Wickett is a 12 or 13 year old cat that belongs to my daughter Jessica. She belongs to Jessica because my husband and I stole her from a drug house that was in a neighborhood that I worked in. That’s also why I don’t really know exactly how old she is. Jessie, who was 20 at the time and lived on her own, rehabilitated her and has loved her ever since.
Those who know me know that I have to save animals that are injured or in a bad situation and Wickett caught my attention one day I was going to work. She caught my attention because she was completely bald from her front shoulders to the tip of her tail and she was so skinny, this concerned me. The next day I paid close attention and when I saw her she was chewing and pulling at her fur, ripping it out. I investigated and found out from neighbors that the people who owned her thought it was amusing to blow crack smoke in her face; I assumed the ripping out her own fur was caused by this; they were getting her high and this was absolutely unacceptable.
I returned with my ‘voluntold’ husband later that night and forced him into the only crime he’s ever committed; Phillip drove the getaway car. He stayed at the end of the drive and acted as lookout, ready to strike at the first sign of trouble while I snuck up on the porch and took her.
It was much easier than I expected it would be, I thought she’d run and I’d have to chase her or something, most cats do. She didn’t fight one bit when I picked her up and she didn’t try to run, this was her first miracle; her life was safe, we got away. She is not a cat that comes to strangers to this day and she hates being picked up by anyone, even my daughter, and will only slightly tolerate it for less than a minute. She’s very affectionate otherwise and talkative as well. It was as if she knew that day not to run.
When Jessica decided to go back to school she moved in with her boyfriend to save expenses but couldn’t have the cat with her so Phillip and I were caring for her in the winter of 2005.
I woke out of a deep sleep on the morning of December 22, 2005. My husband was sleeping next to me. My head wanted to fall right back on the pillow but as it went down I felt a physical barrier that stopped my head in it’s travels. I know it sounds crazy but I couldn’t put my head back down; it felt as if it were being cradled in a hand.
A strange odor hit me at that moment, it smelled ‘oily’ and it was heavy and overpowering; I could feel it in my nostrils. I couldn’t identify it so I got up to explore. I stepped into the doorway of my bedroom and I saw nothing but flames traveling up the wall that was adjacent to our bedroom and I felt the intense heat. The flames were spreading across the ceiling of our living room, the air was heavy, thick and dark and it burned my nose and throat. The head of our bed sat on the opposite side that very wall and my husband was still sound asleep. I rushed back to wake him. This morning was the worst of my nightmares come true.
Phillip woke up disoriented, I don’t even remember what I was saying to him, everything seemed so surreal, but he immediately went to action throwing me my robe and ushering me out the front door. He went back and a split second later pushed the dogs out the door behind me and again he once again tried to go back inside but couldn’t. The fire was out of hand and he entered nothing but a dense cloud of black smoke; he tried to cover his mouth and nose but it was no use, he had to come back out. The fire at that time had broken the front window and was pouring outside the house while, as you can imagine, the oxygen at that moment fueled the flames inside; there really was no going back in. The smoke was so thick and so heavy that when both firemen and witnesses described Phillip in the report they described my blonde haired, blue eyed husband as a black man.
On December 22 of any given year temperatures in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, are very low. Having just woken out of a deep sleep Phillip had only enough time to usher me and the dogs out of the house. He tried to go back in for his pants because he was sleeping in his underwear. He managed to grab his work boots from beside the front door but couldn’t make it back to the bedroom and consequently found himself outside in his underwear and his work boots with about 4 inches of snow on the ground. Go ahead and laugh, it was pretty funny not to mention cold. Thank goodness for a neighbor who came out with her winter coat and gave it to him, he looked even sillier in a woman’s coat and work boots but at least he was warm and wouldn’t get arrested for public indecency.
Phillip, myself and our two dogs Bella and Baby were safe, we couldn’t get back in to save my two pet rats or Jessie’s cats, Wickett and Paige. It seemed like a lifetime that we stood and watched the flames consume the house until the firemen arrived but it was only minutes. Our hearts were thankful yet broken; I didn’t know how I was going to break the news to my daughter. I was doubly sorry for the perfectly healthy kitty that Phillip and I risked our lives to save and my daughter spent so long rehabilitating only to lose her so tragically.
