Last month we had the great honor of introducing you to Baby Diddles, a special needs kitty and world traveler who inspired a children's book to teach readers that just because someone looks different, or has a disability, that person or cat can do anything they set their mind to. While speaking with her human Amber Lane, it soon became apparent that her entire feline family needed to have their story told. Amber's devotion to her six "hopeless cases" is a powerful testament to the human/animal bond and a must read for anyone who has been rescued by the love of a cat.
We Are a Little Tribe
by Amber Lane
I was born to love animals. I've always loved them more than people. Growing up I had dogs, hamsters, birds, guinea pigs, horses, but no cats. My mom wasn't crazy about them. I wanted anything furry. I wanted to care for them and give them a happy life. I could sense their vulnerabilities. I can communicate with them as well.
I rescued my first girl, Tink, in 2007. It was her last day at the shelter. She'd been there 6 days and 7 was the limit. I asked to sit in the visit room with her so I could be with her outside of her cage. She jumped on my lap immediately and curled into a little ball. I knew at the moment that she was going home with me. Her eyes told me that she'd been looking for me and had finally found me. She slept under the covers with me that night. I moved to Dubai the next year and shipped Tink with me. It was quite the process but I wouldn't have had it any other way. We went through a lot together.
I was married at the time and it was falling apart in 2012. In May of that year I was on vacation in Washington. On a late night walk I came upon three tiny kittens on the side of the road. Someone had left them with a plate of raw meat. I immediately took them back to the house where I was staying. All I had to give them was tuna salad. They ate every morsel and drank so much water I thought they would be sick. The next day I took them to the humane society. It was there that I decided to adopt one of the kittens. She was a little calico. I had to get the logistics completed in order to ship her to Dubai. She was also too young to fly, so one of the employees kept her at her house while I waited for the paperwork to be completed and for her to be old enough to fly. I flew back the next month to pick up my girl. I named her Rimmy, mainly because she had a burnt edge to her ear that made a little round rim. And also because I had just read a book with a character named Rimmy. I sold several pieces of jewelry to finish paying for her trip back to Dubai. I had no idea how she and Tink would get along. Tink had been the only cat for many years. Although annoyed with the new addition, Tink basically ignored Rimmy and I knew all would be well.
Months after rescuing Rimmy I was in the midst of a horrible divorce. The night I decided to leave my ex he went completely crazy and attacked me. I had hidden the cats in their carriers and when he found them he threw them across the room. Rimmy has never been the same. She was diagnosed with epilepsy two years ago. The doctor said it is common after being subjected to trauma. I survived that night and managed to leave the next day. I lived in a car with Tink and Rimmy. We stayed in parking garages at night. We all shared tuna and cheese for food. Thankfully it was the beginning of winter in Dubai and not in the brutal heat of the summer. I managed to turn my life around slightly and was living in an apartment within a couple of months.
In April 2013, I was out for a bike ride in my neighborhood. I saw some neighborhood kids tormenting a kitten. I went over to see about taking the kitten away. My heart sank when I saw the little creature. Her little eyes were bulging and red. Her nose was bloody and scabbed over. I ran back home and brought her cat food, which she ate feverishly. I took her to a vet to see if anything could be done. The vet said she had a bad case of cat flu. He offered to put her to sleep that night. He said she wasn't doing well and he didn't expect her to live through the night. I said I wanted to try, or at least give the kitten a place to rest. He said to call him when I was ready to put her to sleep.
I didn't want to give up on this little fighter. I could tell this cat was strong. I gave her medicine several times throughout the day. I kept her isolated in a bathroom. She felt terrible. She didn't move for days and barely ate. But then she started coming around. This little cat had everything possible wrong with her. After she recovered from the flu, I discovered she had a bad case of ear mites. I treated her for ear mites only to discover that she also had ringworm. Which by that time I had ringworm, and Tink and Rimmy had it too. What a nightmare!! I had her spayed after a few months and she did not do well. I had to give her galastop for months to help her hormones. However, this little girl didn't let anything slow her down. It didn't take long to name her. Monkey. She was into everything! She caused so much trouble. She also had a little stuffed monkey that she would carry around in her mouth. She is extremely athletic and pure muscle. She reminds me of a thoroughbred. She is the most feral out of all the girls. She can be aggressive and torments Bandit, so much so that I have to keep them separated.
During my time in Dubai I volunteered for a rescue society called Feline Friends. Through Feline Friends I knew of other rescue groups in the UAE. I followed another group based out of Abu Dhabi called Wags and Purrs. They featured a cat each week that was available for adoption. It was in August that I saw my Baby D. She was the featured kitten. She had been featured many times before but no one wanted her because of how she looked. Unfortunately a lot of people in the region want 'perfect' pets. People had been cruel online. They had commented that she was ugly. I was horrified.
Daad (Wags and Purrs' founder), had found her on the side of the road in Abu Dhabi. Her ear was mangled and her paw was crushed and part of it was missing. She immediately took her into the vet and scheduled her for surgery. The vet removed her leg because there was nothing they could do to save the paw. They left her hip joint however which gives her more balance. They also cleaned up her ear and removed some of the outer edge. She can hear perfectly and can move her ear a bit too.
