Because a Compassionate Firefighter from Oregon Chose to Care When His California Guardians Could Not Be Bothered with Doing So, Monty Burns Is Able to Escape the Valley Fire with His Life
|Monty Burns and His Horribly Burned Face and Ears|
"That is a true hero."
-- Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic's Description of Ralph Rhodes
It sure looked like it was curtains for Monty Burns. All of his fur had been singed, the tips of his ears had melted, and his face had been badly burned and disfigured.
Plus, his paws had been scorched so badly that even walking was, at the very least, excruciatingly painful if not altogether impossible. Worst of all, his lips and mouth were so severely swollen that he was unable to either slake the intense burning in his mouth, lungs, and stomach or to eat.
Under such wretchedly appalling circumstances, his life-expectancy could could have been measured, not in days, but rather in a matter of hours. If his untreated burns and the damage done to his lungs by smoke inhalation had not finished him off, either starvation or predation surely would have done the trick.
Monty was one of no doubt hundreds of cats and dogs as well as countless wild animals who fell victim to the Valley Fire which broke out on September 12th near the city of Cobb in Lake County. The fast-moving blaze, whose cause has yet to be determined, grew from only fifty acres to more than ten-thousand in just a few hours.
Due to his friendly demeanor and the fact that he had been previously sterilized, Monty obviously had guardians but they absconded with their own miserable hides and precious possessions as soon as the conflagration erupted. In doing so, they left Monty behind to be burned alive all by his lonesome.
If events had gone as his lower-than-dirt guardians had planned, that would have been the last of him and the world never would have known even that he ever had lived. They later would have resumed their uncaring and worthless lives just as if nothing had happened and if Monty's corpse had not been burned to a crisp, it surely would have decomposed into nothingness within a few days after its extended exposure to the torrid California sun.
|Monty Alongside Some of the Cards, Toys, and Food That He Has Received|
The Fates are a capricious bunch of rotters even under the best of circumstances and as such they can only rarely be counted upon to smile down upon cats, but that is not the entire story. For whatever reason, whether it was pity, the luck of the draw, or some other unexplained and unfathomable reason, they unilaterally decreed that it was Monty's karma's to live, not die, and promptly dispatched a savior in order to free the black tom from the Grim Reaper's strangulating grasp.
As it so often turns out to be the case, Monty's rescuer not only was a perfect stranger but he was not even from the Golden State. Rather, he was a firefighter on loan from Eugene, Oregon, seven-hundred-sixty-three kilometers away, named Ralph Rhodes.
Although press reports have not specified exactly when the dramatic rescue took place, it undoubtedly was sometime between September 12th and September 14th and even then the circumstances surrounding it can only be described as extraordinary. Specifically, Rhodes and his unidentified partner were driving down California Highway 175 near Middletown in Lake County, one-hundred-forty-eight kilometers north of San Francisco, when they spied Monty resting motionless in a driveway at number 19594.
Whereas most individuals would have kept on going without giving him so much as a second glance, Rhodes instinctively knew that something was wrong when he did not attempt to flee. He therefore promptly turned his big rig around, retraced his steps, and collected Monty.
His heroics did not end there, however. Fully realizing that the badly burned tom desperately needed far more help than he was able to provide him with, he next drove him forty-six kilometers to Lakeport in the north where he handed him over into the care of the Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic.
That did not mean, however, that he was out of the woods; au contraire, it was more of a case of him having gone from the fire into the frying pan because after veterinarian Chris Holmes had taken one quick look at him his first thought was to finish off the job that had been begun earlier by the Valley Fire. "He can't eat because his lips and mouth are so swollen," he later told KGO-TV of San Francisco on September 15th. (See "Firefighters Rescue Burned Black Kitten from Valley Fire.") "At first, he couldn't open his mouth."
|Monty Waits In His Cage for a New, and Hopefully Better, Owner|
What transpired next never has been publicly explained, but Holmes had an abrupt change of heart and elected instead to provide Money with the emergency veterinary care that he so richly deserved and desperately needed. Perhaps Rhodes interceded once again on his behalf and generously agreed to foot the bill for his care but that is mere conjecture.
Although typical of the type of perverted thinking that the public has come to expect from just about all practitioners, Holmes' initial reaction was nothing short of criminal. Instead of murdering cats and other animals, he and his fellow partners in crime should once and for all time destroy their caches of sodium pentobarbital and other lethal drugs and concentrate their talents solely upon saving the lives of injured, sickly, and elderly cats. The snuffing out of innocent lives never should be an option for any veterinarian.
Since Monty was unable to either eat or drink, it was necessary for Holmes to insert a feeding tube in his stomach and after that his condition almost immediately began to show signs of marked improvement. It is going to take considerable time and medication, however, for his severe burns to properly heal.
