SPOTLIGHT ON STRAYS:
21 Days: Starlight's Story
By Mary Anne Miller
Crouching in the corner, Starlight carefully eyed his target. The turbo scratcher lay tantalizingly within reach. Suddenly going airborne, his legs splayed to the side, claws extended for traction. He flew overhead. Hitting his mark (the cardboard center of the toy) he was rewarded. The force of his landing slid the toy along the tiled floor. This was his favorite game. He hung on for his joy-ride. "Cow-a-bunga!" I shouted. Looking over in my direction (I swear he grinned). I'm going to miss this kitty for Starlight's ride, an 18-wheeler idled nearby. The driver, Jimmy Frost a trucker from back East and an avid cat lover had arrived late last night. He had called in his location ten minutes ago. Bundling up Starlight and all his supplies, we were soon out the door. Sleeping most of the way to the truck stop, Starlight nestled deep in my lap.
Memorial Day weekend, 2001 an urgent Internet message reached me. There was a "feral" cat in trouble a few hours away, could I help? Accustomed to rescuing strays and ferals, there was no argument. I made a quick phone call, gathered my trapping kit and my husband and we were on our way. Around midnight, we rolled up to the address. I was told the "feral" kitty was inside a shop in the back of the property. Armed with a flashlight and my rescue tools, I slid inside the building standing quietly, listening to the night.
Over the night sounds I heard a kitty in clear respiratory distress. The labored breathing prompted me quickly into action. The flashlight soon revealed two green eyes glowing dimly in the corner. Opening up a can of cat food, I crouched down, making my way towards the cat. Approaching slowly, I gasped, for I could see in the light the unmistakable extreme-faced features indicative of a Persian. The cat made no protest when I gently grabbed the scruff of the neck and lowered it into the waiting carrier. Soon we were on our way back home..
Our living room light revealed the full extent of the cat's condition. It was a young kitty its light coat soiled with dirt and grease stains. Heavy mats clung off its fur, the biggest mat bulged from out from under the tail. Attempting to lift the tail to sex the cat became impossible. The cat started grinding his teeth, a clear indication of pain. The hair had hardened, gluing the tail down. Freeing this mat would become a two-hour job. Three hours later, freed of all the mats, we sexed the kitty- he was a tom. We christened him Starlight (after the street where he was rescued) and I carried him to the kitty quarantine room.
The vet plucked off two unwelcomed ticks and diagnosed Starlight with an UTI, URI, and anemia. Starlight's claws had grown so long, they curved inward into the pads of his feet. He was completely shaved and blood was drawn. Malnourished, given a 50/50 chance to survive, Starlight came back home with an arsenal of pills and ointments in tow.
For the first nine hours after his vet visit, Starlight didn't move from his bed. Food was carried into him and he devoured every morsel. As he grew stronger, he would first hide when we came into the room then eventually he became bolder, meeting us on his terms, venturing out to explore the house and meet the resident kitties. A week later after his first bath, he emerged from the bath in all his glory. His markings clearly indicated, he was a Black Van Persian. Although you could still see every bone outlined through his thin skin, you couldn't help but notice the beauty of what he could be.
Part of this charm consisted of Starlight burying his face into his food. Grunting with pleasure, he quickly earned the name "Little Snort." Playing peek-a-boo with me in the morning always brought a smile. Upon hearing my footsteps on the stairs, he would dart out, peeking at me through the banister. I would holler "I see you!" He would race back into the bedroom, only to return in a few moments peeking out at me again. His favorite sleeping spot became my keyboard. The sight of our German Shepherd would send him scattering up the stairs to dive under the bed. In the mornings, after I was done medicating him, he would chase me down the stairs as if to say "Be gone woman! I am done with thee!" I knew my home wasn't an ideal place for him. Using the same tool that brought him to my attention, I published his story over the Internet, contacting Persian Rescue Groups nationwide to help me find the right home or perhaps, locate his previous owner.
Debi, in California expressed great interest in him. She loved Persians and although she seemed to be the best candidate, how would we get Starlight to his new home? The answer came a few days later; the aforementioned truck driver. Already sharing the cab of his rig with his own gang of kitties, Jimmy said he would be happy to arrange a Pacific Northwest haul and take Starlight to Debi. God smiled on these arrangements and within days, Jimmy had a new route bringing him just a few hours from our home.
I kissed Starlight one more time, and placed him inside the carrier. Jimmy's bright-red semi loomed in the distance. Zoey and Bari, Jimmy's other cats were catching some Z's on the dashboard. Starlight's journey with us was over. We accomplished what needed to be done. Now, Starlight's journey truly started, the stewardship was changing.
I looked up into the heavens and spotted one star out-shining the rest. An old rhyme came to my head "Starlight, Starbright, first star I see tonight..." My wish was simple, may Starlight never again suffer from hunger, pain, or know abandonment. May he find love and comfort at the end of his long journey. I knocked on the cab of the truck and Jimmy opened it. Saying goodbye to Starlight I buried my face in his soft fur. He had crawled into my heart and left me changed forever. I knew I would always be grateful that he blessed my life even if just for 21 days.
About the author:
Mary Anne Miller is a member of The Cat Writers' Association and passionate about strays and their welfare. Her two websites www.felinexpress.com and www.kitten-rescue.com reflect her love. She currently shares her life with a large group of strays and a patient husband in Oregon.
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