by MARK PENNINGTON, Mystre Bengals

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I had a call from a kitten buyer of mine. Her name is Cecilia—a beautiful woman from Sweden who adores her Bengal named Dragonfly.

Cecilia called me last week in tears.

She had been playing with Dragonfly and when he got really tired he would start to wheeze. She had taken him to her vet who performed blood tests and listened to his heart. The vet thought there was something wrong with Dragonfly's heart valves. She recommended a sonogram and x-rays to confirm her diagnosis.

Cecilia called me with the vet's dire words still ringing in her ears. I was not only worried for her cat, but also about my breeding program with that pairing. I told her I wanted her to talk to my vet.

I have an amazing and wonderful vet who visits our home regularly. Experience has taught me that I can always count on my vet to be honest and thorough with regards to my precious cats. I called my vet late that night and asked her to consult with Cecilia's vet.

Based on Cecilia's vet's findings, my vet agreed that a sonogram and x-rays were indeed the next step, but as long as we needed to do it, she suggested that a board certified cardiologist do the exam. She knew the best one in the Houston area and she called him and made an appointment for Dragonfly to see him right away.

Cecilia, Dragonfly and I traveled together to the cardiologist's clinic the next day. Cecilia was intimidated by all the doctors and terrified of the possible results. Cecilia is a young (I would guess late 20's) married woman whose husband is away overseas. Like many young couples, they are just getting started in life and certainly had not planned for unexpected vet bills, especially at Christmas time. She went to the clinic fully expecting to spend over $600 for the appointment—and fully prepared to spend her Christmas savings to make sure that her beloved and handsome cat receive the best care available.

When Dragonfly left our home at 12 weeks, he was a pretty cat. All Bengals are pretty, but he was nothing really outstanding or anything. I hadn't seen him in many months. Imagine my surprise when the boy that came out of the carrier was stunning! He had a near perfect head, small rounded ears, a profile that anyone would love in a cat, one of the softest coats I have felt (even soft for a Bengal) and the perfect eyes that I wanted to get so badly on my cats, and didn't think I had achieved yet... but there it in this glorious cat. Dragonfly was magnificent.

He leaped out of the carrier and straight into my arms. It was as if he remembered who "daddyman" was, though I think he may just have wanted out of the carrier and I was a means to an end :-).

He was a very personable cat, a social butterfly (or should that be dragonfly?). Eventually every employee at the clinic found an excuse to stop by to visit with the handsome cat. Dragonfly went to every visitor and made each of them smile and feel a little special that they were graced with his attention, even for just a short while. I overheard many comments as they whispered with each other about how incredible this boy's temperament and personality were. Inside, I was beaming with pride because those are the comments I most want to hear about my cats.

Cecilia, however, was unable to appreciate this. She was crying.

The vet and assistants came to take Dragonfly for the tests and Cecilia and I were sent outside to wait. I thought that was a little odd, because when I have had HCM tests performed on my cats before I remained and helped hold the "squirmers". This time we were asked to wait outside.

We waited almost two hours.

Cecilia's eyes told the story of her pain. I tried to keep her spirits up. I smiled and showed her pictures in Cat Fancy magazines. We talked and talked. The fear and concern in her eyes never lightened. I thought about what a horrible Christmas this would be for her if something was seriously wrong with Dragonfly. And then there was the expense that I knew she could ill afford. Anyone who has had cats for a long time knows the experience of spending a fortune on tests and treatments on a failing cat. I worried with her. I worried about her. It could be a very bad day.

Finally, conversation was exhausted and silent contemplation settled upon us... and that is when we were called in to see the cardiologist. He had the results of the sonogram and X-rays. Cecilia was stoic, but her fears were palpable. Her hand squeezed mine and for a little woman she had a hell of a grip.

The results? The doctor could find nothing wrong with the cat! His heart was very healthy, no signs of any cardio problems, no sign of respiratory problems. The vet said that the blood tests the other vet had ran were all in normal ranges, even if couple of items were on the higher end of normal. The heart was fine, with no sign of anything irregular. The wheezing was probably the result of irritation from dust or pollens that can cause an asthma-like reaction, just like in people.

Great news!! There was no problem! No fears! No life threatening condition! No lifelong medications and no discomfort for the cat other than he may wheeze if he runs around too long. Heck, I wheeze if I run to the bathroom.

Cecilia almost collapsed as her tears of fear changed to tears of relief. I got a great hug from a very pretty younger woman. What old man wouldn't love that? But the thing I will always remember is realizing how much Cecilia loves the cat they got from me.

I had cried like a baby when they took Dragonfly home as a kitten. I cried again right alongside Cecilia as the relief washed over us. I know that my baby is in a very loving home... with people who would do anything to protect him... who gave up their Christmas to make sure that Dragonfly was okay.

You know, that was a great present for me.

But there was something else I needed to do. I had to make sure that Cecilia and her family would have the Christmas they deserved. Cecilia will never know why the bill for the tests was so much smaller than the original quote . . .

The vet winked at me, and I winked back. The look in Cecilia's eyes—that was my Christmas present.

About The Author:

Mark Pennington was a small Bengal breeder located in the Houston, Texas area.

He fell in love with the beautiful Bengal cat, captivated by their amazing intelligence and incredible appearance.

Together with his wife, Karen, Mark began breeding Bengals under the Mystre cattery name, focusing on temperament and health.

He loved to show their Bengals in TICA shows throughout the U.S. Indeed, there was no greater joy for their entire family than sharing their lives and home with their little spotted clowns.

Mark also maintained a website titled The Cat Buyers Guide, a site dedicated to the improvement of cat breeder standards and ethics.

Sadly, in April 2015, Mark died unexpectedly. He will always be sorely missed.


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