Thursday, June 11, 2009

Newsroom staff scoops orphan kitten from danger

Inky -- who now goes by Maddy -- has come a long way since her days spent dodging traffic as a stray kitten. Maddy photos courtesy of John White.

There was something fateful about how the mother cat died.

It was a rainy morning and she was trying to cross a street with her kitten when when she noticed the little one wasn't following. So she turned back.

That's when the vehicle struck and killed her instantly, according to horrified witnesses. And that's when the fatefulness started.

There were witnesses.

She died on Mountain Avenue, a bizarre name for a roadway on a Canadian Prairie landscape that's as flat as a floor. It's located in the north end of Winnipeg in an area called Inkster park that's home to snowshoe hares, gophers and feral cats. The ‘ink" in Inkster is fitting, because the industrial park is also home to the sprawling headquarters for the province's legendary broadsheet newspaper the Winnipeg Free Press.

I have some history with the Free Press, which is known for being a gutsy paper covering a gritty news town. Winnipeg is my hometown. I was hired for my first newsroom job there in the late 1980s. Besides the excitement of writing daily news, there's something else I remember about my time at the Free Press. The newsroom is populated with avid animal lovers. In fact, I've written about their animal-saving antics before on this blog. (Three generations of animal rescuers, April 29, 2009 and Library in the sky is a lookout post for animals, April 19, 2009).

So when I heard about this rescue, I wasn't surprised. Nor was I surprised to hear Margaret McMillan's name associated with it. Margaret, who's now the executive assistant to another Marg -- editor Margo Goodhand -- used to drive me home from work when I was a teenaged cub reporter. At the time, we both lived far outside the city. We'd wile away the driving time having long chats about cats.

Naturally, word of the accident traveled quickly among the newshounds. Margaret, Margo and many other Free Press staffers couldn't bear to stand by while one tragedy turned into two. A man had covered the dead cat's body with a piece of plastic. But at least one kitten was still out there somewhere. Scared and alone.

Suddenly the search for the little kitten became the biggest news of the day, at least inside the newsroom. Small search parties of people began abandoning their posts to look for the palm-sized survivor who had been spotted fleeing the scene, and perhaps a whole litter who hadn't.

After an hour and a half, Margaret and editorial writer Catherine Mitchell finally found the black and white kitten where she had buried herself. Under a pile of leaves at the base of a pine tree not far from the accident.

"Her eyes were so goopy that I doubt she could see out of them," Margaret told me.

Margaret and Catherine brought the frightened kitten back to the newsroom and settled her into a 9 x 11 inch box in a small side office where she was expected to cuddle in with one of Margaret's sweaters. They turned off the lights to create a relaxing environment.

But the kitten had other ideas about where she'd be convalescing from her tragic ordeal.

"She sat on Margaret's lap for a few hours - she just bawled if you tried to put her down - until we finally took her to a nearby vet to get checked out," said Margo Goodhand. "She loved Margaret, and Margaret was really good with her. She was exhausted, and hungry, and Margaret put some food on her finger and got her to lick it off - her first solid food, it looked like."

Initially, Free Press staff called the sole survivor Inky. It was a good name considering her roots in Inkster Park, the occupations of her rescuers, and her appearance. Her white fur coat is marked with black splotches.

Margo Goodhand recalled how Inky appeared in another way.

"So tiny and so cute and so sad."

The rescuers quickly decided they had to get Inky assessed by a vet. To get there, they had to pass the mother's body tucked close to the curb.

"We drove past that poor sodden display twice when we went to the vet that day," Margo said.

The veterinary bill came to more than $200, and was initially covered by Margaret and Margo. But soon money started flowing in from anonymous donors.

"Every time I left my office I found more money on my desk," Margo said. "All day it kept coming,"

The posse that formed the animal search party didn't give up, though. Staff continued searching for survivors until 7 p.m.

"We walked up and down -- there were groups of people walking around looking for them," Margaret said. "They would have been crying."

Any more time on the streets and Inky likely would have grown up to be a feral cat, untamed for human touch and companionship. In a busy urban area like Inkster Park, feral cats typically run into myriad dangers and have short life spans.

But at six weeks old, Inky probably wouldn't have survived alone.

And that's where Fate stepped in. What saved Inky's little life was the attention drawn to her mother giving her own life. Because in that moment, Inky became the news of the newsroom.

Free Press city editor Paul Samyn summed up how the hardened newshounds felt about the helpless kitten.

She was "black and white and loved all over."

Resident cat tamer Margaret McMillan had Inky cuddled in as snug as a bug all day.

Inky's got a new name, a new home, and her own blog

Who can resist nurturing a tiny orphaned creature? Not the Free Press staff, that's for sure. They lined up for a chance to adopt this little survivor.

"The whole office was coming around all day to see her," editor Margo Goodhand said. "Everybody wanted to take her home, but because of the [eye] infection, and the possibility she might have some other problem we didn't know about, I thought I'd take her home to give her meds until she was all better.

"So I took Inky home that night but got an email within a few hours from John White, our deputy editor online, who said he and his wife would really like to have her. And it seemed like the right thing to do, because we already have a cat and John and Rosanne didn't."

But Margo admits it wasn't easy to part with Inky, since renamed Maddy by her new family.

"We had this series of email exchanges. I said ‘Sure, I'll bring her in tomorrow.' And John said ‘Hey, it's OK, we're in the neighborhood' (they live MILES away). And I said, ‘Could you give me an hour more with her?' And John replied, ‘Whenever you're ready, let me know.' And after about 20 minutes I felt stupid so I emailed and they were on our doorstep in about 5 minutes!"

John is taking his new parenting responsibilities seriously. He promptly went out and purchased a video camera to keep co-workers apprised of her milestones and activities with a cuter-than-cute blog he set up for Maddy. To view photos and watch videos of this charmer, go to Maddy's Second Chance.

Maddy puts on a show for her new project, a blog created in her honor. Quite the fancy kitty!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carreen I love it. It does seem that for life to go on we must endure a bit of sadness. Maddy (Inky) looks like she is in a great place. Dick