lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, #416)

Corny the cat.

One of the advantages in living in our community in Florida is the abundance of wildlife that surrounds us. In the past week, Larry, my husband and I, have seen otters frolic near our pond, crows attack a red-tail hawk, and osprey dive into the pond to catch a fish. Just tonight, as I was writing this story, two deer munched grass near the pond.

In one of my more recent harrowing moments, I barely missed hitting a male deer that decided to dash across the road in front of my bike. I thankfully stopped in time and watched two adults and one fawn continue their stampede. None of this week’s wildlife scenes, however, can compare with our encounter with a not-so-wild animal that briefly came into our lives.

A Rescue
As Larry and I were finishing up one of our long walks around Solivita, we saw L, a friend of Larry’s from pickleball, standing beside her bike and staring at the curb. As we got closer, a tiny ball of fur crossed the road, an animal so small that it took us a minute to realize that it was a kitten. We watched him dart behind some bushes in the front of a neighbor’s yard. After a few tries, I found him trembling under the shrubbery.

We knew that we couldn’t just leave him on his own. He would die of starvation or become an alligator’s snack. We also knew we couldn’t keep him. Although we had cats while our children were growing up, we had come to the realization that both of us were allergic. We had to find a place for him.

I picked him up, wrapped it in the bandana that I had been using as an emergency face mask, and started walking the half-mile home. It took me less than a minute to name him “Corny” for the coronavirus.

Finding A Home
While I gently held Corny and tried to reassure him that he was safe, Larry called friends whom we knew loved animals: Kerry, the dog walker, Jane, the dog sitter, Doug and Barb, cat lovers, and Teri who volunteers at a “cat cafe” where one can have coffee and pastries while playing with adoptable cats. In between the calls, we asked everyone whom we passed if they would like to adopt a kitten. No luck—yet…

When we got home, I placed a laundry basket with an old towel on the floor of the garage and sat next to him. I took a picture of Corny and posted it on the lost and found section of our community e-bulletin. My next call was to a local veterinarian, who was not encouraging. He said that the kitten was one of many who were dumped in Solivita by outsiders. He also warned me that he probably was carrying fleas, AIDS, and feline leukemia and told me to call the county aanimal control so that the stray could be picked up and—probably—put down. The Polk County contact initially provided some optimism: the shelter would take him in and try to find him a home if and only if he was weaned as they did not provide bottle feeding.

Helping Paws
After several more phone calls, we connected with Brenda and Marty. Devoted cat lovers who spend part of each year working at Best Friends Animal Society in Kaleb, Utah. The organization is leading a national effort of “No Kill By 2025,” They directed us to a woman in our community who is involved in Helping Paws, a local network whose mission was to rescue cats and find them homes. She was willing to take Corny, and the organization would ensure that the cat visited a veterinarian for a check-up, shots, and neutering.

I quickly called animal control, but I was too late as the truck pulled up to our house soon after I hung up. We explained the situation, and the person who was to take Corny away was really nice and said that he was glad we had found a home for him.

As Larry drove, I held Corny and told him that he was going to a safe place. Diane, the cat angel, took a quick look at our kitten.  She estimated that Corny was less than six weeks old, had a few fleas and an eye issue but was in good shape. She was fostering a female cat with four kittens and hoped that Corny would be adopted by the mother cat. We gave Diane a contribution to cover the cost of the vet and said good-bye. Softie that I am, I shed a few tears as we drove home. From the time we first spotted the kitten until we returned home, only 90 minutes had passed.

New Mom, Name
The next morning, Diane left a message on our voice mail: The mother had accepted Corny. Diane texted us a picture of all six cats. The mother was nursing three of her kittens and Corny. A fourth kitten looked on with an expression that said, “Hey! Who is this grey fur ball that took my place?”

On a check-in a week later, Corny, whom Diane had renamed Snickers, was doing fine. “I overestimated his age,” said Diane. “Based on his weight, he was less than four weeks old.” While the other kittens were weaning themselves, Snickers had the mother cat all to himself.

Giving Back!
Meanwhile, Diane shared with me her story as to how she became involved in Helping Paws. Like us, Diane and her family had a number of cats when they lived in their home outside of Boston and later outside of Orlando. When the last one passed away, Diane decided, “No more pets!”

Soon after that, Diane was diagnosed with cancer. After she recovered, she decided that she needed to do something to give back to the community. One night, she dreamed that a black and white cat showed up at her doorstep. The next morning, she found a calendar with a similar looking cat in her mailbox. And that day, a black and white cat showed up on her doorstep. Fifteen years later, Max is the “old man” in her home with two other cats as well as a string of over 200 cats she has fostered over the years.

I learned later that Polk County has a 50% kill rate for the animals brought to their shelter. That ranks them first in the state and 10th in the entire country. Corny (Snickers) wouldn’t have had a chance! In such worrisome, sad times, it felt so good to be able to rescue this little fur ball.

Marilyn’s Press Time Update: I have sad news to share about my rescued kitty. He died Friday, May 8. Diane, the cat rescuer, had brought him to the vet earlier in the week and he was diagnosed with a parasitic infection. She was on her way back vet on Friday, and he died on the way. It is a sad ending for the kitty, but his last week was spent surrounded by people and kitties and a mother cat. We gave him something that he would not have had; it just didn’t last long enough!

Marilyn Shapiro, formerly of Clifton Park, is now a resident of Kissimmee, Fla. A second compilation of her articles printed in The Jewish World has been published. Tikkun Olam now joins There Goes My Heart. Shapiro’s blog is theregoesmyheart.me.