Abandoned to Die in a World of Darkness and Without Even Teeth, Maxwell Is Saved by the Compassion of a Rescue Group and a Veterinarian
"At first, I figured he'd survive if he was cared for, but I didn't know what his quality of life would be like. Then I spent some time with him and realized how well he gets around. He doesn't know he's handicapped. He just does what he needs to do and he does it really well."
-- Shannon Sierra
The Fates are seldom kind to cats. For even those that are born healthy and whole, their sojourns on this earth are more often than not plagued by all sorts of deprivations and unspeakable abuses.
Imagine, however, being born without eyes and teeth as well as being homeless and uncared for and one will then have some idea of what life was like for a handsome orange tabby named Maxwell.
Already an adult cat, he was discovered two years ago stumbling around a White City, Oregon, ranch by the owner who later turned him over to Committed Alliance to Strays (CATS) in nearby Medford. Strongly suspecting that he had previously belonged to someone, the rescue group first tried unsuccessfully to locate his previous owner.
Eventually, he was brought to Best Friends Animal Clinic where veterinarian Shannon Sierra concluded after examining him that his disabilities were most likely the result of a prenatal virus that he had contracted from his mother. While caring for Max, Sierra came down with an even more potent affliction himself, i.e. love, and shortly thereafter he adopted the cat.
"At first, I figured he'd survive if he was cared for, but I didn't know what his quality of life would be like," Sierra confided to Medford's Mail Tribune on September 16th. (See "On His Own, Blind Cat Survives, Thrives.") "Then I spent some time with him and realized how well he gets around. He doesn't know he's handicapped. He just does what he needs to do and he does it really well."
Now, Maxwell spends his days at Sierra's clinic socializing with the patients and their owners as well as taking in the smells and sounds around him. After work, he is driven home by Sierra where he joins the vet's six other resident felines, a puppy, and an unspecified number of foster kittens from CATS.
He is able to eat regular kibble even sans his teeth and the only major alteration that Sierra has made to his house is to insulate the legs of his furniture with foam padding so as to prevent Max from injuring himself.
He passes his time at home helping to care for the kittens and frolicking in Sierra's enclosed yard. Since he was most likely born in a barn, he also has an affinity for bales of hay.
"It's the weirdest thing. Whenever he gets around hay, you'd think it was catnip," Sierra told the Mail Tribune. "A lot of cats like it but he has this huge attraction to it. He rubs all over it. He'd climb inside if he could."
Max probably would have died a long time ago if it had not been for the compassion shown him by Jan Whetstone and the staff of CATS. Whereas killing sickly (and perfectly healthy!) cats is the de rigueur at most shelters, it is not even an option as far as CATS is concerned.
On its web site the organization states: "Our mission is to rescue the forgotten cats and kittens. Those abandoned and left trying to make it on their own in a world much too cruel. They battle hunger, disease, weather, predators, of which the scariest can be the human predator. CATS can provide a chance at a better life." Toward this end, the group procures medical help for all cats that need it and then attempts to find good homes for them.
"There's a saying we really like that says, 'Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes?' " Whetstone said. "With little Maxwell you don't have to see his eyes. You can feel his soul."
The killing of cats and dogs for any reason should be a crime. Healthy, injured, or handicapped, they have just as much of a right to life, freedom, and medical assistance as people.
As Maxwell has demonstrated, even handicapped animals have an amazing capacity to adapt to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and to go on and live long and fulfilling lives. Moreover, every day that these animals live they enrich the lives of everyone around them and repay them a thousandfold for their compassion.
For instance, there is a three-legged cat named Opie who has had a profound affect upon the inmates who work in the laundry room of a Tennessee prison. (See Cat Defender post of November 2, 2006 entitled "Three-Legged, Bobtailed Cat Named Opie Melts the Hearts of Hardened Criminals at Rural Tennessee Prison.")
Before they became too cheap and selfish to care for him in his old age, another three-legged cat named Tripod used to help the reporters and editors of The Caledonian-Record put the paper to bed every night in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. (See Cat Defender post of February 9, 2006 entitled "Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by Journalists He Befriended in Vermont.")
Two years ago, a cat named Hopalong Cassidy tragically lost a limb to a leghold trap but that did not prevent him from finding a new home. (See Cat Defender post of August 18, 2005 entitled "Brave Orange Tabby Cat Dubbed Hopalong Cassidy Loses Limb to Leghold Trap in British Columbia.")
Last summer, a deaf Angora cat named Stone miraculously escaped being killed by the tons of bombs that Israel dumped on defenseless Lebanon and was later able to find a new home in the United States. (See Cat Defender post of January 11, 2007 entitled "Deaf Angora Cat Named Stone Survives the War in Lebanon to Find a New Home in Illinois.")
In a case remarkably similar to Maxwell's, a four-week-old kitten that also was born without eyes ended up at the Humane Society in Tacoma back in February. Christened Angel, she was given medical treatment and has since been adopted by one of the shelter's volunteers.
According to a September 27th e-mail from director Kathleen Olson, Angel is now doing very well. (See Cat Defender post of February 23, 2007 entitled "Born Without Eyes and Later Abandoned, Humble Kitten Appropriately Named Angel Has Hope for a Brighter Tomorrow.")
All that is needed in order to stop the killing and abuse of cats and dogs is the commitment to do so; procuring the funding, homes, and sanctuaries for homeless animals is the easy part of the equation.
Photos: Jim Craven of the Mail Tribune (Maxwell) and KOMO-TV of Seattle (Angel).