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Konichiwa, mi gato amigos!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi! My name is Christie. I'm 27 and I have a rare and terminal cancer called leptomeningeal melanoma. When I was 18, I married my hs sweetheart, a Marine. He was in Japan by himself the first year of our marriage, and I continued to live with my parents. I had never been part of a no-cat home until hubby came back and we moved to San Diego, into a no-pets-allowed apt complex. Yea, that lasted about 3 months. When he found out he was being deployed, and I had no job, no friends, etc., he bought me a cat. And not just any cat. Allie McBeal, a teeny tiny queen of a Bengal cat who taught me that taking great care of a cat isn't for anyone (ever tried to give the heimlich maneuver and CPR to a cat who's just trying to cough up a hairball?)

Two years and one son/companion (Ikaika) for Allie later, we moved to Okinawa. My precious babies endured 30 days in the American animal shelter because we didn't have right kind of stamp on their health certificates. Altogether, we lived in two houses, and they cost us about $3500 in floor and wall scratching. What a deal for two children who love you unconditionally and want nothing more than to sit in your lap or dance with you to their theme songs!

The animal situation in Japan is the worst I've ever heard of. Pound vans roam the island freely, just hoping to find a cat or dog out of its yard. Cats are put into 5 ft cube cages, literally stuffed in there until they can't even move. Owners have 24 hours to go to the pound, on the southern tip of the island, and find their cat without being able to remove it from the cage. After 24 hours-bye bye! The cage is put on a conveyer belt and rolled into a huge fire.

Well, when I heard about that, I knew I had to do something. I began picking up stray cats on my way to/from work. I illegally advertised my services over the intranet. I cat-sat for all kinds of people, including my friend Rhoda, who took in only black cats (Okinawans are extremely superstitious, and will actually swerve while driving in order to HIT a black cat). Rhoda speaks Russian and Korean, so I would take care of her houseful of black beauties for amounts of time ranging from 3 weeks to 6 months. In the meantime, my house was constantly full of overturned trash cans, open doors (thanks, Iki), knocked over potted plants, and all of the other general merriment that comes with having two "teacher" cats and up to ten "student" kittens.

After my first year of rescuing, my husband begged me not to bring home any more cats. House- and people-training them, getting them vaccinated, spayed/neutered, finding homes for them, and doing follow-up visits was taking up an increasing amount of my time and our money. I promised him that it would not happen again.

Then, wouldn't you know it, the biggest typhoon in 24 years hit Oki. I knew of a litter of 3-week-old kittens living in a tomb on the main Marine Corps base, so when the company shut down, I drove there and spent an hour trying to coax the six completely wild kittens into my car. I finally got two. The sky was black and it was pouring rain so hard you couldn't take a breath without getting a noseful of water. I stuck the skinny dudes in a shoebox and took them home.

When my husband arrived home from work, he was drenched. He did as I had and went straight into the bathroom to peel off his clothes. After a minute he stepped back out with a dark look on his face. "Hey babe!" he called to me. "There is a shoebox in here and, well, I don't know what to tell you, it's moving across the floor on its own!"

Dave and Gandalf became huge, fuzzy, loving cats, thanks to Ikaika, who thought he was their mother. He carried them around in his mouth when they were small, and from the day of their arrival until the day of their adoption, he nursed them. How they staid alive, I have no idea. I never saw them eat cat food, and they never took so much as a swallow of the milk-replacement I bought for them.

Now we come to the four cats I acquired in Oki. Sly and Mim (Sylvester and Mimsey) were purchased from the American shelter as toys for a Marine's new puppy. This idiot, who I think should have gone to jail, would literally throw one of the kittens across the room, and his dog would fetch it and bring it back to him. When I heard about that, I got my carrier and drove straight to his apartment. The kittens were so terrified of people that even this b@$tard didn't know where they were. And that was the moment that I truly found my calling.

I am the Cat Whisperer. Within 5 minutes, I had not only located both of the kittens, but had them in my lap, purring and kneading my stomach. The guy told me to put them down, so I whipped out my cell phone and threatened to call the base military police. He backed down, and within the hour, our permanent cat family had increased to four.

Next came Boyd. I passed a place called Petbox every day on my way to work. It's the only pet store I ever found on Okinawa. One Sunday afternoon, hubby and I were there to see the baby wallaby rumored to be there. But something else caught my eye. A tiny grey kitten, without its eyes open yet, was alone in a cage with two bowls: one of dry food, one of water. I held that kitten for two hours until the store closed. The next day, I asked a Japanese coworker to help me speak to Petbox about why the kitten needed me to foster it, to bottle-feed it until it was old enough to eat cat food. With both a Kanji letter and the English-pronunciation version, I went back to the store. I spoke to the manager, who did nothing except insist that the kitten was fine. For the next three days, I went by the shop on my way home from work. Then, Friday came. I got my paycheck. I raced (well, I went 40 mph, which is major speeding in Okinawa) to Petbox to buy the little guy. He was gone. I just knew that he had died of hunger.

I drove home slowly. I didn't know what to do. I had failed a cat. By the time I pulled up in front of the house, my mascara was running and my shirt was wet from crying. I walked up the steps and put my key in the lock. Slowly, slowly I opened the door. I hoped hubby was in a bad mood because I knew I couldn't take his smiles and jokes and laughter. But when I went inside, he was sitting on the sofa with the biggest grin on his face. In his lap, wearing a green satin bow bigger than his body, was Boyd, the kitten from Petbox. See, hubby had been paid that day too, and he'd taken off work early to buy Boyd as a surprise for me.

