They adopted a scrawny, beat-up tabby who’d miraculously survived an owl attack. They named him “Auto”, and he found a home.
Admittedly, Auto’s not much of a mouser. But that’s picking nits. The Johnsons, their employees and their customers can’t imagine life without the tattered tabby.
“His story needs to be told,” said employee Larry Entzminger, a self-described fomer cat-hater. “It’s because of him that I (now) have a cat at home.”
Entzminger has transitioned fully to “cat guy.” When he discovered Auto stealing a drink from his water glass, he simply smiled and gave him a few loving pets.
But last summer, Auto’s life was less than purrfect.
His former owners —- the people who dropped him off at a vet’s office and signed away their ownership rights because of the costly medical bills —- told the vet that they had witnessed him being lifted into the air by an owl, said Laura Prindl of Mini Mutts N Meows Rescue in Temecula.
“They brought him in to the vet and they said, ‘We saw the owl drop him,'” Prindl said. “It had to be a good-sized owl. He was at the vet for over a month. He was pretty beat up.”
So beat up that the veterinarian initially doubted that he’d survive.
“When I saw him, he had holes on either side. It looked like the owl had tried to get at the lungs,” Prindl said.
Once stabilized, Prindl brought the “owl kitty” home and began searching for someone who’d be willing to take the scroungy-looking cat. Her search was over when Monica Johnson walked into a Temecula pet store during one of Prindl’s adoption days last summer.
Like many prospective adoptive parents, Johnson gravitated toward the cute kittens, but told Prindl that what she really needed was a “Catzilla” —- a tough cat that could bully the mice out of her shop.
Johnson said Prindl probably thought that “a cat that’s going to live in an auto parts store didn’t have to be perfect looking.” She agreed to take the cat sight unseen.
Within days, Auto was comfortably established in his new digs.
“He thinks he runs the place,” Monica Johnson said.
Indeed. He’s treated like royalty. A nearby shop owner comes by twice a day to give him salmon and a regular customer has created a Web photo site album starring Auto. When the Johnsons’ house cat died a couple of months ago, Monica Johnson tried to relocate Auto from the shop to her home, but was thwarted by employees and customers who’d miss their Auto fix.
They circulated a petition and wrote up a job description of all the tasks Auto performs at the shop, including greeting shoppers. Johnson had no choice but to capitulate and Auto stayed put.
Prindl said she’s thrilled to hear that Auto has such a happy life, saying she wishes every pet she finds could be as lucky. She’s now looking for a home for “Snacker” —- a 3-pound Chihuahua who was half-eaten by another dog, but survived. He’s a fun-loving, smart little guy, but he’s a bit of a handful to manage, she said.
“He’s just full of trouble, and he’s only 3 pounds,” she laughed.