Happy Tails-- Dusty
Dusty’s life might have turned out very differently. In the cool, rainy fall of 1995 his mother, a stray, was on the cusp of giving birth in the wild—not the most auspicious beginning for newborns. But the kindness of a stranger altered the path for this lucky cat and his siblings by bringing Dusty’s mother into GHS. Once safely there, in order to ensure the most optimum start for the kittens, a GHS staff person took the mother home where the kittens could be born and receive early socialization. About 12 weeks later, the litter of at least 5 was ready for adoption—just in time for Christmas.
In the meantime, the Tallmadge’s lives were also undergoing change. Already parents to 5-year-old Elizabeth, Katie was born in August and the family was adjusting to their larger family. Sensing that Elizabeth needed something special of her own, her parents—Helen and Fred—knew she had been wanting a cat and decided that now was a good time. Alerted by GHS staff that kittens were available for adoption, the Tallmadges visited GHS just before Christmas, and Elizabeth selected the best present a girl could get--a kitten.
By the time the Tallmadges visited GHS, there were just 3 kittens left. When asked why she chose Dusty, Elizabeth responded, “It was easy—he was the only one that was sleeping and I wanted a quiet cat.” Elizabeth initially named the kitten, which they thought was female, “Misty”—because she knew someone with that name and thought it was “the best name ever.” However, within a week, it was clear that the kitten was, in fact, male. About the same time, the Tallmadges treated the kitten for fleas, after which it promptly got into some mud, came in and created a dust storm. Thus, the perfect new name for the male kitten was born—Dusty!
Right away, Dusty had to learn to live with other animals because the Tallmadges have always had big dogs. First there was Grizzy—a golden retriever/yellow lab mix-- and then, over the course of Dusty’s long life, Zeke, Nora, and now Ivan—all Bernese mountain dogs. As a kitten with Grizzy, he held his own, but as he grew and the other dogs joined the family, Dusty became the boss. Still a good-sized cat at 12 pounds, Dusty once weighed 18+ pounds. Although not nearly as much as his canine companions, some of which can easily reach 100 lbs. or more, Dusty still held his own. Helen also notes that each new canine companion has seemed to give Dusty “a new lease on life.”
Elizabeth loves her cat—“he is my favorite thing.” He is always anxious to cuddle and when Elizabethcame into the room, Dusty clearly wanted to be in her lap. He sleeps with her and the two freely share genuine affection. When a lap isn’t available, he likes to sit on the warm spot in front of the refrigerator or on people’s clothing. However, “any spot in the house is his because he is king.”
Initially he was a very quiet cat, but when he was quite a bit older, suddenly he “found his voice.” He now is quite talkative. The Tallmadges first sought to keep him as an indoor cat but they were also undergoing a home remodel and found it impossible to keep Dusty inside. Luckily, the Tallmadges live in a safe location away from a road, so Dusty has a large environment to enjoy.
His life has not been without challenges, however. When he was just 6 years old, Dusty broke his spine. He had been missing for a day or so, and Elizabeth was very worried. They found him lying in the raspberry bushes by the house and it was clear that he couldn’t move. Amazingly, an injury this serious in a cat can sometimes heal without surgery. He was treated for a laceration and dehydration and was kept for several days. However, the vet told them it was a very close call--had a different vertebra been broken, he wouldn’t have survived. As it was, Dusty made a complete recovery. They’ll never know how he sustained this serious injury, but Helen suspects it was caused by a bear because since the injury, he has been very afraid of bears. Dusty still goes in and out, and Elizabeth says, “Letting him in the yard has helped keep him spry.”
These days, at 17—the human equivalent of about 85—Dusty is still enjoying the good life and ruling the roost at the Tallmadges. He looks remarkably lean and fit. And Elizabeth, now 23, still enjoys spending time with her cat every day, while she studies history at UAS. As Helen aptly observes, “When you get an animal, it is for life. It isn’t that it is a rule, it is because you fall in love with them.”
The Tallmadges are grateful to GHS for the adoption of their wonderful cat.