Readers of my column are probably familiar with my two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Dante and Gino, who I’ve written about in past pieces. But this past year at Villa Paloma we’ve picked up a couple other additions – far smaller in size – that have joined the pack in the household.
Over the last couple of years the wholly compassionate Mrs. Rich has gotten into the practice of feeding the neighborhood feral cats – and probably a few who do have homes – near the front walkway of our house.
The ferals are gracious for the food and appear courteous to one another. At times we’ve counted the line for grub more than eight deep making it look like our house was the kitty place to be. It also gets bad when you can start referring them to by names you’ve given them.
With the popularity of the Paloma Cat Buffet has come the occasional kitten drop-off that seems to occur on our welcome mat.
Back in October 2013 my wife found an orange furball, no more than 6 weeks old, abandoned and took him in. She nursed him back to health, I caved, and we decided to keep him. Since she found him on the day that was the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who just happens to be the patron saint of pets, she named him Frankie and he’s been with us ever since. (It wasn’t until about six months after we had him that I learned that he was so badly bitten by fleas and needed a blood transfer the day she found him that we had a $500 vet bill investment into him).
We were so popular that another feral left her whole litter of little ones on our porch a week later that we took in, raised, and eventually found homes for. Of course Mrs. Rich had to keep one of them as her reward for the good deed.
So now fast-forward to mid-2015, Frankie and Dora (the reward) are grown but the hits keep happening and yet again another white furry snowball, this time about two weeks old and very weak, was on the welcome mat after chow time.
The first night Mrs. Rich was frantically trying to feed the skinny thing with a syringe, crying, trying to make the last moments of a very short life as comfortable as possible. The little fighter survived the night and the same process was repeated the following day to the point where my wife thought the lil’ critter had aspirated the formula and was dying.
Thus came the haunting comment through a face full of tears, “If you make it there’s a wonderful home here for you.”
The magic words of life.
The following morning it was like a miracle had happened as “Kimba” – it had a name now – was bright eyed, alert, like all was well and on the path to recovery.
It was all an upswing from there with a small hiccup of a peritonitis scare, which was cured with a couple-hundred laid down to the local vet, and now we had a ménage of three cats in the house.
Because of the feral breeding, Mrs. Rich took advantage of the local animal shelter’s catch and spay/neuter program with traps.
One day, a couple months after Kimba turned away from the light; I got a text picture from her of a mix Pomeranian-Papillion-longhair Chihuahua puppy when Mrs. Rich was supposed to be returning some of the traps at the pound.
“I’m in love,” accompanied the photo.
We had put down our golden retriever Daisy who lived to be 12-years-old that December and there had been talk about another dog so her subliminal request wasn’t that surprising.
In this case the puppy wasn’t ready to be released so I visited her at the pound and found her to be sweet and immediately became a softie myself. I figured the plus side was that due to her small size, she wouldn’t be that much more work given the rest of the canine menagerie that both pushed 100 pounds.
But there was a kicker, since there was other interest for the little sweetheart; Mrs. Rich’s name would be one of four that would be drawn from for the pup. And as fate would have it – as if it was meant to be – Sophie became part of the fur babies at Villa Paloma.
Sophie and Kimba now appear to be lifelong buds and at times, inseparable.
I know; my wife’s a saint when it comes to giving of herself – especially innocent animals.
So what’s the line from the song? (OK, I tweaked it a bit):
“She’s going to heaven, so I’ve got to be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world.”
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.