Narrated by Michelle Mohr – TEARS Online Shop Coordinator
Professional photography by Brandon’s Photography
My name is Katinka, I was previously called Phillipa, and this is my story.
It was late one winter’s evening when my life changed for good. I was making my usual rounds, scavenging for scraps, dodging floodlights in a bid to remain undetected.
I must’ve slipped up this evening, because while I was carrying my sore, starving body across the road, a car caught me in its headlights. “This is it,” I thought, hoping it would be a quick and painless end to my suffering. I didn’t have the strength to run. I froze… bracing myself for impact.
Moments later, I was amazed, if somewhat dismayed, to find myself still standing. The car had slowed down and pulled over. A shadowy figure was standing over me. I could hear the pity in her voice. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was a welcome change to the disgust I’d become accustomed to.
I slowly moved over to her. I think the adrenaline must have overcome me. Fear left my body and I knew it was now or never. I put on my best performance. Mustering up every bit of strength I had left to purr, head butt and impress. She touched my matted fur and felt my scrawny body. I know she could smell me too. I hadn’t been able to groom myself for months.
Before I knew it, I was riding shotgun. I wasn’t sure where she was taking me, but I purred with gratitude nonetheless. I overheard her phone call. Something about “pet cemetery” and “euthanasia”. Honestly, I didn’t even care. I was out of the cold and, for now, euthanasia still sounded like a merciful dream.
Once at our destination, her home, I presumed, I was given fresh water and my first solid meal for weeks. Despite my rotten teeth and the gaping wound in my cheek, I wolfed it down. Did that car hit me after all? Was I in heaven?
Come morning, we were on the road again. There was a rainbow in the sky that morning. I tried not to get my hopes up.
After some poking and prodding by the welfare vet at a place they called TEARS, the news was grim. I was FIV-positive. I didn’t know quite what this meant at the time, but I figured it must be the reason for my suffering.
Despite this, the staff at TEARS decided I was worthy of a chance. I didn’t see what they saw in me, but I knew that because they believed in me, I was going to give this survival thing my darndest!
For the next couple of months, I was on “jelly and custard”. Receiving palliative care from a very kind lady who allowed me to crash at her place for my remaining days. Despite my condition and apparent kidney failure, I was the happiest I’d been in my entire life! My teeth were rotten and I was still unable to groom, but none of that mattered at this point. I was warm, fed and loved! Finally, my affections were being returned with more than disgust and shooing.
It reminded me of my youth. Many years had passed since then, but I remember a time before my condition deteriorated. Before my pungent smell got me kicked out of my home by my family who I thought would love me forever. I have the steri scars to prove it. I was once loved. Could I really be loved again?
I knew my time here was limited, but I was determined to make the most of it. In three months, I’d doubled my weight. The wound in my cheek had healed. And against all odds, I was still alive.
There was one problem, though: the condition of my mouth. Despite my life of comfort and evident zest for life, my caregivers knew I was in pain. I tried to hide it, but the spots of blood on my food bowl were a dead giveaway. I wasn’t fooling anyone. It was bad.
This is where two of the kindest souls I’ve ever met got involved. Mandy Store, the Clinic Manager at TEARS, arranged for me to see Dr Tracy Dicks. I didn’t know much about her, other than that she was a pro-life vet and had spent countless, selfless hours working on desperate cases like mine.
On the morning of my appointment, there were many tears. My foster mom had kissed me goodbye, and I knew what that meant. Perhaps it was for the best? After all, I didn’t know how much longer I could stand the pain. During the drive to Noordhoek Vet to see Dr Tracy, I was looking for the rainbow that I’d seen on my first trip over the mountain. There wasn’t one this morning, but I was okay with that. I now knew that not all humans are cruel. I now knew that I was worthy of love. I knew that I belonged.
Perhaps it was this newfound self-esteem that made me purr with gratitude and enthusiasm when I met Dr Tracy for the first time. “She has a lot of life left in her,” I heard her say.
It was decided to test my kidneys one last time, and if the results showed no change, today would be my last. It would be the last act of kindness I’d experience before leaving the world that had treated me so cruelly.
I don’t know how or why, but suddenly my rainbow appeared in the form of shocking test results: my kidneys were normal! This astounded everyone, not least of all me! This meant that I was strong enough to have the life-altering surgery that I so desperately needed!
The surgery was risky and there were no guarantees. Dr Tracy had noted that my case of dental abscess, gingivitis and decay was the worst she’d ever seen – and she’s seen a lot! But my rescuers decided to take a chance on me. Before I knew it, I was being woken from my anaesthesia nap. Not a single tooth left in my mouth, but I felt like a million bucks!
The veterinary staff were astounded at how upbeat I was post-surgery! I suppose when you’ve lived the rough, tough life I have, a whole mouth dental extraction is a breeze!
I’m now one week post-surgery, and I’m thriving! I’m savouring my food and eating without any pain. My breath smells kitty fresh and I’m even able to groom myself! My gorgeous coat is finally getting the spa treatment it deserves and, I’ll say it, I am beautiful!
As it turns out, I must be one exceptional kitty, because my foster mom has started referring to me as her “biggest foster fail”. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds promising.
I think someone made a typo when they assigned my nine lives; I got 99, baby!
Colleen Bode, Katinka’s foster, now forever mom, says…
I renamed Phillippa “Katinka” because one of my dogs is called Pippa and it became a bit confusing. Katinka is indeed a monumental foster fail, and this beautiful, loveable girl is now a permanent member of my family.