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Boy, a cat, a friend, and a savior.

On a hot August evening, I received a late birthday gift that I’ll remember forever. A neighborhood stray decided that our porch was the best place for her to deliver four fuzzy kittens. But one of her kittens just wasn’t normal. While the rest were black and white, one was gigantic and orange. I remember mom calling for me to get a pair of gloves so she could help a mother stray deliver this big pumpkin of a kitten. This kitten became my best friend. We weren’t supposed to keep any of the kittens, but we were already attached. That orange kitten was stuck to me and I was stuck to him. I called him Baby Boy and he was everything.

I dressed him up, drove him in strollers, and loved him. We took him with us when we moved, but I was a teenager by then. Like many teenagers I went through many phases. For a while I would yell at Boy to leave me alone when I was angry or depressed. I had a lot of problems growing up as far as accepting who I am. But I wish I wouldn’t have taken his love for granted.

This year…the same month he was born, he had to be put down. I watched him die just like I watched him be born. It tore me apart. We lost Boy to Feline Leukemia. If only we knew when he was younger that he had it. I pray that everyone gets their babies tested and vaccinated for this painful condition; it can ruin your cat’s life as well as your own.

Dear Boy, You were my big brother, my best friend, and the best cat I could have ever asked for. We miss you and I wish I could have been a better little sister and knew what was wrong. Thank you for being there when no one else would and letting me soak your beautiful corn gold hair with my tears.

Copperas Cove, TX

Woggie Doggie

I got my Basset Hound/Lab on Craig's list and he was mine from the start. My boyfriend was a little jealous of me and my dog and wanted his own. I was working for the State at the time and was on the Employee Web Site when I saw "Molly". She's a British black Lab and according to the story was abandoned by her family when they moved and had been severely abused by their children. It was December and -10 outside, they had left her tied up without food or water. The daughter of the woman who wrote her story had rescued her and brought her into her home. Unfortunately she already had three dogs and small children and at that point Molly was afraid of everything, the car, people, plastic Wal Mart bags, dishes clanging, EVERYTHING! My heart melted for this "thrown away girl" and I made the call. It took two of them to get her into the car to bring her to my house. She came in head down tail between her legs and very scared. She never left...:) Slowly she stopped being afraid and my Basset showed her the ropes and helped her come out of her shell! She is the sweetest girl! We've had her three years now, she loves everything!! She's the first one in the car now, sleeps everywhere and even discovered that her tail can wag! The only thing she's afraid of now is the vacuum! My dad already had a dog named Molly so I started calling her Woggie Doggie! She's very kind and loving! We're so blessed she came into our lives!

Laura Kifer
Jefferson City, MT

Blue Rescue

January of 2013 was a horrible month for my boyfriend and I. In the second week I had to make the decision to let my beautiful 12 year old Russian Blue cross the Rainbow Bridge. Only two weeks later my honey's Blue Heeler developed a torsion and also had to leave us. Rough month right ? Then a friend spotted a Blue Heeler, free to a good home on Craigslist. We went and met the people, who had just bought several dogs and didn't want to keep the Heeler. He was shaking, skittish and seemed to need us, so home came. "Bluedog" He had a lot of issues at first, frightened of men, thunder, fireworks, trains...you name it. Snapped at a couple of guests as well...having little people around frequently we weren't sure we could handle it, but persevered. It was so worth it ! Today "Blue" snuggles with his small fry friends,and my Siamese, loves company,(especially dinner guests, preferably those that drop food.) He still hides from thunder and fireworks.but has become a happy loveable boy !

Vero Beach, FL

Box O' Kittens

Back around 1998, I happened to be at the Local Costco and someone had dumped a box of 3 kittens in the parking lot. I of course who has to save every kitten I can find, found homes for two of them and kept one to add to my 3 cats and two dogs at home.

Being a Star Trek fan and her very special coloring, I named her Jadzia after the DS9 character.

This started a 16 year love affair with this very special and talkative cat. She had quite vocabulary of sounds and made herself very clear of her wants and needs.

She eventually became the Alpha of the house and all my other cats would treat her with "Cat Respect". She even had a thing for one of my dogs and would hang with him and rub against him all the time.

Unfortunately, time marches on and about two months ago, her back seemed to look hunched up and after X-rays and a full work-up from our fantastic Vet, we discovered that she had several spinal problems.

