Last month, we said goodbye to a dear kitty that I had the honor of sharing an office with for three months in 2022. This story is dedicated to her.
Rest in Peace – Selena
Selena, a stunning ten-year-old tabby cat was surrendered at the Dartmouth Shelter last August. She came to us, suffering from several health issues including ear infections, ear polyps, and allergies. Our medical staff determined that she would likely require antibiotic ear drops twice a week, a once-a-week ear cleaning, and a daily allergy pill for the rest of her life. Recognizing that Selena’s considerable medical needs would make it difficult to find her a permanent home, we decided to place her in our Palliative Care Program.
About the Palliative Care Program
While to many people, the term ‘palliative care’ is associated with dying, the Nova Scotia SPCA’s Palliative Care Program is about living. It’s about ensuring that senior pets and those with compromised health get to live out the rest of their days in a foster home filled with love, caring, comfort, and happiness.
The Nova Scotia SPCA developed the Palliative Care Program to cover the costs of animals like Selena who have greater medical needs. We pay for the ongoing medical care through our own Animal Hospitals and Clinics to keep costs as low as possible. All we ask is that someone takes them home, gives them love, and provides them with a retirement home.
The Program started in 2009 when a 14-year-old mixed-breed dog named Darla was left at the SPCA’s shelter in Dartmouth. When Darla came into the shelter, staff were concerned that no one would adopt her because of her age and medical needs. It was apparent that she still had a zest for life and just needed someone to love her. Soon after, the Nova Scotia SPCA developed the Palliative Care Program to cover the costs of animals like Darla who have greater medical needs.
Since its inception, more than 188 animals and families have benefited from this program. In 2022, 48 new animals entered the program. There are currently over 90 animals enrolled. Thanks to the generous support of donors, ongoing treatment to keep palliative care pets healthy and happy is covered for life.
Selena Becomes my Office Mate
While waiting for her retirement home, Selena was transferred from the Shelter to the SPCA’s Provincial Office. The SPCA’s Provincial Office is my home base and is located next door to the Shelter on Scarfe Court in Dartmouth. It is also home to our Enforcement, Fund Development, Administration, and College of Animal Welfare teams.
Cats come to live at our Provincial Office every so often when our shelter team feels that they would thrive in a more homelike environment while waiting to be adopted.
When Selena arrived at the office, I don’t remember seeing a lot of her. After she ate and my colleague Taylor attended to her medical needs, Selena would frequently hide under Taylor’s desk.
Taylor quickly took on the role of Selena’s primary caregiver and best bud. If Selena did venture from underneath her desk, it would be to curl up on the chair next to Taylor to have a snooze.
I consider Taylor to be a cat whisperer with magical cat whisperer powers. She has two cats of her own and fosters SPCA cats on a regular basis. The bond that Selena and Taylor created in such a short amount of time was amazing.
“Every single morning, it was such a joy to see her squished up little face and have her jump on my desk and hear her quirky meow,” Taylor recalls fondly.
Taylor is an extremely hard worker and will often forget to take time out of the workday for herself. That all changed when Selena came along.
“She reminded me to take breaks by jumping on my desk, laying on my keyboard and demanding pets.” Taylor recalls.
After a while, Selena started feeling more comfortable and began venturing outside of Taylor’s office. Her brave personality also began to show.
I will never forget the time when I brought my three-year-old pup Kuma into the office. Kuma is the boss in my household (apologies to my partner Terri 😉) and regularly antagonizes her older brothers Charlie and Tony.
As we entered the office that day, Selena quickly caught the scent of Kuma. Her ears perked up and she got up from her favorite chair in Taylor’s office to check out the situation.
Selena planted herself firmly in Taylor’s doorway, locked eyes with Kuma, and shot her the most menacing stare that I’ve ever seen a cat make. Kuma is not one to be intimidated but there was something about Selena’s stare that convinced her that she wasn’t to be messed with.
Kuma looked up at me sheepishly as if to say “Daddy, please protect me!” We cautiously walked past Selena down the hallway to my office. Selena didn’t take her eyes off Kuma for one second.
Kuma has been to my office numerous times and each visit; she would leave my workspace to explore. That day, she stayed planted near my desk as she was afraid to run into Selena.
This memory brings a smile to my face because I’ve never seen Kuma so timid in the four years that I’ve had her.
