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  • "Dr. McCarthy! Do you know someone that wants a kitten?"

    "Sure." I didn't know what I was getting myself into as I walked from the treatment area into the waiting room.
    Next thing I knew, there was an 11 oz ball of grey fur and blue eyes in my outstretched palm.

    "Meow" she said. "MEOW!" With more urgency.

    Cursory exam revealed a kitten of little more than 5 weeks, with a mild case of fleas. "Sure I'll find her a home." I was saying that more for myself than anyone that was listening.

    On my way home from work, I stopped at my parents' house to drop off food for their dog. My Dad came out to examine my acquisition. "I knew from that first moment I saw her, you'd never be able to give her away" he'd say later.

    She fit in well with my herd. We bottle fed her because she was so small. In retrospect, that was probably not necessary, since she'd eat everything in sight.

    At 8 weeks, she was more than normal at home. She was a kitten that could scale buildings in a single bound. On physical exam, however, her gums were pale, and I heard a soft heart murmur.

    I drew blood.

    The results weren't normal.

    Her red blood cells were low, and her body wasn't producing enough to make up for the lack. Her white blood cells were high, and one group looked like they might be precancerous.

    This isn't supposed to happen to 8 week old kittens.

    I had lined up a possible forever home for her.

    I had to break the news about her labwork abnormalities. I couldn't, in good conscience, give my friends a lemon. Three weeks after she came into my home, she got her name.

    More time passed, and, contrary to her blood-work, Lemon was not a lemon. At 6 months, I spayed her. It was an adventure for both of us. I was convinced she'd never survive anesthesia. She came through with flying colors.

    At home, this kitten was more like a dog than a cat. She'd greet me at the door, talk back whenever I told her 'no', jump into my arms if I put my hands in the right position. I'd never had a cat that liked to be carried and snuggled as much as Lemon. I'd often wake up with her sound asleep on my chest, a little arm outstretched in front of her body towards my face. I passed the days thinking there was nothing wrong with her.

    I dreaded her annual checkup for fear that I'd find more abnormalities, and delayed it for as long as I could, until I could ignore it no more.
    I drew blood. She fought me, and my nurse, with hisses, and claws, and teeth.

    Shockingly, blood-work was generally unremarkable - that one group of white cells still looked ominous, but at least they hadn't increased in number. But her urine was loaded with blood.

    The next step was a full body radiograph, to visualize her insides and rule out a bladder stone causing the bloody urine. I dreaded it on account of the fight she put up trying to get blood.

    On x-ray day, she got me good - worst work-related injury I had had for awhile. I held her down with lead gloves and tried to ignore her cries and screams of protest, of insult, of injury.

    When I got home that night, I silently handed her carrier to my boyfriend and went to check my results.

    As I sat on the couch that evening, Lemon refused to sit with me. Whenever I moved, she went running. I tried to bribe her with treats - nothing helped.

    I woke up in the middle of the night - still on the couch- and felt a familiar weight on my chest. I opened my eyes to see a little grey ball in front of me. I brushed her face and held it as she licked my fingers with her rough tongue. In a sleepy haze, she reached out a paw, and placed it on my chest, over where I imagine my heart to be.
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