We continued to try different medications to keep her pain free and it seemed to be working till about a week ago when she stopped eating and started stumbling. Jadzia was always a very strong cat and she could barely walk. She had lost over 5 pounds of mostly muscle mass in two months.

After another trip to my Vet last week, we tried some more medications to see how she would respond. Finally last Saturday morning we made one last trip to the Vet and after she was examined, the Vet felt there was a lot more going on inside this 16 year old + cat and it was time to relieve her of the pain she was in.

I have never been so devastated even after losing other Cats and Dogs over many years, but I knew I had done the right thing for this marvelous creature that gave us so much love.

Goodbye Jadzia.

Marc Schlesinger
Miramar, FL

From loss comes new beginnings, and Otto

My husband and I have chosen not to have children, so my dogs are my babies. When my mother-in-law lost my Schnauzer Maggie while my husband and I were on vacation I was devastated. We were unable to get an early flight back to our home state, so I cried the entire rest of the trip. Needless to say the vacation was ruined. When we got home we could tell our other dog, Scout, was distraught as well. Scout and Maggie had been best buddies and loved each other more than anything. We looked for weeks and weeks, driving the 2.5 hours one-way to the city she was lost in every time we got a ‘credible’ clue. Sadly we never found Maggie again. For me it was truly soul crushing.

Many months later, once the sharp edges of pain and loss had ebbed a bit, I was ready to adopt a new dog. My husband insisted I get a puppy, knowing that it would help to ease the loss by having something so tiny to care for. After looking for a time we found Otto! His doggy momma, a schnauzer, had been surrendered to the shelter because she had ‘accidentally’ gotten pregnant. She had a beautiful litter of puppies that were mixed colors and shapes, all just bundles of cute. When they finally became available for viewing we were the second people in line. Otto was perfect in every way – cute, playful, cuddly and a total goof ball. We had to wait several weeks until he was ready to go home, but we visited him regularly to play and have him get to know us. While Scout wasn’t sure about him and his puppy teeth at first, it didn’t take her long to fall totally in love with her baby brother, just like we did.

While the loss of Maggie still hurts (and I still look for her) four years later I no longer feel the crushing weight of her loss and it’s all thanks to the love and companionship of my Otto and his sister Scout!

Rosholt, WI

My Angel - Betty

My Betty was a stray pup my mother found on the roads four years ago. She was severely dehydrated and starving with worms in her stomach. Perhaps that was the time her immune system had collapsed, paving the way for kidney disease and pancreatic cancer in her later stages. We nursed her, and got the most beautiful moments out of this strong yet gentle dog. She won't even whine until something got too out of hand! Her strength inspires me and her unconditional acceptance humbles me.

She died on the 13th of September, 2014, with her loved ones around her. Her death was far less painful than her disease and over in seconds. We buried her close to home in a lovely clearing, and went there today to pay our respects. Had my mother not found her that day, she would have died alone on that broken road, either from being starved or from a moving vehicle. She would have closed her eyes before she knew what love and care was, and no one would have thought of her or cried for her or smiled fondly in remembrance. Her body would have been dumped somewhere without care. After all, what is another stray pup when there are already so many on the roads?

My mother's words to me flit through my mind as I write this. I once told her that it is too painful to care and lose animals, and that I don't intend to have any in my house. She had just smiled serenely and said, "Darling, it is not about you. It is about them."

Today, I understand the significance of those words.. And I intend to fill my house with animals that I can save from a wretched existence. And those that can save me.

Hyderabad, India

She rescued us (twice)!

We had talked about getting a dog but hadn't really started looking. One day a black lab with a white chest pops up on my Facebook newsfeed. She was 7 months old and had been surrendered. She stole our hearts with her playful and excited nature so we took her home. We fell in love with her within days. She was the perfect companion for us - energetic, loving, good natured and playful. She was a handful but well worth the work.

Fast forward 5 months. She just had her spay surgery and we were taking her to have her stitches out. She got spooked, backed out of her collar and got lost among one of the busiest intersections in our city. We searched for her for 26 hours in the cold, rain and pitch black night. We followed two leads that came up short. We posted on countless pet recovery sites, Animal Control, her microchip company and posted 300 fliers. We came home exhausted with little hope of finding her - it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There were endless options of where she could be.

