Meet Garfield. A beautiful orange unaltered tomcat that decided to make my yard his occasional home. He’d show up for a week or two never letting anyone near him yet act as though our house had always been his. There were no females for him to pursue. It must have been the food he was after.

I decided to keep trying to win his trust so that one day I could get him to a vet and have him neutered. Each time he would disappear I found myself worrying about him wondering if he would return. He always did.

Little by little Garfield began letting me get closer to him until eventually he allowed me to pet his head. Victory. I had earned his trust but now I had to capture him. I let life take over, let too much time go by, Garfield had disappeared again, and when he returned he didn’t look so good. His hair was matted, drool dripped from his mouth and his tail was full of burs. He was sick. I enlisted Eric’s help. We captured him and took him to a veterinarian I had never seen before. My usual vet was out of town. Garfield had trusted me and now he was stuck in cage staring at me with nothing but fear in his eyes. I promised him I’d help him.

Well, the vet took one look at Garfield and wanted to test him for feline leukemia. I’ve been around cats long enough to know that that’s code for if he tests positive–euthanize him. I answered with a very firm, “No.” It was obvious she was unhappy with my choice but she agreed to neuter him and help him as best she could.

Later that day, I received a call from a vet tech. Garfield had been neutered and given antibiotics. They believed he most likely had feline leukemia. Again they tried to convince me to put him down. The anger rose within, who am I to take his life? I had seen suffering in pets. It wasn’t long ago that I had to make the decision for my Buddy. It was not one I took lightly. Garfield still had passion for life in his eyes. I made a promise. She told me he could infect infect other cats, he’d probably go off and die in a ditch somewhere. I told her I wasn’t putting an animal down because of something that may or may not happen. She was angry with me.

When I went to pick up Garfield I asked to speak with her. I explained that I understood her point of view. She was certain Garfield was dying at some point and she believed he was suffering so why not put him down now especially because he may infect other cats. I wanted her to understand the seriousness of taking a life and her role in suggesting it to clients. I asked if it was possible she had become immune to euthanizing animals because of her position. Most of the time I will avoid conflict at all cost—unless it’s something I feel passionate about. Life is precious and worth fighting for. Garfield deserved a chance. She assured me that putting animals down is something she takes very seriously. She didn’t want Garfield to die in the woods in pain. What she wasn’t considering was would Garfield rather die in fear on a table surrounded by strangers? Pain is a part of life. Should we kill to prevent it? What if Garfield wanted to live?

I brought him home. Our conversation made me think. I was doing what I felt was right in my heart, however, I didn’t want Garfield to suffer either. I wondered if he’d stay if I’d lost his trust. Well, it’s been several months. Garfield has gained weight, he’s grooming himself again, and now he demands to be pet instead of tolerating it. Every day when I go outside to feed him it is not the food he wants, it’s love. In fact he refuses to eat until I have given him my undivided attention. If I start to walk away too fast he will chase me, meow, and give me a tomcat swipe on my leg. Pet me! At night he sits on our doorstep. I’ve opened the door inviting him in but he has no interest. He waits outside. Every time I pet him I am reminded that I could have made the decision to end his life. I’m happy I followed my heart. I watch him stretch and roll in the sun. He may be sick but for now he’s enjoying every moment he has left.

“It’s only possible to live happily ever after on a moment-to-moment basis.” Margaret Bonnano

Quote is from: Greatest Inspirational Quotes by Dr. Joe Tichio

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