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Nurse Sass

Sassy Rockwell

18 years ago the Marblehead Animal Control Officer brought a young calico cat into our practice. "The owner wants to put her down" she said "Cat bit her. Owner wants to skip quarantine. But she seems like a nice little cat. Can you keep her here for a few days?"

This beautiful little girl was less than a year old. Her coloring was like a peanut-butter, jelly and marsh-mellow sandwich squished together with yellow eyes.

We took this kitten into our care and gave her a full physical examination. All went well until we touched her tail and she screeched, swatting at us wildly. Her fur hid her awful hurt, her distal tail (the tip) was de-gloved (skin was torn off) and needless to say, extremely painful. So, we spayed her, vaccinated her and amputated the end of her necrotic tail and then we brought her home.

Home was us, three babies of our own under the age of four and 2 dogs, 3 cats and at least a couple of parrots. When Jeff said he wanted to bring this little kitty home I remember asking him "why?" but I think in my heart I asked myself "why-not". She was a special animal and in the thousands we handle year to year, she won our hearts as a spunky survivor. We brought her into the fold of the chaos of our home and we named her "Sassy".

Sassy was a kitten when our boys were just kittens, and maybe for that reason, she stuck to them like glue. Every night, at all hours of the night, night after night, and year after year, I would check on the sleeping children (as moms do) and Sassy would be in one crib, and the next, and then the next, visiting each one of them. She thoughtfully rotated her nocturnal watch. In those days, Jeff worked 24/7 and Sassy was my only help and I came to call her "Nurse-Sass".

Nurse-Sass was a vigilant care-taker of the boys. She watched over them at night, and somehow had the energy to be a play-mate to them by day. She was adoring of the boys in ways that inspired me. The spilt milk, over and over again, was a welcome pleasure and Sass taught me to look at the clean-up in an entirely different way.

One day the boys decided Sass needed a bath. So they put her in a cat carrier, put her in the tub and turned on the shower. Horrified at this discovery, I took her out of the carrier, toweled her off and she immediately sought the company of her beloved captors. Nothing, no one and no-how could change her allegiance to her boys.

Our boys are grown, and their beds are empty now, but Sass has continued on because it's always been her nature to adapt. Every morning since the kids have gone off to college she would come to our bed to have coffee with us. Our little kitten circling back has been a joy. We sip our coffee in bed, and she presses hard on Jeff to be patted and adored. But this past week was different. Rather than curl up with Jeff, Nurse Sass squared off with us eye to eye. Gently she tagged Jeff's face, again and again until he asked "What's wrong Sass?" She answered his question by tagging her own face. So we took a look and realized that she had a cancer growing in her mouth, unseen and unnoticed until Sassy let on to us that she was ill.

We often tell our clients that cats are the most wild of domestic animals, and they don't really show signs of illness until they are really sick. As pet owners, and animal lovers, I've seen so many people beat themselves up because they have "missed something" in gauging the wellness or illness of their animals. But here you go, two trained professionals who have coffee with their beloved cat every day, and it took a literal slap in the face from Sassy to make us take notice that something was wrong.

So be gentle with yourselves people. We know you are doing your level best with your pets.

So now, from where we sit... though our days with Sassy are numbered, the blessings of our time with her can never, ever be measured. #nursesass#bestcatever#wewillloveandmissyouforever

Post Script:

Since the beginning of this blog, things have happened fast and this morning we put our sweet girl down. As usual, she communicated her needs to us and today her need was for us to let her go. With very heavy hearts, we did her bidding and put her to rest . Your watch is over. Rest well Nurse Sass.

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