Hope, Prayer, and Veterinary Intervention Ultimately Prove to Be Insufficient in Order to Save Harley after He Is Deliberately Dunked in Turpentine
"He had a relapse and went into distress, and although the vets were able to stop it, they discovered that the scar tissue in his esophagus had caused it to be so small they couldn't even fit in a (feeding) tube. There was nothing they could do."
-- Jennifer Szoke
Brave and long-suffering two-year-old Harley gave it his best shot as did his caregivers at Canada West Veterinary Specialist and Critical Care Hospital in Vancouver. His owner, Jennifer Szoke, and her eight-year-old son, Nate, prayed, hoped, and cried but it still was not enough.
Harley suffered a relapse on August 13th and was readmitted to the hospital where he was killed off a day later on August 14th by the very same vets who earlier had worked so hard in vain to save him. (See photo above of him in happier days.)
Earlier on July 2nd, the cat from the Vancouver suburb on New Westminster had been dunked up to his waist in turpentine by an unknown assailant who is still at large. As the result of attempting to lick off the deadly corrosive from his orange-colored fur Harley sustained severe burns to both his tongue and mouth. One of his lungs also collapsed as a result of inhaling the turpentine.
He spent the next three weeks in the hospital where he was fitted with a feeding tube, eye patches, and an Elizabethan collar as his attendants worked around the clock not only to save his life but also to remove the chemical from his fur. On July 24th he was released from the hospital and it appeared that he had stolen back his life from the ice-cold grasp of the unrelenting Grim Reaper. (See Cat Defender post of July 30, 2010 entitled "Harley Suffers Severe Burns to His Tongue and Mouth as Well as Lung Damage after He Is Deliberately Dunked in Turpentine.")
A storybook ending to his travails was not in the cards, however. In a world where the good guys seldom win anywhere except in the movies, the deadly turpentine ultimately proved to be too formidable a foe for his tiny body to tolerate.
Scar tissue on both his throat and esophagus made it difficult for him to swallow his own saliva as well as for a feeding tube to be inserted. "He had a relapse and went into distress, and although the vets were able to stop it, they discovered that the scar tissue in his esophagus had caused it to be so small they couldn't even fit in a tube," Szoke told The Record of New Westminster on August 18th. (See "Tortured Cat Succumbs to His Injuries Despite Vets' Extensive Efforts.") "There was nothing they could do."
Whether or not Harley could have been saved is a debatable point. "He was always going to be sick and in and out of the hospital," Szoke equivocated in an August 17th interview with Global Toronto. (See "Cat Dipped in Paint Thinner Dies Owing C$18,000.") "That wouldn't be any life for him."
Therefore, quality of life issues, money, and the continual care that he would have required also may have played a role in the decision to end his life. Without knowing all the facts and circumstances it is impossible to say if Szoke made the correct decision.
A few years back, a five-year-old white cat named Sparkles had a good portion of the left side of her face blown off by a firecracker that had been stuffed into her ear and then ignited by unknown assailants outside The Old Ship bar at 44 Main Street in Arklow. She was able to survive for several weeks but was in constant pain and having seizures before the attending veterinarians at Avondale Veterinary Hospital decided to kill her off also. (See Cat Defender posts of November 20, 2008 and January 12, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Trusting Domestic Cat Has Her Left Ear Blown Off with a Firecracker by Cretins Outside an Irish Bar" and "Disoriented and Racked with Excruciating Pain, Seizures, and Infections, Sparkles Loses Her Long Struggle to Live.")
In addition to being extremely painful for Szoke, Harley's death has had a traumatic effect on Nate. "He is just devastated and keeps saying, 'I don't want to live without another pet'," she told The Record. "He doesn't understand why the cat had to go to kitty heaven." (See photo below of Szoke and Nate at Harley's bedside in the hospital.)
A yellow and white cat named Linden belonging to Szoke's neighbor, Corrine Ritchie, also was dunked in turpentine along with Harley but he was discovered shortly after the incident and wiped clean before he had suffered any significant damage. Unfortunately for Harley, he was not discovered until hours later and by that time he had already ingested and inhaled enough turpentine to kill him.
There can be little doubt that these two attacks were intentional. "It looked like someone had picked them up and dipped them," Szoke told CTV in an earlier video found on its web site on August 18th. (See "Tabby Dipped in Paint Thinner Dies.")
Despite public declarations by both the New Westminster Police and New Westminster Animal Services that they are investigating these deadly attacks, Szoke does not believe a solitary syllable uttered by either agency. "I don't know if they're even bothering," she told The Record in the article cited supra. "Nobody has even contacted me, and they haven't contacted the neighbor who saw the cats running in afterward either."
That certainly is par for the course. All that so-called animal protection groups are good for when it comes to combating animal cruelty are big talk and pleas for donations.
The police are even worse. Killing cats is their forte as opposed to apprehending their abusers. (See Cat Defender posts of March 31, 2008, September 29, 2009, and July 8, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Cecil, Pennsylvania, Police Officer Summarily Executes Family's Beloved Ten-Year-Old Persian, Elmo," "Acting Solely Upon the Lies of a Cat-Hater, Raymore Police Pump Two Shotgun Blasts into the Head of Nineteen-Year-Old Declawed and Deaf Tobey," and "North Carolina State Trooper Who Illegally Trapped and Shot His Next-Door Neighbor's Cat, Rowdy, Is Now Crying for His Job Back.")
So far, Szoke and her supporters have been able to raise C$12,000 of Harley's C$18,000 veterinary tab at Canada West. Anyone wishing to help can do so by visiting Save Harley's Roar on Facebook.
"They (Canada West) haven't contacted me about money yet, so I'm assuming they're just letting me grieve for a few days before they slap me with the remainder of the bill," Szoke, already wise to the moneygrubbing ways of this world despite her tender years, speculated to The Record.
Words cannot adequately describe what Harley was forced to endure the last six-weeks of his life. He suffered mightily and, tant pis, for him there will not be any tomorrows.
Szoke also has suffered and Nate perhaps has been scarred for life. Given all that this family has been put through, it does not seem that it would be asking too much for the authorities to bring Harley's killer to justice and for Canada West to write off his C$18,000 bill.
Neither event is about to happen in a million years but both would go a long way toward providing Szoke and Nate with a measure of closure. Much more importantly, both would be the right things to do.
It is too late to do anything further for Harley but he will live on in the hearts and minds of all of those who love cats and earnestly believe that their abusers and killers should be apprehended and punished. Despite the intransigence of fraudulent animal protection groups and the criminality of the police, the fight to protect and safeguards the lives of millions of innocent cats like Harley will continue.
Photos: Jennifer Szoke (Harley) and Gerry Kahrmann of Global Toronto (Szoke and Nate visiting Harley).