This page is dedicated to Isabelle, our 13 year old adopted kitty.
My husband George and I adopted Isabelle in January 2009 from Springfield Humane Society in Springfield, VT. My mom had seen the shelter's photo of her in the local newspaper and saved it for me. Mom wasn't normally looking for cats for us to adopt, but this one stood out for some reason. Several urgent emails from Mom followed. Below is the ad that appeared in the Rutland Herald shortly after New Year's Day '09:
George was interested in adopting a shelter dog too and the German Shepherd they had really caught his eye. We visited Springfield and he and our future Sheppie were a perfect fit! Sheppie had been abandoned, chained up in a back yard with no food and little water for weeks at a time. By the time the shelter got to him, he was severely malnourished. We were told he was in poor health and would have most likely one year to live at best. This was not an issue with us. We filled out the adoption papers to take him home that same day.
Sheppie looked good. And he was a good boy!
Isabelle's story was unfortunately similar. She came from a condemned trailer, with no heat, light, running water or electricity. She foraged for food scraps in a nearby dumpster and was extremely underweight when rescued and brought to the humane society. I remember going to her cage and asking to hold her. She was very depressed. The volunteer there kindly brought her out and put her in my arms. She didn't lift her head or move, although they had succeeded in putting more weight back on her. Soft classical music played from speakers nearby and two new washer/dryer sets churned quietly a few feet away, laundering fleece cat blankets. "Isabelle" was her shelter name; I could see it on the tag above her cage. I decided to keep it, although changing the pronounciation a little, more continental. A more melodic "Ee-sah-belle" rather than the usual "Izz-a-belle" commonly heard.
Sheppie and Isabelle came home with us together on the same day, although there was one troubling event that haunted me over the weekend: there was a black and white cat in the cage next to Isabelle's, who looked remarkably similar to her and who made pointed eye contact with me as I started to leave with Isabelle. This cat hurled herself against the bars of her cage, mewing and crying, never breaking eye contact. The mewing, shockingly sounded almost like "take me!", although I wondered how a cat could convincingly vocalize English. It continued to bother me and I couldn't put the sounds and images out of my mind, to the point of having a bad dream about it over the weekend and waking up crying. Isabelle, our new cat, did not seem to want to eat much. She mostly just gazed around her dully, not responding to anyone or anything. I finally told my husband on Monday morning I had to call the shelter back.
Which I did. They were closed apparently, so I left several frantic messages on their machine. At long last I heard back from the shelter manager. It turned out... that cat in the cage next to Isabelle's had also been in the miserable trailer! And would I like to take her home? There would be no charge. Actually, there was yet another kitty in that awful place as well... there had been the three of them. Adoption fees waived for all. I told the lady in charge I'd be there that afternoon. My mom and I readied two carriers and started the drive to the shelter.
When I picked up Donella and found out she was four years younger than Isabelle, I knew right away this was her daughter! There was the little tiny white star in the middle of her forehead, just like mom's. The same white bib. The same white paws. The same coat pattern, everything.
Wenonah is a tabby and probably not related. She also turned out to be George's favorite and the one he plays with the most! Like Donella, she also was thought to be four or five years younger.
I carried Donella upstairs to the depressed, listless Isabelle. I set the carrier down in front of her and opened the door. Daughter came out and they sniffed noses. Then they began to twirl around one another and Isabelle began to perk up noticeably! She began to purr a little. It was the first time I saw her personality come out.
Isabelle was an alpha female and she ruled the household. She was the queen bee. She was an affectionate kitty and deeply intelligent. She knew whenever anyone was sick and would rush off to notify a human if she thought there was a concern. She liked to sit next to my harp while I played and sometimes reach out with a paw for long strokes of my hair. "Catching a toy" was a favorite activity; letting the whole world know with a throaty singing yowl that she'd found a good catnip toy and then carrying it in her mouth (muffled yowing all the while) to the bottom of the stairs at the same time every day was getting her job done for the day. She was always present at dinner time, to lay on her back and wait for her regular appointed belly rub when everyone was done eating.
She stayed close to her daughter and I often found them napping together, curled up close in the same overstuffed chair in the winter, sleeping. But she also kept Donella in line - the occasional hiss, paw bat and stare down and Donella knew Mom was still in charge. Our beloved German Shepherd did not stay long with us, as foreseen - he died in November 2009 of DM - but he was very close to Donella.
Isabelle gives her daughter Donella a bath
Jake and Jasmine, our two youngest (and not related to each other, either) became Isabelle's "babies". She'd apparently had a lot of kittens in her former life; these two seemed to fill some kind of maternal need and found themselves being washed and cuddled a lot. They didn't seem to mind. The only video I have of her is one with her giving Jake a bath. I made a YouTube video of it (see below).
Isabelle, like a lot of kitties, unfortunately enjoyed eating - a lot. She gained a lot of weight and went from severely underweight to obese. I didn't know much, if anything at the time about feline diabetes. In August 2012 she developed a benign facial tumor that had to be surgically removed. Pre-anesthesia testing showed she had abnormally high blood sugar. After changing her diet failed to help lower her blood sugar, we started her on PZI insulin in January 2013.
We lost her on May 7, 2014. She had seemed normal the previous week but went downhill very quickly over the weekend. I took her to an emergency veterinary clinic with 24/7 care... sort of a human hospital in miniature. It wasn't in time. She had pancreatitis and developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It was very difficult to let her go, and I held her in my arms as she passed to the next world. It was a very beautiful sunny spring day and I drove the long back country roads to the animal hospital with one thought in mind... to go get her for the last time and bring her home.
Post Script: After Isabelle died, I still had her insulin in my refrigerator, a recently acquired fresh batch from the pharmacy. Not wanting to throw it out, I connected with Diabetic Cats in Need, a Delaware-based non-profit whose mission is, among many things, to assist low-income people with obtaining insulin and supplies for their feline friends. For those whose beloved pets have recently passed, you can donate your leftover medical supplies, help a sick animal and receive a tax deduction for your expenses. They match your insulin/syringe type with a recipient on their list and help coordinate things.
Fortunately I still had the pharmacy's UPS shipping box and cold packs in the freezer so preparing the package for shipping was easy. DCIN gave me recipient address and kitty details: Isabelle's insulin and leftover syringes went to a kitty who was adopted by his foster; he had been abandoned at a kill shelter by his first owner because he had diabetes!
Here's more information about feline diabetes:
Thank you for reading about Isabelle and may your kitty (ies) if you have them never develop this. Sherri Matthew