Buried Long Before Her Time, Muffin Is Freed from the Crypt by Her Devoted Six-Year-Old Snuggling Partner
"When I was burying a hole for it (a flower), I heard a meow."
-- Bradley McCallum
When it comes to the mournful task of interring a cat the number one thing to remember is to to make doubly certain that it actually is dead before proceeding any further. Although that should be axiomatic to most thinking individuals, Sarah McCallum of the tiny St. Louis suburb of St. Jacob was so confounded when her cat, Muffin, suddenly became unresponsive one day back in April that she committed the unforgivable error of burying her alive in a medium-sized United States Postal Service box.
Muffin therefore was forced to spend the next three and one-half hours in the ground until McCallum's six-year-old son, Bradley, came home from school and requested permission to plant a flower on his favorite cat's final resting place. When he went to do so he received a shock that is destined to remain etched in his young memory for as long as he walks the face of the earth.
"When I was burying a hole for it (the flower), I heard a meow," he later explained to KTVI-TV of St. Louis on April 12th. (See "Cat Uses One of Its Nine Lives After Being Buried Alive.")
He promptly notified his mom who sprang into action with alacrity. "As soon as I put the shovel in the ground then I could hear and then I couldn't move the dirt fast enough," she told KTVI-TV.
Muffin soon was extricated from her premature grave and taken to a local veterinarian who, if KTVI-TV is to be believed, pronounced her to be perfectly healthy. That assessment stands in stark juxtaposition to McCallum's earlier claim that she was cold, not breathing, and lacked a discernible heart beat.
"Because I couldn't find her heart rate or her breathing cause she was completely lifeless," is how McCallum defended her decision to inter Muffin to KTVI-TV.
|Sarah McCallum with Muffin's Makeshift Coffin|
Bradley was considerably less forgiving in his assessment of his mother's colossal mistake. "My mom thought my cat was dead because she was laying (sic) down," he told KTVI-TV.
The details are sketchy but as best it could be determined Muffin had suffered some type of seizure and then went into a coma. Even if that indeed is what happened, it nevertheless is odd that the attending veterinarian so readily gave her a clean bill of health.
Normally, cats that suffer either seizures or fainting spells are given blood tests, neurological examinations, and either MRIs or CTs before a diagnosis is made. In some cases drugs, such as Valium, phenobarbital, and potassium bromide, are prescribed so as to ward off future attacks.
Without knowing the particulars it is impossible to speculate with any measure of exactitude on either what exactly happened to Muffin or her future prognosis. Should she experience another attack, hopefully McCallum belatedly has learned her lesson and will seek out veterinary intervention as opposed to resorting to the finality of the crypt.
McCallum, also has invoked the psychological well-being of Bradley and his siblings as another justification for her hellfire rush to inter Muffin. Another family cat died last year and the children apparently did not take its demise too well.
She also has sought and received absolution from her unidentified veterinarian. "Even the vet said anyone would have mistaken the cat comatose with her temperature so low," she told KTVI-TV in the article cited supra.
|Bradley at Muffin's Grave|
The most perplexing question of all centers on how Muffin was able to survive being trapped underground for such an extended period of time. The most plausible explanation to that riddle is that the box contained just barely enough oxygen in order to keep her alive in her comatose condition.
It also is conceivable that some air may have seeped in from above, especially if the box were not taped too tightly and the sod not packed too densely on top of it. Nevertheless, once she had revived Muffin doubtlessly would have soon exhausted her meager supply of oxygen in a futile attempt to extricate herself if Bradley had not intervened.
There accordingly can be little doubt that she owes her new lease on life to him. "This is the only cat that likes to snuggle with me," he told KTVI-TV.
When it comes to fickle-hearted individuals, love of the "mad, shadow, random, and abandoned" type that Warren Zevon sang so passionately about in his song, "Accidentally Like a Martyr," is largely a total waste of both time and energy but a cat's unconditional and unstinting devotion is far more valuable than money in the bank and therefore worth pulling out all the stops in order to retain. It also is something concrete to hold onto in an ever-changing world and, despite the tenderness of his years, Bradley seems to have developed an abiding appreciation of that petit fait.
Moreover, this is yet another poignant example of how love sometimes works its magic even from beyond the grave. (See Cat Defender post of March 28, 2013 entitled "Even the Finality of the Grave Fails to Diminish Toldo's Abiding Love and Devotion to His Long Dead Guardian.")
