It was a week before Christmas in December of 2009 in Northern Virginia and we under a “significant" winter storm warning with blizzard conditions. It was forecasted to begin Friday night and go through the weekend with accumulations of 2 feet or more. This storm would later be named “Snowmageddon”. I will always remember it as “Marvin’s Storm”.
At this time we were the proud humans of three 16-year-old cats, Darby, Marvin, and Taz. We had lost our fourth cat Samantha the Christmas before in 2008 to kidney failure. This Christmas we were looking forward to a happier holiday. My husband and I had blended our furry family 12 years earlier, he had two female cats, Darby and Samantha, and I had two male cats, Marvin and Taz. It took a few years but with a lot of patience and love the four cats learned to co-exist and eventually were able to live happily together. During these 12 years my husband and I lost several pregnancies so our pets became our family.
Back to the snow storm...my husband and I had stocked up on all the appropriate items (water, bread, milk, toilet paper, and cat food). We had our snow shovels and a plan to stay on top of the clearing throughout the night so we would not have 2 feet to shovel in the morning. As the night went on and the snow fell we sat by the fire and watched the beautiful winter wonderland appear out the windows. It was the weekend; we could actually relax and have some fun in the snow before having to deal with the driving conditions. We knew we would not be plowed out for several days – that just did not happen in Northern VA.
As the night went on the snow fell, it was beautiful. We took turns shoveling the driveway but the wind and the amount of snow coming down made it impossible to be out for then a few minutes. We finally gave up on our plan and went to bed. We woke the next morning and the snow was still coming down and the wind was still blowing. First coffee, then shovel. We said good morning to the ‘kids’ and fed them breakfast. My husband took the first shift in tackling the driveway. Even if we could stay on top of keeping the driveway clear, the plow had not come through on the street so there was nowhere to go. As I watched my husband and neighbors outside my cat Marvin came around the corner and looked up at me with the saddest eyes, meowed, and tried to squat to urinate. Nothing came out. His eyes were pleading with me to help him. Knowing a few things about the feline anonymity I was very concerned and my heart was racing. We were stuck in a blizzard – we could not get out if we tried.
I immediately called to my husband outside for him to come in. I explained what was going on. Even though our vet was within walking distance they were not there due to the weather. My husband reminded me that his best friend from school was a veterinarian (in Maine). We called him and before I could finish explaining all the symptoms he said “get him to a hospital, or he will die”. Marvin had a blockage and he could not urinate. My husband and I looked at each other, then at the snow coming down outside. No words exchanged, we both went outside and grabbed a shovel. Through our tears streaming down and freezing on our faces we began clearing away the snow from the driveway. We most have looked like crazy people because our neighbor yelled over and asked if everything was ok. I explained to him what was going on and the next thing I knew he, along with his whole family, were in our driveway shoveling. And then more and more neighbors arrived. I lost count how many adults, teenagers, and children were there. As they cleared our driveway so we could get out I went back inside to get Marvin ready. The closest Veterinary emergency hospital was a 20 minute drive in normal conditions. I called hospital to let them know what was going on and we were on the way.
The drive to the hospital was a treacherous one. The roads were not clear, the snow was still coming down and the wind was blowing. Luckily we had a 4-wheel drive. As we drove through the empty roads Marvin cried; the windshield wipers froze; and I leaned out the window to clear the glass so my husband could see. He kept saying, “I can’t see the road” and I would respond, “no one’s on the road, just stay between the trees and we will be fine”.
I don’t remember how long it took us to go the 10 miles but it seemed forever. When we arrived at the hospital the staff were in the parking lot waiting for us. They rushed Marvin in while we left the car in the middle of the snow filled parking lot. The doctors and staff were wonderful. Within minutes they had a catheter in Marvin and he finally had some relief and they stopped the urine from backing up and poisoning him. Ok, first problem solved. Now on to the why… Marvin was examined, received x-rays and a ultrasound. It was determined he had a urethral obstruction and would require surgery. They would need to perform a perineal urethostomy (i.e. PU surgery). To complicate matters not only was Marvin 16 years old he was also extremely overweight, something we had been battling for years. After consulting with our normal veterinary doctor and with our veterinary friend we felt we had all the information we needed. I then went and sat with Marvin and connected with him and asked him what he wanted to do.
Marvin and I had a very special bond, he was my soul cat. He and his brother, Taz, came to me via my brother’s cat from my niece and nephew who insisted these two were meant for me. I met them just weeks after they were born and they came to live with me once they were old enough to leave mom. The three of us would have awesome conversations. While Marvin and I discussed his condition and the surgery he indicated he was up for the surgery and would like to give it a try. The hospital said they would like to keep Marvin overnight and they would do the surgery the next day. They would keep him comfortable through the night with the catheter. We went home and cuddled with our other kitties that night and said prayers for Marvin.
The next day the surgeon called to let us know the surgery was complete and Marvin was resting. We could come see him any time. The surgeon explained that the blockage was in an area that was very difficult to get to and the excess fat he had to cut through complicated the surgery. Marvin would be in the hospital for at least a week to recover. It was December 21. We went to visit with Marvin later that day, he was still pretty out of it due to the pain medication, but he crawled from the back of his kennel into my lap and curled up and purred after kissing my cheek. The attending doctor said that was the first positive sign she had seen from him.
The next day the attending doctor called to let us know that Marvin had a rough night and needed more blood. The surgeon wanted to go back in for a second time. Due to the snow storm the hospital was low on blood, but the attending doctor had her Maine-coon cat at the hospital with her and he donated blood for Marvin. Another hard decision, Marvin was not a young cat and he was overweight, could he withstand a second surgery? We discussed everything with our two veterinary doctors and I again went and sat with Marvin and discussed with him. I have to say at this point I was a mess. I could not stop crying, I could not eat, and I could not sleep. Thankfully my husband was there to keep me strong.
