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Happy Tail: Tortie

Tortie’s Happy Tail is a unique one. The story begins with Saoirse, a young veterinarian, who was living in Toronto with her roommate who is also a vet. They decided to foster a cat, and through her work, Saoirse heard of Annex Cat Rescue.

Upon hearing that Saoirse and her roommate were both veterinarians, an ACR volunteer told Saoirse she had the perfect cat for her. By this point in 2019, young Tortie had already gone through so much in life. She had several health issues, particularly with her skin, so a pair of vets seemed to be an excellent match.

Like many rescue cats, Tortie was shy at first. She spent the first two weeks hiding under the bed. Although she was timid during the day, she was quite fearless at night. She would venture out from under the bed, hop onto Saoirse’s bed, walk on top of her and stare at her.

Eventually she became adventurous during the day as well. She began sitting by Saoirse’s feet on the couch, then graduated to sitting on her lap. Once that happened, it was obvious Tortie was a foster fail and would live out the rest of her days under Saoirse’s care.

Saoirse recalls thinking, “Oh God, I’m chosen!” Saoirse couldn’t sit anywhere without Tortie sitting on top of her. Instead of Tortie sleeping under her bed, she sleeps in Saoirse’s bed with her every night. “I have my spot, and Tortie has her spot,” says Soairse, “though sometimes, she sleeps on top of me.”

In early 2020, Tortie’s health seemed to take a dive. Saoirse brought her to work with her and Tortie was diagnosed with lymphoma. Tortie’s prognosis was bleak, and she was only given one to three years to live. Saoirse brought Tortie to the Ontario Veterinary School (OVC) where she underwent radiation treatment.

While the tumor decreased in size, it did not go away. But Tortie was doing well clinically. Every three months Tortie underwent a CT scan. In November 2020, they found the cancer had progressed and she had to have chemotherapy. At this point Saoirse was told Tortie only had another year left. “Tortie has seen every oncologist I know,” Saoirse says.

Once, Saoirse noticed a sudden decline in Tortie’s health. Saoirse immediately drove Tortie from Kingston to a specialist in Guelph. At her checkup it seemed like everything was fine and they were free to drive home, but not before the two of them parked at a roadside rest stop and slept for the night, side by side in Saoirse’s car.

Saoirse and Tortie have been through so much in their short time together, and it’s an experience that will shape the rest of Saoirse’s career as a veterinarian.

The silver lining is that despite her frequent trips to the various veterinarians and specialists, Tortie enjoys a typical (pampered, but deserved) cat life. Tortie seems largely unphased by her health issues. She is very comfortable going to the vet and she does very well day to day. She is a happy girl who loves to cuddle and eat. Tortie also enjoys kneading Saoirse and meeting Saoirse’s friends. She is very chatty and enjoys waking up Saoirse at 4 am but she is impossible to be angry with. “Everyone that meets her loves her… she’s a princess,” says Saoirse.

Tortie and Saoirse have since moved to British Columbia. As is typical for their dynamic, Saoirse left behind most of her belongings but was sure to ship Tortie’s things so that she would be comfortable in her new home. To this day, Tortie is doing well, and the pair are inseparable!

– Sandra Dania