I have to warn you, this is a sad story. I don’t take any pleasure in sharing stuff like this, but I feel it’s a story that needs to be told.
On August 16, 2011, a person riding a bike along a dirt road near Muskegon, Mich., found a litter of kittens. Two were dead, two seemed okay, and one was horribly hurt but somehow still alive.
The injured kitten had suffered severe spinal trauma that left her paralyzed and incontinent. Wendy Matthews heard about the 4-week-old kitten who was struggling to survive, and she decided to step in and adopt this abused and abandoned baby.
Wendy’s no stranger to taking care of special-needs cats; in fact, she already had one living at her home. Willow was born with severely twisted back legs that made it impossible for her to walk without suffering serious skin injuries. Thanks to Wendy’s dedication and love, Willow is now healthy and enjoys running around in a special wheelchair — and she inspired Wendy’s Leggings for Life campaign to create crocheted leg covers for cats and dogs like Willow.
Wendy named her new arrival Adlai Grace. Why? This is how she explains it on Adlai’s Facebook page: “The name Adlai is Hebrew for ‘God is Just’ … considering what this little girl has suffered at the hands of a human, she wanted everyone who said her name to speak out to the universe that God is just, He does not turn a blind eye. Coupled with the name Grace, it is befitting of the special little girl that she is.”
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.
An X-ray revealed the severity of her spinal injury. Somehow her spine got 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. One look at the X-ray and you’ll see why I can’t imagine this could have happened any other way than by deliberate abuse.
As Adlai settled into life with Wendy, her caretaker made lots of videos. They all show a kitten full of zest for life, so full of love and kindness, that it’s hard to imagine the trauma she had suffered at the hands of humankind.
A few weeks after Wendy adopted her, it began to look like Adlai might be recovering. Her back legs were starting to make tiny twitching motions, as if the nerves were starting to reconnect. Kittens, with their rapidly developing bodies, are amazingly resilient, and miracles have been known to happen.
Then, on the day Wendy was going to take her to a veterinary specialist to see if her spine could be repaired at least enough to ease her breathing, Adlai had one of her increasingly frequent episodes of gasping for breath. Just a couple of hours before she might have gotten a new lease on life, she could no longer hold on. Little Adlai died in Wendy’s arms.
Wendy spent the next couple of days crying, her grief so profound that she wondered if she’d ever recover.
Thousands of people who had come to love little Adlai cried along with her. I was one of them.
I’d been following Adlai’s story ever since I heard about her. I was on my lunch break at work when I read Wendy’s heartbreaking post: “She’s gone.”
I had a hard time pulling myself back together and going back to my desk.
But soon Wendy’s grief gave way to anger. She started a Twitter and Facebook campaign, Justice for Adlai Grace. She and her friends raised money for a reward for any information leading to the identification and arrest of Adlai’s abuser. They’ve been working with local animal control officers and law enforcement to find any evidence they can.
Adlai’s voice hasn’t been silenced with her death. In fact, it’s only grown louder.
Cyndi, one of Adlai’s Facebook fans, said it best: “Adlai’s story has filled my heart with sorrow at how cruel humanity can be. But then, my heart fills with love at the emotion that when pulled together in support of sweet little Adlai Grace, we all can be her ‘roar’ and make sure that something is done about this injustice to innocent animals. We are here and will not go away! “
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.
And in the end, this video explains 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: Love wins.
(In a reader? Watch the video here.)