Less than 20 minutes after getting home, we got a call that my brother thought he had her. We rushed to him and found our beautiful girl terrified underneath an abandoned car. She was shaking, exhausted and cold. Her feet were torn up and she had her tail between her legs. We had to coax her out from where she was. We rushed her to the ER and got her checked out. She had minor injuries but she would be okay. We were elated to have found her and relieved that she was back home with us where she belonged.

We are privileged to say that we rescued our baby twice. The truth is she rescued us. Our beautiful dog taught us that love is unconditional and reminded us about empathy, companionship, and never giving up. We would have never stopped looking for her no matter how long it took.

Laura Houseman
Watertown, MA

Precious Babies

In our rural area there are a number of semi-feral cats. The locals call them barn cats. Precious was a himalayan who would come around for a plate of food on a daily basis. She was not a house cat by any means, but would come in to get some loving every so often. I was in the process of putting in a new porch deck and the material was in the front drive sitting across two pallets covered by a tarp. One April day I saw some kittens scampering around the yard with Precious. They looked to be a month or so old. When I went outside, they all disappeared under the tarp. Apparently Precious had given birth to them under the tarp between the pallets. She started bringing them up on the old porch deck to show them where to find the food I left out for them. We have an old recliner on the porch and they started sleeping on it. There were three black and one all grey kitties. As the weather got warmer we would leave the window open for them to look in and for our other three cats to come and go - they loved it. Eventually the little grey one (Smokey) started coming into the house and allowed me to handle him. The three black ones followed within a month. It took a while for them to get use to human touch (Shadow never has allowed me to touch her). After a year, Smokey decided to go live elsewhere (he has been back a time or two) but the two black girls and one black boy are still living the life of luxury after 8 years. Blackie and Blazie are very loving lap cats. Shadow keeps to herself but does come to get supper. The screen porch I built is her domain and sanctuary. Since she has not been neutered, she is not allowed outside. Precious had two more kittens in June of that year before I could get her neutered. They are another story.

Brett McAlister
Helena, MT

KJ, our beautiful old Norwegian

Ten years ago after having to give up our place and find homes (some temporarily, some permanently) for our pets, the kids and I moved from Oregon to SoCal. This hit my oldest daughter hardest, having to leave her beloved mini-daschunds in foster care. She missed a furry cuddler, so we started looking.

We found an ad for an adult cat and we went to check her out. She had been left in a wire cage on an elementary school playground. The kids were poking sticks at her... one child's grandfather saw this and took her to his vet. There she was bathed, the matts shaved off her belly, updated her shots, fed and allowed to recuperate. After 3 weeks she was offered for adoption. When we met her she was shy but Krista and she fell in love and we took her home - no charge. That grandfather's generosity gave her to us. They told us then she was 12-15.

KJ survived a fire where the kids and I lost everything, but she bit the fireman who rescued her! That fire sent my younger two to their father, and my oldest and I hung out with friends. I eventually moved near the younger two once Krista was on her own, and I brought KJ. She lived with me another 3 years. Happy just to hang out in our room, sleep all day, cuddle all night. She was my constant companion through breast cancer, surgery, chemo, radiation and recovery for a year.

A month ago I noticed a sudden swelling in her face. She didn't act in pain, but stopped eating about 36 hours later, and I knew it was time. We cuddled and loved for a while before the vet did the job, and she went so peacefully, at an estimated 23 years old. My daughter comforts me "she took care of you while you needed her, now she knew you're better, so she could go".

I miss that little stinker. She didn't like many people other my daughter and myself, but boy was she a devoted friend.

Rohnert Park, CA

My little Trudy Patootie

This sweet white cat began coming up on our porch and would eat a couple of pieces of kibble, take a small sip of water, and then go away. She would stay gone a few days and then come back. She never truly "meow'ed", only a small "meh" sound. She didn't want to be touched at first, but after a few weeks, she allowed me to pet her. She didn't like having her neck touched and would run away if I dared to touch her there. One day she climbed on my lap and let me rub her ears and when I touched her neck, I felt something pressing into her flesh. I was finally able to see what was digging into her neck - someone had put a flea collar on her when she was a kitten and she had clearly outgrown it. Once I got it off, I could see there was some chafing on her neck and her hair was seriously matted down. All I could think of was if it hadn't come off, she would have either starved or choked to death.

I treated her chafing and in a week or so, she was eating full meals and meowing like she should. That was two years ago and she has been with me ever since.

Katherine Pruett
McEwen, TN
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