#GivingTuesday reflects back to local Raleigh cat shelter

In Memory of Hamilton "Bones" Baxter

Alumni of SAFE Haven for Cats, Raleigh, NC

November 2003 - June 16, 2018

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By Jennifer Primrose

As a previous volunteer of SAFE Haven for Cats, located in Raleigh, I will never forget the day I first met Hamilton. It was Spring, 2004, and he had just been admitted into the isolation area at the no-kill cat shelter where I was assigned to clean on that particular shift. As soon as I took him out of his enclosure, he gave me the biggest bear hug and I knew he had to be mine. Even though I already had two cats at home and was not in the market to take on a third, he chose me and I could not let him down.

He was the biggest love bug there was and would just sit in my lap for hours. I was in love. When I wasn’t there, other volunteers stepped in and sat with him – for hours. And made sure I knew he was getting the proper attention when I was not there.

Finally the day came when he was ready to come home. And lucky for him, his new grandparents were also in town that day and were there to welcome him to his new forever family. He was promptly placed in a bathroom until he was ready to explore, which did not take him long. As soon as he laid eyes on his oldest sister, Oreo, he was smitten. I was no longer the love of his life as Oreo was his everything which also left the now middle child, Mai-Tai, a little left out but right into my arms. I couldn’t complain.

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Oreo and Hamilton - It was love at first sight for Hamilton

Over the course of his life, he was sadly in the shadows of his sisters, which grew by one through marriage, but he also gained a daddy. Hamilton could be a little rough with the girls at times, but rarely on purpose. He loved to sit in the window and watch the birds and squirrels play all day. At times he would be forgotten about as the “girls” drama overshadowed him. But he rarely fussed. He was rarely sick and the occasional hairball turned into a dramatic event – each time. Vet techs loved him and he returned the love.

In 2012, he had to say goodbye to his sister Mai-Tai and we could tell he was a little scared, but with the help of Oreo, he overcame. In 2014, however, his soulmate Oreo, sadly left this world leaving behind just him and his step-sister, Sleestak. The house felt empty. Hamilton and Slee were not the same without Oreo in the house. He became more loving again with me as he used to be all those years ago and sit on the couch with me to watch TV. He yearned for his dad’s attention and demanded to be petted by him. A year-and-a-half after losing Oreo, we adopted again and brought in a 9 month old feline girl who decided it would be a good idea to bully Hamilton. He took it in stride. I warned our newest bundle of joy not to poke the bear or he may poke back! He poked back … finally … and took dominance. Proud momma moment!

Hamilton’s first day home back in 2004

Hamilton’s first day home back in 2004

For a boy who was never sick, mother’s intuition began to set in early 2018 that something didn’t seem right but I could not put my finger on it. When he went in for his annual, I told the vet but could not tell her what to look for. His blood panel came back indicating overactive thyroid and he was put on medication. On his recheck, the numbers did not come down as expected and we were directed to continue as we were and bring him back in six months unless he continued to lose weight or we saw other signs. Two weeks went by and after we returned from a weekend away, I noticed he wasn’t eating. Now his eating had been a challenge for some time since he no longer wanted his food, but Slee’s food. But he ate. This time he was not and he was retreating to the closet or under the bed. Off to the vet we go.

I won’t go into details at this point except that he went in on a Tuesday, was diagnosed with advanced stage pancreatic cancer, that had already spread to his abdomen, and by Saturday, in the comfort of his own home, in my lap and with the help of Lap of Love, we said our final goodbyes. Way too soon yet in my heart, I know he is reunited with his true love, Oreo, at the Rainbow Bridge. I will miss his bear hugs the most because he had the best hugs EVER!

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So, this was Hamilton’s story. Off the streets of Raleigh, into the shelter of SAFE Haven and into a loving home with now heartbroken parents who loved him unconditionally. I write this to acknowledge that without the tireless efforts of these non-profit, no-kill, animal shelters, that cats like Hamilton would never have had a chance at a good life.

To learn more about SAFE Haven for Cats and the work they do to save countless felines, check out their website at www.safehavenforcats.org.