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August 27, 2003
"Come on, Santana. You like this. It's liver."

The cat's mouth remains stubbornly closed -- their jaw muscles are surprisingly strong. There is a place in between the front fangs and the back teeth, however, in which you can insert a fingernail and begin to pry. I do this for a bit, while Q holds the cat as if it were a baby. Eventually, though, we find it works better just to smear some on his nose and let him lick it off. Cats are too fastidious to walk around with liver on their noses.

In the end, he has eaten a good half of what we fed him; we are festooned with the rest. Most of Santana's nourishment comes from an IV bag of lactated Ringer's solution, but Anna says we should keep feeding him actual food, even if it's only a little. I think he feels better when he eats, she said. I hope so.

Something unknown is wrong with Santi's liver. A sudden decrease in desire to cuddle was the first clue, along with not eating and vomiting -- vomiting is not a productive activity for those who don't eat. And so he is at his grandparents' Geranium Farm, close to the doctor who cares for him, while my daughter is in the city. And we give him pills and liquid vitamins, feed him by hand, hydrate him twice a day with the IV. Today, he's going for a sonogram. I've had those.

I am acutely aware -- almost paralyzingly so -- that human beings are dying by the thousands every day, for lack of the care we are lavishing on a cat. That the IV bag that hangs from the canopy of the bed in the India Room, with its daily supply of fresh sterile disposable needles would be seen as an unbelievable luxury by doctors struggling to hydrate a cholera victim by mouth. Our love for this delightful furry little beast is nothing compared to the way a mother or father loves a child. What is it to watch your child dying unnecessarily? To know that it is an accident of birth in one country, rather than in another, that is killing him?

Spoil your pets if you delight in doing so. Spare nothing in caring for them, if you love them and if you have the means. But let it be a sign unto you. Let it be a sacred call: match what you spend in caring for the animal in giving to the medical relief of the poor. Do it twice: once for the furry bundle on your lap and once for someone else's baby, so he can grow into a child you will never meet but to whom you will be related. You will have saved his life.

Episcopal Relief and Development is my favorite way of doing this: 100% its proceed go directly to the suffering, and the Episcopal Church picks up its administrative costs separately, which means that it can move very quickly into emergency situations. Their website,, discusses the areas in which they are active right now.
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