Just a week ago, we published a cat parent’s story about struggling with reimbursements related the pet food recall. Her cat, who ate recalled cat food from Iams, had to be euthanized at the veterinarian’s office. It’s a story we’ve heard from many other readers.
But, out of the blue, Iams had decided to pay for her cat food recall-related expenses. She wrote us yesterday to say “I suspect it was your site that helped Iams finally recognize my situation. In short, they called, apologized and are giving us full payment. Thank you SO MUCH.”
Her email and a touching story about her cat, Kisses, that ate recalled cat food:
As my story about Kisses and our family’s loss was published on Itchmo last week, I continued working to get my new claim rep’s attention (at Risk Enterprise Management, the firm hired to manage claims for Iams).
Almost simultaneously, Iams personnel were reviewing my situation — whether due to my April e-mail to Iams surfacing in front of the right person, the Itchmo article, or some other lucky break, I am not sure. But I am thankful. Iams contacted REM to cut and mail a check to me, then Iams contacted me to apologize. REM called as well.
The Iams representative said a case with evidence like mine should have been paid earlier and that my situation is not typical. I hope she is right. Nothing will ever bring Kisses back, but the power of a sincere apology and a promise kept, even belatedly, should not be underestimated. I appreciate the sympathy expressed by the Iams representative and would label it heartfelt and genuine.
I could waste words here, rehashing my negative experiences. But I would rather talk about Kisses and what she meant to me. Now that I can stop chasing acknowledgment and validation through reimbursement, I am ready to focus on Kisses and her life, not just her illness and death.
Read a touching story of a dog-lover gone cat-crazy after the jump.
Full text of reader’s letter about the joys of living with her cat:
Ten years ago this week, I walked into a shelter with my sister, intending to get a dog. Dog, dog, dog. I was finally in an apartment that accepted pets, and I wanted a dog. I even told the shelter volunteers at the entrance, I’m getting a dog. My sister knew better. Get a cat, she said. You need a cat.
Cats were nice, and my grandmother let us claim a cat or two at her house over the years. But we grew up with dogs. I. Loved. Dogs.
I remember lots of cages, so many dogs, but not “THE dog.” My sister stood at the door to the cat room. “Just go in.” I rolled my eyes and gave in to shut her up as sisters do.
Oh, look at this one, I heard her say. She’s declawed and a Himalayan and… I didn’t even know what a Himalayan was, though she looked like a Persian, staring at me with perfectly round blue eyes from the back of her tiny cage. I thought, I could just hold her for a minute.
Click. There she was, my cat. I tried to ignore teasing from the volunteers about this “dog” as I signed the paperwork. At four years old, this was her third visit to the shelter. Her most recent entry there said simply, “Owner ill.” I renamed her “Kisses” and knew I would keep her the rest of her life. But that was only the beginning.
Even with new toys, treats and petting, it took months for us to fully adjust to each other. I like to imagine she was thinking, “How did I get here? And who is this?” even as I was wondering how on earth I wound up with a cat. Her favorite toy was a stuffed frog she used to carry around with her, dragging it under my bed during storms. I remember drying Frog out once after finding him face down in her water dish, and I’ve never fully solved the mystery of his identity. Was he her child, since she carried him in her mouth from one place to another? Or toy, batted around the floor fiercely and randomly? Or prey, sometimes dropped on the floor near my bed overnight like a captured mouse? I read the book, “Good Owners, Great Cats,” to try to understand Kisses a little better. And sometime during that first year, she jumped into my lap. There I was, a cat person.
For almost a decade, I could wake up and see two little pointed ears at the foot of my bed. I could celebrate the music of her purring, the gentle kneading motion of those powder-puff front paws.
Pets are a consistent presence through so many of our experiences, going through them right along with us. My sister says part of our mourning after a pet’s death is tied to this kind of shared experience, in addition to the loss of special companionship.
Kisses had this contagious calm about her that helped me weather anything from a boss I didn’t like to the boys I didn’t love. When a job promotion sent me 600 miles away from home, Kisses and Frog were in the car with me, moving into my first house. Watching my husband with Kisses, long before he was my husband, taught me about his kind heart. If I went into the basement to get something, I could hear him talking to her upstairs, through the floor. Whenever he left my house, he said good-bye to her. Smart man. He, too, is now a cat person.
