It has been several years since my husband and I stumbled upon a lost, scared, and starving kitten on the mean streets of Palm Desert, California.
The date was June 20, 2010 – Father’s Day.
It started out as any other scorching, mid-day dog-walking expedition through the back trails of a senior retirement community in the California desert, where we were spending the day with my husband’s grandparents.
While three dogs Eddie, Ben, and Artie led the way, my husband, mother-in-law and I trotted along behind as the pack sniffed for a place to “do their business.”
Out of nowhere, a squirrel darted across the open path ahead, instantly grabbing the attention of all three dogs.
But… it wasn’t a squirrel!
Ben, a big black standard poodle, was the first to react, racing after the tiny creature, who was desperately searching for safety (and shade) under a bush, my husband being pulled along for the ride. Upon arrival at the bush, the three of us humans crouched down to peek at what was causing the three normally docile dogs to bark like mad.
And there it was – the little kitten who was hot in the 100+ degree weather, scared and starving. My husband scooped him up and took him inside to the comfort of air conditioning. We set him in the bathtub and gave him water and a bit of mashed up chicken (we didn’t have any cat food). He slurped it right up!
He was very dirty, had a big gash on his upper lip, and was a tiny as tiny could be. He tried to hiss at us when we came near, but no sound came out, his throat probably too dry from the heat. He was quite content to sit alone in the bathtub, resting from scavenging and no longer in the heat. It was obvious that he was a stray and had likely been separated from his mom for at least a full day or two. We weren’t sure what we would do with him, but we knew we couldn’t return him to the streets!
After spending the rest of the day in Palm Springs, we took him home with us to Orange County. We knew a vet visit was in order the next day, but that first night we held and cuddled him, knowing we were already gaining his trust.
The next day, the vet estimated him to be three weeks old, weighing in at a whopping 12 ounces.
The kitten would be known as Ellie for a short time – and then later become Dexter (after his second visit to the vet and when things were more *ehem* in place).
The once frightened three-week-old kitten, and first feline of the household, settled in nicely and tried to become friends with our (at the time) eight-year-old dog.
But Eddie was quite indifferent to Dexter (and still is!).
In the five and a half years since rescuing Dexter, we have also welcomed two other stray kittens into our house.
Dexter has grown into a handsome cat and is the perfect older brother to Olive and Sophie.
You can still see the scar from where he had the gash on his lip, a battle wound of unknown origin that he wears proudly!