Nevertheless, of all the myriad of indignities that cats are subjected to during their terribly brief lives, to be prematurely written off as dead has to be sans doute the most galling of all. In addition to Muffin, a sixteen-year-old cat named Krümel from the city of Hattingen in Nordrhein Westfalen has been on the receiving end of such exasperating affronts on numerous occasions.
|Krümel Asleep in Front of Jane Herold's Famous Sign|
Because she has developed a penchant for sleeping in the street out front of her home at the Hotel Garni Herold at the corner of Krämersdorf and Kleine Weilstraße, concerned passersby have taken it upon themselves to notify the fire department, police, and Tierschutz on dozens of occasions based upon their mistaken belief that she is either dead or ill. That in turn has prompted her owner, seventy-seven-year-old Jane Herold, to erect a sign requesting that they contact her instead whenever they have concerns about her cat.
That was the only way that she could put an end to all the abductions and superfluous veterinary bills. "Krümel geht es gut," she said last year. "Sie ist zwar alt, aber noch fit." (See Cat Defender post of September 17, 2012 entitled "Contrary to the Neighborhood Scuttlebutt, Krümel Is Alive and Well, at Least for the Time Being, at the Hotel Garni Herold.")
If undiscriminating individuals are so determined to prematurely declare them to be dead, it is perhaps advisable that cats make it a point of honor to, if at all possible, be absent whenever such uninformed decisions are rendered. (See Cat Defender post of June 12, 2013 entitled "Pronounced Dead, Eulogized, and Then Relegated to the Underworld, Norman Astounds His Guardian by Turning Up Hungry and Grumpy for Breakfast the Very Next Morning.")
Although no evidence has come to light that would tend to suggest that McCallum's interment of Muffin was anything other than an honest mistake, that is not always the case in such instances. That is because more than a few hale and hearty cats and kittens are unearthed each year from shallow graves and, based upon extrapolations from the available anecdotal evidence, the actual number interred but never discovered surely must be at tragic proportions.
For example, in one of the vilest and most contemptible acts of feline cruelty ever recorded, a brown and white kitten named Matt from the Polish town of Szamotuly (Samter in Deutsch) was discovered early last year trapped inside an upturned steel bucket that had been buried in an anthill. Saved from imminent death by passersby, he was covered in bite marks, emaciated, and dehydrated. The hundreds of bites inflicted by the ants also had led to the onset of asthma and to a buildup of fluid in his tiny lungs.
"I picked up the bucket and saw this poor kitten lying on the floor (sic) covered in ants," rescuer Magda Miechowicz told the Daily Mail on May 17, 2012. (See "Who Could Do This to Matt the Cat? Cruel Thugs Buried Kitten in Anthill to Be Eaten Alive.") "It was bleeding, fur was missing, and fluid was seeping from its eyes."
The severest damage was done to his eyes and face but, thanks to veterinary intervention, he was expected to live. "The sheer number of ant bites has left the kitten very poorly. He is very dehydrated and has large abscesses all over his body," a spokesman for the attending veterinarians told the Daily Mail. "He is lucky to be alive."
According to the authorities in Szamotuly, there is little doubt that Matt was deliberately buried in the anthill so that the insects could slowly suck the life out of him bite-by-bite all the while inflicting as much pain and suffering as possible. No further information concerning his recovery has appeared online and, if past cases of animal cruelty are any guide, it is highly unlikely that his attackers ever will be identified and apprehended let alone punished.
Along about the same time that Matt was fighting for his life in the anthill, a pretty three-year-old tortoiseshell named Libby was undergoing an eerily similar ordeal in the Brackendale section of Squamish in British Columbia. Deliberately sealed up in a five-foot-long culvert that was barely eight inches wide, she was rescued on March 6th after what is believed to have been a monthlong incarceration.
Dehydrated, emaciated, and covered in scabs and open wounds, her body temperature had plummeted precipitantly low and she weighed only six pounds. Much like Matt, she also had lost sixty per cent of her fur.
