I got Jake and Ellwood (AKA "The Blues Brothers") when my partner and myself moved into our 1st house. We took time to train them thoroughly and only let them out for the first time after consulting with vets/books etc about their age. At first we only took them out on pet leads together. We did live on a main road, I had grown up living on main roads and always had cats. Behind the house was a garden with plenty of adjoining gardens.
They started going out - but I still only let them out in the evening when I was home from work and could monitor them. Every evening they would wait for me to come home and ran to the door to be let out. They had a catflap with magnetic tags to allow them to come and go as they pleased. On an evening they would come and go all the time as if they were checking in on me.
My partner is in the armed forces and had just been sent away for 2 months when the following occurred:
On Thursday evening after they had been going out for about 2 weeks, I noticed that Jake had "checked in" twice but I hadn't seen Ellwood. When Jake checked in again and still no sign of Ellwood I began to worry and went to the door and called him and banged his food plate (a trick that had never failed yet), but no Ellwood.
By about 11pm and a lot of frantic calling, running around the streets and phoning everyone I could think of I was besides my self. I slept by the catflap with Jake who I had kept in since Ellwood had gone missing, but heard nothing. As soon as morning came I started phoning round all the shelters, RSPCA etc giving descriptions and getting advice. I went to the local shop and photocopied hand-made posters and leaflets, and distributed them all around our neighbourhood. I had taken the Friday off work and me and my family spent from Thursday night until Sunday night doing everything humanely possible.
By this point all my family and everyone I had contacted had explained that I must "accept the fact that he had gone."
People had said that cats "do just go off, and could return in a few days as if nothing had happened" but I knew this wasn't the case.
One person said they 'thought they had heard someone say they had seen a cat being run over' but if this was the case where was he?
On the Sunday I returned to my sisters who had given me the kittens and she still had one of Ellwood's sisters so I took her to keep Jake company and as they were still young I figured the 'introductions' would be easier now rather than leaving it any longer.
On the Sunday night I took a photo of Ellwood and looked at it, praying for a guardian angel to find him and let me have some rest as I had to return to work the next day, life goes on blah, blah, blah - but I still had this unresolved feeling.
On Monday morning I was at work and got a call on my mobile phone saying that someone had heard a cat across the road from where I lived. The caller had got my name from the posters I had put up. I lied to my boss (saying I had been sick - as my boss was a tyrant - ex-boss now!) and left. I worked an hours drive from my home.
On the way home it struck me that I couldn't keep doing this! I had already been on 3 wild goose chases over the weekend that just resulted in me discovering just how many black and white cats there are in my area! I called my sister who said I could pick her up on the way over.
My sister and myself were standing in the spot described by the caller but it was still morning time and all we could here was the noise of traffic, milkmen etc. We shouted and shouted but nothing. Once the traffic calmed down I ran inside to get his food dish and returned to my sister and banged it.
Suddenly we heard a noise that made us both turn and run towards it... it was a cat... quite literally screaming! We followed the noise - just running across a main road - which we later reflected on how stupid this was! Into someone's garden, past the house into their back garden. My sister got there first and shouted that it was Ellwood, but in the adjoining garden, I ran round to try and get in but the house next door had a padlocked gate and I couldn't get in. My sister jumped over the adjoining fence and picked him up and offered him to me over the fence.
It was at this point I could see the extent of his injuries and froze.
The sight was bizarre to say the least. From where I was standing I could see the damage and also see how he was purring his head off and rubbing his head all over my sister!
Once we had him in a carrier we rushed him to the vet who took him in to 'clean him up' and assess the damage.
I was told to go home as it would take a couple of hours and they would call. Sitting and waiting was a nightmare. I knew if it was bad, they could say they would have to put him down - but after seeing him purring and rubbing his head on us - so happy to see us - the thought was unbearable. The other factor was money - we weren't insured!
When the vet called back she said it was very bad and that he would have to go to a specialist to get a more comprehensive diagnosis. At this point and all the way through, every decision was hampered by the fact that every decision that had to be made involved calling the Ministry of Defense (MOD) in England, them calling my partner, my partner calling me and then the vet in some circumstances!
We eventually picked up a cleaned and sedated Ellwood from our local vets and took him an hour away to the specialised vets who told us again that we would have to leave him to be examined and come back later. After the type of day I had, I stayed at the vets and waited.
The vet returned with the verdict. He was very badly damaged. It was his front and back legs on one side that were damaged. If they couldn't save the back leg, the front one was probably too damaged to allow him to live as a 3 legged cat. The bones could be fixed but due to the extent of his injuries and the time since the accident, that resulted in a lot of the damaged flesh dying and this was the main problem. He explained that he had been hit by a car but that in the accident his legs had been dragged under the wheels and literally 'grated.'
The vet said he wasn't dehydrated and he had probably been drinking dew off plants!
With no insurance the vet warned me the bills could easily be £1000 and at this point there was no guarantee that anything could be done that could save him.
I made the decision to go ahead. The way I saw it was that if he could get hit by a car, sustain the damages he did, get across the road, round a house and into a garden for shelter, stay alive and drink dew for 4 days and still have a purr and a cuddle for us when we found him - he wanted to live and it wasn't up to me to give up on him!
The next 5 months were spent to and from the vets where he stayed for 2 months, then regular visits every 2/3 days for bandage changes.
Ellwood is now running around at home with Jake and his new sister Angel.
The accident happened in February 2002 and in December 2001 he had spent most of his time sat in the branches of the Christmas Tree - a sight I never thought I would see again - but sure enough that is where he has been sat all this Christmas (2002)!
He walks with a limp and cost a total of just under £2000 but he is a medical marvel! The vet is using his case study to show at conferences etc., as the technique used was a revolutionary one!
I am so glad I didn't give up on him and I am reminded of this every day when I return home to him. They are all house cats now and until I can afford a house away from roads they will be as Ellwood will need special consideration now - although you wouldn't think it to watch him charging around the house and playing with his brother and sister!
The moral of my story is - get pet insurance. And if anyone needs a good vet recommendation?
In the photo Ellwood is the black and white one and the little black one is his brother Jake. This photo was taken just before his accident - I have lots of pictures of him with various bandages and collars but I love this particular photo!