Poisoned Within an Inch of His Life While Living on the Mean Streets of Detroit, Chairman Waffles Survives Three Surgeries in Order to Live Again
"I always end up fostering the special needs guys who come in here. He just happened to be exceptionally special."
-- veterinarian Amy Koppenhoefer
No one seems to know how he wound up there, but at the tender age of five-months Chairman Waffles found himself all alone on the forlorn and forbidding streets of Detroit. As if simply evading predators, both human and animal, procuring food, and securing shelter were not daunting tasks enough in their own right, he somewhere along the way sustained life-threatening chemical burns to his mouth, tongue, and face.
It is unclear whether he simply licked up a toxic substance or was deliberately doused in the face. Moreover, the nature of the corrosive has not been disclosed.
All that is known for certain is that he was found last September by either an unidentified Good Samaritan or group and handed over to the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) in Bingham Farms, twenty-eight kilometers outside of the Motor City. That act of compassion in all likelihood saved his life because as it was he barely could breathe and surely would not have lasted much longer without prompt veterinary intervention.
"He was obviously in a tremendous amount of pain," Kevin Hatman of the MHS told The News Herald of Southgate on February 16th. (See "Kitten's Mouth Burned Off after Drinking Chemical.")
Even after his initial rescue Chairman Waffles was far from being out of the lion's den. Thousands of sick and injured cats are brought into shelters and veterinarians' offices each year but only a select few of them ever receive the care that they so desperately need and deserve.
The best that they usually can expect are jabs of sodium pentobarbital. In its self-appointed role as the world's premier feline eradication service, PETA has its death squads scouring the streets and alleyways night and day in search of perfectly healthy cats in order to liquidate. (See Cat Defender post of October 7, 2011 entitled "PETA Traps and Kills a Cat and Then Shamelessly Goes Online in Order to Brag about Its Criminal and Foul Deed.")
This is not merely a problem for homeless cats but rather it extends to those with owners who are too cheap and uncaring in order to pay for their treatment. (See Cat Defender post of January 2, 2013 entitled "Alley Cat Allies Demonstrates Its Utter Contempt for the Sanctity of Life by Unconscionably Killing Off Its Office Cat, Jared.")
Generally speaking, however, both the homeless and those who have the misfortune to belong to either the miserly or the impecunious are in the same porous boat and rarely can they rely upon the compassion of either rescue groups or veterinarians in order to save their lives. It therefore would have been a simple matter for the MHS to have dispatched Chairman Waffles to the devil without so much as a second thought.
There is not, after all, any law against such morally repugnant behavior and it is rather doubtful that anyone outside the organization ever would have known that Chairman Waffles had so much as existed, let alone the circumstances surrounding his demise.
To its credit, the MHS chose compassion over expediency even though that decision ended up costing the privately-funded charity thousands of dollars. "MHS reached one-hundred per cent adoption of healthy dogs and cats in 2010 and immediately set forth on a new top goal: guaranteed placement of all healthy and treatable animals within the next few years while -- very importantly-- remaining truly open admission to all animals regardless of their condition," it declares on its web site.
While that is highly commendable, it still leaves considerable room for improvement. Specifically, the next logical step for it to take would be to publicly renounce the killing of cats and dogs under all circumstances.
Animals should not be deprived of their inalienable right to exist just because they are deemed to be either terminally-ill or unadoptable. Even under such dire circumstances sanctuaries and hospices should be secured for them.
On top of the financial considerations, treating Chairman Waffles' burns and internal injuries proved to be an involved and tedious task with a successful outcome by no means assured. In particular, the black and white tom was forced to go under the knife on three separate occasions.
The first surgery was to remove dead tissue from around his nose and mouth, including possibly his burned tongue, so as to enable him to once again breathe freely.
A second procedure was required in order to remove his hard palette. Finally, two canine teeth were extracted and his face reconstructed.
The good news is that he defied all the odds and sailed through those terrible operations with flying colors; the bad news is that he now looks like a train wreck. "The mouth is constantly exposed," Hatman told The News Herald. "You can see his tongue."
He additionally will require specialized care for the remainder of his life but Hatman is fairly confident that he is going to be all right. "There are potential medical issues, but our veterinarians are pretty confident that, because (they) haven't developed yet, there's a very low risk for future medical problems," he added.
In spite of all the pain and deprivations, Chairman Waffles today is not only a resilient but also a vibrant, one-year-old cat. "He's happy, always on the go, jumps around and likes to explore. He likes to cuddle and purrs a lot," Hatman told The News Herald. "If you didn't look at him, you wouldn't know that he's been through what he's been through. His recovery, both physically and emotionally, has been incredible."
Following his surgeries and while awaiting a new home, Chairman Waffles was placed in foster care with MHS veterinarian Amy Koppenhoefer. "I always end up fostering the special needs guys who come in here," she confided to The News Herald in the article cited supra. "He just happened to be exceptionally special."
Somewhere near the end of February, he was adopted by Dawn S. Zifilippo of St. Clair Shores, twenty-one kilometers northeast of Detroit. As an added bonus, she graciously agreed to take along his best friend, Mr. Burns, who was in foster care with him at Koppenhoefer's house.
If there ever was a cat who deserved a second chance at life it unquestionably is Chairman Waffles and thanks to the compassion and generosity shown him by the MHS, Koppenhoefer, and Zifilippo he now is getting it. No one can predict the future but hopefully his days will be long and filled with much joy.