Hopefully, his hearing has not been compromised but the massive damage done to his ears possibly could make him more susceptible to contracting cancer if he is allowed out of doors for protracted periods of time without either protective headgear or sunscreen. The same concerns are applicable to his badly burned face should his skin and fur fail to completely heal. (See Cat Defender posts of November 14, 2012, February 9, 2013, and August 12, 2013 entitled, respectively, "In Utter Desperation, Victoria Claws Off Her Rotting Ears after She Is Stricken with Cancer and Abandoned to Aimlessly Wander the Forbidding Streets of Newent," "New Start Cat Rescue Center Abruptly Kills Off Victoria after the Cancer Returns to Her Already Ravaged Ears," and "Luna Weathers a Costly Assault from Old Sol and Is Looking to Make a New Start in Life but a Dark Cloud Is Looming over Her Future.")
Any potential damage done to his tiny lungs by smoke inhalation is yet still another potential problem but the most pressing concern at the moment is his eyesight. "There's an antibiotic in there, so it's kind of hard to tell, but there are eyes in there," Holmes told KGO-TV.
All is not lost, however. "We are very optimistic his eyes will be okay," an unidentified representative from Wasson predicted to London's Metro later on September 19th. (See "This Badly Burned but Brave Cat Survived a California Wildfire.")
|Monty Is Cradled by His Savior, Ralph Rhodes|
At last report, Monty was said to be purring and rubbing his head against staffers at Wasson. Since his disgraceful owners have not come forward to either reclaim him or to repay Wasson for saving his life, he was scheduled to have been placed in foster care sometime this past weekend as a prelude to securing a new and permanent home for him.
Even if by chance they belatedly should turn up, returning Monty to them would not be a good idea. Rather, they are deserving of lengthy prison terms for abandoning him and also should be banned from owning other cats in the future. Although it has not been divulged if Monty was fitted with an implanted microchip, if so that would be one means of tracking them down and thus holding them accountable under the anti-cruelty statutes.
Besides, since they reside in an area that is prone to wildfires, they should have been prepared in advance for such an exigency with a cage and, above all, by keeping a closer eye on him. Given the remoteness of the area, they also undoubtedly had access to an automobile and therefoe do not have a valid excuse for not taking him along with them when they flew the coop.
Even if they were blindsided and overwhelmed by the swiftness with which events unfolded, that in no way excuses their dodgy behavior after his story went viral on the world wide web a month ago. It thus would appear that they do not want any part of him which very well could turn out to be a case of Glück im Unglück as far as he and his future well-being are concerned.
As far as the big picture is concerned, there simply is not any way of knowing how many cats were cruelly abandoned by their callous owners to perish in the conflagration. All that has been disclosed so far is that Animal Control in Lakeport word was attempting to locate the owners of at least sixty-five dogs that also were forsaken by their equally callous owners. Furthermore, considering that dogs normally are considerably easier to corral in emergencies than cats, that petit fait alone suggests that the number of the latter left behind surely must have been significantly higher.
All totaled, by the time that the voracious Valley Fire finally was brought under control on October 6th it had consumed more than seventy-six-thousand acres in Lake, Napa, and Sonoma counties, nearly two-thousand buildings, and claimed the lives of four individuals. That earned it the dubious distinction of being the third most destructive wildfire in the state's history. (See the San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 2015, "Once Ferocious Valley Fire Is One-Hundred Per Cent Contained.")
|Little Chips Is All Grown Up Now but Where Is She and Is She Still Alive?|
As far as Rhodes is concerned, a thousand pages of accolades would still fail to do justice to his derring-do. In a society where the vast majority of its citizens are only capable of caring about their respective tribes, shekels, mindless self-indulgence, and of doing evil to others, the animals, and Mother Earth, the compassion that he extended to Monty and the trouble that he went to in order to save his life stand out like sore thumbs.
Without belaboring the obvious, perhaps Wasson said it best when it stated simply on its Facebook page, "That is a true hero." The mere fact that individuals of Rhodes' caliber still exist coupled with Monty's indomitable will to live signify that there is some, but not much, reason for optimism about the fate of not only cats like him but of this world as a whole.
Although the number of cats that die anonymously in wildfires each summer in California surely must be astronomical, only a tiny handful of them are ever either mourned or even remembered. Rightly or wrongly, that honor in 2015 will always belong to Monty whereas in 2012 it went to an orphaned three to four-week-old bobcat named Chips.
On August 25th of that year, the two-pound kitten was found dazed, dehydrated, and walking in circles alongside a road outside of Chester in Plumas County by Charles "Tad" Hair of the Mad River Ranger District. As it later was revealed, she had sustained second-degree burns to all four paws as well as to her back, her whiskers had been singed, and her eyes were filled with so much soot and pus that she could barely see well enough in order to even walk.
With her mother nowhere in sight, she surely would have died if Hair had not gathered her up and taken her back to his base in Lake Almanor West, eleven kilometers south of Chester. She almost immediately thereafter was transferred to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe where her burns were attended to and she was placed on a steady diet of Kitten Replacement Milk and mice that had to be pulverized for her consumption since she did not yet even have teeth.