We decided we would do the second surgery. The surgeon found the leak and was able to repair it. It is now December 23. I spent most of day with Marvin, lying on the floor with him curled in my lap. I only went home when my husband and the doctor insisted. I went back the next day and Marvin was weaker and not eating. I stayed with him as long as I could that day and I was finally able to get him to eat a little.
It is now Christmas day – and I’m back at the hospital with my boy. We spent several hours cuddled together and he ate a little for me. During this visit he let me know that his body was giving out on him. He was fighting as hard as he could but his physical body could not recover. He was preparing me for his departure from his physical body. Looking back on this day he was so strong for me. He knew I would have a hard time losing him. He comforted me! He made it ok for me. He also let me know that it would not be that day; he did not want to leave me on Christmas day. I stayed with him for many hours that day. I came home and said many prayers that night. The next day my husband and I went back to the hospital and found there had been no change. I crawled into his kennel and curled up with Marvin. He could barely lift his head but he managed to put it on my chest with his paw on my cheek and stared into my eyes. We said our goodbyes, heart to heart.
Marvin proceeded over the Rainbow Bridge that afternoon. We held each other as long as possible and then I handed my precious boy over to the Angels. I came home and saw his belongings and broke down. I cried for days. My heart physically hurt from the loss. This was “Marvin’s Storm”.
As the days went on and it got closer to returning to work I became anxious. I did not want to face all the people and relive it all again through explaining what happened. But I had to do what I had to do. As the weeks passed I encounter responses from people that were comforting and others that were appalling. Even in 2009 there were still people who would say “it was just a cat, why are you so upset”. Even some of my own family members. Did they not understand that I loved him? And he loved me in return. Over the 16 years we spent together he saw me through good times and bad. There was a time he and his brother were the only living beings in the world that could reach me. They healed me. And Marvin showed me what love was and he woke up my gift of communicating with animals again. Something that had closed down during my teen years because society convinced me it was not true. Marvin taught me Love has no boundaries. A very important lesson I needed to learn. My own mother had passed the year before and I had yet to come to terms with this. Marvin’s passing helped to heal that wound as well.
Two years later we would lose Darby at 18 years old leaving only Taz. Six months later Taz had succeeded in convincing my husband and I it was time for a dog! At 18 years old Taz knew he would not be around much longer and he wanted time to “train” his replacement.
By this time Taz and I were talking on a regular basis. We began our search for our dog. We would go to the different rescue organizations, shelters, and adoption events. We spent many a weekend searching. Even though we met many wonderful dogs any one of them would have been a good pet – but something kept pushing me. Finally one Saturday in October 2011 I convinced my husband to go to an adoption event promising him it would just be the one. We went and we met several wonderful dogs, but just not “the one”.
While we were there I had a “knowing” we needed to go a different event down the road. Of course my husband was not up for that, he was tired of being disappointed. But I got to the car first and was now in control of our destination. Off we went to the second adoption event. Even though I knew our dog was here I really had to encourage my husband. As we walked around looking and playing with all the dogs my husband commented how I was not really engaging with any of them. I told him I’m looking for “Wyatt” – this totally through him – I explained our dog was there and we were going to call him ‘Wyatt’. As we separated through the aisles I turned the corner and there he was! My ‘Wyatt’.
As I looked at him down the aisle he turned and our eyes met and he came running to me! His handler was so taken by surprise she dropped the leash. My Wyatt, he had found me!!! We completed the required paperwork and were on our way home with Wyatt shortly there after. I truly believe that our pets find us, the Universe works with the pet to make situations happen to bring us together. I came to find out that Wyatt was originally from Georgia – so am I – he was only a few miles from where I lived. He had just arrived to this rescue the night before and was not supposed to be at the event that day – but something got messed up and he was there - can’t deny the synchronicity.
It took Taz and Wyatt almost a complete year to be comfortable with each other to where I would leave them alone together. And it was Taz, not Wyatt, who was the aggressor. I came to find out later that Taz was teaching Wyatt his role and Wyatt was being his normal “terrier” self and being stubborn to learn. Bringing Wyatt into the home I discovered my love for training dogs. About three weeks after having Wyatt at home my husband and I had to sit down with him and have a conversation about his behavior. We knew things could not continue the way they were going, we needed help. We found a trainer who came in and gave us (the humans) instructions on how to help Wyatt. Wyatt went on to complete his first training class and things got better for all of us. And I learned I enjoyed teaching him. A few months later we stumbled across another dog trainer who took Wyatt to the next level. And in doing so I followed suit and got my certification as a canine obedience trainer.
Two years later Taz was at it again and finagled another dog to come into the home. This time a puppy. Wyatt had the honor of picking his new brother and we brought home Winston, a Black English lab at 8 weeks.
Taz crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in February of 2017 at the ripe old age of 21. During the four years Taz had with Winston they were inseparable. Before he passed Taz let me know he had completed his job here and he knew I was in good hands now. Wyatt had finally stepped-up in his role as leader and Winston was the best sidekick he could have.
I believe that Taz knew I needed Wyatt and Winston in order to cope with his passing. He had been the one to help me when my mother passed and again when his brother Marvin passed. Since Marvin’s passing I have learned a great deal and I now know that our loved ones are never gone, they are with us always in spirit. I have known, seen, and felt when my loved ones are near. They continue to comfort and guide me. My animals have taught me in so many ways the meaning of Love and the meaning of Spirit.
Life is a continuous cycle – it never ends. Our loved ones are with us always.