"She was extremely frightened and stressed, but once we took her into care, her demeanor totally changed," Marika Donnelley of the Squamish Valley Branch of the BC SPCA said shortly after her deliverance. "She is friendly and loving and seems so grateful to see friendly faces." (See Cat Defender post of April 4, 2012 entitled "Buried Alive in a Culvert for Weeks Without Food and With Very Little Water, Libby Is Rescued Battered and Bruised but, Thankfully, Alive.")
On August 26, 2010, an unidentified couple out picking mushrooms in Hindås, thirty-four kilometers east of Göteborg, accidentally found a trio of four-week-old kittens that had been buried alive. The two females and one male later were delivered to Tina Karlsson of Kattstugan who dewormed, sterilized, and put them up for adoption. (See Cat Defender post of September 11, 2010 entitled "Swedish Couple Out Gathering Mushrooms Unearths a Trio of Four-Week-Old Kittens Buried in the Woods.")
In August of that same year a trio of compassionate teenage girls from the Glen Top section of Stacksteads in the borough of Rossendale, Lancashire, stumbled upon a seven-month-old black and white kitten who had been stuffed into a basket and buried alive in a hole in the ground. The kitten later was turned over to the RSPCA's branch in Oldham, Greater Manchester. (See Lancashire Telegraph, August 27, 2010, "Buried Alive Kitten Saved by Rossendale Teenagers.")
Most live burials do not end happily, however. For instance, on May 6, 2010 a five-year-old cat named Spud died after he was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head with a shovel and then buried alive in a garden in Maxton Court on the Lansbury Park Housing Estate in Caerphilly, twelve kilometers outside of Cardiff. Due to the excessive amount of grit and mud(See South Wales Echo of Cardiff, May 27, 2010, "Cat Died after It Was Buried Alive" and Caerphilly News, Mary 27, 2010, "RSPCA Investigate Cat Buried Alive in Caerphilly Garden.")
Whereas premeditated atrocities of this sort are roundly condemned by most caring individuals, a far greater number of cats are buried alive each year through either carelessness or indifference and these totally preventable deaths rarely, if ever, spark even so much as a whimper, let alone an outcry, from the public. Heading the list of these egregious offenders are those dressed-up death camps that masquerade as animals shelters.
Each year these thoroughly abominable institutions either gas or poison to death tens of millions of cats and dogs which they then seal up in plastic trash bags and stow in refrigerators. That is in its own right horrendous enough but their diabolical crimes are compounded by the fact that some of their totally innocent victims are not even dead.
Instead, they later revive on their own and then either suffocate or freeze to death while still trapped inside their cheap burial shrouds. Even then they are only afforded that gruesome luxury if their executioners fail to discover their plight in a timely fashion and thus do not make additional attempts upon their lives.
In one especially appalling case that attracted worldwide attention back in 2011, a beautiful cat named Andrea survived multiple gassings at the abominable and totally incorrigible animal shelter in West Valley, Utah. (See Cat Defender posts of November 12, 2011, February 7, 2012, and May 11, 2012 entitled, respectively, "The Multiple Attempts Made Upon Andrea's Life Graphically Demonstrate the Urgent Need for an Immediate Ban on the Killing of All Shelter Animals," "Long-Suffering Andrea Finally Secures a Permanent Home after Incredibly Surviving Quadruple Attempts Made on her Life by an Unrepentant Utah Shelter," and "Andrea's Incredible Survival of Two Gassings Plus Attempts to Suffocate and Freeze Her to Death Makes Her the Overwhelming Choice as Cat of the Year for 2011.")
Shelters and Animal Control officers also, in effect, bury cats alive by leaving them to die in unattended traps. (See Cat Defender post of August 23, 2010 entitled "Valley Oak SPCA Kills a Cat by Allowing It to Languish in the Heat in an Unattended Trap for Five Days at the Tulare County Courthouse.")
The Toronto Humane Society, to cite another example, is so derelict in its duties that a few years back it lured a cat into a baited trap that it had set in its very own ceiling but never once bothered to check. When it finally was discovered, the cat's remains had mummified. (See Toronto Star, November 28, 2009, "Humane Society: 'It Seems Like a House of Horrors'.")
Police officers and other law enforcement personnel likewise are guilty of gunning down and then discarding the corpses of cats and dogs that are still alive. (See People Magazine, May 12, 2003, "Dosha the Wonder Dog.")
A large number of cats also die each year after they accidentally are sealed up alive inside containers on cargo ships. Only a precious handful of those that somehow manage to survive their grueling transoceanic voyages ever make the news.