On November 1st, she was moved to Sierra Wildlife Rescue in Placerville where staffers attempted to toughen her up for an eventual return to the wild. For either better or worse, that fateful day dawned on April 19, 2013 when she was released into the wild of Humboldt County.
|Phoenix: What Ultimately Became of Her?|
Sadly, that was the last ever to be heard from her although she always will be associated with the eponymous Chips Fire which consumed seventy-five-thousand acres in the Plumas National Forest during August of 2012. (See Cat Defender posts of February 21, 2013 and December 13, 2013 entitled, respectively, "Orphaned by a Wildfire and Then Rescued by a Forest Ranger, Chips Is Bracing for a Frightening Return to the Wild" and "Chips Is Abandoned in the Perilous California Wild Where Her Fur Alone Is Worth $700 To Trappers.")
It may have come much too late in order to have saved Chips but on August 5th of this year the California Fish and Game Commission voted to ban bobcat trapping throughout the state. "This vote today is historic and shows California's national leadership in wildlife protection," Camilla Fox of Project Coyote told KCET-TV of Los Angeles on that same date. (See "California Bans Bobcat Trapping in Three to Two Vote.") "This victory will help protect California's native bobcats from the insatiable international fur market where individual bobcat pelts can sell for as much as $1,000 per pelt."
Back in 2008, it was a female named Phoenix from Paradise who made headlines when she was able to successfully rescue one of her kittens, Blaze, from the deadly Humboldt Fire; the remaining members of her litter, regrettably, perished. She also suffered severe burns to her paws as the result of her heroism.
Afterwards, she demonstrated her magnanimity by graciously agreeing to serve as the surrogate mother for six other kittens who had been orphaned by the conflagration. (See Cat Defender post of July 3, 2008 entitled "Phoenix Is Severely Burned but Still Manages to Save One of Her Kittens from the Humboldt Fire.")
Although it would seem that it would be far easier for urban apartment dwellers to corral their cats and thus carry them to safety in times of emergency, that is not always the case. For example on December 31, 2009, forty-six-year-old Edgar K. and forty-four-year-old Susi S. of Altshausen in Baden-Württemberg left their nine-month-old cat, Lumpi, to die in a 4 a.m. blaze that engulfed their second-floor apartment.
His lifeless body later was found wedged between the mattress of the couple's bed. His sister, Sissi, miraculously survived by hiding underneath the bed.
The couple's conduct was made all the more reprehensible because they undoubtedly would have perished in the blaze themselves if their cats had not awakened them from their slumber. "Plötzlich kratzte und miaute es an unserer Schlafzimmertür als ich öffnete, stürmten unser Kater Lumpi und unsere Katze Sissi ins Zimmer," Edgar K. later disclosed. "Ich sah Qualm auf dem Flur, aus dem Wohnzimmer schlug mir eine beissende Rauchwolke entgegen."
For whatever it is worth, the couple later claimed to have attempted to save their rescuers' lives. "Die Katzen haben geschrien," Suzi S. declared. "Wir wollten nach ihnen schauen, aber wir sahen kaum noch etwas und konnten nicht mehr atmen."
Despite ringing every bit as hollow as the report that echoes from an empty beer barrel, Suzi S. nevertheless did have the decency to at least acknowledge the sacrifice that Lumpi had made for her and her mate. "Jetzt verdanken wir ihm unser Leben," she said. (See Cat Defender post of April 3, 2010 entitled "Lumpi Is Unforgivably Left to Die in a Burning Apartment by the Ingrates Whose Lives He Saved.")
Looking ahead, there is no end in sight to the wildfires which each summer decimate large swaths of both California and British Columbia and as a consequence countless cats, such as Monty, are destined to continue dying and suffering piteously as the direct result of man's greed, selfishness, and evildoing. Since it is painfully obvious that he is totally unwilling to undertake the steps that are necessary in order to save himself, such as curbing his reliance upon fossil fuels, he certainly is not about to do so in order to save the animals and the planet.
Consequently, responsibility for the safety of all cats, both domestics and those that are homeless, falls by default squarely upon the shoulders of their owners and caretakers. The response that is so desperately needed from those who care about the species is for a great deal more steadfastness and vigilance on their behalves, not less, as the likes of Daniel Simon Mills, Alice Potter, Sarah Ellis, and Celia Haddon would have the world to believe. (See Cat Defender post of October 9, 2015 entitled "A Lynch Mob Comprised of Dishonest Eggheads from the University of Lincoln Issues Another Scurrilous Broadside Against Cats by Declaring That They Do Not Need Guardians in Order to Safeguard Their Fragile Lives.")
Photos: Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic (Monty), Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center (Chips), Susan Doyle of the Mercury-Register of Oroville (Phoenix), and Bild (Lumpi).