A Blue Christmas

Friends For Life

Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, a quiet little family changed forever.

Elvis and his Mom lived together for the whole 18 years of his life. He’s a big fluffy boy and he loved cuddling with her every night. They had a tree about this time every year and there were always some treats to be had in a stocking. But something was different this year. An ambulance came to take his elderly mom somewhere and though he waited, patiently, quietly, in their apartment, no one came back. No one turned on the lights at night and no one opened food for him. No one gave him his insulin shots.

Elvis couldn’t know that his mom passed away - just that he was alone.

Finally, someone opened a window. A lady climbed in and gently picked him up. It wasn’t his mom but he was glad to see her. She took him to her house. She fed him but he didn’t feel so good by then. She took him to the vet and he still wasn’t feeling very good.

Elvis was an 18 year old cat in diabetic keto acidosis. He couldn’t know it at that moment, but there was one shelter in Houston that would take him and work to save him. He also didn’t know that the lady who rescued him knew to call that one shelter - Friends For Life.

The big, golden-eyed boy is working to live. So determined to stand even when he was weak, he struggled to his feet in his carrier on the way here yesterday and fell over bloodying his nose. He’s been hospitalized at VERGI since yesterday and getting around the clock care. The VERGI estimate given to FFL this morning was $4700.

We will help you try, Elvis. You matter.


Elvis was losing ground steadily and his organs were failing him.

Medically, we might have prolonged his life a few days, but there was no saving him. So we made the choice to let him go through a peaceful euthanasia. Please know that he was not alone. Terry, the rescuer who climbed through the window to rescue Elvis after he was stranded for 7 days in his apartment, was there. So was I. Terry remembered that Elvis’ mom used to play music to her cat. As she drove toward the clinic for our final appointment, she texted me, "Sing Elvis songs for him. It seems to help."

So in the vet's office, we softly played "Blue Christmas" for the sweet old kitty. 

Terry also brought this picture of his beautiful mom, Phyllis and had written "For Elvis" across the top. I thought about that internet video where the cat sees the image of his long-dead owner on an old cell phone and is transfixed. Who's to say? In looking at this vintage photo of her, I had a sense of how "put together" Phyllis was.

I'm certain that she never imagined things could ever go the way that they did for her -- or for her baby cat she adored for 18 years. Maintaining an 18–year-old cat, who was as beefy and sleek as Elvis was (even after 7 days alone), didn't happen by accident. Phyllis must have been a wonderful, deeply attentive mom to him. Until she couldn't be.

It is every animal parent's worst fear that one day they will have to completely trust their animals to a stranger. All the special food, faucet drinks, little routines and silly voices you share with your companion could become just memories for them one day. That they would then rely on the gentle touch and instincts of someone you may never meet is a leap of faith that leaves most of us breathless.

It was a sacred moment to be there on Phyllis' behalf with Elvis.

As I sat in the floor of the emergency hospital, rubbing his big head, listening to "I'll have a Blue Christmas without you..." I experienced the moment as a pet parent, not a shelter director. I do not have children but I do have animals. While I like to think that I have made plans that will prevent my animals from ever being at the mercy of strangers, I realize that may not be how it unfolds. For my animals and for yours, I want to bring about a world in which animal lovers can trust all shelters to act in our stead with reverence, love and mercy. If you support a shelter, visualize handing them your precious animal companion and having to walk away. I'm coming to think that moment is the ultimate distillation of what we should expect from shelters from boardroom to front door. Is there reverence? Kindness? Could you feel peace about your need to trust them?

I treasure the opportunity this job provides me to be the merciful stranger. And I hope that if enough of us take up the mantle of this role, we will tip the balance and create an army of merciful strangers and a harbor for all animals.

Phyllis, it was truly my honor to pick up where you had to leave off.

Godspeed, Elvis. I hope you and your Mom are home for the holidays together.