The Story of Oranges - The Super Cat!
As many of our clients and friends know, we had a very special mascot at Five Cities Veterinary Hospital when we first opened. His name was Oranges and he was a rescued kitty that our family had adopted as a kitten. Oranges made many appearances at various clinic functions including the Harvest Festival, the Christmas Parade, the Chamber of Commerce Business Expo and countless school exhibits. We still have clients who ask about him and I thought it would be fun to share his story with everyone.
Before Gerrit and I opened Five Cities Veterinary Hospital, I worked as a relief veterinarian, traveling around to various clinics in the area and filling in for veterinarians that were out of town. While working at a clinic in Nipomo a tiny 8 week-old orange and white kitten came in to the hospital. He had been accidentally smashed in a sliding door when he tried to bolt out of his owner’s house. His entire hind end was completely paralyzed and x-rays showed a bad fracture of his pelvis and back. His owners were devastated as they were not able to afford care for his serious injuries and given the very poor chance that this kitten would even survive they elected euthanasia. The staff, however, was taken in by this tiny kitten’s plight and appealing demeanor and convinced the owners to sign over ownership of the kitten to the hospital, rather than euthanize him. I, being the biggest sucker in the room, volunteered to take the kitten home with me and see if there was any chance of healing his wounds and rehabilitating him.
At the time, our three girls were ages 4, 3 and 1. To say that they were thrilled to see me come home with this tiny orange and white bundle of fluff is an understatement! We carefully explained to them that the kitten was very badly injured and that he likely wouldn’t live very long. Despite the sad news, they dutifully decorated his recovery area with glittered stickers, multiple stuffed animals and every fluffy blanket they could find in our house. They also declared his name to be Oranges, since they were still in a phase where they named everything by its appearance (our fuzzy dog named Fuzzy, the stuffed pink bear named Pink Bear, etc.).
We were amazed at the spirit of this kitten. Even though he had every reason to be surly, mean spirited and withdrawn he would purr at the slightest touch and try to drag himself over to the girls every time they would come by his cage. Over the next few weeks his bones healed, but he did not regain use of his hind legs. He also was not able to go to the bathroom by himself which meant Gerrit and I taking turns emptying his bladder for him every few hours. Again, he still maintained his playful and cheery attitude trying to bat at my hair every time I took him out to do his physical therapy or empty his bladder. Once his bones had healed the girls were allowed to be more hands on with him as well. He enjoyed his daily “walks” in the baby stroller or being dressed up in various outfits. He endured bows, glitter nail polish, Post-Its cut out in the shape of hearts and even sunglasses while purring non-stop.
As he got older he also started just scooting himself around our house. Although unable to walk he was able to climb up the stairs, get on the beds, climb onto the couch (from the backside, mind you) and also painfully climb up our legs if we weren’t paying enough attention to him. Around this time we decided to open Five Cities Veterinary Hospital and the girls said that he should be our mascot. It started out as a joke, but when we were invited to participate in the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce Business Expo by having a booth we decided to bring Oranges with us at our girls’ insistence. We brought a fluffy pad and sat him on the table along with our flyers and business cards. That silly cat just sat there and purred the whole time! He wasn’t the least bit afraid of the commotion, the hundreds of people coming over to pet him or anything. He loved the attention! The best part was, we all knew that at a moment’s notice he could have scooted off that table and high-tailed it out of there if he wanted. Although unable to walk, he could get around just as fast as any other cat!
And thus began the endless litany of Oranges’ appearances. People loved him almost as much as we did. A year later when we adopted a pair of 3 day old abandoned kittens he would dutifully groom them as my daughters would feed them their bottles. Then as the kittens grew he would play with them and chase them around the house. We would joke about his “karate dead legs” because he would lay on the carpet and while wrestling with the kittens swing his body over so his hind legs would whip over and karate chop whichever unsuspecting kitten was in the way!
Oranges made appearances at our booth at the Harvest Festival for a couple of years. Again, he would sit on his fluffy pad on the table and people asked the funniest questions about him. Of course everyone assumed he couldn’t get off the table if he wanted to, but we knew better. One lady asked if we had affixed him to the table with Velcro! Oranges also rode in a decorated wagon in the Arroyo Grande Christmas Parade as my girls pulled him along handing out candy. He has been at the Blessing of the Animals at their school and done countless career day talks with us.
Because of Oranges special needs (particularly his need for us to help him go potty every few hours) he went EVERYWHERE with us. He was the master of disguise posing as a stuffed animal in my daughter’s tiny backpack as we casually walked into hotels. He also was quite adept at hiding in an empty rolling suitcase for those situations where more discretion was needed. He’s seen hotel rooms in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He also went skiing with us but was not too fond of the snow.
The best part about Oranges was that everyone always assumed he was so tolerant of all this because of his disability. Really, though, it was his incredible personality that made him so amenable to just about anything we did with him! Case and point, we tried to pill him one time for one of his many urinary tract infections. Two veterinarians and a registered veterinary technician could NOT get a pill in him. If Oranges didn’t want to do something, it wasn’t going to happen! He really did enjoy being out and about and participating in all our activities.
Oranges lived to be 7 years old and died in his sleep. Because of his problems, he constantly battled urinary infections and kidney problems. He lived longer than we ever expected but it still wasn’t long enough. We learned about the power of an undying spirit from Oranges and that even when things look terrible, as they did when he first came in as a tiny kitten, that there’s always hope. There will never be another cat like Oranges but his memory still makes us laugh at times and his picture will forever be on our website because he will always be our mascot.
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