Andy, a sweet-natured brown and white tabby, came to Animal Care and Control in early 2008 as a stray.
He was estimated to have been 3 to 4 years old. One of the things that distinguished him from all the other cats who came into the shelter was his deformed back leg. It was not known if it was a healed injury or a congenital defect. What became very clear from the beginning is that his leg did not slow him down. He didn't know he had a bad leg. I watched him jump, climb and play as if that leg was not an issue. And for him it wasn't.
Anyone who has come into the shelter since '08 has probably met Andy. He was our official shelter cat/greeter for all who entered. He had free rein in the shelter with cat beds tucked here and there for his comfort. Whether Andy was sitting on the counter overseeing visitors signing in or sprawled out on the table while potential adopters filled out their applications, he quietly made his presence known. He was also known to dart out the front door so he could roll and bask in the sunshine.
People always commented on his leg, called him a poor little thing and asked why didn't we take him to have surgery. The veterinarians we had examine Andy determined that he was not in pain and that it did not affect his quality of life. And that "fixing it" might indeed in the long run cause more pain and problems than he currently had. "Fixing it" would have been more for the humans who saw him and were bothered by it than for him.
We noticed in late 2012 that Andy was losing weight. He was examined and found to have blisters in his mouth. He was treated and they were under control and he gained a bit of his weight back. Then he started losing weight again and was not his normal happy self. Our veterinarian examined him and found a tumor in his throat. He had surgery; the tumor was massive but it was removed successfully and Andy was being monitored in recovery. Our sweet Andy never woke up.
The staff at the Animal Protection League has been devastated by the loss of our gentle Andy. It is amazing how much his presence is missed especially when you think about all the cats who are in our care. He was a special cat who came to us with perhaps a lesson for us all. Many saw his leg as a deformity that needed to be repaired and saw Andy as a creature to be pitied.
Those of us who loved Andy saw him as a vibrant being who happened to have a malformed leg which didn't not impede his ability to have a full joyous, feline life. He did not see himself as disabled and being a cat did not have his vision of himself tainted by the stigma that humans bestowed upon him. Andy was loved by many and is missed.
Maleah Stringer is executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St., Anderson. She can be reached at 356-0900 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.