Every year at the end of the show season, cats (or perhaps more correctly, their owners) celebrate their accomplishments of the past 12 months.
Some have accomplished big... National wins or historic milestones for their breed. Some have made smaller or more personal goals... a first grand, a first rosette, a first final...
And sometimes... just sometimes... circumstances combine to produce a win that is more than just a collection of points, more than a reflection of the beauty of the cat... more than the desire of the owner... It is a story of challenges overcome, of labor beyond a single season... the story of a Dreamer... and a little faith..
This is such a story from the show season of 2003-2004.
April, 2004, The Last Show of the Season
Dreamer was highest-scoring cat at the show this past weekend, for his "final show"! He's best Somali nationally... I couldn't be more thrilled with him...
I cannot help but think about the journey we have taken over the past three years...
Three Years Earlier...
Dreamer was one of three sons born to Meghan in her last litter before she was spayed. He was the only red boy, so quite obviously, he had to stay with us! The night he was born I was at a show in Seattle, but my hubby, Rob, was home with Meghan, and rushed her in to the vet's office when it appeared she was having some problems after delivering the first kitten. A c-section followed. There were three boys in the litter - two ruddies, and one red (Dreamer). Dreamer was the toughest one to revive after the c-section. Little did I know this was the first of many challenges he would need to overcome in his life...
Four Months Later... The Kitten Class
Dreamer entered his first show at just four months. He loved the shows. I was busy showing Flirt to a national breed win that year, so Dreamer only went to a few kitten shows.
Four Months After That... Championship Classes
Dreamer had matured into a beautiful adult. I took him to the CFA International show in Houston, as a brand new champion. He made two finals at the International show, garnering 137 grand points in those two finals. His next show was Lewis & Clark where he earned 259 grand points. He would have been a one-show grand if we hadn't gone to the International :-)!
With his grand title, he became Meghan's 5th GC offspring, and she became our first DM.
Since I was already running Flirt for national best of breed Somali that year, AND we were still doing the RPA method of scoring, I didn't plan to show Dreamer more that year, as it would just cause ring splitting between the two GC boys... so Dreamer stayed home.
April, 2002... The Accident
April of 2002 - the season was winding down and I was starting to make plans for the new season. Dreamer was looking wonderful and this would be his season to shine. I mailed off his entry for the first show in May.
Meanwhile, I was at one of the final April shows, just packing up to come home Sunday afternoon, when Rob called to tell me that he was on his way to the emergency vet with Dreamer. He had broken his hind leg.
When I asked Rob how he knew it was broken, I got the answer "Oh, it's broken... trust me.". Not exactly the words you want to hear... and it was pretty much the first words the ER vet said to him when they looked at him. We never discovered how Dreamer broke his leg. He had been playing in the the living room - and something happened - we never figured out what.
X-ray of the Broken Leg
The break was very serious - a multiple fracture with chips and pieces of bone everywhere. It was beyond the abilities of an ER vet - it needed an orthopedic specialist. They kept Dreamer overnight, on fluids and pain medication. I picked him up on Monday morning, and drove straight to the specialist's office with him.
The vet's office staff already knew Dreamer. They had treated him for an eye ulcer some months earlier and he had just had a final check by the eye specialist, Dr. Scherlie, about a week before this accident. When the receptionist looked up, saw me, saw Dreamer, she said, "but you don't have an appointment with Dr. Scherlie today!"
I told her what had happened, and that I need to see Dr. Lozier, the orthopedic surgeon. He was totally booked in surgeries that day, but Dr. Wooldridge had a cancellation that morning, so I ended up with him. What a marvelous guy! Anyway, he looked at Dreamer's x-ray (and asked me if the cat had been hit by a car, because he'd never seen a fracture like that, unless a car was involved!). He explained what they would try to do during surgery and so Dreamer was prepped for the operation. I had to go to work for the day but would check back by phone.
The surgery was estimated to take 1.5 to 2 hours. Several phone calls later Dreamer was still not out of the operation room and the clock just kept ticking. Dreamer's surgery ended up taking 4.5 hours. It was MUCH more extensive than Dr. Wooldridge had thought it would be. They put a titanium plate in his leg, with 13 titanium screws (and it frightens me that I can still remember that VERY clearly, despite the time that has passed!).
X-ray showing the Titanium Plate and Screws in place
Zillions of dollars for the surgery... plus a large bill from the ER the day before... it all didn't matter. The cat was worth it!
Dreamer came home the following day, but had to be VERY confined, so we put him in a walk-in stud cage (4 ft deep, 6 ft wide, 6 ft tall), but took all of the shelves out, so that he could only be on the floor, one level.
