My Angel Kitty Has Wings
Angel Kitty, 'Ditto,' is represented by his ornament in our Christmas tree.
We have a tradition in our home of placing a Christmas stocking on the wall for each family member, including our pets. Each has his or her own distinctive little sock, emblazoned with the pet’s name in glitter. When a pet in our family crosses the Rainbow Bridge, the following Christmas we place their stocking onto the branches of our Christmas tree. We tuck or hang the socks of departed loved pets onto the branches in what has become a solemn family ceremony. As each pet has a stocking, they also have a Christmas ornament that looks like them. My favorite of all these ornaments is the Angel Kitty, for Ditto, the kitten who stayed far too short a time in my life.
Ditto was literally thrown out of a car to die. I found him inside a pillow case that had been tied up so he could not get out. The pillow case was “moving” as I drove by it on a busy street. I pulled over, ran back and grabbed the fabric. It meowed. I carried the tiny bundle back to my car, opened the pillow case and looked inside. In the fabric was the tiniest black kitten with a bit of white fur on his chest. He looked almost identical to our black cat, Shadow. I took the tiny kitten home, gave him some water and mushy food and called our vet, who agreed to check out the baby immediately. The kitten was a little dehydrated, but generally in good shape after the ordeal on the street. The vet gave him a couple shots, tested him for worms and found him to be fine. I took him home and introduced him to our daughters, who had just returned from school.
“Let’s call him ‘Ditto.’ He’s a Ditto of Shadow,” both girls stated as they took their first look at our new baby. The kitten was found in a place where he had been left to die. So had our Shadow. And, the baby looked like Shadow. So, “Ditto” became a member of our family and soon he became my tiny “shadow.” Ditto was always in my lap, no matter where I sat. He always nuzzled me in a way that made me think that he just knew.
One day, Ditto held his right paw in the air for along time. He wouldn’t put it down except to walk, and then he limped. He would walk okay for bit, putting weight on the leg off and on, but the next day – when he never put that paw down – I knew something was terribly wrong. I took him to the vet where his leg was x-rayed. Ditto had a large spot on his leg bone that looked like bone cancer. This couldn’t be. He was just a baby. How could I, who had just survived my own bout with bone cancer, find a kitten who is now suffering from the same disease? How could any precious kitty have to suffer like this?
We were referred to a specialist and the diagnosis was confirmed that same day. Ditto was only about 18-months-old and we were told that this was very rare in such a young cat. I was reassured that he could be saved by an amputation if the cancer had not spread to his lungs. The specialist cradled him and took him for his lung X-ray, which was clear. We proceeded with the amputation of his leg, all the way to his shoulder. The specialist told us that a complete amputation would be best as he would use his three remaining legs to walk. If they left any of his cancerous leg, he would attempt to use it and would never learn the tripod walk.
I brought Ditto home a few days after his surgery and spent the next few weeks hand-feeding him and keeping him from trying to walk. Any time he was not in my arms he was in a small crate next to our bed. We had a bit of trouble getting him to eat, and our eldest daughter tried giving him some of her yogurt. He loved the treat, and with a little yogurt mixed into his own food, Ditto began to eat and gain back his strength. I am sure he was relieved when he was finally allowed to venture out as a tripod kitty. He soon learned to walk and run on his three legs and the wound healed well. Soon he was his furry self, only minus one leg. It seemed that it did not matter to Ditto that he was missing a leg. He ran and chased our dogs like never before. It was like Ditto had wings.
Everything was fine with Ditto’s recovery and at his one year post-surgery visit, the vet gave him an all-clear. Then, one morning, only a month later and on the first day of Spring Break for our daughters, my husband woke me up with the words, “Get up. Ditto’s dead on the couch.” NO, it can’t be. My little guy!
I ran to the couch to find my Ditto as if he had just taken a big stretch and was suddenly gone. I listened to his chest, I checked his eyes. Nothing. He was gone. My Ditto was gone. He had been fine at 1 a.m. when I was awake and checked on him. He was sleeping on the couch, woke up briefly and snuggled against my hand as I petted him. I knew Ditto would sleep there until about 5 a.m., when he would hop into our bed and snuggle next to me. My husband found Ditto just where I had last seen him sleeping.
How could my little guy, who had made it so far, be gone? I was devastated at the loss of Ditto. I had found him. I had cared for him when he was so very ill, while still regaining my own strength. I had hand-fed him, helped him learn to stand and then to walk and run. And Ditto, with his incredible courage, had given me a sense of hope for my own recovery like nothing else ever had. If Ditto can make it, so can I.
We buried Ditto wrapped in the blanket I had been crocheting (with his help) for months. Ditto had spent every evening curled up in my creation as I added row upon row to the blanket-to-be. I had even acquired a larger, “overstuffed” chair so Ditto could sit next to me. Now, I stood, cradling my “Little Guy” in the unfinished blanket, as my husband read a passage to try to comfort all of us who were stunned at the sudden loss of one we loved so much.
Later that year, as Christmas approached, I pulled out the stockings and we gently laid Ditto’s onto a branch in front, next to his ornament, as is our family custom. The “angel kitty” ornament we had chosen for him for his first Christmas with us, before he became ill – a black cat with wings – now became my comfort. Ditto was my angel kitty and he will forever be remembered as the beautiful, loving kitty with wings.
One Final Note: I asked my veterinarian what could have caused Ditto to die to suddenly after being given an all-clear. The vet said that most of the time when a cat dies so suddenly, it is from a massive stroke, due to a blood clot that becomes loose and goes to the brain. He told me that it was instantaneous death, nothing painful or lingering and that it probably had nothing to do with his previous illness or surgery.