If you’ve noticed a little bit of extra gratitude in the form of fur or drool in your letters from the Richmond SPCA this past year, you can thank the development department’s recently retired feline office manager, Charlemagne. Charlemagne went home this past month, and although I was sad to see him leave the office (I miss his oversight and loudly-meowed contributions to fundraising discussions), I know that the 11-year-old grey tom cat is in a very happy place in his fur-ever home. Charlemagne has had a very long adventure here at the Richmond SPCA, and I can hardly think of anyone who more deserves the bright future that lies ahead for him.
Charlemagne came to the Richmond SPCA in the spring of 2015 when we transferred him from the Gloucester-Mathews Humane Society, and I met him for the first time a few days after his arrival. He had already made himself quite at home at our humane center. When I made eye contact with him, he started meowing and pawing for affection, and when I opened the door to his habitat he immediately flopped out onto the floor and presented his belly for pets. We immediately connected. He seemed like the type of cat whose personality would allow him to charm his way out into a loving home in no time.
However, our internal veterinary medicine team quickly discovered that even though Charlemagne’s friendly and energetic demeanor suggested no sign of medical issues, the little grey dreamboat had a heart murmur, urinary tract disease and lymphoma. Charlemagne would have to undergo chemotherapy and medical monitoring before he would be available for adoption. The entire process would take more than six months.
Chemotherapy is a difficult process for anyone, and Charlemagne grew restless spending his days in the treatment area of our humane center. As his treatments sapped his appetite, he refused to eat. It was apparent that he needed a break, so our Director of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Angela Ivey, agreed that he could hang out in my office for the duration of his stay at the Richmond SPCA. Luckily, my officemate, Susan, agreed, and we were both soon wrapped around his paw.
Charlemagne’s turnaround was incredible. He happily accepted his role as office manager and spent much of his time jumping all over the office, making biscuits in my lap, playing with toys and Post-Its, attempting to make phone calls or send emails, and – most remarkably, I think, given how he first reacted to chemo – licking his food bowl clean almost every single day. Every morning, Susan and I were showered with head-butts, meows, kisses and taps on the arm for attention as soon as we arrived at the office. It became common practice among coworkers and regular volunteers to stop to say hi to Charlemagne before doing anything else when entering our office, lest they be chastised authoritatively by a very vocal cat. He became an important part of all of our lives (and an important and regular character in my conversations with family and friends), and Susan and I even got him a little leash and harness from the Lora Robins Gift Shop so that he could enjoy eating lunch in the administrative suite with all of his best human friends. And so Charlemagne happily spent nine months of his life while creeping closer and closer towards remission.
March 3, 2016 started out like any other Thursday; however, when I brought Charlemagne downstairs to the treatment area for his blood work we were in for a happy surprise: the cancerous lesion on his tongue was gone! Charlemagne stared at me, completely unimpressed, as I oohed and aahed over this amazing development, trying to get him to pose for a picture to commemorate his accomplishment and wondering what the next step was for him. I didn’t have to wonder long though – while sharing the happy news with my mother, I learned that she, too, had fallen in love with Charlemagne through secondhand accounts of his antics. She wanted to adopt him and make him a permanent part of our family.
Over the past month, Charlemagne has adjusted extraordinarily well to his new life in my parents’ household with two cats and one dog for siblings. He has even continued on in a similar role to his job as office manager in our development office, serving as an alarm clock for my mom in the morning, an assistant in her home office during the day and as sous chef at night as she cooks dinner for the family. Whenever I visit, he flops at my feet and meows happily, just the same way he did the first day I met him more than a year ago. I can’t help but be amazed by how far he’s come.
To me, Charlemagne’s case reinforces the importance of the Richmond SPCA’s Cinderella Fund. Without these funds, raised at our annual Fur Ball, dedicated to treating sick and injured homeless pets, Charlemagne surely would have died of lymphoma. Yet today, he is happy and thriving. I can’t imagine a world where Charlemagne was not given the second chance at life that he was given here at the Robins-Starr Humane Center. He has touched the lives of so many members of our staff, and I know that many of us have at least one Charlemagne-memory that we hold close to our heart. I am so grateful to the veterinary staff at the Richmond SPCA for providing the amazing care for him that they have, and I am so grateful to live in a community that believes that every life – including that of an older cat with cancer – is precious.
Megan Buckner is the development and events assistant at the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.