24-Aug-1994 - 26-Sep-1995
This story was written by me for a club magazine in February of 1995. Sadly I had no idea when I wrote it that Islay would be with us for such a short time. She may only have lived for 13 months, but she was extremely special to us and we were both shattered to lose her at such a young age.
THE IRREPRESSIBLE NATURE OF THE SOMALI
I have been owned by Somalis for 6 years now and what always strikes me about their character is their sheer irrepressibility that seems to enable them to deal with whatever life throws at them and yet still retain that high spirited, clownish, sheer love of life outlook that typifies the breed.
As an illustration, I would like to tell you the tale of Islay. She was born on the 24th August, one of three kittens, all females born out of Leyla. She and one sister were both sorrels and the other was an usual silver. As I had specifically chosen her father who was an usual silver because I wanted to breed a female of that colour to keep for my next breeding queen, I was quite surprised and delighted to discover that, for once luck was on my side and I got what I had hoped for. The other sorrel kitten had been booked by a lady in Banff in the far north of Scotland earlier that year and so we only had one kitten to sell. On the 1st December at 14 weeks, just after we had advertised her for sale, she developed a corneal ulcer which, with treatment, began to heal, but then after 3 weeks it appeared to stop improving and began to develop a "raggy" edge. As the cornea looked quite dry my vet tested her to see if the problem was that she was not producing enough tears to lubricate the cornea and, although the eye was on the dry side, she was within the normal range and so my vet contacted David Habin the eye specialist at the Dick Vet in Edinburgh, who suggested sedating her to check there wasn't an entropion or something inside the eyelid that could be abrading the eye and if she found nothing to remove the debris from the ulcer and do a third eyelid flap. On the 9th January, she was duly sedated, nothing suspicious was found and her third eyelid was stitched up. Two weeks later it was removed, but the third eyelid was a little inflamed and didn't slide back into place, so a cortisone injection was given to relieve the inflammation. Apparently the problem when dealing with eyes is that they tend to go "over the top" on healing and this is what then happened, because the eyethen began to produce granular tissue in an attempt to heal itself. So as the third eyelid went back into place, a lot of pink granular tissue formed over the whole of the eyeball. A few days later, I became concerned that the cornea appeared to be beginning to bulge, I took her to my vet, who rang David Habin and we arranged to take her to Edinburgh the following morning to see if he could do anything. By that evening the cornea was definitely bulging and the granular tissue appeared to be becoming transparent. So on the 31st January, Barry and I (accompanied by Linda Keeler, who as a lady of leisure nowadays came along to offer moral support) duly arrived at the Dick Vet. David Habin took one look at the eye and told me that the bulge was aqueous fluid and that the cornea had ruptured under the granular tissue, that the iris had come through the cornea and more than likely the lens also. He said he could spend a lot of my money doing corneal grafts, but that she would most likely have no sight in the eye. It therefore made sense to remove it and I asked him to do it straight away, so we came home thinking that was the end of her problems. Not to be! The eye socket was quite swollen, but we had been told that this would happen and not to worry because it would be a blood clot which would eventually dissipate. Eight days later the eye suddenly appeared to be bulging more and I became worried and made an appointment to see my vet. Unfortunately, before I got there Islay came into the kitchen, jumped onto the workbench to see what I was cooking and presumably the pressure build-up burst a stitch and lots of nasty discharge began to drip out. I rushed her to the vet where she was sedated, the eye sluiced out with saline and a drainage tube stitched in place. So for the next 3 days she walked around with about ¾" of plastic tube sticking out a hole in her eye. Three days later she went back to the vets to have the tube removed and then 2 days later we went back again to have the original stitches removed.
So in the last 3 months this kitten has been to the vets almost 20 times, during which positively nothing pleasant has been done to her. At the vets when she has had fluorescene and water dripped into the eye on so many visits to check the ulcer, plastic strips stuck under her lower lid to check the teardrop level, stitches taken out, drainage tubes taken out, she has sat on the vet's table purring and kneading all the time. She had to wear a plastic collar for 6 weeks and when we took it off to let her eat and wash herself in comfort and then have a little play, she never fought against having it put on, but pushed her head into it to help us. Every visitor to our house has to cuddle her and have their chest or lap duly pummelled to death, as she is a tremendous kneader and she bears no grudges for all the nasty things we have had to do to her. Her eye judgment is as sharp as any of our other cats and if you saw her running, jumping and playing with her sister and Kosta who, as youngsters tend to play very rough, you would never know she was "disabled". She is a dead ringer for her mother and has such a wonderful loving nature and of course the eye has made a perfect excuse for us to keep her. She will now stay with us as our very special pet, although at times we feel that when we named her Islay, which is after the Isle of Islay off the west coast of Scotland and is pronounced EYE-LA, that it may have turned out to be a rather unfortunate name, however, she suits it (it's a beautiful island and she's going to turn out to be a beautiful cat - possibly the best we have ever bred) so we now introduce her to our friends as "Islay our one-eyed wonder".
Throughout all of her problems she has remained a happy, well balanced, affectionate kitten (Islay is the delightful sorrel kitten lying flat on her back in the "sleeping" section on my Fun Page) with lots of confidence in herself and it is this high spirited, enthusiastic, irrepressible nature more than anything else that makes me love the Somali breed more than any other. To me it's what Somalis are all about and I think everyone should be owned by a Somali at some time in their lives!
Sadly in the summer of '95, Islay began to have severe breathing problems with symptoms very like asthma. She was put on a course of steroids which helped her a little. Whilst on our annual holiday on the far west coast of Scotland we had to rush her to the local vets as it appeared her breathing was becoming much worse and we had no tablets left for her. Among other things the vet suggested that we "steam" her. So every time one of us went into the shower, Islay was duly carried into the bathroom to sit and inhale the steam, which did appear to help a little. However, all these suggestions merely eased the symptoms very slightly, but for a shorter period each time. The symptoms were getting progressively worse, and were very similar to pulmonory oedema in that she appeared to be able to breathe in easily, but to have great difficulty in breathing out. During a particulary bad attack her stomach appeared to be pumping like a large bellow to try and expel the air in her lungs. It was very distressing to watch her struggling to breath and eventually at 4:00 one morning in September, during a particularly unpleasant attack (following on from one of equal severity only the night before) we decided she had suffered enough and it was time to let her go. She was only a year old and was the first animal we had actually brought into the world and had to send out of it and when I said earlier that Barry and I were both shattered by this, it was no understatement. I was broken hearted, she had given us so much love in her short life that I felt somehow I had let her down, but she made her mark on our lives and we will never forget her.