TRAVERSE CITY — Jane Findley collected his veterinary discharge papers and picked up a carrier that held Braveheart. The black cat looked out through the wire with big yellow eyes and let out a plaintive “Meow.”
A much weaker version of the sound caught Janet Hollifield's attention on a frigid Dec. 28 as she stopped at her mailbox on the way home from errands.
“I pulled up beside my mailbox and when I went to reach in it looked like there was a piece of garbage bag in the snowbank that had been plowed up that was barely fluttering,” said Hollifield, of Traverse City. “Here is this poor skeleton of a kitty sitting ... hunched over himself. He just barely had the energy to meow. I have never seen a backbone and ribs stick out like that.”
Hollifield called her sister, a volunteer for the pet rescue organization AC Paw, then rushed the cat to Bay Area Pet Hospital, a 24-hour critical care facility. An examination revealed hypothermia, malnourishment, anemia, kidney disease and a host of other conditions so severe veterinarian Karen Reabe gave the small cat a 50 percent chance of survival.
“I saw him before I left and he was limp,” said Jane Findley, who met her sister at the hospital. “He didn’t have the strength to hold his head up. His temperature wouldn’t even register on the monitor. He was so anemic they had to do a blood transfusion.”
Findley consulted with Louise Kozan, AC Paw volunteer in charge of cats in need, and the pair decided to continue with the cat’s treatment, estimated at about $1,000. They named him Braveheart for the temperament that kept him alive through some of harshest winter weather northern Michigan has seen in years.
"We don't know if he was buried by a plow or thrown from a plow," said Kozan. "He's such a brave guy and he has a great heart."
After several days of treatment, Braveheart was ready to come home Jan. 9 with Findley, who is acting as his foster caregiver. He is still underweight and suffering from kidney disease. His left ear lays flat as the result of a birth defect, injury or a previous infection. But nothing can dampen the cat's spirit, Kozan said.
“I saw him yesterday and he was walking around, curious, he was smelling things. He’s using his litterbox, he’s eating, he’s drinking on his own," she said. "It’s a miracle he survived.”
Now AC Paw is looking for a permanent home for the cat, estimated at 9 to 11 years old. He'll likely need a special diet for the remainder of his life. He tests positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, so he’ll need a home without other cats or with cats who also test positive for the virus.
Kozan said cats like Braveheart are a top priority for the organization, which has rescued and placed over 7,500 dogs and cats into loving homes since 1995.
“There are cats that have lived just fine with kidney disease and FIV,” she said. “He may live a year, he may live five years. But he’s going to be warm and he’s going to be safe. He’s going to have a good quality of life.”
To make a donation to the organization for Braveheart’s treatment, send a check to AC Paw/Braveheart, P.O. Box 94, Acme, Michigan 49610.