Claudia Vecchio, 2/10/12
Founder of ORA
This evening, February 10, 2012, at 9:50 pm, our dear Oksana passed away. Heartbroken as I am, I must nevertheless continue caring for the many cats here at the sanctuary (my residence, that has been transformed into an animal sanctuary for the un-adoptables). We do not have the luxury to stop working to grieve over Oksana’s passing, so I thought that the best homage to our Oksana while helping to placate our pain was to commemorate her on this page.
Oksana was truly a special cat. Naturally all cats are wonderful and special, but Oksana was special in a different way. When she came to us, Oksana was the type of cat that pounds do not hesitate for a moment to kill: a black (therefore less likely adoptable), adult, unspayed cat with behavioural problems.
Oksana was found in the middle of the winter of 2002 in front of a portable used as the headquarters of Wild Care, a wildlife rehabilitation center that unfortunately has since closed its doors for lack of funds. Oksana had been abandoned in a red carrier with an open can of tuna. Corinne, one of ORA's co-founders, used to religiously volunteer for Wild Care every Sunday for an intense four-hour shift of cleaning and feeding wild animals. That particular Sunday, as soon as Corinne appeared at the door of the portable to get her assignments for the day, she was handed the red carrier with Oksana in it.
ORA had not yet been founded at the time, and Corinne was naturally considered the most appropriate candidate to care for Oksana. It soon appeared that Oksana had suffered from major trauma and/or abuse. She was terrified of human hands. We could not even place food in front of her without being fiercely attacked. But we did not consider even for a second to “euthanize” Oksana. We just felt terribly sorry for her, wondering what ordeal she might have endured to be so terrified of human hands. We learned to feed her wearing skiing gloves. After months of care and loving words, Oksana came to understand that she could start trusting us. Oksana started feeling more comfortable in our house although adopting her out was not an option as she would still react with aggression to sudden movements of our hand. Oksana also learned to accept the many felines coming and going. She did not establish friendship with any of them and regarded them as competitors for our attention, but she learned to tolerate them.
Then in 2008 Oksana was diagnosed with breast cancer. A biopsy identified the cancer as being of a particular aggressive type, but we persuaded the reluctant vet to perform a mastectomy. The vet cautioned us that the cancer could return. It did in fact return two years after the surgery and since then it has continually grown larger. However with holistic remedies, large administration of vitamins and supplements and local application of ointments, Oksana was able to keep the cancer at bay for another two years, living, against any forecast, well for four years even after cancer diagnosis and surgery. It is astonishing that the same Oksana who did not even allow us to place food in front of her when first she arrived here, swallowed then, every day, for four years, without even a bit of resistance, all of the pills that I administered to her. She allowed me to place her upside down on my lap to spread the different holistic unguents on her tumors. This procedure was always followed by a brief session of pats and kisses and I will never forget the grateful look in Oksana’s eyes. It is like she understood that I was trying to do my very best to help her to live. And Oksana fought with me to defeat her cancer, but we both failed, although our tacit collaboration prolonged Oxsana’s life for four more years.
At midday today, Oxsana ate half a can of A/D (highly caloric prescription diet food) and this afternoon she ate a bit more food and some treats and as usual she accepted the administration of vitamins and supplements. At 9:30 pm, I saw her sitting on my bed. I gave her a big kiss, then I went downstairs to replenish some cat dishes with new food. When I arrived upstairs, a few minutes later, Oksana was laying down, breathing heavily. I took her in my arms to help her feel more comfortable for a while, but then she suddenly passed away. Our Oksana is no longer with us.
Animals always teach us something if we are perceptive to learn. Oksana’s death, happening now while we are organizing the Nathan Winograd event, while we are trying to raise awareness amongst the general public about the horrors of thousands of animals being killed in pounds every year in the GTA is like a validation of our assertions: Oksana had ten great years with us because we did not give in to clichés. She was entitled to her life and we respected her right to live. Nobody has the right to terminate a life under any excuse whatsoever. So called “vicious cats” are made that way by humans and with human love they can become the most docile and lovable animals.
We will miss you tremendously, dear Oksana. We are glad and honoured that you came into our lives and that we had the privilege to care for you. You have taught us so much. I will miss the loving look of gratitude in your eyes when I was caring for you. Have a good time on the other side of Rainbow Bridge and befriend some kitties there until we can be reunited again.