I took one look at her and sent a message to the Daad. I wanted her to join my family. I thought she was beautiful. I knew she belonged with me. Her gorgeous adoption photos won me over. I told Daad that I would love to take her for a trial. I wanted to make sure that the other girls would accept her. I got to see her in person on August 16, 2013. I fell madly in love. She was so tiny. I took her into the apartment and she immediately found her place. She wasn't afraid of anything. She was able to run, climb, jump, and just fit in perfectly. A guy I was dating at the time told me that if I got a fourth cat that he would leave me. Well, he came over one day and I told him I had adopted a fourth cat. I think I chose wisely!
The next few months were tough on all of us. I had a new job which provided accommodation. The building was brand new and not ready at the time so I was given a room at a hotel. Well, of course animals aren't allowed in hotels in the UAE. I had no option, I had to sneak the girls in with me. None of my friends would watch them for me. Looking back now I can't believe no one stepped up to help us. So, I snuck the girls in in suitcases and backpacks. I know it sounds cruel, but I had no option.
The room was very tiny with a small window. The four cats and myself lived there for seven weeks without getting caught. I knew I was pushing my luck and sure enough I pushed it too far. I got into a lot of trouble with my company and with the hotel. I had to board the girls then. It was a nice facility and I was able to visit everyday. I eventually moved into an apartment. Of course that building wasn't pet friendly either. I worked it out with my supervisor however so the girls would be allowed in my apartment. I thought all was well. I had two roommates and one of them changed her mind about having the cats in our apartment, even though they stayed in my bedroom. So even after getting approval to have the cats with me the company decided to make an example out of me. I was fired. Because I had cats in my apartment!!!!! I decided that it was time to leave that country behind and get back to the states. I saved every penny I could and I borrowed money from my Grandad in order to get the girls home with me. People suggested that I just leave them behind, dump them outside, or put them to sleep. I was dumbfounded. I didn't care how long it took, I was not leaving without my cats. A friend found a place for me to stay during that time and I ran up my credit card boarding the cats.
And then, we came home. It was the best feeling to get off the plane and find the girls safe and sound. Animals aren't allowed in the cabin in and out of the UAE so they all had to ride in the cargo compartment. Well, actually falcons are allowed in the cabin, but that's it. Yes, falcons.
Anyhow, we were back in the states. Life was good. I kept up with Daad and Wags and Purrs. They were trying to find a home for a cat named Bob. Unfortunately he was paralyzed. He wasn't getting any offers. So I told Daad that I would adopt him. We started a fundraiser to help with the shipping costs. About two weeks later we found out that he had FIV. He went downhill fast. We held out hope that he would be okay. Unfortunately the virus took over quickly. He passed away on the day he was supposed to fly over to me. I was crushed. But FIV is a devastating disease once it progresses.
A couple of months later a shelter in Dubai shut down and left over 100 dogs and cats to fend for themselves. Wags and Purrs stepped in and rescued all of the animals. They took vets with them each time to help with the rescue. Unfortunately some of the animals had to be put to sleep because they were so sick. Her team found homes, either permanent or foster, for most of the animals. There were only around ten left. She was posting pictures daily. I fell in love with a calico that looked like Rimmy's twin. And there was an all black beauty with eye abnormalities. Wags and Purrs accepts donations and uses their own funds a lot of the time as well to pay for surgeries, treatments, and vet bills. The little black beauty had one eye removed and the other eye was surgically opened. Her eyelids grow inward instead of outward. Her eyelashes are constantly rubbing against her eye. Her eye is abnormally shaped as well. I knew just by hearing her story and seeing her picture that she would have a hard time being adopted. She was also all black which is not desirable there. I told Daad to get the paperwork ready.
Everyone thought I was crazy. 'Two more cats,' 'but you've never met them.' I got grief from everyone. I didn't care. They had a travel buddy on their flight to the states. Basically someone who agrees to be responsible for them before the flight, and then to make sure that someone is there to meet them and accept ownership. I met Heather in Chicago. I drove four hours to Denver, and then flew to Chicago. I picked up the two new girls, and flew back to Denver in the same day. I also then drove the four hours home. It was hectic. They had been so malnourished at the shelter and went without food and water before Daad's team could get to them. The vet had no idea what their ages were because their teeth were in such bad condition. I named the calico Gypsy. And my black beauty is Bandit. She's always confused for a male at the vet. I guess it's a masculine name. Everyone also always thinks that Monkey is a boy. She just looks like a male cat I guess.
So that's their story. I wanted to give you their background because I'm sure you can understand that I had to adopt them all. It was meant to be. I decided to write a book about Diddles a few months after I adopted her. I wanted to share her with the world. She is such a gorgeous kitty. And a true survivor. I was inspired by her attitude. She looks in the mirror and doesn't see a kitty with one ear or three legs. She is fierce. She will outrun all of the other cats and can climb a cat tree in one second.
When I have a bad day I look around at all of my girls and remember each of their stories. They put a smile on my face. They are survivors. I'm a survivor. We are a little tribe.