I never knew what it was like to have an elderly cat. Until March, she was still running down our stairs in the morning, still dancing with me as I exercised and still making up games with me. A longtime favorite game was more of a bedtime ritual. I’d ask if she was ready for bed, and she’d start running. If I caught her, I’d carry her up. If she won, she would come upstairs later. Blankets on sofas or on laps needed to be smoothed, and she would squeak until they were properly pressed. If she wanted to sit with my husband in the recliner, I was also a participant. She would stand crouched on the floor at his raised feet, staring at me until I got up and stepped toward her, then she’d jump up on her own.
She loved being cuddled, and frankly, worshiped. She seemed to like hearing she was a little spoiled, she was unique in all the world and I would love her forever, whether or not she knew what that meant.
That, for me, is another layer of the magic that pets bring to our lives. No matter how many words they learn from “sit” to “stay,” words are not what matters to them. Their loyalty runs deeper than that. Humanity — we’re caught up in our conversations, opinions and arguments, our compliments and our insults. Pets seem to access a… deeper level of knowing, more easily than we do. Even as a writer, I think our companion animals understand love more strongly than the best poet could ever express. And more importantly, they live that understanding every day. That is their gift.
Kisses was never demanding. She often sat in my office, sleeping while I worked. I will miss seeing her there as much as I miss her bunny-soft fur and the spirit behind those wide blue eyes. And throughout her illness, no matter how sick she got, we were happy to take care of her. Even as I realized the damage was permanent, I’d hoped we could carry on for awhile. But after her worst seizure, I realized it was time. That’s what everyone says, that you know when it’s time, and it’s true. But words cannot express how difficult it is, even when all doubt has passed and never returns, to choose euthanasia. It ends their suffering, but not yours.
The weeks since May 25 have been, at times, more searing than the two months of her illness. We miss her every day. A few things have helped, including taking our vet’s advice and inviting a new cat into our lives as soon as we felt ready. The timing of adopting a pet after such a loss is intensely personal, and I always thought we would need a long mourning period. But I found myself entering a pattern of weep, look at shelters online, cry, visit shelters and hug kitties, repeat. It was oddly healing, and even before we were ready to adopt, I felt like socializing the cats was helpful to them too, somehow. We were strangers helping each other while my husband held my purse, not wanting to get too attached until the day I was ready to make a decision.
Like Kisses, I think Vernie chose me. And like Kisses, Vernie is a beautiful young cat with multiple shelter visits. Appearance, personality, pedigree, those are all totally different. Vernie looks more like a fox than a domestic long hair cat. She is settling in, and has been a comfort to her new mom who still cries more than I feel I should.
Grief is as individual as the animals we lose, but a few things have helped me. We moved items related to Kisses, such as her blankets and food dishes, one by one as we felt like it, rather than clearing everything out quickly. Frog remains where we can see him, high on a cabinet, sitting in the milk glass compote that was once her water dish. Vernie received mostly new things, especially a new carrier with no sad memories attached.
I also find it’s helpful to my heart, to talk to Vernie about “big sister.” When she sits in a perfect sun-filled spot to watch the birds Kisses always loved, I say, “Vernie, big sister used to love to sit right there. What a PERFECT spot.”
And I return to my gratefulness that my claims battle is apparently coming to an end. Anger can be a positive energizer, and it has fueled so many great campaigns for change. But if nurtured too long, anger becomes as toxic as the food Kisses ate in March.
If it sounds as if I’ve had some miraculous, healing experience because a check has been cut (Whoo-hoo, I’m getting a check. Group hug!), then I have not shared my message effectively. I wish life were that simple. I wish buying a pet food were that simple. Healing takes time.
It would be easy to imagine I could protect Vernie by demonizing a company, a country or a government agency — especially since so many of the actors in this recent drama seem ready to point fingers at each other. But I believe small companies do not have a monopoly on conscience, and unfortunately greed can sprout in a company of any size. Show me 100 people, and the group probably contains a mixture of people who are trying to do the right thing, people who want more at any cost, people who care and people who don’t. That is the beautiful chaos we live in. And in a few years, the world will give us a new set of heroes, villains and victims.
I still believe information is stronger and faster than regulation. Learn, share and buyer be-aware, I say. A friend of mine had a quote in her e-mail signature years ago: “In God We Trust. All others must have data.”
Forgive. NEVER forget.