One such truly fortunate survivor was a three-month-old orange and white kitten named Ni Hao ("Hello" in Mandarin) who arrived in Los Angeles last July 11th aboard a cargo ship from Shanghai. Dehydrated, severely malnourished, and barely able to breathe, he was so weak following his death-defying sixty-five-hundred-mile misadventure that he neither could open his eyes nor stand.
After receiving emergency veterinary treatment he was placed under quarantine at the Carson Animal Care Center in Gardena. "Little by little we're getting there," Aaron Reyes of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control told MSN on July 17, 2012. (See "Meow! Stowaway Kitty Is on the Mend (and Finds His Voice).") "We're hoping that under the treatment of our med team and with rest, he'll be able to continue to recover quickly."
That indeed is exactly what happened and soon afterwards he was adopted. He now has a new life and is said to be doing extremely well. (See County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control on Facebook, June 20, 2013, "Throwback Thursday.")
Emily, China, Spice, Ginger, and Mandarin also have survived similar voyages in recent memory but Malli was not nearly so lucky. (See Cat Defender posts of December 9, 2005, May 17, 2007, July 16, 2007, August 11, 2008, September 8, 2010, and April 25, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship," "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of Ship from China," "Accidentally Trapped in a Shipping Crate, Calico Cat Named Spice Survives Nineteen-Day Sea Voyage from Hawaii to San Bernardino," "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire," "Mandarin Survives a Long and Harrowing Sea Voyage from China to Canada Only to Wind Up in Hock to the Calgary Humane Society," and "After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care.")
Natural disasters and miscellaneous mishaps also have led to the live entombment of many cats within the supposedly safe and secure confines of their very own homes. (See Cat Defender posts of April 16, 2009, September 8, 2008, and August 4, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Felix Survives Being Buried Alive for Thirty-Five Days in the Rubble of the Kölner Stadtarchivs," "Bonny Is Rescued at the Last Minute after Spending Seven Weeks Entombed Underneath a Bathtub," and "Brooklyn Man Gets Locked Up in a Nuthouse and Then Loses Digs, Job, and Honey All for Attempting to Save His Friend's Cat, Rumi.")
Trash compactors at recycling centers and city dumps also have become the final resting places for many cats although a few fortunate ones, such as Penny and Alfie, have had their lives spared by dramatic interventions at the last minute. (See Cat Defender posts of August 23, 2007 and May 4, 2010 entitled, respectively, "An Alert Scrap Metal Worker Discovers a Pretty Penny Hidden in a Mound of Rubble" and "Picked Up by a Garbage Truck Driver and Dumped with the Remainder of the Trash, Alfie Narrowly Misses Being Recycled.")
Although by no means insignificant, the number of cats accidentally buried alive in this fashion pales in comparison with those who are the victims of malice aforethought. For instance, forty-five-year-old bank clerk Mary Bale of Coventry demonstrated back in 2010 just how easy it is to commit these hideous crimes when she picked up Darryl and Stephanie Mann's cat, Lola, and nonchalantly stuffed her into a wheelie bin on Brays Lane.
Thanks to surveillance footage taken by the Manns' security camera, Lola later was found and rescued before the garbagemen had time to collect the trash. (See BBC, October 19, 2010, "Coventry Cat Bin Dump Woman Mary Bale Fined for Cruelty.")
Countless other cats are stuffed into duffel bags, suitcases, and backpacks and then tossed out with the trash as if they were nothing more than pairs of old, worn-out shoes. (See Cat Defender posts of October 3, 2009, February 24, 2010, February 25, 2010, and October 14, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane," "Sealed Up Inside a Plastic Bag and then Tossed in the Trash, Titch Is Rescued by a Passerby in Essex," "Bess Twice Survives Attempts Made on Her Life Before Landing on All Four Paws at a Pub in Lincolnshire," and "Chucked Out in the Trash, Tabitha Winds Up in an Oxygen Chamber with Four Broken Ribs, an Injured Lung, and Pneumonia.")
Some individuals eschew the convenience of the trash in favor of watery graves and accordingly either toss caged cats off of bridges or abandon them on beaches in sealed cases to drown in the incoming tide. (See Cat Defender posts of January 13, 2006 and May 20, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Montana Firefighters Rescue Lucky Calico Cat Who Was Caged and Purposefully Thrown into an Icy River" and "Malice Aforethought: Upstate New York Cat Is Saved from a Watery Grave by a Dead Tree and a Passerby; New Hampshire Cat Is Not So Fortunate.")
