Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach campus is home to several colonies of cats. Some are friendly while others avoid people. Before we moved into the new library in 2018, I sometime sat outside the temporary library during lunch. Often I would be surrounded by cats and I usually gave them some of my lunch: fish, turkey, and chicken. Around that time, some students, with the support of faculty and staff, formed a club to help feed and care for the campus cats. They called it P.A.W.S. or the Protecting Animal Wellness Society.
P.A.W.S. placed and maintained a few feeding stations around campus. Periodically the students trap and release cats after getting them their checkups, shots, and spaying or neutering. They foster kittens and find permanent homes for cats that are suitable for adoption. For wild cats, they return them to campus.
Students run P.A.W.S. but we faculty and staff help support them financially. Each year I give a few hundred dollars. Normally, students keep the feeding stations filled with food and water, but during this Winter Break when most students are away from campus, local staff were asked to sign up to feed the cats. Because I would be in town, I volunteered to take several evening feeding times.
My first time feeding the cats was Monday, December 16, 2019, directly after leaving work. I had been given a list of instructions along with the combination for the several locks on the feeding station. I found the station against the rear wall of the fitness center. Although the cats still had dry food, they gathered around me, eager to get their dinner of wet catfood. On this occasion, only one silver-striped cat let me pet it. But I refilled the bowls with dry food, portioned out the food from the can, and cleaned and refilled the large water bowls. I counted six cats.
I was scheduled for the following evening, but the weather was rainy. Patty, the P.A.W.S. staff coordinator, texted me to say that she had looked after them at lunchtime so it wasn’t necessary to go in the rain. So I missed one feeding.
My final scheduled feeding was Wednesday, December 18. Because this was a half-workday, I had to return to campus in the evening. At least the weather was good. Again the cats swarmed around me while I prepared dinner. This time, three black / black and white cats let me scratch their backs while they waited. Fed and watered, I locked the station and snapped a few more photos. I think there were five cats this day.
Sadly, my cat Laser Eyes “Ellie” Day died on New Years Eve. Literally minutes before midnight on December 31, 2018, the veterinarian at the animal hospital where Ellie had spent the last night called to say that her severe pneumonia and dehydration had worsened to the point where she was suffering and would not live through the night. I gave my permission to euthanize her. It was an awful end to her life and an awful way to end the year. She was a few months shy of her seventh birthday.
Ellie was a rescue cat, so I didn’t know her exact birthday. The papers that came with her estimated that she was born in March 2012. That meant she was about fourteen months old when I got her on May 5, 2013.
I didn’t intend to get a cat. But that changed when I was contacted by my ex-girlfriend to ask if I would adopt a cat. A mutual friend of ours was visiting her and impulsively agreed to adopt Ellie from a pet rescue inside the pet store they had visited that day. She was due to pick up the cat the following day but in the meantime came to the realization that she could not take yet another pet home. They needed someone else to take the cat, thus the sudden call to me. After some resistance, I agreed to take the cat if they would supply a few basic necessities, which they did. Ellie arrived the next day, Sunday, May 5.
Ellie’s First Day
She was initially very scared, as can be expected. She immediately ran into the farthest, darkest corner of my bedroom, and hid there for an hour or two. However, after my friends left, she eventually made her way into the livingroom and appeared to relax somewhat.
These two photos highlight Ellie’s unusual eyes. Due to an early illness, her pupils were widely dilated unless she was looking into bright light. Direct light and flash photos made her eyes appear like lasers, thus the source of her actual name: Laser Eyes (abbreviated L. E. or “Ellie”) Day.
Ellie quickly settled in and became the sweet and affectionate cat that she was the rest of her life. She always had to be in the same room with me when I was at home. In the morning when she knew I was leaving for work, she would run to the front door to block my path or at least demand a last scratching. Like a loyal dog, she would greet me at the front door when I arrived home at the end of the day. Some people think cats are aloof and indifferent to people, but Ellie missed me when I was away for the day or the entire weekend. But she never held a grudge.
Ellie never really liked my Eames Armchair, so I snapped this photo during one of the few times she sat in it. She was more likely found sprawled on my sofa.
Although occasionally she made herself comfortable on my end table and watched me coolly from afar. She looked a bit unnerving with those big black eyes.
Ellie loved water. Most mornings when I was getting ready for work, she would sit on the bathroom counter until I ran the faucet in a slow stream. For several minutes she let the water run down her head and drank the water as it passed her mouth or she held her paw in the stream and licked the water from it. Seeing how much she liked running water, I finally bought her a drinking fountain and she was very happy splashing whenever she liked, although she still liked the bathroom faucet.
As I said, Ellie would always be nearby. When I was working on my computer, she was usually right there demanding attention. Whenever I printed something, she would leap up excitedly and wait eagerly for the first page to emerge which she snatched in her teeth and ran off with.
When I moved to the sofa, she would join me. Sometimes she slept on the back of the sofa, just over my shoulder.
But more likely she would make herself comfortable on my lap.
