Tinkerbell Hanson’s Life Story, Remembering

We recently said our goodbyes to a dear patient of ours, Tinkerbell. Here is her story, written by her wonderful human, Diana:

Tinkerbell Hanson’s Life Story

To Dr. Wang, Suzanne and the Staff at East Bay Veterinary Hospital,
I wanted to share with you Tinkerbell’s story

I was driving home June 2nd 2017, a Friday night around 5:00 after work, and I usually go over the Altamont pass and take the back roads home through Byron because of Vasco Road traffic. When I got near the bottom of the off ramp (click the link https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7402525,-121.5857948,467m/data=!3m1!1e3 to see how isolated this area is) in the middle of nowhere I saw a gray tabby in the dry grass just about 10 feet from the road. She was sticking her head up, looking for someone, but then ducked back down. I put my window down and called to her. Cars were coming up behind me so I had to pull away. I felt terrible and thought about the kitty throughout the evening.

The next morning, I woke early and went to visit my dad who had dementia, as I did every morning, who was in a memory care residence in Pleasanton. I left my dad’s around 9:45 am and headed home. I was going to take Vasco home since there is not much traffic on the weekends. At the very last second I remembered the kitty and got back on the freeway and went over the Altamont Pass knowing that it was impossible for that cat to still be at the off ramp. Yes, as you probably guessed she was in the exact same spot! I pulled as much to the side of the off ramp as I could and got out of the car. I went into the dry grass probably filled with snakes! The kitty ran from me a bit but I was eventually able to catch her! Then she got scared and started trying to get out of my grip and I didn’t have anything to put her in to secure her for the drive home. It breaks my heart to say I had to let her go. I knew I would go home and recruit help. I didn’t feel safe being alone there in the snaky grass in the middle of nowhere.

I got home and started asking for help. My sister has a friend in walnut creek that fosters kitties and has rescued many cats. She now has the feral cats living safely in her yard and they are cared for beautifully. My sister calls it a sanctuary and she is right! My sister and the gal named Cricket were at a swim meet for the kids and couldn’t help me at the time I called, but Cricket said she would take the kitty if we caught her.

I messaged my best friend Lori in Dublin and she and her husband Mike dropped everything and met me there at the off ramp. No kitty! Mike went a few feet away from where I had seen the cat and there was a flattened cardboard box. He lifted the box and the cat ran out. Lori ran interference and made sure the cat didn’t come down to the lower road. Together Mike and I tried to catch the cat and the cat ran up the hill to the freeway! The cat was about 6 feet from the traffic zooming by. I closed my eyes and prayed. She then ran under the overpass in the dirt section that runs under it. She was at the top and it was a challenge to get up the hill. Mike was climbing up the grassy, snaky hill under the overpass. Mike managed to carefully get close to the cat and got a hold of her after a few minutes. The kitty seemed to trust him right away. Once he had a hold of her he was petting her and she seemed ok. So I came up the hill with the carrier and finally made my way to them and a motorcycle came by which scared the cat as we were trying to get her in the carrier. She scratched Mike. Thankfully he is ok. We did get the cat inside the carrier.

I loaded her in the car and took her to Cricket in Walnut Creek after picking up my sister Sue. Cricket was so lovely and caring and made a safe and secure spot for the kitty to get settled after a traumatic few days at least. Cricket’s family was so sweet and welcoming about helping this kitty. Cricket said the kitty was dehydrated. I am not surprised by that since it was hot and there is nothing for many miles out in that area.

My sister gave me an update from Cricket that night. This is what Cricket had said, “I just hung out with her in the bathroom and she rubbed up against me and I petted her. She is totally tame.” She also said, “she would start eating then stop and come over to be pet because she was so happy to have attention.” I think that this is the first time in days that the kitty felt safe.

They named her Diana Prince Wonder Woman! Cricket asked me to take the kitty since she had so many feral cats at her house and this kitty was very tame. I had not planned on getting a cat since my cat that I had for over 18 years had passed away not that long before.

My dad with his dementia was my focus. Every morning at 5am I would leave home with coffee and toast with dad’s favorite jelly and get to his facility by 6 am to spend an hour with him before I went to work. It was an important routine since he still responded to me during those visits. I didn’t feel like I could manage having a new cat while my focus was my dad.
But…. I guess it was meant to be.

