ELIZABETHTON — Stewart the cat is only 12 weeks old, but he has already managed to inspire many humans around him and motivated them to start a new fund that has not only saved his life but the life of another young cat. It is hoped that the fund named in his honor will save the lives of many dogs and cats in the future.
Stewart’s story begins after he suffered a terrible accident that injured his right rear leg so badly the bone was completely broken in two. It was an unlucky accident that has often led to a short but very painful death for many cats and kittens.
But Stewart was lucky in one way. After he was injured, he was found by Janet Smith, a cat lover.
“I heard this cat meowing, well screaming actually,” Smith said. She found the cat and despite its obvious pain, there was something about its personality that seemed to transcend its suffering.
“I love cats, but this cat was something special,” Smith said.
She gathered up the suffering cat from the side of the road and took him to her rabbit house. There, she and her rabbits stayed up all night trying to comfort the cat which was still screaming in pain.
The next day, Smith planned to take the cat to Dr. Kate Zimmerman of Tri-County Veterinary Hospital in Bluff City, or Dr. Kate as she prefers to be called.
The X-rays were not good. Dr. Kate told Smith that there were three options. The option most often selected in such circumstances was to euthanize the suffering cat. The second option was to amputate. The third and most expensive was to perform surgery, place pins in the bones to hold them together until they heal. The surgery would have to be performed by a specialist in Jonesborough. It would cost $900.
The young cat would have to be confined in a hospital setting for a few weeks to prevent it from tearing apart the newly repaired leg.
Once again, Stewart had a stroke of good luck. Krystle Rush was a new receptionist in Dr. Kate’s office and she wanted to help the kitten, even offering to pay out of her salary.
Dr. Kate said she knew it was time to tell Rush she could not save every unfortunate animal that is brought to the hospital. Even a cat as exceptional and attractive as Stewart, who despite his pain could still show pleasure and purr to the humans who stroked him.
The statistics Dr. Kate can quote are staggering and heartbreaking. More than 50 percent of all adoptable dogs and 70 percent of all adoptable cats are destroyed in this country. There is not enough space in the region’s animal shelters for all the adoptable animals, and the shelters must make difficult choices of which animals to keep and for how long and which must be destroyed. An injured cat like Stewart and the expensive surgery he would require to make him well meant that his only hope was to find an immediate home.
Dr. Kate has been running her hospital since the fall of 2002 and she has had to give the sad advice to many new employees. But Rush was so earnest in her desire to help and Stewart was so exceptional that Dr. Kate agreed to let her try.
Rush soon demonstrated her networking computer skills. She started a fundraiser and got out donation jars in the community.
“The fundraiser was wildly successful,” Dr. Kate said. “We had so many people pour out their hearts and a little bit of their pocket change and a little bit of their money to help Stewart.”
The community response reminded Dr. Kate of a favorite saying of Mother Teresa: “Very few people can do great things, but a lot of people can do little things with great love.”
“I think that is what we are trying to do here,” Dr. Kate said. “We are trying to do a little thing with a great amount of love. We have started the Stewart Honorary Adoption Fund to help cats like Stewart who will make great pets but need a little bit of help on the front end.”
Dr. Kate said the hospital has linked with the animal shelters in the region to find adoptable cats and kittens who could benefit. Stewart’s fund has already helped the second cat, DaVinci, a 16-week-old that had been bitten in the back by another cat. The wound had gotten infected and the shelter could not afford to give him the time he needed to heal.
Tri-County Veterinary Hospital is providing DaVinci with that time and the antibiotics he needs and is now searching for a suitable home
Meanwhile, Stewart will remain at the hospital for a couple of more weeks until his leg is healed, then he will be going to his new home.
To find out more about helping the Stewart Fund or adopting one of the cats helped by the fund, go to www.tri-countyvet.com, facebook at Tri-County Veterinary Hospital or call 391-0303.