By Kelly McPeek-Mullins, Dickenson County Chapter Manager
When you are involved in animal rescue work, your mind is never far away from saving the lives of countless animals who may die without your help.
While traveling with my family over Labor Day weekend last year, I saw a small, furry creature laying in the center of a busy roadway. Cars were driving right over top of her, barely missing her with their tires, while some were swerving to avoid her.
As we got closer, she raised her head and I made eye contact with a young kitten. I yelled “it’s a cat and it’s still alive! Stop!” We stopped in the middle of the road and I jumped out, grabbing a blanket from the emergency stash that I carry for situations just like this.
We carefully scooped her up in the blanket and rushed her to our Dickenson chapter location so I could better assess the extent of her injuries. She couldn’t stand or walk, and was in obvious pain. Since it was a holiday weekend, there were no local vets available to see her. Thankfully, a couple of our faithful volunteers offered to drive her to the emergency vet two hours away.
X-rays determined that both of her front legs were broken and would need to be casted. The volunteers who drove her to the vet, who had named her Willow, offered to keep her for the weekend until she could be seen by our regular veterinarian.
By Monday, she had wiggled her way out of one of her casts! At her appointment, our vet decided to leave it off and start her on a regimen of medication that would help it heal. Her other leg would remain in a cast for the next six weeks.
I couldn’t get Willow off my mind. I even told my mom about her, saying she reminded me so much of a cat I had growing up. Once my mom saw the picture, she asked if she and my father could foster her during her healing process. Great idea!
Willow wasn’t able to get into a litter box with her heavy cast, so she learned to use puppy pads. After five long weeks, she managed to chew her remaining cast off. She returned to the vet that day, and — thankfully — that leg had completely healed. Unfortunately, she still wasn’t able to use her other one.
We asked for a referral to an orthopedic surgeon in North Carolina to see if there was anything else we could do to save her leg. This time, x-rays showed major nerve damage that meant she may not ever have feeling in that leg again. But we didn’t give up! We knew we needed to do everything we could to save her leg.
More medications were prescribed and we hoped that, over the course of a few months, it would start to heal. During this entire painful, traumatic experience, Willow continued to be one of the most loving and affectionate cats I had ever encountered. With the full use of one of her legs, she became very active and playful, with a new found love for toy mice and treats. She even started using the litter box!
Over the next few months, however, Willow’s bad leg started to get in her way. Her elbow become raw and swollen, and the vet said it would need to be amputated. The surgery went smoothly with no complications, and Willow was released the next day to recover at home.
By the time she had recovered from the surgery, my parents (Willow’s foster parents) decided that she had become a part of their family and they were ready to make it official.
We made a post to the Brother Wolf’s Dickenson County chapter Facebook page about Willow’s story, condition, recovery, and — of course — her special pending adoption. Within two days, our wonderful supporters had donated enough to cover Willow’s entire surgery and recovery!
She has also been showered with toys, a cat tree, a scratching post, food, and treats, from the wonderful people of our community while recovering from the amputation.
Animals like Willow would never have a chance without the caring hearts of our volunteers and the wonderful foster families who give ill or injured animals a safe and loving home to recover in. We’re happy to report that — thanks to the support of our community — Willow has officially been adopted!
Willow’s new mom, Pam, says “Willow and I spent a lot of time together over the course of two months. We did the exercises the vet suggested to try to help her regain use of her leg, and I carried her outside to sit in my lap in the sunshine. She has always been very trusting, and is still so sweet and affectionate, despite going through all she has. Willow and I decided quickly that she would never leave my home. In fact, I can’t remember when she wasn’t a part of our family. It’s like she has always been here.”