Prince, an 18-year-old Maine Coon cat, came into Delores Johnson’s life some 15 years ago when she wanted to bring a cat into her home after her aging father had been taken to a care facility.
“I’ve always had cats,” Delores said. “I didn’t think my dad would be coming back [to the mobile home she had shared with him]. So I went on petfinder.com and there were these two cats – Prince and his brother from another mother – a black short-haired domestic cat.” Both animals were about three years old and were available because their family was moving to Europe.
“The woman who owned the animals brought them over. They were both in a carrier and, when she opened it, they ran under the bed in the closest bedroom. They stayed under the bed for at least a week,” she said.
“I would try to familiarize myself with them and talk to them. They had been with their first family from the time they were six weeks old,” Delores said. “The black cat originally was named Madonna. The cats were named by the family’s daughter, who thought the black cat was female. When they went to get them fixed, they found out that Madonna was not female. So they added an ‘n’ to his name and he became Mandonna.
Three years ago, Mandonna was afflicted by late-stage kidney failure and Delores had to put him down.”
“Prince was always my scaredy cat,” she said. “He was always under the bed. He was never the social cat. Mandonna was more the Alpha cat. he was always the talker. He was the one who would sleep next to me. He was the one who would eat anything I put in front of him, whereas Prince would only eat what he wanted to eat.”
Once Mandonna was gone, Prince blossomed, Delores said. “His personality started to develop and he became more animated. he came out from under the bed. He’s now ‘his royal highness’ and he walks through the house and talks and yowls.”
But about three years ago, she said, she noticed that, “from the middle of his spine to his tail end, Prince was starting to get skinny. He looked like a weightlifter: the front part of his body was real big and developed but the back part of his body was skinny.”
She took him to Fairview Pet Hospital in Costa Mesa to see Dr. Hongwon Kang. (She calls him Dr. K.) The doctor told her after his examination that Prince was in the early stages of kidney failure. “I told him I could only do so much [financially] because I have limited resources. They gave Prince his rabies shot and didn’t charge me. That was nice.
“The plan was that I would bring him in once a week for injections to keep him hydrated. The bags of hydrating solution were $65 and they would last about 10 weeks. I was driving there because there was no way I could bring those bags home and give Prince the shots. But it’s a 40-mile round trip from where I live in Anaheim to the hospital.”
Delores made the trip every week for two years. “It was costing me $85 a month, since I purchased a bag of the solution every month and also paid for a $20 flea treatment. Dr. K never charged me for the injections. We also did blood work periodically and I’d have to save to pay for that.” But, she said, Prince was doing pretty well.
Dr. Kang wanted to put Prince on a special diet, Delores said. “But Prince said, ‘Absolutely not. I am not eating that food.’ I told the doctor, he won’t eat it and I am not paying for food he won’t eat. ‘That’s fine,’ Dr. K said. ‘He’s an old man. We’ll just feed him what he wants.’”
After two years, Delores said, Dr. Kang told her that he’d like to give Prince the shots twice a week. But she was not receptive to that idea. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said. “I told him that we should just let nature take its course.”
But that brought new concerns. She knew that she would need money to put her pet down, eventually. She expected that to cost about $350. And her application for CareCredit was turned down, despite the fact that she had other credit cards, including American Express and Walmart.
She called Fairview Hospital and was told about Angel Fund and that she should come in and the clinic would help her with an application. She listed the things she would like to finance, including bloodwork and an x-ray, because Prince had constipation occasionally, as well as money for euthansia.
Dr. Kang listed the charges that he expected for treating Prince on his submission and Delores soon learned that she would receive a grant. She then resumed her weekly trips to the hospital for injections.
“Dr. K has been wonderful,” Delores said. “I was very fortunate and thankful that there was an Angel Fund and that my application was approved. I get Social Security once a month and I don’t have two plugged nickels left to rub together for anything extra.”
Prince’s blood work showed that he was doing better, she said. “As of right now,” she said in a recent interview, “his kidneys seem to be stabilized. He is doing fine.”
When Dr. K told her that her application had been approved, she said: “Praise the Lord. I was very, very pleased. It was a wonderful, wonderful blessing. I’m a born-again Christian and I believe everything is in God’s hands.”