Anyone who saw the kitten when she was rescued from alongside a Brooks County road would not have given her much of a chance for survival.
The tiny black-and-white kitten weighed only a few ounces. Her right eye bulged from its socket in a big, ugly, red mass. The other eye, obviously infected, opened only halfway.
James Sloan was on his rural mail delivery route in mid-August when the kitten saga began.
“I saw this little black thing lying in the grass. I thought it was a black bird that had been injured,” Sloan, a Quitman resident, explained.
When he got closer, Sloan realized it was a cat. He continued on his route, thinking a mother cat probably was moving her kittens. As he passed the site a few minutes later, the kitten was still there.
Sloan continued the route. A half hour later, the kitten remained in the same spot. Sloan picked up the kitten, who he said wanted to be held, and placed her in a plastic bin in his vehicle and took her home.
“He was up all night feeding her with a syringe,” said Cindy Sloan, Sloan’s wife.
The kitten could barely breathe because of a respiratory infection that was treated with antibiotics the Sloans obtained the next day from a veterinarian.
Ms. Sloan took the kitten to work with her during the day and fed her with syringe. A coworker took the kitten home at night and feed her with a syringe around the clock.
Five days later, the kitten was delivered to the Miss Kitty sanctuary. She weighed seven ounces.
A few days ago, the kitten weighed three pounds. She was adopted Oct. 25 by Lea Long of Ochlocknee.
Carol Jones, the kitten’s foster mother while she was in Miss Kitty’s care, named the orphan feline Helen Keller, not knowing that was the name the Sloans had chosen. It also is the name Long had in mind before she learned Helen Keller already was the kitten’s name.
During conversation when the Sloans and Long met a few days ago, it was learned Ms. Sloan’s coworker who took the kitten home with her at night is Long’s next-door neighbor.
During Jones’ foster care and ‘round-the-clock feedings, Helen developed internal parasites and skin issues.
“The last thing I had to contend with was ear mites,” Jones explained.
Through it all, Helen was always alert and frisky.
Long read a a story in the Times-Enterprise about Helen’s rescue and fight to live. It was thought her right eye would have to be removed, but with proper treatment, it was saved.
However, Helen is blind. One would never know the kitten cannot see. She plays and explores and is curious like any kitten.
Blind and special-needs animals are not new to Long. She has always adopted dogs who were blind or had behavior problems.
“I know that having a pet that can’t see is no different from one who can see,” Long said.
After reading the newspaper story, Long wondered who would adopt a blind kitten. She decided she would.
Her cat Alice’s companion, a disabled kitten, had died, and Alice had fretted a lot. Alice and Helen bonded quickly and sleep together. Long’s four-year-old dog and Alice are Helen’s playmates.
Long will take Helen to an opthamologist at Gainesville, Fla., to determine the extent of her eye damage.
Sloan said he cannot take all the credit for Helen’s early care. Fellow post office employees had a hand in furthering the rescue effort and providing food.
And, he said, Dr. Matthew Davis, a Monticello, Fla., veterinarian, was the first veterinarian to treat her.
Today, Helen, who has been spayed, is a beautiful kitten whose appearance belies her sad beginning and close call with death. Her coat is long and silky. She has extra-long whiskers and white tufts of hair in her black ears.
Her blue eyes do not open completely and although unseeing are clear and sparkle as she goes about the mischievous activities of a typical kitten.
She has found a forever mommy in Long, and for a blind kitten, that is of the utmost importance.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.