Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
On a winter morning, an Amarillo, Texas, resident saw a brown tabby cat fumbling around in his yard. The friendly stray was a welcome sight, but something was obviously very wrong.
The cat, Sweet Pea, had a dart protruding from her eye. The resident called the authorities, and, within minutes, officer Clay Martin from Amarillo Animal Management & Welfare was cradling the cat. He found Sweet Pea in critical condition — there was a severe amount of damage to her eye, and infection was setting in. He gently put the injured cat into his vehicle and sped toward the closest animal medical facility. On the way to the clinic, he called his agency’s director, Richard Havens, to inform him about the situation.
Richard knew Sweet Pea would require costly emergency care, and the municipal shelter runs on a tight budget. He called Jena McFall, executive director at Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society, to see if she could help.
Jena didn’t hesitate: “We’ll split the bill, do whatever it takes to save this cat.”
Almost as quickly as the abused cat was discovered, she was on the operating table. Sweet Pea lost her eye during the procedure, but her future was considerably brighter.
Just a couple of years ago, Sweet Pea’s recovery would not have been as certain. When Richard became director of Amarillo Animal Management & Welfare in January 2015, the municipal shelter had been under scrutiny, accused of not putting the well-being of the animals first. Richard saw collaboration as a cornerstone to turning that around. Amarillo Animal Management & Welfare and the Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society teamed up to save more at-risk animals. The Humane Society offers emergency funding, a network of foster homes, and a variety of off-site adoption opportunities to the municipal shelter’s charges. Richard also cultivates a sense of urgency within his staff.
“Officer Martin’s fast action absolutely saved Sweet Pea’s life,” Richard said.
And what a life it had been so far. It was determined that Sweet Pea had been used for target practice once before. The Good Samaritan caller had removed a dart from her leg a few weeks before.
Within 24 hours of Sweet Pea’s surgery, Jena had foster mom Jamie Brown on board.
“Foster homes are crucial to helping our special needs cases, and Jamie’s one of the best,” Jena said.
The first thing that struck Jamie about Sweet Pea was how loving she is. While most of Jamie’s foster cats need time to acclimate to their new location before they cozy up to others, as soon as Jamie let Sweet Pea out of her carrier, the cat hopped up on the bed and got comfortable next to Jamie. Then Sweet Pea got comfortable on Jamie.
“You couldn’t tell that Sweet Pea is a victim of abuse,” Jamie said. “She’s so affectionate and wants to be with people.”
She and Jamie are two sweet peas in a pod: As soon as Sweet Pea hears Jamie turning the doorknob, she runs to the door. They spend hours together with Jamie stroking Sweet Pea’s gorgeous fur and telling her how beautiful she is. When Sweet Pea got her stitches out, the veterinarian confirmed she’s in good health. While Jamie is thrilled to have Sweet Pea in her home, she can’t understand how such an amazing companion didn’t have any owners step forward.
“Sweet Pea is 100 percent perfect,” Jamie said. “She must have been loved by somebody once. She’ll be with me until she goes to a forever home.”
We don’t know all the hardships that Sweet Pea endured during her time as a stray in Texas, but we do know she will be treated well from now on — thanks to a community dedicated to healing and finding homes for its animals in need.
For more information, visit the Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society visit website.
About the author: Denise LeBeau is an essayist, writer, and editor. For seven years she has been a full-time writer for an animal welfare organization. She shares her home in Hampton Bays, New York, with two rescued Siamese cats, Flipper and Slayer, and two rescued moocher mutts, Parker, and Zephyrella.