It was the summer of 1999. A warm evening and Marc and I decided to take the dogs for a walk. Marc was walking B’Elanna, our German Shepherd, and I was in charge of our new Rottweiler puppy, Riker.
We started out and in the field across from our house was an intact cardboard box. Marc said that he wanted to see what was in it. Looking down the road, I saw one of our neighbors walking towards us. “No, Marc!” I said - “Our neighbors will think we’re garbage pickers!!”
We continued our walk. On the way back, Marc looked around and veered over to the field, determined to see what was in the box. It was sealed up and I watched him pull it apart. Suddenly he had a shocked look on his face and without a word threw B’Elenna’s leash at me and took off marching towards our house carrying the box. I yelled after him asking him what was wrong and he ignored me.
I hurried after him and when we got in the house, I saw what had upset him so much. Inside was a tiny and half dead orange kitten. The poor thing could barely lift his head up. We looked him over and I could see a handful of open sores and his throat was swollen with a respiratory infection.
I called the vet’s office and I can so clearly remember the vet tech telling me that they would be glad to see him, but that kittens that bad don’t usually survive, so she understood if we didn’t want to come in and spend the money to try to save him. She also told me that the open sores were probably parasites that burrow into kittens when they are sick and immobile. She told me how we could tell and get rid of them.
That night we fed him some food and water through an eye dropper. Marc got up several times during the night sure that he would find the little kitten had passed away.
The next day we did what the vet tech had told me - poured hydrogen peroxide into the wounds and held a hot compress over the hole. Sure enough a fucking disgusting large white parasite peeked it’s head out. Marc and I both were screaming like little girls as he pulled the thing out with tweezers! We had to do that with 2-3 more spots. It was clearly distressing to the little kitten and I wondered if we were torturing him for nothing.
The next few days were filled with hand feeding and Marc giving him pieces of moist food and hotdogs which he started to eat on his own. We could tell he was getting stronger and was no longer dehydrated. We thought he was going to make it so we made a trip to the vet’s to get any medicine and shots and we named him Crusher - for Wesley Crusher of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Crusher not only survived but flourished. He was a strong-willed and stubborn little shit. Cats are generally less eager to please their masters than dogs are, but Crusher took this to a whole new level. He was determined to do things his way no matter what. This applied to us, the dogs and the other cats in the household. He was incredibly affectionate, though, and you couldn’t stay mad at him long.
And so time passed and he became the patriarch of our cat family. He ruled over the other cats and would wrestle with our ferrets.
In 2005, we built an addition on the house and I made several pillows for our new master bedroom. One was gold fabric which I had leftover from making curtains and I placed it our bed. Crusher immediately claimed it as his own. He would go to bed most nights before us and curl up on the pillow which was between Marc’s and my head. When he got cold in the night he would paw at Marc and he would lift up the covers and Crusher would snuggle with him.
Time began to take its toll a couple of years ago. Crusher started avoiding the other cats and spent less time with us. He began to lose weight. However, he was still jumping up on the sink to beg for water and was eating and drinking well. We feed our cats dry food, but Marc started giving him moist food twice per day to try to keep his weight up.
He knew when it was time for the food and would run into the kitchen just yowling - demanding to get his “special” food. And god forbid we came home late - he would let us know his disapproval.
A couple of months ago, we noticed he was really deteriorating. We didn’t know if he was getting a little senile or was losing his hearing or both, but he would seem disoriented - not all the time, but sometimes, and wouldn’t always come when Marc yelled for him. Sometimes he was curled up sound asleep when it was time for him to be fed and Marc wouldn’t attempt to wake him.
He seemed quite bad this last week and Friday when I got home from work Marc told me that Crusher was in very bad shape. He was laying in his favorite place in our guest bathroom next to a forced air vent. His breathing was shallow and he didn’t really seem to know that I was there.
I thought he wouldn’t make it through the night, and hoped that he would pass away peacefully. Even when you know that it’s the best thing, there is a huge measure of guilt - at least for me - to hope a cherished member of a family dies.
Saturday came about and he was still with us. Marc and I couldn’t bear to see him suffer any longer, but we debated if we should put him through the trauma of loading him into the carrier and taking him to the vet’s. We finally made the hard decision and went to the vet’s where he was quickly and painlessly led to the Rainbow Bridge.
This is the hardest part of owning and loving pets. Their lives are just too short and it is heart-breaking when they leave us. But considering that Crusher started his life with someone throwing him out like he was trash and it was no short of amazing that we would find him and that he would survive against the odds - he had a pretty good 16+ years on this earth!
RIP Crusher - run free and happy at the Bridge!