The journey began. I picked up Tinkerbell in Walnut Creek and renamed her Piper because the way I go home at night takes me by the Byron airport and Piper is a kind of airplane.

I never regretted the choice I made to adopt her.

Shortly after spending time with her I realized that by the way she runs everywhere with a wonderful bounce that she is Tinkerbell!
She adjusted to her new home easily and was affectionate and sweet every moment. She loved every one that she met. When the doorbell rang (most cat owners know that cats hide when the doorbell rings) Tink ran to the front door to greet whoever was visiting. She expected and got attention from the visitors and made herself at home on their lap.

After a few months Tinkerbell had an episode that brought us to East Bay Vet for the first of many times. She was anemic. We met the wonderful Dr. Priest. She was so kind to us (my sister and I) and took us through what was happening and how they were going to help Tinkerbell. I spoke to doctors on each of the shifts and felt so good about the care Tinkerbell was receiving and how well they knew sweet Tinkerbell and each had stories about her. We have had a few evening visits that brought us back to Dr. Priest and each time she was so supportive. The first time was a scary few days. Little did we know then that it was going to be a journey. Tinkerbell has probably seen every doctor (and loved all of them) at the hospital at one time and many specialists across the country know about this mystery kitty.

The evening and overnight Doctor’s, techs and staff played a significant role in this story as well. They are not forgotten by me as I know they spent many evenings and nights with Tinkerbell and caring for her. I knew that she was in great hands and probably loved all the attention she got from them.

I have heard more times than I can count that Tinkerbell had no idea how sick she was and that she had more lives than any cat because of her strong will and love for people.

Over the past several months I heard stories every time Tinkerbell and I came to Encina of the sweet encounters staff had with Tinkerbell, from Tink always being held, meowing at staff as they walked by her cage to give her attention, purring so loud they couldn’t hear her heartbeat and the sweet nicknames that staff had for her. Brianna, during one of Tinkerbell’s overnight stays, went in the back to get Tinkerbell so I could say goodnight before I left. She said that when she went in the back asking for Tinkerbell that Tinkerbell answered her from her cage.  Like, oh that’s me, I am right here.

Even with the many visits we made to Encina there were staff I didn’t recognize but as soon as they saw Tinkerbell they would say, “I know Tinkerbell” or if they saw us in a room would ask if they could say hello to Tinkerbell.
The staff from the front to the back have made me and Tinkerbell feel special over the past year.

Suzanne was always there for us and nothing was ever too much to ask. She was our link to Encina and made sure whatever we needed or asked for we received without hesitation. She greeted us warmly and said nice things to Tinkerbell. She brought Tinkerbell food and water in the room when we were there for appointments because she knew that Tinkerbell was hungry after an hour drive there and hour in the back having tests. Tinkerbell loved to have a snack before we got on the road to head home.

The Hero:
It was Dr. Wang who lead the charge to figure out what was happening to Tinkerbell. She was so patient as we tested, retested, tried this medication and that medication to first try to diagnose the cause of her trouble and try to cure her and then just to keep her stable. It was a balancing act for sure. Dr. Wang called on every resource she had to help Tinkerbell. We had many successes in her treatment and many setbacks but Dr. Wang never gave up trying.

It was a long journey. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate Dr. Wang and everything she did for Tinkerbell. She never gave up or asked me to give up.

But we both knew that one day, as Dr. Wang said, we would not be able to turn things around.

She said that one day it may be “time” and I knew that she would guide me to when that “time” was.

We faced that on Wednesday. A heartbreaking day for me and I am sure for Dr. Wang and the staff at Encina. I could not face being there but I knew that during this time there was no place on earth with as many people who loved Tinkerbell than at Encina. Dr. Wang was so sweet and called me that evening to check on how I was doing. She gave me comfort by telling me that Tinkerbell was held as she passed and that it was peaceful.

My heart was broken and still is over losing Tinkerbell.

She has been such a treasure. I have never, ever met a cat with as much love and charm as Tinkerbell. Thank you for helping me have the past year with Tinkerbell.