It seems to me like the perfect way to wind up my 2011 News Roundup is to celebrate the people who went miles above and beyond to save cats’ lives and show us the true meaning of compassion and courage.
Every year, thousands of people work hard to rescue cats and provide sanctuary for those who might not be considered adoptable due to age and/or disease, often using their own financial resources to pay for all the necessary care for these amazingly special animals. This list is in no way meant to slight those individuals because their everyday, low-key heroism never ceases to move me — sometimes even to tears. The individuals listed here are exemplars of the love and compassion that every single rescuer brings to his or her work.
#5: The Navy soldiers who nurtured a litter of newborn kittens. Earlier this year, a U.S. Navy ship docked in a foreign port, where a cat scaled a mooring line and attempted to stow away. The sailors returned the highly distressed cat to the pier and the ship left port. Four days after they set sail, a crew member found a litter of week-old kittens in the ship’s machine shop. With military precision, sailor Eric Hanst and his crewmates set to work bottle-feeding the babies and seeing to their every need. Their love and care helped the abandoned kittens grow into healthy little cats, and when the ship docked in its next port, they transported the kittens to a local veterinarian and arranged adoptive homes. I salute the sailors, whose ship and ports of call were undisclosed for security reasons, and I thank them for finding the time to care for these tiny babies as well as doing their important work in the service of their country.
#4: The members of the feline “underground railroad.” These individuals rescue cats from high-kill shelters in the southern U.S. and bring them north, where they are more likely to find good homes. I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of them in person at the 2011 BlogPaws conference. While we were getting educated and inspired, chatting with our friends, and enjoying great food and drink, Maria and her fellow “underground railroad” transporter, Bobby, were racing up the East Coast, just ahead of Hurricane Irene, to deliver Amberly and her five babies into the care of my fellow cat blogger, Robin Olson, founder of Kitten Associates, a small Connecticut-based rescue. Robin and her partner, Sam, left the conference early so they could get home ahead of the storm, and arrived just in time to batten down the hatches and get the kittens the veterinary care they needed. The story ended well: Amberly and the kittens have since found wonderful, loving forever homes.
These everyday heroes went to incredible lengths and even risked their own safety to make sure a cat and her five kittens escaped death in the high-kill shelters of Georgia and now have a chance to find a loving home.
#3: Samantha Shelton. The week before Thanksgiving, a familiar plea went out across the internet: 16 cats were on “death row” at Henry County Animal Care & Control in Georgia, and staff and volunteers wanted to try to save these healthy and adoptable cats from being killed. Our hearts often break when we see these requests, knowing that we can’t do anything to help: our houses are full, our shelters are already stretched to the brink, and there’s just no way we can do anything other than say a prayer for these cats, whose only crime was to be born.
On Monday, November 21, Shelton, the founder and director of FurKids, Georgia’s largest no-kill, cage-free shelter, called Henry County to check on the kill list cats’ status. She found that 15 of them were still there, waiting for their number to come up. And she opened her heart, and her cat flap, to every single one of those death-row kitties.
Samantha Sheltons miraculous act didnt just save those cats lives. It gave more time to the ones still at the shelter, the ones still to arrive. Thank you, Samantha. The Thanksgiving gift you gave those 15 cats is an example of the wonderful things one person can do.
#2: Wendy Matthews. In February, Wendy was checking out her regional Craigslist postings when she saw an ad for a free crippled kitten and decided to answer it. When she found out that the family had never named her and only called her “Cripple,” Wendy’s heart opened for this sweet kitten who didn’t stand a chance without her help. She brought the twisty-legged cat home and gave her the name Willow because “a beautiful girl deserves a beautiful name.” Wendy quickly adapted her home to Willow’s special needs, but she discovered that the cat was walking on her ankles and developing sores that could become severely infected. At her own expense, she took Willow to a veterinary orthopedist, who eventually told her nothing could be done to straighten the cat’s legs. But Wendy didn’t give up: she started a Facebook page to share Willow’s story, and soon gifts and medical supplies began pouring in. Eventually, Willow’s fans raised enough money for a special wheelchair so the cat could run around without hurting herself. Not only that, but Willow’s disability inspired Wendy to start Leggings for Life, a loosely knit (pardon the pun) group of people who crochet leggings for cats and dogs that need protection for their own crippled legs.
But Wendy’s story doesn’t end there. In August, Wendy heard about a 4-week-old kitten that had been abandoned by a dirt road. The kitten had suffered severe spinal trauma that left her paralyzed and incontinent. She decided she couldn’t ignore the tiny cat’s needs, so she stepped in and adopted this abused and abandoned baby, whom she named Adlai Grace, for “God is just.”
Wendy started Adlai on a regimen of physical therapy to strengthen her limbs and a daily diet of tons and tons of love and affection. The pair of them made frequent vet visits to see what could be done to help the kitten recover. The abuse she had suffered made Adlai’s spine so twisted that she was unable to move her back and her ribs caved in on her heart and lungs, which caused her to have episodes of serious breathing difficulties.
Adlai only survived for 56 days. But those 56 days were filled with love, tenderness, and caring in the arms of a woman who was willing to do anything and everything to help her recover. Wendy started a campaign called Justice for Adlai Grace; she and her friends are raising money for a reward for any information leading to the identification and arrest of Adlai’s abuser.
In the end, the legacy Adlai left for Wendy, me, and all the other people who had cheered for her progress, melted when we watched the sweet videos her caretaker shared, prayed for her, donated to the fund for her medical care, and shared her story around the world is this: Love wins.
Thank you so much, Wendy. The world needs more people like you.
And the #1 heart-warming hero of the year is Jamarea Mills! This amazing 9-year-old boy fought off a knife-wielding bully to save the life of a kitten that was being beaten to death. Jamarea and his brothers were in a neighborhood park, playing with a stray cat, when a 12-year-old boy came along, grabbed the kitten, and started beating it with a log.
When the older boy took out a knife and threatened to cut the cat, Jamarea knew he couldnt stand by as the bully killed the kitten. In an act of incredible bravery, he ran in and took the knife away from a boy three years older than him.
The children picked up the seemingly lifeless kitten and put it in a cardboard box to take it home and get help. An adult called the authorities, and an animal control officer came to the childrens aid. The cat was treated for injuries including a broken leg and a bruised abdomen and lungs. Unfortunately, the kitten died from his injuries, but the legacy of a 9-year-old boy’s act of heroism lives on.
Please take some time to thank these wonderful people for their acts of heroism, big and small. And don’t forget to thank the rescuers and heroes in your community whose stories don’t make the news; their courageous and compassionate acts are just as important as the ones I’ve shared here.