I have a couple of friends – yes, Virginia, I do have actual friends – who have a lifelong love of all animals, especially cats.
The couple, Billy Brown and Tiffany Nixon, have no children, but they have given a dozen or more cats a very comfortable home in Murrells Inlet.
I’ve been to their home and it reminded me of my visit, many years ago, to Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, where the offspring of Hemingway’s beloved six-toed cats lounge in every nook and cranny.
Earlier this year, when one of their cats, a coal-black beauty named Spencer, was diagnosed with cancer, Billy and Tiffany didn't think twice about what had to be done.
“He's a member of the family,” Billy said simply. “You do whatever you can to make him well.”
Over the next several weeks, the three of them made several trips to Veterinary Specialty Care in Mount Pleasant, where Spencer has been receiving chemotherapy.
About two months ago, the three of them were returning home after another round of chemo when they spotted something very hairy hopping along on U.S. 17.
“It looked like a mop head with legs,” Tiffany said.
They couldn’t really tell what it was until they stopped and went back to get it.
The little mop head dog ran away at first, then turned and ran to Billy. They put him in the SUV and headed back to Specialty Care.
“He was in really tough shape,” Billy said. “He was a bundle of hair, all of it matted and twisted and dirty. There was so much hair he looked like a dog that would weigh 40 pounds or so.”
Dr. Kelli Klein was nearly in tears when she saw him, Tiffany said. She looked for a microchip, found none, then anesthetized him and began cutting through the hair.
“She went through five sets of scissors getting all the hair out,” Tiffany said.
When Klein finished, the dog weighed eight pounds, not 40, and turned out to be a purebred Schitzu. He was 2 years old, had good teeth and was not malnourished.
“Either he was finding food somewhere or someone was feeding him,” Tiffany said.
The rest of the news was grim.
“He had eaten his front left foot off and his back right leg had gotten entangled in something,” Billy said. They tried to fix it, but in the end they had to amputate both legs.
Amazingly, the surgery hasn't stopped this little guy.
“He just hops all over on two legs,” Tiffany said.
One of the aides at the hospital had recently lost her dog and made an immediate connection with this one, now named Pete.
She has adopted Pete and brings him to work every day, where regular visitors include Billy, Tiffany and Spencer.
“He loves to sit on her desk, next to her computer,” Tiffany said. “What a survivor.”
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.