exploring a larger domain. I followed him around with a damp cloth to mop up the blood.
At first, Barry was unsure what to do with his freedom. He ignored all of the toys and pretty much ignored me as well. Though he had got a reputation at the shelter for being feisty, I never saw that side of him. He was always mellow and curious in spite of his painful feet.
He began coming nearer to me, especially when I rubbed his sideburns. He realized he loved being petted, and though he wasn’t ready to sit on my lap, he would come close and snuggle. Then one day he began to play with a string toy! For a cat person, there is a moment of pure joy when a sullen, hesitant cat finally finds play!
This elation was short-lived however. Barry began to lose his appetite. His pads seemed even more swollen, and he had become reluctant to walk on them, taking only a few steps before crouching down. I contacted the Foster office again, and this time they asked that I bring him in. When I dropped him off in the parking lot per pandemic protocol and said goodbye, I hoped the doctor could do something for the sweet boy who had been making so much social progress. I also hoped he would come back to me, but that didn’t happen. By the time he was ready to be in foster again, I had a trip planned, so he moved on to another foster parent.
I had Barry with me for a mere six days, but his will to thrive will remain in my heart and mind forever. In spite of terrible experiences, unending pain, and life in a hopeless situation, he was ready to change and learn. His love (and curiosity) overcame the ordeals of his past. I am so thankful to OHS for giving ones like Barry a new chance and a better life.
Read more of Barry’s story here: How OHS’s Humane Law Enforcement and Medical team came together to help a cat with a rare condition
About Mollie Hunt: Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie Hunt writes the award-winning Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, and the Cat Seasons sci-fantasy tetralogy where cats save the world. She also pens a bit of cat poetry.
Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, the Cat Writers’ Association, and Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA). She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.
You can find Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer on her blogsite: www.lecatts.wordpress.com
Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/