|The Foundation was formed to honor the memory of a very special kitten whose quiet dignity and gentle courage never wavered during his fight to overcome a genetic disease that affected his immune system and finally took his life. Here's his story .....
I've always loved cats and except for my years at the Naval Academy and MIT, cats always shared my life. But horses were my primary passion. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be allowed to ride other people's horses and I finally was able to buy my own horse while I was at MIT. Max was the love of my life and I went to extreme lengths to make him happy and healthy. Whenever the Navy transferred me, the first thing I always found was the right boarding facility for Max and then I found an apartment for me. In 1992, I found what I thought was the perfect farm for Max. It had large airy stalls, huge grassy fields for turnout, the best quality feed and hay --- and barn cats everywhere! The previous owners of the facility had never believed in spaying and neutering and the new owners were overwhelmed with the sheer numbers of feral and semi-feral barn cats that they had "acquired". With Max happily settled, I started trying to make friends with some of the cats and offered to help the owners try to get the feline population under control. After several years and the help of a wonderful lady whose organization concentrated on feral cat trap-neuter-return (TNR), we started to see light at the end of the tunnel. We were able to adopt most of the kittens and friendly adults into loving, permanent homes. The rest went back to that wonderful farm (after being sterilized and vaccinated) and enjoyed a life with plenty of good food, warm haylofts, and a life style that suited their unique personality. Max made friends with many of the cats and it was not unusual to see them sleeping or just hanging out with him in his stall enjoying the peace and quiet of the farm.
I was standing in front of Max's stall one afternoon and started feeling hay landing on my head. Looking up, I saw a little black and white kitten gleefully pushing the hay over the edge of the loft and Max reaching his nose up to catch the droppings. One of the stable men came by and told me that the kitten and Max played their game all the time and that he had even seen the kitten in Max's feed bucket taking a nap --- and Max standing guard to make sure no one disturbed his friend. I spent hours trying to win the kitten's trust - he was too smart to go into a trap - and finally after several weeks was able to catch the whole litter and get them into the vet for a checkup.
The kitten and his litter mates endured their checkup and it was all arranged for a rescue group to foster them for possible adoptions. But something made me decide to keep Kevin. I already had 2 cats in my apartment and really didn't need another, but my fate was sealed and Kevin went home to meet his new sisters Angel and Katie. Angel didn't care - she was also a rescue and just glad to have a home with plenty of food and warm beds, but Katie fell in love with Kevin from the very first minute and treated him like a long lost son from then on.
Kevin's first year was unremarkable --- he was neutered at 6 months and did all the normal healthy kitten antics. He became a "momma's boy" and I called him my sunshine and my shadow. Katie continued to love him dearly and most of the time he would fall asleep with her bathing or just snuggling him. Just after his first birthday, I started noticing patchy hair loss around his ears and above his eyes, so off to Dr. Ellison we went. Kevin came from the PeeWee-line of cats (see PeeWee's story on our Miracle Cats page) and was therefore prone to allergies, and when skin samples didn't reveal any parasites, we treated the condition with some mild daily steroids. But the condition kept getting worse and soon the steroids weren't helping. Kevin started having other unrelated problems, and I started getting really worried about my little boy.
Dr. Ellison referred us to several specialists and little Kevin endured all the poking and prodding with admirable pose and grace. He was diagnosed with hyper-eosinophilic syndrome. There was no cure for the disease, but we hoped to control the symptoms enough to let him led a happy life. Kevin was not a social cat and these trips really pushed his self control to the limits. But he never tried to fight any of the tests or treatments and seemed to understand that we were only trying to help.
Over the next few months, he gradually lost weight and vitality. Katie was always by his side to lend him physical support and warmth. I think she was more distressed than Kevin was over his condition and I firmly believe Kevin actually comforted her emotionally during this time. This wasn't the first serious illness I had ever dealt with in a cat but it was so indeterminate that I'm sure I drove the vets crazy with all my questions and nervousness. Kevin even tried to help me with my emotions and never failed to greet me when I arrived home or let himself be carried around like a baby in my arms.
In the middle of July 1997, I was at work and got the sudden feeling that something was terribly wrong. I rushed home and found Kevin waiting for me at the door. I kidded myself on an overactive imagination, gave him a kiss and went about cleaning litter boxes and changing out of my uniform. Five minutes later, Kevin fell victim to a massive seizure. As soon as his convulsions stopped, I rushed him to the Cat Hospital. Unfortunately, the seizure had caused severe brain damage and there was nothing that could be done to save him. Dr. Ellison and I both cried as we helped him pass peacefully out of this life.
Kevin was only with me for two years, but he profoundly changed me in so many ways. The unconditional love he gave to me (and Katie and Angel), his grace and courage in situations where he was obviously uncomfortable, his acceptance of a terminal illness, and his willingness to live life one day at a time, will forever be a part of who I am. I believe Kevin's mission in this life was to start me on my current journey. His is a soul that can never end and I firmly believe that he is still with me every day and with every cat that the Foundation tries to help. He was and is my little guardian, my soul's guide, and the motivation behind the Kevin Memorial Foundation.