Dear Fellow Felines:
The rescue story of the year is the incredible, seven month, 16-mile long journey taken by a curious tabby from Bayshore Drive in Naples to Hideaway Beach on Marco. Late one evening, as I was finishing my nightcap and watching the end of “Lassie Come Home,” the phone rang. It was one of the guards from Hideaway’s gatehouse who reported that a large stray cat had taken to sitting in their laps and making sure they didn’t fall asleep in the darkest hours of their midnight shifts.
It turns out that the cat named “Didgeridoo” (a wind instrument) had gone missing last December! Thanks to a micro-chip the size of a grain of rice, I was able to contact his family who’d been posting flyers and contacting Domestic Animal Services once a week to see if he’d been found and brought in as a stray. Didgeridoo’s family did this week-after-week, month-after-month, always returning home in tears and empty-handed. When Didgeridoo crossed the shelter’s magic threshold, I immediately set the very hungry and thirsty boy up in one of the shelter’s deluxe kitty condos where room service delivered a continuous smorgasbord of tasty kitty foods through the night. The next morning there was a heartwarming re-union with Didgeridoo’s family who were now crying tears of joy. Who doesn’t love a happy ending!
While we’re on the subject of microchips, rescues, and incredible journeys, I have to tell you about the MOST incredible rescue in our 13-year history. In 2007 we’d found what we thought would be the perfect “fur-ever” home for a coal black, 12-week old kitten named Merlot (she’d been found in The Vineyards). That is until one morning in 2010, when we received an unusual phone call from a shelter in Towanda, New York, 1,500 miles away! The friendly and beautiful coal-black cat had been brought in by an eighty-year-old woman who’d found Merlot dumpster diving behind a restaurant on a heavily traveled road.
The Towanda shelter used a scanner and found a microchip with Merlot’s contact information. Sadly, the phone number listed had been disconnected so the folks in Towanda called the “secondary” contact number: For the Love of Cats. Merlot had three of her seven days on planet earth remaining. What to do? It was just days before Memorial Day weekend. A multitude of rescue operations were discussed. Ultimately, a volunteer flew to Buffalo where she met a shelter volunteer at baggage claim. When the shelter’s van arrived, Merlot was transferred from one carrier to another and back to Marco she flew.
A new fur-ever home was quickly found in Naples for Merlot. A year or so after arriving at her new home, Merlot showed her love and thanks for her school teacher mom by killing a pygmy rattlesnake that had made its way into her second floor condo. In the process she herself had been bitten and rushed to the vet. And you thought these kind of stories happened only in the movies!
On the sports front I’ve had my paws full with coaching my triathlon team “Meow Power.” The team is just seven weeks out from suiting up for the Marco Island Fitness Challenge Triathlon on October 4. Their goal is to raise $5,000 for us so we can maintain our special-needs kitty fund. I have to give them mucho kudos for not skipping a single one of my treacherous training sessions. Not even now, in the grips of mid-August, as I continue to mercilessly and heartlessly send them out to swim, bike, and run, no matter how suffocating the blistering heat and blazing sun. Then there’s the danger of lightning strikes. So the team has to really watch the weather before they take to the streets and seas.
Who are these intrepid athletes? Meow Power’s roster includes Sammy Miller as the team’s swimmer (quarter-mile in the Gulf); Karina Paape as the team’s biker (15 miles), and Maria Lamb as the team’s runner (3.1 miles on the beach).
Maria’s training days are true suffer-fests; she has no choice but to train on the island’s white-hot sands or its sizzling blacktop roads. My poor little paw pads would be on fire. As if this weren’t enough, Maria told me that she also does sets of 2,000 rope jumps. I can’t stop wondering how one would count to 2,000 while jumping rope. What balance, what coordination!
The biggest challenge for the team’s swimmer, Sammy Miller, will be training for the “open-water” swim. Open-water swimming is a different animal altogether than swimming in a pool. The open water swim is a study in turbulence; you’re in the water with more than 300 strangers who have varying levels of ability. To people on the beach it looks like a feeding frenzy minus the pelicans. Less experienced swimmers tend to panic, fearing the sting of jelly fish and stingrays. For safety issues, Sammy won’t train alone in the Gulf, so her schedule for open-water training is dependent upon finding like-minded swim partners.
Karina’s training on the dangerous streets of Marco is nerve wracking to say the least. In addition to riding in the suffocating heat, she has to dodge hostile drivers, confused pedestrians, loose dogs, angry runners, and the worst of all road warriors: dump trucks. She has mounted a GoPro camera on her handlebars to capture the tag numbers of hostile drivers. How clever!
Assisting me in training and managing the team is a new member of my staff, “Felicia,” a 13-year old Maine Coon cat who lost her fur-ever home a while back. She was found wandering around the Esplanade by a concerned resident.
Felicia bears a striking resemblance to the late Mr. Kitt, a debonair Maine Coon cat who lived out the last five of his 21 years at the shelter. He was so charismatic that I couldn’t help but to name him my “Assistant Kitten Manager.” He is Meow Power’s mascot. I’ve appointed Felicia to fill Mr. Kitt’s paws. Not only is she our new Assistant Kitten Manager; I’ve also appointed her to be assistant Meow Power coach. She’s in charge of Meow Power’s fluid intake and keeping the team’s morale up.
So you sagely ask, how can you help team Meow Power reach their $5,000 goal? Just take a seat, grab a snack and go to our website: www.fortheloveofcatsfl.com where you will find a link to Meow Power’s donation page. I would love it if each of my readers could make a donation of any size. Every little bit – even just $1.00 – will help keep the medicine cabinets well-stocked and the food bins full!