Christmas Eve. For me it was always the most magical day of the year, especially as daytime turned to dusk, dusk turned to dark, and the dark would yield gloriously to twinkling lights everywhere, yummy aromas coming from the kitchen, and a friend stopping by for dinner and a movie. We would settle in for a night of wrapping presents, good food and conversation, hot chocolate, and – if Suki was very, very good, and of course she always was, even if her “help” at present-wrapping made more work for me – a tiny crumb of a Christmas cookie as a special treat. All was well with the world.
Now that picture is like a yellowed image from an ancient, crumbling book, from a life I can barely remember anymore. The life “before” – as we who have been through this nightmare refer to it – our pets were lost to veterinary negligence, malpractice, incompetence, arrogance, stupidity, and yes, outright abuse, taking from us our pets, our trust, our money, our jobs, our peace of mind, our sense of safety, and in some cases, our futures.
There is one tiny bright spot for me on this date. Guess which day Edward J. Nichols of Crestway Animal Clinic in San Antonio was notified by certified mail from the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners that he was under investigation in Suki's case? That's right – Christmas Eve. How's that for serendipity? I'd like to think one very special Siamese had a hand in that, with a little help from all the other defenseless souls harmed or killed by their own monsters. I think of that every December 24, and smile at Suki's last little gift to me for all those wonderful Christmas Eves that will be no more.
Of course I will think of Suki tonight, overseeing the decorating and cooking, yowling in the kitchen as she got a whiff of her special baked organic chicken, pacing in front of the oven, reminding me of those old Mervyn's commercials with a customer pressed against the glass saying “Open-open-open.” I'll remember her sitting in my lap, our eyes locked on each other's, with the Snow Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker Suite playing in the background. Remember this moment, I said to myself, etch this forever, take this picture. And of course, real pictures of her, countless of them, under the tree, by the tree, in the tree (Suki was a climber), sitting in her little condo, decorated with its own miniature tree and cat ornaments, cat toys, cat everything, everywhere.
But most of all, tonight I will think of all the others I have met along the way, going through the same neverending nightmare – some for years, others just now arriving in a club that nobody would choose to belong to. I get sweet notes from them, these victims from everywhere. One writes, “Keep the faith. I will always have you and Suki in my heart.” Another says, “I am grateful to have you understand what it feels like to have your world shattered, your life forever altered and I do not feel so alone it in knowing you are out there.” And more, and still more. They keep me going on my darkest nights.
I am so grateful for my longtime fellow advocates, plus a whole new wave of smart, savvy fighters putting up web sites, blogs, and Facebook pages to help make sure that someday, eventually, there will be no place for the monsters to hide. I started my site in 2000 so that nobody going through this endless hell would ever feel alone. I am here to tell you that you are not. Not ever. You and your precious companions – whose names would take up this entire blog – are always with me, every day, every night. Especially on this night. On this very Christmas night.
Much love to you and your companions, and many thanks to all who work so hard to make sure that our stories are never forgotten.
Suki and Julie, our final Christmas Eve, 1998. Her tree was never put up again.
YouTube video: Christmas Canon - Trans Siberian Orchestra