Abby the Tabby Fills the Hole in her Mom’s Heart

By Judy Layne

Five-year old Abby arrived at the Kings SPCA in 2018 in poor shape. She was covered in scabs, fleas and dirt and was suffering from an intestinal infection. She was bathed and began a 10-day course of antibiotics. Once Abby was feeling better, the veterinary team did a full check-up and discovered she had arthritis in her hips and an enlarged heart which meant she was subject to potentially fatal blood clots. Due to her medical conditions and need for ongoing care, Abby joined the SPCA’s Palliative Care Program. Then her life changed.

Ellen and her husband Rowland were volunteering at the shelter as ‘cat cuddlers’ on December 14th when they spotted Abby. Ellen recalled “Abby had just had dental surgery that day. When I spoke gently to her, she looked me in the eyes and really listened to what I was saying to her. My heart immediately melted. When we came back in a few days to visit, Abby jumped up onto my lap and was very affectionate.” Despite her health issues and uncertain prognosis, the couple was determined that Abby should live out her days surrounded by love and decided to open their hearts and home to her as fur-ever foster parents.

The couple knew what it was like to love and lose a cherished pet. Ellen shared “In 2005, we adopted our first kitty, Twiggy. I had been diagnosed with OCD in the late 1990’s. My world often seemed to be falling apart and I was lonely and stressed. Once we brought Twiggy home, life took on new meaning. Her unconditional love helped me as much as I helped her. When she looked into my eyes, it was like she was looking into my soul and a forever bond was formed. In 2012, Twiggy had a severe stroke and we made the gut-wrenching decision to let her go. A hole in my heart started that day.”

The couple adopted three kitties over the years following Twiggy’s passing that they love very much – Rustina, Meeka, Luna. But something undefinable was missing for Ellen. She explained “In 2018, I was talking to my OCD doctor and when I told her the story of Twiggy, I broke down. The doctor suggested that I try to find another special connection like the one I had with Twiggy. I have found that with Abby. Our unique bond began the day we picked her up to take her home. I softly sang her a song with her name in it – Abby the tabby, she’s cute as can be. Abby the tabby, she’s mommy’s little baby. I still sing it to her! I think that both of us having special needs allowed us to develop that special connection.”

Abby adapted quickly to her new home and family. “Within a few days, she felt right at home,” said Rowland. “Our other ‘girls’ accepted her quickly. We were amazed to see Abby sleeping in bed with Rustina (the ‘queen’ of our house) in just 3 days! Meeka and Luna approved of their new sibling too. From that first week, they all started to eat, sleep, wash each other and play together. It felt like our family was finally complete.”

Three amazing years have passed and Abby is still thriving! “She loves to play (a game of chase is her favourite), being brushed, snuggling with us and cuddling with her sisters – all 4 in one bed,” related Ellen.  “She’s a real chatterbox and a great listener. When I was feeling sad one day, Abby heard me singing (very badly I might add). She immediately chimed in. I started to laugh and realized that we have a similar connection to the one I had with Twiggy. Perhaps Abby’s own health issues let her sense when I am feeling down. She checks in on me multiple times throughout the day and it truly melts my heart.”

Abby is a terrific patient. Rowland shared “We give her liquid meds every day for the pain in her hips and she takes them like a little trooper. We also bring her in for bloodwork and a check-up every 6 months to make sure she continues to thrive.” The couple had a bad scare last year. Abby was having dental surgery and flat-lined, but the SPCA veterinarian was able to bring her back. “When we heard what happened, my heart froze,” said Ellen. “We prayed that she would be alright and gratefully, within a few weeks, she was her old self again. In our hearts, she has always been ‘our little girl’ so Rowland and I kept talking about adopting Abby. In December, he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. All I wanted was to make Abby officially ours and on December 8th, 2021 my dream came true!”

“The SPCA staff have been incredible from square one, answering our questions and offering guidance,” said the couple. “They are like an extended family and genuinely care about Abby’s well-being. They love seeing photos and videos of her. The Palliative Care Program itself is amazing. The SPCA covers the cost of all her medical care and we provide the love!”

Ellen encourages people to consider opening their hearts and home to a palliative care animal in need. “There may be medicine to give or some extra care that is needed, but the SPCA is with you every step of the way and they cover all medical costs,” she said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do. We are so thankful and blessed that the program brought Abby into our lives. She completes our family and my heart is whole again.”


Please give a round of ‘ap-paws’ to the Nova Scotia SPCA Palliative Care Program.  Since the program began in 2009, over 109 animals have participated. The program is a proud reflection of the SPCA’s no-kill policy.

Your generous support gives lucky animals like Abby a second chance at a happy life.  To learn more about this life-changing program and how you can help, click here.


Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.