April 9, 2016 was a bad day for Ellie. It was a nice Spring day so I left a window open. Ellie sometimes ventured out onto the roof of the one-storey part of the building outside my window. But on this day she decided to leap to the ground. After a frantic search, I found her in the small alley between my building and the one next door. She had bloodied up her face. I bought a pet carrier and took her to the animal hospital. The vet initially thought she broke her jaw, but after closer examination prior to surgery she realized the Ellie had earlier in life broken her jaw, which was slightly crooked. She had merely broken one tooth and knocked another one crooked, which was extracted. Ellie came home the next day and was back to her normal self in no time. You can read more about her accident in the Ellie’s Accident and Her “Broken Jaw” blog post.
I left the pet carrier in the room for a day or two and discovered that Ellie enjoyed sitting inside it. So I let her get accustomed to it, knowing that it would make things easier the next time I needed to put her in it.
When she wasn’t diving off rooftops, Ellie mostly liked to play with paper balls and plastic drinking straws. I think she liked the sounds they made on the concrete floor. There was one real cat toy that she did like, a green foam ball that was a gift from a colleague. I frequently found it in the oddest places.
So she was sometimes very active, but spent much of the time her on her back, begging me for scratches. Unlike most cats, Ellie loved to have her belly rubbed. She would offer up her white belly every chance she got.
I took a lot of photos of Ellie, so she was used it. Sometimes it seemed as if she were posing for me, as these two photos show.
When she wasn’t posing, another favorite past-time of hers was garbage diving. If I happened to leave the garbage can cabinet open, Ellie would find out and she could be spotted digging through the trash. Her favorite things to steal were plastic cheddar cheese wrappers.
Sometimes she had the funniest looks with her big ears and crooked jaw. One day she had a long black streak down her face, I don’t know what she had gotten into to cause it. You can see actually see her real eye color in these two closeup photos.
Ellie’s final year was mostly uneventful. She splashed in the sink, played with her balls and straws, and spent most evenings asleep on my lap. That was her routine and I enjoyed her company. One funny story is that when I bought a new wool rug, which she did not like at all, she would walk all the way around instead of across the thick rug. Only a few times did I ever find her lying on the rug.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this photo of her sleeping peacefully in the morning sunlight was the last good photo I would take of her in November 2018.
Her last day at home was Sunday, December 30, 2018. By early afternoon, it was clear she wasn’t well. Her breathing was labored. I knew she was sick but I hardly expected that she was so near the end. I took this photo of her lying on the wool rug, which she usually avoided, clearly in some discomfort.
It turned out to be the last photo. Shortly afterwards, I took her to the animal hospital. She never came home again.
Although I hadn’t planned to adopt another cat, I’m glad Ellie ended up with me. From May 2013 until the very end of 2018, she was a great companion and roommate. I will miss her greatly.
April 9, 2016, started out like any typical Saturday; I slept in, made a cup of coffee, and worked on some of my websites. The weather was perfect, so I opened a window in my livingroom where I had previous removed the screen. My cat Ellie likes to sit by this window and occasionally ventures out onto the roof of the one-storey part of the building outside. It’s almost like a terrace except we’re not meant to walk around out there.
After working for an hour or so, I realized I hadn’t seen Ellie in some time. I walked through my loft calling to Ellie, then climbed onto the adjacent roof and looked around the corner, still calling her name. No reply. Now worried, I went downstairs and walked around the building to see if she was on a ledge accessible from that roof. I didn’t see her so I expanded my search around the block. I went up to the fourth floor rooftop patio to get another view. Finally, I climbed onto the adjacent roof and looked over the edge between the buildings and spotted her on the ground. Relieved, I went downstairs to coax her out.
Ellie would not come to me so after a few minutes I slowly walked down the alley, not wanting to scare her into running the other direction. She let me pick her up and I quickly carried her upstairs. Upon closer inspection, I could see her mouth was bloodied. She seemed OK until she tried to eat some soft food I set out and gave up, obviously in pain. It was clear she needed to see a veterinarian.
I purchased a pet carrier and took her to a local animal hospital. The initial diagnosis was that she had a broken jaw and had lost a tooth. This was based upon an initial inspection of her misaligned jaw/chin and bent tooth. The vet planned to take X-rays and wire Ellie’s broken jaw in place. I left her there. After several hours I called and was told that they wanted to keep her overnight and I assumed the surgery had already been done. Later that night the vet called to tell me that after sedation and getting a closer look, Ellie did not break her jaw that day, but that it had been broken sometime in the past and had healed improperly, thus the current misalignment! She had one tooth broken off at the base and another tooth had bent and was poking the roof of her mouth. This was a relief. She did not need surgery, only a tooth extraction, which the vet did.
In the morning I picked her up. The vet showed me her misaligned jaw and her missing teeth, one of which she handed to me in a small plastic vial. She showed me how to administer liquid pain medicine, if needed.
We returned home and soon Ellie was her usual self. She inspected the loft, then spent a lot of time in and around her new pet carrier. She loves the thing. Not long after coming home, she was eating hard food again, a good sign. Her condition was so much better than had been initially feared. Such a relief.
It was a crazy 21 hours with Ellie initially gone missing, then found but injured. Then her injury misdiagnosed as a broken jaw requiring surgery only to be later revised to just a broken and a bent tooth and cuts. My loft felt strangely empty that night, the first in three years that Ellie wasn’t there within view.
This wasn’t the introductory story I had planned for Ellie. I’ll write about her rescue and adoption in another post. But now I am even more curious what her first year was like (before I got her) with her strange eye condition and now a fractured jaw. She’s a tough but sweet girl.