Blooper came into our lives as my children, Lance and Nicki, and I were driving home from town. As we came to the top of the hill by the Warsaw Town Hall, there was a small animal staggering down the centerline, coming straight at our car. I wasn’t sure I could miss it and I didn’t want to hit it. I pulled the car over to the grassy shoulder.
Since I was stopped, I decided to get out and see what it was. The little critter looked to be in serious trouble. It was so dirty that it looked hairless. It was not until I heard it’s whispered “mews” that I realized it was a kitten, probably younger than six weeks old.
"It didn't occur to me to question what happened to the pets we couldn't take in," says Gayle Miller, a former volunteer for a limited-admission shelter.
"Then one afternoon I saw a kitten on the side of the road. I saw that the kitten was trying to revive a second, dead, kitten, probably the victim of a car accident. The previous evening at the shelter those kittens were turned away because there was no room and a list of more than 30 felines ahead of them."
"It struck me that if someone wants to get rid of an animal, and a shelter won't take him, that person probably isn't going to take the pet back home and treat it with responsible, loving care. At best, the person will go to another shelter. At worst...?"
Julie Miller Dowling ©1999HSUS – used with permission
My first inclination was that the merciful thing to do, would be to snap its neck. This may seem harsh but after living in the country for two years, we were no strangers to stray animals. It seemed as if city folk were ignorant of the fate of the pets they dropped off in the country. It seemed as if every other month, we found another box of kittens or a dog. Most of these animals were in sorry shape, just like this kitten.
I picked up this tiny fellow with his sudden demise in my heart. However, I changed my mind as the piping voices of my three and six-year-old children exclaimed, "Oh it’s a kitten, can we keep him! Mommy can we bring him home!" I didn’t have the heart to end his life while my children watched. I brought him into the car.
The kitten looked as if he was close to death. He was skin and bones and distended belly, with fur matted so close to his body, that it appeared as if he didn’t have any. His eyes were swollen almost shut and his tiny nostrils were filled and crusted with so much dried mucous, that he breathed through his mouth. He laid quietly in my lap on the drive to our home.
I cleaned him up as best as I could. I was still working over him when my husband arrived home. Tom was adamant that we wouldn’t keep this tiny orphan and immediately whisked him up and carried him into the cornfield across the road. When he came back, I asked what he had done with the kitten. Tom said he had brought him about a block into the cornfield. I didn't ask, but I assumed that he had done what I didn't have the stomach to do.
That night as we sat at the supper table, I heard a noise. Nobody else seemed to notice so I ignored it until I heard it again. It was the noise of the faintest scratching, accompanied by almost inaudible “mews.” There was a pause and then it began again. This time, the children and Tom heard it, too. I got up to see what it was. To my surprise, it was the tiny kitten! He had walked back from the cornfield, crossed the county road that ran by our property, and found his way to our front door! I picked him up and brought him inside.
Even Tom agreed that a kitten who had so much heart should be given a chance. We coaxed the kitten into eating some bread which I soaked in warm, sweet, goat’s milk. Minutes later, nearly every bit of it came out his back end, as if it were under pressure like a fire hose. Until his digestive problems were solved, we decided that the kitten would have to stay on our unused front porch, which could be hosed down as necessary.
We named the kitten Blooper, partly because of the way he blooped out his food and partly because it seemed like a mistake that he had survived at all. In September, the nights became cool. We decided that Blooper needed to come into the house. We had wormed him, his digestive tract had become near normal, and he was finally becoming healthy again. He ate like there was no tomorrow.
On Blooper’s first night in the house, Tom and I settled down to watch television. Tom was lying on the couch. Blooper and I were sitting in the recliner near the living room door. Soon Tom dozed off.
As I combed through Blooper’s fur, suddenly I saw something move near his ear. Lice! I looked over at Tom and saw that he was still asleep. I feared that if he saw that Blooper had lice, it would mean the end of the kitten.
I immediately scooped Blooper up in my arms and brought him to the back porch where we kept pesticide, for use on our milking goats. I sprayed some on my hands and then rubbed them over Blooper’s tiny body. Almost immediately, white lice began to surface, turning yellow as they died. I brought the kitten back to the recliner and proceeded to comb him, picking off dead lice as they surfaced and putting them in an ashtray.
Just as I was nearly finished, Tom woke up. “What are you doing to the cat?” he asked.
“Picking dead lice off him,” I resplied.
“How do you know they’re dead?”
“Because I killed them!” I grinned.
That was in 1982. Blooper became a part of our family. In fact, he lived to be 23 years old and spent his life making us smile and eating like there’s no tomorrow.