A Common Plea

The owner surrender form that showed up in the Rescue’s inbox seemed somewhat unremarkable at first glance. In fact, it mirrored many of the other forms that had recently been submitted. While it wasn’t word-for-word the same, it was a common plea.

This is a stray that showed up about a week ago, the form stated. We have been feeding him and leaving water for him and trying to look for his home, if any. I have two cats of my own and cannot keep this one. He will take treats out of my hand. He does fine around other cats. I am unsure of gender, but think he is a male.

As the intake volunteer assigned to the case perused the form for more identifying information, something caught her eye.

He is likely in severe pain, from matting and teeth issues. He won’t let me touch him much, I think this is due to the severe matting and pain.

After looking at the picture of the cat in question, she gasped.

An Uncommon Cat

The picture the surrenderer had sent was crystal clear, but that didn’t make it any easier to try to understand why the stray cat in question barely looked like a cat anymore. The photo, staged on the surrenderer’s porch, showed an elevated set of bowls perched on beautifully maintained wooden boards. One bowl held water; the other, presumably, food. The stray’s head was dipped elegantly into the furthest dish, nibbling away, grateful for nourishment. If the photo had been cropped to just the cat’s shoulder blades, the animal would have probably looked like any other tuxedo cat in need of a foster home. Two cute ears jutted from a symmetrically circular head. One white paw was visible, propping the cat’s front end up. But the photo was not cropped at all, and the severe matting the surrenderer had alluded to was painfully obvious.

Weeks, if not months, of neglect had created humongous puffy fur clumps on the cat’s back. They varied in size from long and skinny to large and inflated. The more lengthy clumps resembled elongated tarantula legs, jutting from the cat’s hindquarters and shoulder blades like a grotesque Halloween costume.

We need to help, thought the intake volunteer, hoping desperately a foster would be willing to take the stray in.

Ready to Change a Life

Roughly around the same time the surrenderer had submitted her plea for help, someone named Max had also submitted a form of a different kind to the rescue. Max was a neighbor to the surrenderer and had encountered the stray enough times to note he wanted to help change its life. He filled out a foster application and submitted it to Ruff Start with the intention of taking the stray in and adopting it out to a loving family.

After Max was approved as a foster, it was quickly arranged that the stray would officially enter rescue, and come to the office for a full examination by the veterinary staff. Max eagerly brought the stray in for a visit, hopeful to learn more about its life before he had decided to bring it in.

Neglected and In Need

Katie, the vet technician assigned to look the stray over, knew at first glance that it had been neglected. It wasn’t hard to tell, of course; the mats, snarled into manic tufts, were clearly visible through the kennel’s open slats. But once the cat came out of its carrier and she was able to see it under her exam room’s lights, the mats truly came to life in an almost literal sense: they appeared to be moving.

Wound between the cat’s fine hairs, long tapeworms had made their home, sharing the space with hundreds of fleas. The cat was severely overweight, unable to groom itself, and its teeth were rotting extensively, probably due to its age; it had to be around 12 years old or so. Upon further inspection, it was found that the cat had been declawed at one point, as well.

Katie took out her grooming tools and went to work, mildly sedating the scared stray to make its full-coated groom easier for all involved. As she sheared away the flea- and tapeworm-infested fur, she saw a greenish fleck of ink on the cat’s lower abdomen indicating the cat, a female, had been spayed.

So, at one point, she had an owner, Katie thought sadly, looking at the poor cat’s declawed paws and tattooed skin. I hope her next one loves her a little more.

While, now, the cat still didn’t have an owner, she at least had a headstart to a new life. And, she had a name: Rosie.

An Unlikely Love

However rough shape Rosie had been in when she arrived, Max was absolutely determined to give her a better life than she’d had previously. At the beginning of their time together, Rosie’s paws were dirty and cracked, causing her to walk gingerly; they’ve since healed. She previously had no interest in playing at all due to her pain level, but after some time, she became full of life, loving to play – especially with her absolute favorite mouse toy. She had all but six of her teeth removed due to how infected they were, but she could still eat with the best of them.

Rosie loved getting her chin scratched while she laid in the sun. She was generally quiet, but wasn’t afraid to let her new humans know when she wanted food or to play. She adored sniffing things, especially during dinner time, when the house’s smells were the strongest. She would purr loudly when she was being pet, and would patiently sit outside her humans’ bedroom to greet them in the morning. She was sweet, but also so darn sassy. For all these reasons and more, it was easy to love her.

Every new thing Max discovered about the old stray made him fall in love with her. It was an unlikely love, but it was a good one. A really good one.

Finally, only a few short months after Max took Rosie in, he submitted one last form. This one was just as long as the others, but much sweeter. This time, it was an adoption form. Rosie was already home.

Ruff Start Rescue works tirelessly each day to pair unlikely duos like Max and Rosie together.  Each person involved affects animals in need as a result of their kindness, their donations, their time, and their talents.

For the next few weeks, we’re sharing the stories of many animals just like Rosie – those in need of one simple person willing to make a difference. Whether it’s by fostering, adopting, donating, or volunteering, each person who gives is an integral part of Ruff Start. We celebrate all of you this Give to the Max Day, November 19.

Thank you for letting us provide happy-ever-afters to animals like Rosie, and for allowing us the pleasure of meeting wonderful people like Max. We are able to do what we do because of you.