My daughters call them "the birthday miracle": six little kittens, five of them orange and white, one black and white, all impossibly adorable.
What I call the person who abandoned them probably isn't printable.
Ellie, my middle-daughter, celebrated her birthday Wednesday. Leading up to the big day, she had been dropping hints that she wanted a kitten to take back to school next year, when she and three other girls will share an apartment.
Her aunt called on Sunday. She'd been dumping some newspapers in the recycling bin at Stevens Creek Elementary School, and discovered that someone else had dumped a cardboard box of kittens.
Ellie and her older sister, Essa, shot out of the house so fast that they left holes in the air where they'd been standing. About an hour later, they called for help - and a machete.
The kittens were hiding in the woods. We could hear them mewing, but the briars, wild roses and privet hedge were so thick as to be almost impenetrable. Essa, wearing shorts and foolishness, had already tried to go after them and had succeeded only in getting covered in scratches and cuts.
I plunged my way into the woods in a feline version of a wild goose chase, and it was finally dark when I gave up herding the kittens in a circle through the thicket. We vowed to try again in daylight, and left behind some food for them.
Essa was back in school the next day, so my wife - principal of the school where the kittens had been abandoned - joined in the hunt. They contacted Animal Care and Control and found that demand is so strong for stray-pet traps that there's a two-week waiting list. The girls weren't about to leave those kittens in the wood for two weeks.
We remembered that I had a squirrel trap that someone had given me long ago. I didn't think it would work.
It did. Baited with smelly salmon from a foil pouch that a teacher had left in the school fridge, the girls managed to catch the kittens one or two at a time until all six could be brought home and temporarily housed in, of all places, my shower stall.
Dr. Edward Gross at Caremore Animal Clinic in Evans gave each of them their first shot and a once-over. The final one to be caught needed extra medical attention for an ugly injury that looked like part of the skin had been torn from its head; it got antibiotics and a hopeful prognosis.
The next step for the meeping little birthday miracles is finding homes for at least five of them, with the understanding of how difficult it will be to pry away all six of them from their rescuers.
The truly amazing, and disheartening, thing about all this is that abandoned kittens are absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Though it's a big deal to me to live with the extra meowing and the inconvenience of having to use another shower while mine serves as a kitty nursery, I've talked to people all around Columbia County who deal with this issue just about every day.
From local private animal rescue groups to the county's Animal Care and Control facility to the dozens of area veterinarians, all unfortunately are accustomed to occasional kitten and puppy dumping by irresponsible owners too lazy or too ignorant to have their pets spayed or neutered.
You'd think, if nothing else, that all those years of Bob Barker urging his "Price is Right" audience to sterilize their pets would have had some affect, though I'm guessing anyone who would dump a box of kittens is probably too stupid to try to estimate the suggested retail price of a living room suite.
If there really is a birthday miracle, it's that such people have enough brains to make it to their own next birthday.
Meanwhile, I've never owned an orange cat. I'm guessing I might now.
Please: Spay and neuter your pets. And if they accidentally have a litter of kittens or puppies, don't compound your irresponsibility by dumping your problem on someone else with a kinder heart and higher IQ.
Like my girls.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail barry.paschal@newstimes online.com.
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