Winnie Is Honored as the ASPCA's Cat of the Year for Saving Her Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
"Winnie jumped on the bed and was clawing at me, with a kind of angry meow. When I woke up I felt like a T-bar had hit me across the head."
-- Cathy Keesling
A fourteen-year-old gray American Shorthair named Winnie has been named Cat of the Year by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for saving her New Castle, Indiana family from death by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Eric and Cathy Keesling were sound asleep in their bed at around 1 a.m. on March 24th when carbon monoxide began seeping from a faulty gas pump being used to remove water from their flooded basement. As the deadly gas was being spread throughout the house via the central heating system it aroused Winnie. Jumping in bed with Cathy, she was able to rouse her dormant mistress through her persistent meowing and by clawing at her hair. (See photo above of Winnie and her family.)
By this time, Eric was unresponsive and the couple's fourteen-year-old son, Michael, was unconscious in a bedroom down the hall. (See photo on the left.) Although sickened by the noxious fumes, Cathy still had enough presence of mind in order to summon help.
Upon arrival, rescue workers fitted each of the Keeslings with oxygen masks and helped them out of their beloved home that had suddenly become a death trap. Judging by the amount of carbon monoxide poisoning present in the house, rescuers estimate that the family had less than five minutes to live before they were rescued.
"If it wasn't for Winnie screaming and hollering and carrying on, we wouldn't be here today," a thankful Cathy said at the time. (See Cat Defender post of April 23, 2007 entitled "Winnie Saves Indiana Family of Three from Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.")
"Winnie jumped up on the bed and was clawing at me, with a kind of angry meow," Cathy recalled for the Associated Press (AP) on November 1st. (See "Dog, Cat Honored for Saving Masters.") "When I woke up I felt like a T-bar had hit me across the head."
Saving her family from impending disaster is apparently old hat for Winnie who also warned the Keeslings of approaching tornadoes during the summer of 2006.
A two and one-half-year-old Golden Retriever named Toby was named the ASPCA's Dog of the Year for saving the life of his owner, Debbie Parkhurst of North East, Maryland, when she choked on an apple. (See photo on the left.)
When Debbie began to beat on her chest in a frantic effort to dislodge the piece of apple, Toby pushed her to the floor and repeatedly jumped up and down on her chest until the apple finally came free. "I couldn't breathe and I was in panic when Toby jumped on me. He never does that, but he did, and saved my life," she told the AP in the article cited supra.
It is interesting to note that both Winnie and Toby were saved from sure and certain death during their infancy by their owners. Winnie, for example, was found abandoned and motherless on a nearby farm shortly after birth by Cathy. In order that she might live, Cathy and Eric took turns feeding her milk from an eyedropper every two hours during her first few weeks of existence.
Over the years their initial act of compassion has been repaid a thousandfold. (See Cat Defender post of October 31, 2007 entitled "Bacon Shows His Appreciation and Love for His Rescuer by Awakening Her from a Burning Apartment.")
Toby was likewise rescued from a trash can when he was only four-weeks-old. He has more than repaid Debbie and her husband, Kevin, for saving his life and is now an indispensable part of the Parkhurst household.
Both Winnie and Toby were on hand November 1st when the ASPCA handed out its 2007 Humane Awards in the Rainbow Room high atop Manhattan's Rockefeller Center.
St. Louis Cardinals' skipper Tony La Russa (See photo above) was presented with the prestigious Henry Bergh Award for his exemplary work with the Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, California. (See Cat Defender post of October 5, 2007 entitled "Rescuing Cats and Dogs Makes the Cardinals' Tony La Russa a Winner Both On and Off the Baseball Diamond.")
Also singled out for special recognition was New York City firefighter William H. Smith III who on June 24th rescued a cat and a dog from a burning building. Incredibly, that was the tenth time in his twenty-five-year career that he has been cited for bravery.
Photos: Associated Press (Winnie and her family and Toby and Parkhurst), New York Post (Winnie and Michael Keesling), and St. Louis Cardinals (La Russa).