Columns

SAVING LOLA

It was a brutal fight _ that much was obvious.

Blood was smeared on the walls near my front door. Bits of fur were scattered around. As I approached Lola, I stepped on two large tufts of her hair.

My cat was lying near the door, stoic and waiting. Lola wanted me to see that she had defended our home, her turf, and that even though she had been attacked, she didn’t flee and didn’t give up. A thin stream of blood trickled from her right ear; her black fur was spotted with red craters. She was breathing rapidly.

“Lolita, what happened to you?” I asked. She responded with a pained mewl.

I opened the kitchen door and she hobbled slowly to the white rug she uses as a bed. Lola lay there for hours. She was dying.

Before she came to live with me 16 years ago, Lola was a stray. She must have experienced trauma during that time, perhaps at the hands of humans, because her demeanor is usually withdrawn, and she only lets me and a few other people touch her (though she dictates when and how). Lola destroyed some new living room furniture about five years ago, so I had her declawed, but she has since learned to bite in order to defend herself.

We moved to a new house in the same city a little more than a month ago, and Lola was getting used to her new surroundings. I had noticed a tabby cat, agile and young, prowling menacingly around the yard _ this was undoubtedly his territory before we moved in. One afternoon he decided to get back what he had lost. Lola had gone outside briefly to explore the yard when the other cat ferociously attacked her. He almost tore off her right ear, and he clawed her so viciously that he left a few nails deeply embedded in her chest.

It was thoughtless of me to leave Lola alone. We humans mistakenly assume that since our pets live with us in our modern world _ in our homes, with electricity, fences and paved driveways _ they are as civilized as we are. But the world remains a wild place for our animals, and territorial instincts still rule.

Lola’s veterinarian did her best to help. She sedated Lola and cleaned her up, but the wounds were deep and quickly became infected. While I was at work the next day, I got the call I feared: “The ear is lost. It became necrotic,” the vet told me. “We only have two choices: euthanasia or surgery.”

“Surgery,” I answered, without hesitation. “I don’t want to let her go.”

When I arrived at the operating room, Lola’s surgeon, a veterinarian trained in Chile, Argentina and Mexico, had already spent two hours trying to save her. I was surprised at how similar the veterinary operating room was to an operating room for people. Lola was anesthetized and intubated. A machine was regulating her breathing, and a monitor displayed her blood pressure.

The surgeon patiently explained that his plan was to carefully remove Lola’s outer and inner ear without severing any of her facial nerves. He would clean up the infection as much as possible, then pull the skin of her neck up to cover the right side of her skull. “This type of surgery is done only in the United States, England and some parts of France and Germany,” he explained. “In other parts of the world, they simply let the animal die.” In other words, Lola was lucky to be born in Miami.

I’m happy to report that she survived the surgery. For now Lola is undergoing a special kind of treatment in a hyperbaric chamber that speeds up the formation of scar tissue. She might be able to lead a normal life, though, as a friend put it, she will be a “muenga” _ that is, a one-eared cat.

I imagine that people who don’t own pets might find it hard to understand why I and others go to such great lengths to save them. But I see it like this: Over the past 16 years, Lola has saved my life in many different ways. It was simply my turn to save hers.

By Jorge Ramos Avalos.

(May 29, 2013)

Previous ArticleNext Article
Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

-