Even if, say, the cat got his tongue, Don Quixote always had a way of communicating without saying much at all. His focused, dreamy gaze often left people wondering whether in his mind, he was off on some gallant voyage.
Windmills he could take or leave, but he would often disappear into bathtubs, and loved a good ear-cleaning from Lady Dulcinea. He was everyone’s best friend as soon as they walked through the door. He loved people and befriended animals that most cats would assiduously avoid. Sure, maybe as a feline resident of San Francisco, he didn’t have quite as high a profile as his namesake, but boy did they both love a good adventure.
Don — as his owners Lynn Strandberg and Charles Martin lovingly called him — had just about the most humble beginnings im-meow-ginable. After losing a longtime “cat companion,” in 2004, the Strandbergs approached a local woman who rescued feral cats, and fell in love with a pair of 3-month-old kittens.
“He was really bonded with his sister,” Charles explains. “They spent so much time together, giving each other baths.”
Lynn and Charles couldn’t imagine separating the two, so they brought both Don Quixote and Lady Dulcinea home in 2004.
While Dulcinea was shy, Don was everyone’s best friend.
“If a dog came into the house,” explains Charles, “he’d go up and meet the dog. It’s hard to explain what a sweet animal he was.”
“He was just so adventurous and wanted to explore everywhere.”
Suddenly, in 2017, Dulcinea unexpectedly died.
“It was such a shock,” says Lynn. “Don was beside himself. He seemed like a lost soul. He’d walk around the house yowling.”
So when he began developing medical problems, Lynn and Charles were devastated, but not necessarily surprised.
“He was losing weight, laying on his side, panting.”
When they brought Don to Mission Pet, the diagnosis sounded dire. Lynn and Charles were told that Don had a number of heart issues.
“We had been so upset with Dulcinea’s death that we thought there was nothing to do,” Charles says.
“But then we talked to Dr. Press and he said, no, there is something you can do.”
While Dr. Press designed a custom treatment plan, Charles remained unconvinced. With the trauma of Dulcinea’s death, the last thing they could handle was watching their second beloved pet suffer.
However, Lynn and Charles say that Dr. Press convinced them that Don would not, in fact, sacrifice any quality of life. To the contrary, even in his bad condition, there was hope that his health and quality of life would improve.
At the urging of Dr. Press, Lynn and Charles made what was literally a life-or-death choice — for which they are now “extremely grateful.”
“I really want to emphasize that Dr. Press, when he was convincing me to not put Don down, I was so reluctant, because we had so much trauma when Dulcinea died, and we didn’t want to go through that again,” Charles says.
To his owners’ disbelief, their conquistador cat came back — like he’d just been on another one of his adventures. Lynn and Charles saw a return of Don’s personality, his happy spirit, his playfulness, and the daily routines they’d missed since he’d been sick.
“The medications worked,” Lynn says. “They really did.”
Don’s vivaciousness was back.
A year and a half later, when he passed away peacefully in his sleep, Lynn and Charles were grateful for the fact that Don “was never uncomfortable or sick. He was always happy.”
“That extra year and a half we got with Don was truly a blessing,” Charles says. “I’m tearing up thinking about it.”
Thanks to the coordinated approach to treating Don’s heart problems, there was never a point when Lynn and Charles had to say goodbye to Don’s adventurous nature, or watch him decline.
“He was playing with a laser light right up until the end,” says Lynn. “We’re just so grateful that Dr. Press convinced us that we wouldn’t have to put him down, that this would work. And it did.”
Maybe Don isn’t sleeping in exactly the same sunny spot in their home, anymore — but Lynn thinks he might be off on another adventure — one where he’ll always get the daily ear-cleaning he loves.
“I’m just hoping he’s connected with his sister, now,” she says. “It seemed to me they were meant to be together.”