"I need to have something to take care of," Donahue-Hansen says of the black cat. The 5-year-old feline helps her cope with the loss of family members.
UPDATE: Shade has an appointment this afternoon at the Orchards Veterinary Clinic on Northeast 117th Avenue, where vets will examine his injuries and estimate the cost of care. A follow-up story will address his health issues and include information on how people can help cover his medical costs.
The black therapy cat Shade is in desperate need of therapy himself.
Julie Donahue-Hansen, 47, is looking for a vet who will treat her cat's injuries after he came home about a week ago looking battered and bruised.
She got the cat through Community Services Northwest's Program for Assertive Community Treatment on Feb. 1, a year to the day after her cat Nevada died from leukemia.
Shade turned out to be an outdoor cat and went in and out of Donahue-Hansen's first-floor unit at Evergreen Village Apartments. When he wanted to come back inside, he would scratch at the door.
"He warmed right up to me and my son especially," said Donahue-Hansen. "He's a very good therapeutic cat."
Last week, Shade went out onto the back porch and didn't return. Donahue-Hansen and her son, Devin Lisignoli, 18, filed a missing pet report with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, hoping that someone would notice the cat for his distinctive left ear and the white streak on his backside. The cat doesn't wear a collar because he has sores around his neck.
Shade came home two days later with a nasty makeover. Most of his teeth are missing, he has cuts on his head, stomach and the inside of his ear, and he walks with a limp. Sometimes, blood drains from his mouth.
"His body is one big scab," Donahue-Hansen said.
Donahue-Hansen and her son called about 15 animal care clinics, but none would accept a payment plan to cover the cost of care. Donahue-Hansen is unemployed and lives on a fixed income. She can't pay in full for veterinary services and doesn't qualify for CareCredit, a health care credit card for families and their pets.
"I was flabbergasted when I found that no one would help us out," she said.
'Tired of losing things'
After consulting a pet store about treating the cat with over-the-counter antibiotics, a store employee suggested giving the cat one-third of a baby aspirin. That's the only advice she's received so far.
Shade is fed warm water with tuna in it and doesn't romp around anymore. Donahue-Hansen and Lisignoli try not to carry him, because it appears to hurt him. Neither of them know the extent of his injuries and worry about what might happen to Shade if he's left untreated.
"I'm tired of losing things," Donahue-Hansen said as her son wiped the cat's chin. In the last few years, she lost her aunt, her mom, her grandma and her previous therapy cat. The loss of her loved ones is a key reason she has a therapy cat.
Lisignoli and Donahue-Hansen can't be sure how the cat was injured, but they want to find out. They don't believe his teeth were knocked out in a cat fight, and if he had been hit by a car, he would probably be dead, they say.
Shade makes a wheezing noise, as though he's choking. When he makes the noise, Lisignoli says, you can feel it through his whole body.
With fingers crossed, they applied for veterinary care funding through Second Chance Companions, a local nonprofit pet organization.
Donahue-Hansen wants to do the best for Shade, saying, "We love him just as much as anyone else loves their cat."