Meridian Star

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August 25, 2013

Beloved cat survives against all odds

MERIDIAN —  When Casey Lafferty was in medical school in Pennsylvania, her two cats, Rooney and Tagdh, were her room mates and her babies, greeting her at the end of long exhausting days.

    When the Gloucester City, N.J. native graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, her feline family moved with her to Jacksonville, Fla., where she was stationed with the U.S. Navy.

    Then came the move to Meridian where the young doctor had been assigned to Naval Air Station Meridian

    On May 31, movers packed up Lafferty's belongings and loaded them on a truck bound for a storage unit in Jackson since Lafferty's lease was up and she was not yet due at her new post at

NAS Meridian.

    When she returned to her Jacksonville home on the day of the move, she noticed that Tagdh, which is pronounced — teeg — was missing. The moving truck had already left, but Lafferty notified the moving company and they said they would tell the drivers to be on the lookout for the cat, in case he was in the truck.

    They said they looked, Lafferty said. They told her they would have heard something, seen something, and eventually would have smelled something since they were on a long drive.

    Still in Jacksonville, Lafferty looked throughout her former neighborhood every day, checked the animal shelters, and reported it online. She even set an animal trap baited with cat food near her former home and checked it daily.

    Nothing.

    In the back of her mind, Lafferty said she still wondered if there was a chance that Tagdh, who is seven and a half years old, was in the truck, but if that was the case, there wasn't much cause for hope. Lafferty's cats are a big part of her life, she said, and things weren't the same without Tagdh.

    "They were my little comfort cats. When I was studying and crying my eyes out that I wasn't going to get through medical school, they were there," Lafferty said. "My family lived about 40 minutes away, but they are the ones I came home to."

    When the moving truck arrived at Lafferty's house in Meridian on July 31, the unloading began. Someone near the back of the truck saw something move, and heard a noise.

It was Tagdh, trapped on the lower shelf of a three-foot wooden bookcase with doors, which had been taped shut by the movers.

    Tagdh was alive, but just barely, having survived two months with no water or food.

    "I just started crying," Lafferty said. "We opened it up, he basically was just sprawled out on the shelf, not focusing his eyes, just staring back and forth. He meowed, like, once. He was just laying there. He tried to get up but he kept falling down."

    Lafferty knew she had to get Tagdh to a veterinarian right away. Being new to Meridian she used her GPS to find the nearest vet, which turned out to be Dr. Earl Laird, of Seal-Laird Animal Hospital.

    Tagdh had weighed about 12 pounds before his ordeal. He was down to just over six and a half pounds when they weighed him at the clinic.

    "We just treated him symptomatically," Laird said. "We gave him fluids, oral medicines, injectable medicines and TLC."

    No one knew what the outcome would be.

    "He was still alive, so you have hope," Laird said. "All he could do was lift his head. He couldn't track you at all. He couldn't look at you. He was just staring. He was dehydrated and emaciated."

    Intravenous fluids were out of the question, Laird said, so they started injecting the cat with water under his skin, which would slowly absorb into his system.

    In his 44 years as a veterinarian, Laird said he had never seen anything like it. Asked how an animal could survive those conditions, he said he didn't know.

    "You'd have to ask God that. That's one of his miracles for him to survive that long with no nourishment," Laird said.

    Squeamish readers may want to skip the following paragraph.

    "He probably drank his own urine and probably ate a little bit of his excrement," Laird said.     

    "He would get that way and animals do that anyway. They can tolerate doing that."

    Tagdh is obviously very resilient, Laird said.

    "We were hopeful, but guarded hopeful," Laird said. "After about four days, he was able to actually eat a little bit on his own."

    Lafferty said she hand-fed him by holding a spoon up to his mouth, which he reluctantly accepted. Slowly his appetite began to return and he gained strength. by Aug. 20, he had regained enough strength to jump on the bed. He still couldn't make the jump to the kitchen counter, but he's getting stronger every day, Lafferty said, and his most recent blood test results showed improvement. He has also regained about two pounds since his rescue.

    During an interview at Laird's office on Wednesday, the vet told Lafferty that there was another sign that Tagdh was getting a little friskier.

    "When we took blood today, he didn't like it," Laird said. "That's the first time he has resisted. In fact he almost bit me."

    Lafferty tried to apologize, but Laird wouldn't hear it.

    "That's great. It's closer to normal," Laird said, laughing.

    In six months, Tagdh should be back to normal, Laird said, although there may be long-term affects of his trauma and he stopped short of saying that Tagdh is completely out of the woods.

    Despite his recent incarceration in a bookshelf, Tagdh still likes to do what so many cats enjoy — finding a dark place to rest and hide. When Lafferty is cooking, if she leaves a cabinet door open, Tagdh may very well crawl in.

    "l'll say 'dont' you do that. That's what got you in trouble," Lafferty said.

    Life is getting back to normal for the 29-year-old Navy lieutenant, who practices family medicine at the base clinic. Rooney has reluctantly accepted his pal back home and there's a new puppy in the mix, four-month-old Darby, a dachshund.

    There is something missing, however.

    On the day of Tagdh's rescue, the bookcase in which the cat had been trapped was, not surprisingly, quite stinky so Lafferty put it outside.

    Overnight, someone stole it from her yard.

    "I was like, really, you wanted to take that thing?" Lafferty said.

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