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Cutting to the Core

Lucky cat takes full advantage of his nine lives

I'm an animal lover and I usually enjoy hearing interesting stories about animals.

There are the stories of animals who somehow manage to rescue their owner. We've all heard stories about a family being woken up by their barking dog when their house is engulfed in fire.

Or how about the stories where a dog or cat gets left behind somewhere and makes its way home on a perilous journey. Who hasn't heard one of those stories?

They're warm and touching. So when I got an e-mail from Sherrie Hockett, a local doctor at the Pet Health Clinic, telling me about the clinic cat, Chard, I thought I would let all of Sunnyside know.

You see, Chard was a charmed cat, or at the very least, a lucky cat. Born illegitimately to a mother who slept around, Chard left his home at an early age to make it in the world on his own. After finding it tough going at first, Chard took up residence at the Big R store on Yakima Valley Highway, making the store room his home.

No one knows what exactly the arrangement was between Chard and the manager of Big R, but one can assume it involved keeping the rodent population in check in exchange for room and board.

Details are sketchy but we can assume he was happy at Big R until the fire. According to Hockett, that's how he got his name, by surviving the fire. His efforts to make it out of the fire took up life number one for him.

In 1998 a woman took Chard to the Pet Health Clinic because he was having trouble breathing. The woman said she couldn't afford surgery so authorized Chard to be euthanized to end his suffering. A signed death warrant was life number two.

Luckily for the twice lucky cat, Dr. Laura Fey decided to see if she could save Chard. After a difficult surgery to close a tear in the muscle of his diaphragm, life number three was taken.

Two years later, after making the Pet Health Clinic his new digs, Chard developed a cyst on his liver.

"It's very bizarre," Hockett said. "I've never seen nor heard of something like that."

The surprise cyst required another surgery for the cat and so Chard gave up life number four.

He gave up life number five the afternoon of the surgery. Resting comfortably Chard decided he didn't like the stitches and chewed and tore them out. This risked peritonitis, an infection of the abdomen that's very serious.

According to Hockett, a few years later he manager to wander off and went missing for two weeks. Hockett said Chard eventually came back, a little thinner and with one more life given up.

When it came to facing dogs Chard was cursed with little man's disease and would challenge even the big ones. One time he was out boxed by a boxer and was KO'd. Luckily, a technician was close by and was able to rescue him. Life number seven was gone.

If his life wasn't crazy enough Chard did something to make it even crazier. After eating something, it's still unclear what, his tongue swelled up and he couldn't swallow for three days. Hockett said the clinic staff was just about to put a feeding tube down his throat when the swelling began to subside.

Life number eight had been taken.

And then the unthinkable happened, after surviving so much Chard came down with cancer recently. An operation was ruled out and he was unresponsive to radiation. Chard slept most days and didn't want to go outside anymore. Eventually he started to lose weight.

So before Chard could be in any real discomfort and waste away, clinic staff made the decision to take life number nine and allow Chard to finally rest in peace.

After 11 or 12 years of life, I think he probably deserved it.

"He was the worst cat ever," Hockett said. "He sprayed all the time. But, we love him. He was funny and he really liked people."

Chard will be cremated and his ashes kept at the last real home he had, the Pet Health Clinic.

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