Tragically, the same cannot be said for an attractive Siamese named Rupert who was rescued from the streets of Cambridge during the last week of February by a Good Samaritan. Like Chairman Waffles, he too had sustained extensive chemical damage to his paws, mouth, and tongue. It was the irreversible damage done to his kidneys, however, that doomed him.
The Cambridge branch of the RSPCA arranged for him to be treated by Companion Care Vets of Coldhams Lane who immediately placed him on intravenous fluids. He courageously held on to life for several days before either dying on his own or being killed off by those treating him.
The type of corrosive has not been publicly identified and it is unclear precisely how he was poisoned. "Sadly it appears that he has suffered from some kind of poisoning, possibly through treading in a substance and licking it off his paws, or possibly maliciously," Rosemary Rodd of the RSPCA theorized to the Cambridge News on March 2nd. (See "Cat Suffers Chemical Burns after Poisoning.") "The vets initially thought it was likely to be antifreeze, but are now thinking that it may be some corrosive substance as he also has signs of chemical burns in his mouth."
Although Rupert was neither neutered nor microchipped, it is unlikely that he was homeless owing to his pedigree. Nevertheless, no one ever came forward in order to reclaim either him or his remains despite the publicity generated by his predicament. No one likewise ever attempted to reclaim Chairman Waffles.
As far as it is known, no arrest has been made in his death and it is extremely doubtful that either the RSPCA or the local police are even bothering to look into the matter. "Whether or not this was deliberate, the RSPCA is obviously concerned that someone has left a dangerous substance where animals can come contaminated and suffer," Rodd added to the Cambridge News.
The RSPCA expressed similar sentiments back in July of 2010 when a cat named Sticky became ensnared in a glue trap that was placed in a garden on Nansen Road in the Sparkhill section of Birmingham. She mercifully escaped with her life but even that required multiple baths and the removal of most of the fur from her paws, legs, and sides.
"This kitten has suffered as a result of the irresponsible and inhumane use of traps. Like snares and most pest control equipment, glue traps are indiscriminate," the RSPCA's Boris Lasserre said back then. "We are regularly alerted to incidents of non-target species being caught in snares and traps." (See Cat Defender post of August 17, 2010 entitled "Sticky Loses Most of Her Fur after She Is Ensnared in a Glue Trap Inhumanely Set in a Birmingham Garden.")
Every bit as reprehensible is the conscious use of these horrible torture devices in order to kill mice and other so-called pests. For instance, the Hinds County Circuit Court in Jackson, Mississippi, recently deployed glue traps in order to snare an unspecified number of totally harmless DeKay's snakes, Storeria dekayi. (See The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 26, 2013, "Courthouse Gets Too Snaky" and the Clarion Ledger of Jackson, April 25, 2013, "Snakes in Courthouse: Five Found in Hinds Circuit Clerk's Office.")
Whereas it is readily conceded that the apprehension of cat poisoners and illegal trappers is anything but an easy task, the RSPCA needs to be doing considerably more than merely expressing its concern. Each poisoning needs to be vigorously investigated with zero tolerance shown toward all offenders.
The same policy should be applied to accidental as well as to deliberate poisonings. Specifically, individuals and businesses that use toxic substances have a legal and moral responsibility to not only handle them with circumspection but to later properly dispose of them. Failure to do so not only often kills animals but it likewise pollutes the environment and endangers individuals.
The RSPCA is by no means alone in its unwillingness to go after cat poisoners. For example, police and humane groups in New Westminster, British Columbia, adamantly refused to even lift so much as a lousy finger in order to investigate a spate of poisonings that occurred in late 2010. That was in spite of evidence indicating that the felines were deliberately picked up and dunked up to their waists in vats of turpentine.
"I don't know if they're even bothering," Jennifer Szoke, who lost her beloved cat, Harley, to a poisoner, said at that time. "Nobody has even contacted me, and they haven't contacted the neighbor who saw the cats running in afterward either." (See Cat Defender posts of July 30, 2010 and August 30, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Harley Suffers Severe Burns to His Tongue and Mouth as Well as Lung Damage after He Is Deliberately Dunked in Turpentine" and "Hope, Prayer, and Veterinary Intervention Ultimately Prove to Be Insufficient in Order to Save Harley after He Is Deliberately Dunked in Turpentine.")
Once a cat comes into contact with any poison, whether it be either deliberate or accidental, time is of the essence if its life is to be saved. This is paramount owing to not only the lethal nature of chemicals themselves but also the species' renowned fastidiousness.
Connie Ritchie's cat, Linden, was dunked in turpentine along with Harley but his life was spared thanks to her prompt discovery of his plight. The same held true for Rob Stainton's cat, Vincent, who also was dunked in turpentine a few months later. (See Cat Defender post of January 3, 2011 entitled "Another Cat, Vincent, Is Dunked in Turpentine in New Westminster as the Police and Animal Control Continue to Laugh Up Their Dirty Sleeves.")
It is antifreeze, however, that most often serves as the toxin of choice for most cat poisoners. (See Cat Defender post of July 2, 2007 entitled "Cats Are Being Poisoned with Antifreeze in San Francisco but Animal Control Refuses to Take the Killings Seriously.")
Chairman Waffles has been forced to pay an awful price for either the maliciousness or carelessness of humans but he at least is still alive. As for Rupert, all those who care deeply about cats are left to mourn his suffering, early death, and tragic loss of potential.
Photos: The News Herald (Chairman Waffles) and the Cambridge News (Rupert).