I had no idea my offer to shuttle people and pets to a free spay and neuter clinic would end up with me working to keep a cat breathing as its 9 year old owner looked on. That cat survived and the little boy had no idea it was a close call. I didn’t really know how tenuous it was either. I wound up on the ground next to Matt watching him stimulate the four cats he had in recovery and I saw that one stopped breathing regularly. He showed me how a vigorous rub would start them back breathing. So I lent a hand. Pretty soon it was obvious that only a few people had the nerves to deal with the cats. Me, Matt, and our 9 year old friend. Most people went and petted the dogs. They did not stop breathing.
It was simple enough. Rub the cats every 30 or so seconds and flip them every ten minutes. After an hour the kid’s black kitty was still struggling so I pointed it out to a vet tech. She took the cat and gave it a reversal drug and brought it back to us to keep rubbing. After another hour of stimulation it woke up. Welcome back, Picachu. Meanwhile there were a few other bigger, sturdier cats we rubbed and flipped, too. All the while looking for aspiration or other signs of distress. It was wearying work. We sat on the ground in a sea of animals. Mexicans and foreigners, owners and friends, all keeping a careful watch over our loved animals. The vets and their technicians toiled on endlessly. Burt helped move dogs and tents and shuttled people and pats to and from.
Eventually a cat was brought to me that stopped breathing and I couldn’t get it started back up. I’d been rubbing and compressing the lungs for about twenty minutes as the cat started and stopped breathing. Then it just stopped and did not restart. So much time is unaccounted for as you rub and compress and you can’t see if it’s working. And then suddenly it does work and the vets are so busy, I didn’t want to call if it wasn’t a problem but then it was a problem. I could see this cat was not getting it going. I called for help. The tech came and took it away and brought it back after some reversal drug. I kept at it and after a couple of hours it was clear she would make it through. Then a cat was brought to us that was not breathing. Matt and the kid rubbed as I watched. Nothing. Matt tried the squeeze of a flat palm to the rib cage to create a vacuum in the lungs. Nothing. I called the vet tech, again. She quickly swooped in and took the cat back to the vets. Five minutes later she caught my eye and gave a quick shake of the head. That cat did not wake up. It’s heart (oh, my heart) had gone into arrhythmia and they couldn’t stop it. Our only comfort was that the cat was not breathing when it was brought to us. Somewhere between the table and our sheet on the ground it ran into trouble. We had been vigilant enough.
Ultimately, 135 and 14 cats were sterilized on a soccer field in Todos Santos yesterday. Many professionals and volunteers came together to take a small bite out of the world’s problems. People wonder how to connect in this weird world. They comment on how much Burt and I do. I say we do so little and there is so much more. This meaningful day happened because I said, “Anyone need a ride?” and then I had my eyes open and saw where I was needed. I know cats. Cats know me. Offer a ride to your neighbor. You might save a life, you might fail, but you can always help. That 9 year old kid with the three cats got his pets home and came back later that afternoon to help the other cats. That is success that can’t be measured.
Thanks to Matt for trusting a total stranger with the lives of our precious cats. Thanks to the staff of P.E.T.S. and DogPrana for all the work they did. Burt and I were so happy to help. You can donate HERE.