Take one look at the pics and you will see the reason for her name. Not at all striving for inappropriate but I will share that my mother used to call handicapped parking spaces wheelie cap spaces when I was a little kid. Here is the story of our delightful, Wheeliecappers! Yes, I pluralize everything, I don’t know why.
Wheels was yet another cat rescued by my former employer at the cat only vet. She found her on the side of the road on her way to or from work, I can’t recall. At the time, Wheels was a four-month-old feral, calico kitten who had been hit by a car, so obviously she brought her to the clinic to get all fixed up. Little did we know that she was not fixable, well, at least not all the way.
After a thorough exam, which Wheels pushed through but was completely baffled by all the touching, and x-rays, we learned that her back was broken. We could have euthanized her, but we didn’t, she was so full of life and healthy in every other way. This clinic had seen many miracles, we had about 45-65 clinic cats at any given time, it was the land of misfit toys where all the broken came to play. So, we decided to see if time would help and if Wheels would regain some degree of strength and ability to walk and eliminate on her own. This gave the staff lots of time to get attached to her so clearly this was the final decision. We were keeping her!
I took care of Wheels a lot. I became very attached to her very quickly. I may not have the desire to have human babies, but as Jake sweetly said to me one day, when he was up at the clinic and we were both assisting with an emergency C-section, “You have maternal instincts, you just use them for animals!” All the staff had to learn how to express her bladder and help her defecate, but I was always the best at it. Little did I know this would become a niche for me throughout my career. I am a master extractor of feline elimination! We did physical therapy exercises to try to help her with strength and we ordered her a specially made cart (a big deal back then) to try to help her get around! She used it, but she was a very determined little lady and would often pull herself right out of her cart and just scoot along the floor. Due to this handicap, she was built like a linebacker in the front end, so strong! This was my, and most of the staff’s, first experience with such a severely handicapped cat.
As she approached one year of age it became clear that Wheels was not going to get better, she was also not going to get adopted, so we integrated her in with all the clinic cats. It was just so sad that her friends would come and go but she always remained along with a few other pretty “unadoptable” staples. The clinic was so “hard”; the surfaces did not scream cozy for a cat like Wheels. She didn’t really use the cat condos much and most of the beds were up on something so we could easily sweep and mop each day. She scooted around that place like she was the clinics personal dust mop! She did like the office and screen porch, so we decided to make that her home base, she even learned to use the cat door.
I always wanted to bring her home but didn’t think I could live up to the commitment. Then Lynx became diabetic, and I thought, well now I have to be here at least every 12 hours for him so maybe I could make this work? Wheels needed her urine expressed at least three times a day. She never regained the ability to eliminate on her own. I continued to remind myself that I saw her every day at work, did a lot of her care, and convinced myself it was too much. After all, did I “need” another cat? No!
Then, there was a hurricane, a BAD hurricane. I don’t remember the names of all of these storms the way so many people do. That is just not who I am, all I know is that I got the call that a HUGE, probably 200-year-old oak tree fell on the clinic during this storm! I knew which tree and I knew just where that might hit, it was in Wheels’ room!!!! I lost it! The owner of the clinic was out of town so I, and many of the staff rushed up there to make sure everyone was ok. I found Wheels cowered under the desk wet and terrified. It had rained right into her room. I mean how much could this one little cat endure; she’s freakin’ paralyzed for Christ’s sake. It’s not like she could get away! That was it, I told Jake that we had to do it, she couldn’t live there anymore, I was bringing her home.
Fast forward to life at our house. She fit it swimmingly! No one made a fuss at all, what was one more at this point? She was also incredibly sweet and unintimidating so none of the other cats cared. She was so freakin’ tough, OMG, she climbed the stairs to the upstairs and would climb up on the cardboard scratcher by the window and literally throw herself onto the screened porch. She loved the porch at the cat clinic; she loved the porch at our house.
She had this favorite little mouse toy that I will never forget, she never really played with anything at the clinic but at the house she blossomed. I regretted waiting so long to take her home. The mouse no one else in the house cared about was her favorite thing, I put it in her shadowbox of memories. Have I mentioned how precious it is to see a little paralyzed cat crack out on a little mouse toy! Well, it is precious!
I brought her home so she would be safe, so she could feel soft things, comfort, and know what it is like to be a part of a family and have a home. Then…our house caught fire!!! Jesus Christ! What more could this cat survive? In our downsized smaller space post fire, she eve learned to forage. She and Lefty were the two I was most worried about when I moved to strictly foraging for dry food. Previously, all food was up high due to our three large dogs but I had to cave and put bowls on the floors for Wheels so she could successfully eat. No more, food puzzling began! 16 cats, three dogs, 900 square feet post house fire, and we fed wet food twice a day, had food puzzles for the cat’ dry and the dogs didn’t destroy them all. It can be done; I’ve lived it and I am here to tell you it can be managed…with some creativity.
Wheels was not with us long and we haven’t a clue what happened to her. I have been haunted by the fact that my attempts to help her stretch and feel her best may have done something inside. Who knows, she could have further injured herself just doing her Wheels thing, maybe from tossing herself out the screen porch window or getting up and down from her cat condo and not using the ramp daddy so nice made just for her! Something happened where her stomach and bowels stopped digesting/moving, it was like she became more paralyzed. It happened super quickly, and I will spare you the gory details of her passing, but it was gross and sad. I still live with the feeling it was my fault. Maybe it was for the best that she didn’t get old and arthritic as that would have certainly been hard on her.
I will leave you with the little blurb I put in Wheels’ shadowbox of memories, complete with favorite mousy. It references her Auntie Molly’s little “Wheels on the Bus” song she used to sing to her when she would pet sit. And, how great is it to have such a good friend that she learned to expressed BOTH of your paralyzed cats while you went home to visit the fam? Just wow, thanks Auntie Molly!
I was so proud of you,
And so proud to have had the privilege to care for you.
I never resented the responsibility; but rather embraced it.
You were an amazing soul, so strong and so persevering.
No car, hurricane or fire could slow you, certainly no physical obstacle.
I have learned so much from you, I only hope I gave you enough in return.
The wheels on the bus go ‘round, as do, I suppose, the wheels of life.
You will be missed more than you could ever know.
I love you.
I am sorry.
I still have her cart…her “wheels”.