I slept on the floor of the cage with him, every night.
He gradually started to bear a little weight on the leg, as the days and weeks went by... until we got to about week six, and all of a sudden, I noticed he wasn't bearing weight on it anymore.
I called Dr. Wooldridge, who had me take him right in. Back to x-ray he went, and back came Dr. W, carrying an x-ray film, shaking his head. The titanium plate had broken. He wasn't sure if the fault was in the plate, his surgery, or if Dreamer had just "done something" that he shouldn't have, but no matter... back to surgery he went.
X-ray showing the Titanium Plate snapped in two
Another surgery of almost 5 hours. It was the Saturday of our regional awards show and banquet. I went to the show in the morning, but left to go get Dreamer in the afternoon, when he was out of surgery. I had planned to stay home with Dreamer while Rob and my friends attended the awards banquet, but Rob made me go while he stayed home with Dreamer.
There followed another six weeks of total confinement for Dreamer, with me still sleeping in the stud cage with him. By the way, when I say "with him", that isn't quite the correct picture. He slept ON me, draped across my neck, with his head and front feet on my face - he couldn't seem to ever get quite "close" enough... <gg>
The second surgery involved putting an external fixture on his leg, and then running screws through the leg, that attached on both sides to the external hardware. Lots more difficult to deal with, and he was constantly catching it on me, when I was in there with him. Multiple scrapes and scratches for mom! That was done at the end of May, and then he was back to another six weeks of confinement. I took him back over at the end of July for a "check up", and Dr. Wooldridge wanted to try and leave it on even longer, "just to be sure"...
X-ray showing the leg wired together and stabilized by an external apparatus
He finally went in for his "last" surgery in mid-September, because it required surgery to remove all this hardware "stuff"... and still more confinement, of course!
Somewhere in mid-October, I finally gave him a small cat tree in his cage, and let him move off the floor. We added things back in VERY slowly, and then gradually started letting him out of the cage again. And of course, for EVERY surgery, they shaved his entire leg, clear up to the backbone on his hip. Somali hair grows VERY slowly...
I truly never planned on showing him again - I was just happy to have him "with us" still, and able to run around on four legs!
He was such a love during all of this, and remained his sweet, affectionate self, through everything. I even took him back to visit Dr. W. one day, when I was going there with another one of my cats. There were actually tears in the veterinarian's eyes, when he discovered I'd brought a healthy, happy Dreamer along - just so he could see him, and see how well he was doing.
February 2003... Dreamer turns 3 Years Old
June 2003... Back in the Show Ring Just For Fun
There was a one day local show, and I thought it would be fun to take all four of my Grand Champion boys... so Dreamer got to go to a show. He had such a good time, purring, nuzzling and playing with toys. I almost couldn't believe it. I didn't show him the rest of the summer, and then decided to take him to another local show in September. Again, he had SUCH a good time, and did so well, I thought maybe I'd just show him at "local" shows, and see what he could do. Of course, the points started adding up, and at the end of October, he jumped to the national best of breed Somali... and I began to dream that he might be able to earn that honor, if he continued to do so well.
Dreamer had only gone to shows I could drive him to within region yet he had gathered quite a fan club, who all loved to watch that "red Somali", showing off. Anyone who saw him in a show ring can attest to the fact that he truly loved showing, and has enjoyed every minute of it! And of course, after having me sleep in his cage for 5 months with him, he thought hotel rooms were truly marvelous places, where he can nuzzle with mom all night long! If I took another cat along with him, I actually had to put THEM in the bathroom of the hotel room, so Dreamer could have his "special" time with me.
End of April 2004 , The Last Show of the Season
Is it any wonder that I'm incredibly proud of this cat, and what he's accomplished? And you can see why I was in tears after his last ring of his last show. What a journey we have made together. I'm still amazed at what he's accomplished after all those surgeries and all that recovery time. I am more excited about THIS accomplishment, with THIS cat, than any of the others I've ever had. Dreamer is my "baby"... my "heart cat"... ;-) As I'm sure you can imagine, he is NEVER leaving for another home!
GC, BW, RW Tamarakatz Dreamweaver
CFA's National Best of Breed Somali, 2003-2004
CFA Northwest Region's 10th best cat, and Best Somali, 2003-2004
Dreamer sired the next season’s 2nd best of breed Somali (GC, RW Tamarakatz Chasing A Dream). In his final litter, he also sired this year’s 8th Best Cat in Premiership in Region 2, GP, RW Tamarakatz Crown Prince. Dreamer is now neutered and living a totally spoiled rotten life, with us, of course! <g>