Last was Du Jour. We had three months left in Japan when I saw an ad in the American paper. "Pure-bred dog, champion bloodlines, many first place and grand prize awards. Must give away due to unexpected move. Will only give away to someone who will also take my three-legged cat." I instantly jumped up from the dinner table, which was on a tatami mat and about 18 inches off the ground, went into the bedroom, and locked the door. I had quite a bit of trouble explaining to the retiree's granddaughter that I was interested in the cat, not the dog. She finally agreed to bring the kitty to me that night. Oh, my gosh, I thought to myself. I think I'm about to get a divorce.

As soon as I came out of the bedroom, my guilty face gave me away. "Sweetie, what did you just do?" hubby asked softly. "Nothing," I replied. I'm sure my eyes were as big as our dinner plates and all my veins were popping out. "You didn't call about that tripod cat, did you?" he questioned me further. And my face gave it away. He was determined that the cat would never so much as get a whiff of the air inside our home. He parked himself on the steps leading up to the front door, and I hovered on the neighbors' porch, hoping to intercede and explain the mistake kindly. Hubby, being a Marine, does not always feel the need to be kind.

We waited for over two hours before a huge, old car pulled onto our cul-de-sac. Hubby was up in a flash, with me right behind. A young girl got out of the car, holding a swaddled baby. Then she held the bundle out to hubby. It was the cat. He immediately took it to his chest with the unlikely and unexpected exclamation, "My baby!" Then he ran into the house, into the bedroom, and locked the door.

I invited the girl and her grandfather inside while I figured out what on earth was going on. I knocked on the bedroom door, and this was hubby's response: "Tell them to go away. This baby girl is home now." She did hide from us and the other cats for the first few days, but beef jerky got her to do anything, and by the end of the week she was sleeping next to me on my pillow. She is pure white with the bluest eyes. Because she hops (back right leg eaten by a coyote when she was 3 days old), I named her after the rabbit-tattooed girl in "The Matrix."

We've been living in my hometown for three years as I fight cancer. Currently, I am one of the two known people on this planet that have it. But soon we will have to return to the Marine Corps, and we'll have to live on base so I can have all of the services I require, and the USMC provides. With base housing in mind, we gave Sly and Mim to my parents. I see them every day. My mother's best friend had just lost her cat of 18 years, so she took Boyd and Du Jour to be company in her office. I visit them the first Saturday of every month. Allie is still with us, but Ikaika escaped during a carpet-cleaning on 4 November, 2007, five days before his 5th birthday. I am still offering a $5,000 reward for him, and I visit pet shops and shelters regularly. When I am better and my husband is retired, we are going to buy about 50 acres of land and create a cat sanctuary. After all the joy cats have brought to our lives, we owe them something in return.

Thank you for reading my almost-book about the most important "people" in my life.

post #2 of 17
post #3 of 17
Absolutely well written, tragic, inspiring and amazing story. I read every word, and that is very difficult for someone with a short attention span like myself. I sincerely hope you find Ikaika, and I wish you and your animals my best.
post #4 of 17
Welcome to TCS!
post #5 of 17
Where are you living in Texas? We are having a TCS get-together on the north side of Dallas on May 31, at least that's the current plan.

My wife also lived in Okinawa at one time. In fact, one of her brothers was born there.
post #6 of 17
Welcome to TSC!
post #7 of 17
You are a kind soul, Christie. Welcome to TCS.
post #8 of 17
Welcome to TCS
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi, JimImba! Thank you for the kind words you wrote in your reply to my first post. Welcome to you, too, newbie. I especially appreciate what you said about my actual writing. I'm trying to author a book that's partially about how important cats can be to the healing process. It's a fictional, autobiographical cat-reference book. :~D
post #10 of 17
Welcome to TCS. I found your post amazing as well, though parts of it made me cry. You and your husband are truly inspirational in your endless love for your cats.
My SO works for a retired Marine, and he is one of the kindest people on the planet, and has been so good to us. We live near Camp LeJuene, and deal with Marines every day. We have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for them.
I wish you well on your recovery, and am very glad to meet you here. I look forward to reading your posts, and your book. The world needs more information like that, and judging from your first post, I have faith that you can do it.
post #11 of 17
Originally Posted by mrblanche View Post
Where are you living in Texas? We are having a TCS get-together on the north side of Dallas on May 31, at least that's the current plan.
& we'd love to have you join us, if you're anywhere close!
post #12 of 17
A very warm welcome indeed to TCS Your story is beautifully written and incredibly thought-provoking and inspirational. I also have the attention span of a pork-pie, but I read every last word. I can only congratulate and admire you for having the courage to fight your cancer AND be able to do so much for your furry babies - and I really hope that Ikaika finds his way safely home again to you.
post #13 of 17

Welcome to TheCatSite Christie
I am so glad that you have joined our community of caring people who love cats.
Please make yourself at home.

As you learn your way around our site, if you have questions, I would be happy to help you. Feel free to contact me by clicking on my user name, then send a Private Message.
I will get back to you asap.
post #14 of 17
Hola y bienvenido a TCS, ...Catulina y Milky te saludan!!!........
(Translate: Hi and Welcome to TCS, Catulina and Milky say hello to you!!!...)

See you on the forums!
God Bless your soul for take care of your kittys!..
Best wishes from us
(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( ))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
post #15 of 17
post #16 of 17
Hi there Christie we're so happy to get the chance to welcome you and your furfamily to TCS. I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay with us - we're one great big family and you'll find loads of friends here. If I can help at all while you're finding your way around TCS just click on my username and send me a Personal Message - I'll do what I can to answer your questions
post #17 of 17

Hi Christie!! Welcome to the Cat Site!

Bless your heart for caring for all those cats
Can't wait to hear more & see photos of your cute kitties

Best Wishes to all of you! Enjoy the forums
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