Now you’re probably thinking to yourself “That’s horrible for you to find pleasure in this memory.” For me, it signaled a major turning point for Selena. She was no longer afraid and was starting to show more of her personality.
The Adoption Process
Taylor was Selena’s biggest cheerleader and protector. Any time, a potential adopter visited our office to meet Selena, Taylor kept a close eye on them to see how they interacted with one another.
On one occasion, a potential adopter came to visit Selena when Taylor was out of the office. I distinctly remember Taylor asking me to scope out the potential adopter and report back with the results of the meet and greet.
After three months and several promising but unsuccessful meet and greets, confidence began to wane that Selena would find a loving retirement home.
That was until, Jen Welshman, Associate Director of Veterinary Education at the Nova Scotia SPCA’s College of Animal Welfare decided to play the role of matchmaker.
Jen knew that her parents Madeline and Ben could use a furry companion in their lives and would provide Selena with a great retirement home. Madeline and Ben didn’t know if they would ever have a pet again after losing their last cat Jasper.
Jen called her mom and convinced her and her father to visit the SPCA office to meet Selena. Madeline remembers Jen’s exact words when she called that day. “I have someone for you to meet. It’s not actually a person ….. it’s a puuurrson.”
“After losing Jasper, we decided that if we were to adopt again, it would be a mature cat that was surrendered by its owner.” Madeline went on to say.
Soon after, Madeline and Ben came to the office to meet Selena. It was love at first sight. Selena immediately came to greet Madeline and Ben and began rubbing up against them. They took Selena home that same day.
Taylor remembers that day very well.
“Selena leaving was extremely bittersweet. I was happy that she was going to live with a loving family in her sunset years. I feel very privileged to have gotten to know her and get her love,” she said.
Selena’s New Digs
Selena settled into her new home quickly and began showing off her mischievous personality. She would oftentimes disappear only to be found in the shower having a little drink.
During the holiday season, Selena disappeared, and Madeline and Ben began to get worried. After an extensive search, they found her hidden underneath the tree playing hide and go seek.
Madeline has a nursing background, so she was prepared for all the extra care that Selena required. She needed to be clever to get Selena to take her medication.
“We would put a dab of wet food on kibble and attach the antibiotic so that she would eat her pill,” Madeline recalls.
Ben encourages animal lovers to adopt a palliative care pet but has some words of advice before taking the leap.
“It’s a rewarding experience, but you must be committed, willing, and prepared. You really need to want to do it because of the extra care involved – administering medicines etc.” he said.
“Although it’s a lot of work, Selena makes it worthwhile,” Ben went on to say with a big smile.
Selena and Ben grew quite close in a short amount of time. Ben was Selena’s favourite snuggle buddy. She would perch herself on Ben’s lap anytime he was on the couch or office chair. If she wasn’t laying on his lap, you would find her nestled up against Ben with her paw lovingly touching his leg.
When I visited Madeline, Ben, and Selena in early March to interview them for this story, I was moved by how happy they were together. Selena was fully settled in, and Madeline and Ben were smitten with her. Madeline beamed with pride and joy as she showed me pictures and videos of Selena that they took.
Selena was living the best retirement life we could have ever imagined for her.
A Sad Day
Soon after my visit, Selena’s health took a turn for the worst and we lost her on March 20th. It was a shock to us all.
“We are very sad about Selena but thankful for the time we did have with her. Our place feels empty without her here – she certainly made her presence known. She’s very easy to miss since she was so vocal and affectionate. Four months wasn’t a long time, but it felt like she lived with us forever. She just fitted in so well.” Madeline wrote to me after Selena’s passing.
Taylor was deeply saddened but feels blessed to have spent the time she did with Selena.
“Instead of saying ‘senior years,’ I always told Selena that she was in her ‘sunset years.’ You know a sunset cannot last forever, but if you don’t let yourself experience it, you totally miss out on something beautiful. It’s a peaceful and magical time, and I feel so lucky that I got to share some of her sunset years with her.”
“Selena brought a lot of light into our lives. When I look at a colourful sunset, I’ll always think of her pawing at my face and snoring away on her favourite chair. She was very special and will be deeply missed.”
To learn more about the SPCA’s Palliative Care Program and how you can support, please contact Creston Rudolph at firstname.lastname@example.org