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A Most Heroic Feline

Reviewing: Simon & Schuster, 1997 Scarlett Saves Her Family: The Heart Warming True Story Of A Homeless Mother Cat Who Rescued Her Kittens From A Raging Fire By Jane Martin And Jean Claude Suares  |  Rating:
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I think I just had to review this book, "Scarlett Saves Her Family: The Heart-Warming True Story of A Homeless Mother Cat Who Rescued Her Kittens From A Raging Fire" by Jane Martin and Jean-Claude Suares even though it was published back in 1997, as it seems to have a more bittersweet poignancy now than ever before.

For anyone not familiar with the most glorious true feline story ever known in our time, it centers around a homeless cat that was to be later named Scarlett and whose story was to capture worldwide attention. What makes this cat so special? The story begins with a blazing fire that was occurring in an abandoned garage in the Brooklyn area of New York City on a rather ordinary day back in March day of 1996. Nothing special about that, as everyday are reports of fires, but what was special was what was taking place during that fiery blaze. While firemen were battling to put the raging inferno out they noticed a somewhat miracle taking place. A female cat was going back and forth, back and forth for a total of five times, dragging out her five kittens from the fire. This female cat was so badly burned that her eyes were shut tight from blisters caused by the heat, and could only find her kittens by sense of smell and touch, and most of her fur had been singed off as well. One of the firefighters, a David Giannelli, who was known to be an animal lover, realized that the mother cat and her kittens needed veterinary help right away and gathered the mother cat and her kittens and rushed them to the North Shore Animal League out in the Port Washington area of Long Island, NY where the long battle was to begin to save the lives of Scarlett, the mother cat as she was to be called, and her kittens.

Almost right away, this story spread, not so much due to the firefighter who took them to North Shore, but of the bravery and this selfless devotion and love this mother cat demonstrated, risking her own life to make sure her babies were safe from harm. She and her kittens were quickly treated for smoke inhalation which was probably the most minor of the conditions they all suffered from, but Scarlett's medical care was to be much more extensive. Sadly, one of the kittens did succumb from a viral infection and died after a month of treatment at North Shore, yet the other kittens were to survive and later adopted out. Scarlett took a full three months of round the clock medical care, and in those months, her story became more and more famous and known worldwide.

The North Shore Animal League was to be overwhelmed by people asking if they could adopt Scarlett, but only one lucky person was able to adopt her, and it was a woman named Karen Wellen, who had recently lost her own cat due to an accident in which she herself was injured. Scarlett's story remained known as articles continued to be written, and then of course this book was written all about her.

This story hit a real chord with me and my mother bought me a copy of the book, "Scarlett Saves Her Family: The Heart-Warming True Story of A Homeless Mother Cat Who Rescued Her Kittens From A Raging Fire" as a gift to me when it was first published in 1997 and of which I still have. You see, I too am an animal lover and in particular cats. I've had cats ever since I was five years old. I too have seen how "mere" animals can demonstrate devotion, and unconditional love, not only to their human owners but between each other, as was in the case of two cats I had years and years ago. Back in 1975, I already had a few cats, when one of them passed away. My mother took Biddy to the Bide-A-Wee cemetery out in Wantaugh, New York to be buried. She didn't come home empty handed as she adopted a grey and white cat we were to name Mickey. For some reason, Mickey just wasn't a very friendly cat and didn't interact with the other cats we had at the time. That was to change, however, when another feline newcomer, Tommy, was to enter our lives. Never in my life had I seen such comradeship and devotion those two cats had for one another, they had a stronger bond than most human family members have.

Years were to pass, but Mickey and Tommy's devotion and bond for one another never wanned. Then one night, some ten years later around 3:30 a.m. I was awakened by a strange coughing sound. At first I thought it was one of our cats merely having a furball coughing attack, but I got out of bed only to find my darling Tommy lying on the living room floor having seizures and spasms. To this day I have no idea what was wrong or caused this attack, as only that day, Tommy had been his usual playful self. Being the hour that it was, there wasn't a veterinary service open at that time, not that it would have mattered. Not knowing what to do, I did the only thing I could think of doing. I sat on the floor, gently bringing Tommy in my lap, saying his name over and over again to let him know I was nearby while a flood of tears flowed. He died in my arms in about fifteen minutes later. But that wasn't to be the end of the sadness. Only two months later, Mickey unexpectedly passed away as well and there had been nothing physically wrong with him. I can't help thinking he literally pined away for his friend Tommy.

I tell this story only as I know first hand the love an animal can demonstrate whether to their human companion, or toward another animal. I was able to understand the love and devotion Scarlett showed to her kittens even to the point of possibly risking her own death. This story of Scarlett, however, is all the more poignant and bittersweet now. Only the other night I wanted to look up information about Scarlett to see if there had been any updates about this famous feline and when I did I broke down and cried. I was to learn that on October 11, 2008, Scarlett passed away. When I learned of her death it hit me hard, as if one of my own present cats had died.

I can't think of a better tribute than for any animal lover to read this book as it will live on as a ongoing tribute to her memory, and the selfless act of love she had in saving the lives of her kittens. Wouldn't it be great if the human species showed as much unconditional love as this cat did?