COTTONWOOD - Not for the first time, a young life was saved by a blood transfusion.
Lethargic, anemic, disinterested in even his favorite toy mice, fetch-loving Mr. Winter was not himself, and Cottonwood resident Shawna Newton said she was terrified he wouldn't make it.
After spending an afternoon in the Tumbleweed Animal Hospital receiving fluids, Mr. Winter took a turn for the worse overnight. Shovel in hand, Newton's husband was prepared to bury the cat when they decided to take one last trip to the hospital.
"When he wasn't breathing and I took him down, it was so heartbreaking because I just kept seeing him playing fetch," Newton said. "Mouth open, eyes glazed over, hardly moving - it was such a tremendous feeling of loss already. It wasn't just the terror that he was dying. It was the huge sense of grief and loss of this cat with this enormous personality."
Mr. Winter's nose and ears were as pale as his fur, and his red blood cells were down about 25 percent from normal, Dr. Richard Brady said. He knew Mr. Winter's best chance at survival was to get a donor.
Brady's former clinic had a cat in residence for that very purpose. Seen as a last resort, blood transfusions for cats are rare but not unheard of, he said.
"Getting a donor is kind of difficult up here," Brady said.
The clinic almost sent the Newtons to Chandler for the procedure, but Brady began to make calls and soon found a black kitty named Onyx at Cottonwood's Adopt for Life Center for Animals.
"He wouldn't have made the trip to Chandler," Newton said. "Because everybody worked together in Cottonwood, came together and worked as a team even outside the hospital, that's why he's here."
Mr. Winter was going to be the Newtons' last pet, but when their daughter surprised them with a pet kitty, they couldn't say no.
"Not only the fact that Mr. Winter was going to be our last pet, but that he was the first kitty I had ever had that was all white and played fetch," Newton said. "I had cats all my life, and I had never had a cat that acted like a dog."
Blood transfusions are temporary solutions meant to jumpstart an animal's system. After a couple of weeks, Onyx's blood had begun to dissipate and Mr. Winter was still weak. Newton continued to bring her cat to Tumbleweed Animal Hospital for shots and check-ups.
"Brady said, 'he's not out of the woods, there are no guarantees in medicine,'" Shawna Newton said. "I was crying, going, 'I don't want to lose him.'"
Then, a month and a half after Mr. Winter first got sick, the combination of treatments finally started to work.
"It's like he woke up," Newton said. "He started playing with his mouse, he started eating, he was up pretty much all night...we went from possibly putting him to sleep on Monday to him turning a corner last night."
Mr. Winter is now back to his dog-like ways and, a short time after the transfusion, Brady said Onyx was adopted into his forever home.
"The more you think about it, it makes you feel good," he said.