In 2000, Emma arrived at Golden’s Table Mountain (Foothills) Animal Shelter, suffering from a badly injured rear leg. Sometime previously, both of her ears had been mutilated, likely in a botched effort to modify her appearance. What kind of life had she been leading? Euthanasia loomed as the most logical course of action, until a perceptive animal control officer intervened and took her to Care Animal Hospital in Arvada.
While awaiting her fate, Emma met up with JoAnn, a kindhearted veterinary technician who opened the cage to pet and comfort the injured cat. Without hesitation, Emma limped out of the enclosure and into JoAnn’s lap and heart. X-rays confirmed that Emma’s hip was shattered. Surgical repair was possible, but the expense was deemed infeasible for a stray, and euthanasia was again considered.
But Emma had won the hearts of the entire clinic staff, along with the orthopedic surgeon, who so kindly offered to repair her hip at half the cost. Quite a generous discount, but still an expensive option. The remaining cost of Emma’s hip repair was covered by Care Animal Hospital’s “Care for Strays” fund, an account JoAnn had recently bolstered through sales of a calendar and cookbooks that she had created. Her co-workers voted to use the fund on Emma’s behalf. They continue to this day to be the best coworkers ever.
A few days later, Emma came home with JoAnn and Tom and immediately started repaying the cost of her surgery by spending hours on our laps and by our sides. She quickly regained her speed and agility, which she demonstrated regularly by catching backyard mice and leading canine invaders on merry chases. Nothing frightened her, and her calm company added fifteen years to our lives.
In her old age, Emma developed a fast-growing tumor on her jaw and in her mouth. She lived with it for over a year with only mild irritation, and her lifestyle remained mostly unchanged. She still liked to play catch and keep-away with us, she still demanded to be taken outside for thorough fur combings. She still enjoyed supervised strolls around the yard, and she continued to chase her feline housemate, Olive, out of the sunny spot in the family room. The tumor seemed to grow larger every day, but her overall health and well-being seemed good.
One morning a couple weeks ago, though, Emma plopped down near Olive without even bothering to chase her out of the sun. Emma was lethargic and clearly not herself–the day we had been dreading for months. Fifteen years earlier, she had signaled her will to live by crawling into JoAnn’s lap. On her last day with us, she let us know again what needed to be done in the same calm and determined manner. Emma had added immeasurable quality to our lives, and it was time to return the favor. She got a last combing and a long nap outside in the sunshine, after which, with the help of Dr. James from Home to Heaven, Emma met the dignified end that she deserved.
Emma’s unique spirit will always remain in our hearts and minds. We are so thankful to Dr. James and Home to Heaven for the serene conclusion to Emma’s life. Such compassion helps us view her final hours as a treasured memory.