It was a Christmas filled with a mixture of emotions from thankfulness to those who came to our aid with clothing and shelter; we lost all material possessions except our car. I didn’t care at all about our ‘stuff’ I was grateful that Phillip and I were alive and that our dogs survived. I was thankful to the guardian angel who cradled my head rather than allowing it to hit the pillow and me to fall back to sleep but I was crushed over the loss of our beloved pets.
We got past Christmas and it was approaching New Years. Phillip and I were spending the evening with a friend of his from work and his wife. It was nearly a week and a half after the fire when Phillip received a phone call from a Veterinarian in Parma. She told him that a worker had found our cat inside the house that caught fire. The vet said the cat was in really bad shape and if we wanted to say good-bye we had better get there within the next 30 min. The cat had suffered the fire, smoke, a week and a half in sub-zero temperatures with no food , water or heat in a house that had been soaked in water from the roof to the basement to put out the flames that spread through several of the rooms on the first floor. She was sure Wickett was going to die.
The water, gas and electric was obviously shut off and the workers had been there for several days assessing the damage working only with generator powered work lights. They firemen found Paige the first day but nobody had found Wickett’s body. One night Joe had turned off the work lights and felt something alive brush against his leg, it scared the devil out of him because it was pitch black in the house and he didn’t know what touched him. When he turned the lights back on he discovered this badly damaged, tiny ball of black and white matted fur rubbing against his leg. She was moving her mouth to meow but no sound would come out and she was very weak. Here was yet another stranger but she didn’t run from him or fight him when he picked her up, this time she was much too weak. He took her to the vet and gave her Phillip’s number.
We rushed to the animal hospital expecting the worst but praying that she would hold on for a little longer so, at the very least, she wouldn’t die alone. I was determined that if she was going to die she would be nestled in loving arms when that time came.
When we got to the animal hospital the vet was as amazed as we were while she was telling us that Wickett was very weak but miraculously stable. She had washed her off and given her some I.V. Fluids and she seemed like she might make it but it would take a lot of intense and time consuming care. Wicket was suffering from mal nutrition, dehydration and had serious irritation in her throat from the heat of the smoke. We obviously didn’t have any money for extensive care and the vet bills the treatment would have accumulated having just lost our home. Under the advice of the vet who thought she couldn’t receive proper treatment unless she was at the hospital, we brought her home with the promise that I would do whatever it took to save her and a list of instructions from the vet.
Phillip went and picked up some required supplies, food, canned milk, medicine a dropper and a special alarm clock just for Wickett’s feedings. I set the clock and every two hours and for the following two weeks every two hours.
Wickett and I went through our ritual of mixing the wet food with lots of canned milk and sucking it up in the dropper. I would then have to put the dropper way back in Wickett’s throat and slowly, so she wouldn’t choke, force the mixture of food down her very sore throat because she wasn’t able to freely swallow. We had to repeat this several times with both food and water. She didn’t exactly take very willingly to this constant punishment but as long as she had the strength to fight me, I had hope that she had the strength to survive. We kept her in a crate during her recovery so she was at least easy to catch.
At the end of those two weeks we were finally moving into an apartment, no more hotels; we were finally able to begin rebuilding our lives. We had to wait for my brother, who was helping us move, to get off of work. By the time he did it was dinner time so we loaded up the vehicles and on the way to the apartment we stopped at McDonalds drive through. Wickett was bundled in a towel and held firmly in my lap for the trip. She was still not completely healed and hadn’t eaten on her own yet and seemed content to be in my lap until she got a wiff of the hamburger I ordered. Wickett immediately wiggled out of the towel and went for the hamburger as I unwrapped it. She was relentless so I broke off a small piece and she ate it. She ended up eating half of my hamburger patty but she was eating on her own for the first time in nearly a month since the fire and welcome to her fill, whatever that was. I suddenly didn’t care if I was hungry; Wickett was going to be fine. Wickett’s survival was my proof that miracles do happen. Our little Christmas miracle spends much of her time in her favorite place, at the head of the bed nestled next to my daughter’s pillow, and she still doesn’t like strangers or being picked up.