A feral cat’s world and life were forever changed when she met a special dog friend who brought family into her life.
Anne E. Beall shares an excerpt from the book “Community Cats:”
Dundee Boy was a chow chow / Australian shepherd mix whom a feral caretaker, Yvette, adopted. He was a fluffy black and tan dog with lovely, thick fur who had lived for five years at a shelter before they met him on their service vacation. Tabitha was a feral cat in Yvette’s yard. When the two animals first met one another, Tabitha ran away in fear. And Dundee Boy had been described in his adoption papers as a dog who didn’t like cats. But somehow things changed.
Yvette first started noticing the connection between the two animals when Tabitha would come to the outside of her house and stare into her window. At first she thought that Tabitha was looking for food. She wasn’t; she was looking for Dundee Boy. And Dundee Boy often looked for Tabitha. When he saw her out in the yard, he would often get very excited and bark until they let him go out.
Dundee Boy would go out in the yard where Tabitha was waiting. They would walk around the yard, play, and nuzzle one another. When Yvette and Francisco would take Dundee Boy for a walk, Tabitha would often accompany them. She never let them touch her, but she would let Dundee Boy get close to her and nuzzle her. And when Dundee Boy got into the car to go somewhere, Tabitha would often look longingly after him.
Tabitha gets sick
About a year after the two met, Tabitha got sick. She began to lose weight. She would rush to the food bowl when there was food in it, but she wouldn’t eat. Yvette knew that she and Francisco had to do something, so they devised a way to capture Tabitha in their entrance hallway.
They took her to the vet, and she was diagnosed with giardia, which required 21 days of medication. Yvette realized that the only way they could save Tabitha’s life was to keep her in a spare bedroom and administer the daily medication. That was going to be very difficult, given that Tabitha was used to being outside and was extremely fearful of people. She would not let them get near her.
The first time Yvette and Francisco tried to give Tabitha her medication, she fought them with a ferocity that surprised them. They were unsure whether they would be able to save her, until they brought Dundee Boy in to visit her.
When Dundee Boy was with her, Tabitha relaxed, and she let the humans give her the medication. And then she and Dundee Boy snuggled. Eventually, she even let Yvette pet her, but only when Dundee Boy was present. Otherwise, she was nervous and scared.
After 21 days, Tabitha regained her health, and Yvette made the decision to keep her inside with Dundee Boy. The two animals enjoyed many snuggles and playtimes together.
It was a happy arrangement until Dundee Boy died in 2011. He had bloat and went to the veterinarian for surgery but passed away during the procedure. When he didn’t return, Tabitha howled for weeks. She was devastated. It broke Yvette and Francisco’s hearts. It was a very difficult time for all of them, but they managed to eventually cope and adjust to the change.
When I went to visit them, Tabitha was still living indoors, and although she has had many opportunities to go outside, she has decided to live indoors. Yvette says that Tabitha is very sweet and friendly to them, but is nervous around new people. But more importantly, she is a happy, healthy cat these days.
A bittersweet tale, indeed.
Photos by Yvette M. Piña