A parcel post package, much like the one in which Muffin was buried, nearly became Sleepy's grave back on June 24, 2009 when she was stuffed into it and heartlessly abandoned outside a retail outlet in Swansea, Massachusetts. A few days earlier on June 13th, a cat subsequently named Postina was cruelly buried alive inside a mailbox in Boston's Hyde Park. (See Cat Defender post of July 3, 2009 entitled "Pretty Little Sleepy Survives a Suffocation and Starvation Attempt on Her Life Thanks to the Timely Intervention of a Mattress Store Employee.")
Even Dewey Readmore Books, who later would go on to achieve worldwide acclaim, almost never made it out of the starting gate after he was left to freeze to death in a library book return box. (See Cat Defender posts of December 7, 2006 and May 10, 2007 entitled, respectively, "After Nineteen Years of Service and Companionship, Ingrates at Iowa Library Murder Dewey Readmore Books" and "Iowa Librarian Vicki Myron Inks Million-Dollar Deal for Memoir About Dewey Readmore Books.")
Even recycling bins used to collect old clothes have been pressed into service as spur-of-the-moment tombs for unwanted cats. For example, in September of 2010 a two-week-old black kitten subsequently christened as Delilah was overheard crying for help inside a locked clothes bin by a passerby in Washington Township, New Jersey.
An Animal Control officer was summoned who used a bolt cutter in order to free the frightened and hungry kitten. She then was handed over to Common Sense for Animals of Stewartsville where the staff hand-fed and nursed her around the clock until she was old enough to eat regular cat food.
Delilah "has proven to have a will to live and is living proof that with a little help odds can be turned around," the no-kill shelter declared to the Warren Reporter of Hackettstown on October 24, 2010. (See "Two-Week-Old Kitten Left for Dead in Locked Clothes Bin Rescued in Washington Township.")
|Trio of Kittens Found in a Clothing Bin in Langley|
About a month or so earlier in August of the same summer, a trio of three and one-half week old orange kittens was found in a clothing bin at Ninety-Sixth Avenue and Yeoman's Crescent in the Vancouver suburb of Langley. Like Delilah, they too were spared thanks to the intervention of an unidentified Good Samaritan who overheard their plaintive cries of distress and responded by contacting the Langley RCMP which in turn mounted a successful rescue.
Malnourished, dehydrated, and covered in fleas, the kittens were turned over to the Animal and Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley where veterinary assistant Tara MacDonald magnanimously volunteered to foster them even though that entailed both formula and syringe feedings.
"They're absolutely adorable," she cooed to The Vancouver Sun on August 12, 2010. (See "Three Kittens Rescued after Being Dumped in Donation Bin.") "They come to work with me every day, they play with my children and they're doing really well."
She ultimately decided to adopt the male kitten, Tigger, who now resides with her and her two other cats, Jack and Cricket, as well as her dog, Angus. The two females were surrendered to the nearby Abbotsford chapter of the BC SPCA and that is the last that ever was heard of them.
Although the Victorians harbored in their bosoms a deep-seated fear of being entombed alive, scarcely a word is uttered nowadays on that ghastly subject. That is even more so the case with cats who down through history have been afforded few, if any, safeguards against being victimized in such a cruel and unjust manner. Au contraire, human ingenuity has logged considerable overtime in conjuring up more and more novel means of burying them alive in makeshift graves.
In addition to manifesting an appalling disregard for the sanctity of life, such aberrant behavior represents a pigheaded refusal on the part of both individuals and society to accept cats as moral and legal equals. In most people's view, it is only man and his egotistical selfishness that matters and, thanks to such narrow-minded thinking, even he is rapidly become irrelevant.
Photos: KTVI-TV (Muffin, McCallum, and Bradley), Udo Kreikenbohm of Der Westen (Krümel), Daily Mail and Euro Pics (Matt), Dietrich Rose Corbis (anthill), Squamish Valley Branch of the BC SPCA (Libby), The Mirror (Andrea), Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (Ni Hao), Common Sense for Animals (Delilah), and Animal and Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley (Langley kittens).