Everyone knows that cats have nine lives. This is the story of seventeen year-old Mimi who has been testing that legend. Mimi was discovered by Ms. Chin Chi in 2001 living in a feral cat community of 30 plus cats in the Richmond District of San Francisco. She was a very small, frail looking cat with one obviously blind eye. They called her “little mommy” then as she regularly produced litters of kittens. Chin and her friends always made sure that “little mommy” ate first when they fed the colony.
In 2003 several SPCA volunteers launched a “Feral Fix” program in the Richmond District targeting this colony. They managed to trap, spay or neuter and find homes for thirty cats from this one group. After many attempts they finally also trapped, spayed and found a foster home for “little mommy”. After six months Chin took “little mommy” into her apartment, renamed her Mimi and had the blind eye removed.
For many years Mimi lead a happy life with Chin and her three other resident cats. During this time when any of her cats needed veterinary care Chin took them to a clinic in San Rafael where a very kind veterinarian allowed her to make installment payments for their care. As Mimi aged her body began to fail. She had only one partially functional kidney, she became deaf and her one remaining eye began to fail. Even though now deaf and almost completely blind she still had a good appetite and knew her way around Chin’s apartment, especially to the food bowl.
In 2012 Presidio Way Veterinary Hospital hired two new veterinarians one of whom was Dr. Kaila Helmer. To celebrate their new staff members they had a gala open house and also a raffle to benefit San Francisco Aid for Animals. For reasons unknown Chin received an invitation to the celebration and a certificate good for a free examination for one pet. Chin, who is now 80 years old, was convinced that the veterinarians at such an exclusive practice would not understand the problems of low-income senior persons such as herself or the special problems of ex-homeless cats. If spite of her feelings she gathered up Mimi and went to get her free examination. It was then that she met Dr. Helmer in person and asked her two questions: One, Did she have any good advice on how to care for a deaf and almost blind thirteen year-old cat? And two, if one of Chin’s cats needed to be put to sleep would someone come to her apartment to do it? Dr. Helmer answered yes to both questions and indicated that because of her financial situation she would be eligible for an installment plan for her cats’ care. Needless to say Chin has been taking her four cats to Dr. Helmer ever since then.
Recently Mimi suddenly became very ill and Chin rushed her to see Dr. Helmer who determined that Mimi had a serious infection in her one remaining and partially failing kidney. The plan was for several days of intensive hospital care followed by at least a month of fluid therapy at home. Unfortunately Chin’s income could not possibly pay for this kind of treatment and she was resigned to having Mimi put to sleep. Fortunately, Dr. Helmer had a grant from San Francisco Aid for Animals and with the hospital match this lowered the cost to an affordable level for Chin. In addition the veterinary technicians at Presidio Vet volunteered to come to Chin’s apartment and administer the daily fluid therapy for the month. Mimi is well now and back to her old tricks trying to outsmart everybody, human or cat. She has even regained her favorite pastime of finding new sleeping places that she has not done for over a year.
Chin says she is eternally grateful to Dr. Helmer and RVT Amanda Moorhead and the entire staff at Presidio Way Veterinary Hospital for their care of Mimi and to San Francisco Aid for Animals for the grant that helped make it all possible.