Culebra rescue kitten is a Christmas miracle, surviving two hurricanes
January 1, 2018
EAGLE — Either Yvonne Schwartz' 4-year-old daughter, Emelia, got a kitten for Christmas, or the kitten got her. Either way, they have each other
The kitten, Lito, survived the two hurricanes that rolled through the island of Culebra. Local Realtor/developer Scott Schlosser brought her home, as he and the Eagle Valley Humane Society have done 15 times before.
Schlosser does it for several very good reasons. Culebra is an amazing place, and he likes going there. It's home to a turtle sanctuary and the top-rated beach in the Americas. He has volunteered with the Eagle Valley Humane Society for years.
And animal rescue is apolitical.
"There's no greater neutralizer than talking about animals. You don't get many internet trolls when you post a picture of an adorable kitten," Schlosser said, smiling.
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Lito has a huge Facebook and Instagram following.
Schwartz owns Yoga Off Broadway in Eagle, where Schlosser practices yoga.
Schwartz' 4-year-old daughter has wanted a kitten for years. Schwartz mentioned it to Schlosser.
"I'm going to Puerto Rico. Some animals survived the hurricanes. Why don't I bring one back?" Schlosser said.
So he did.
"It's a great cat, very friendly. Independent, spirited and very social," Schwartz said. They also have a rescue dog from Texas, and they get along great.
The hurricanes cometh
Frijolito (aka Lito or Little) was about 2 weeks old when housekeepers at Cluebra's Club Seaborne Hotel heard her crying. This was two weeks before Hurricane Irma.
It took the staff two days to find her. Her eyes were barely open.
The staff didn't know how to care for such a tiny kitten, so they called Jenny with Friends of Culebra Animals.
Jenny was already caring for three kittens, so she called Didi with The Happy Cat Healing House, a local massage therapist, avid cat lover and volunteer infant cat foster. Didi has two dogs that love cats and help with grooming. Kittens require grooming to stimulate their bowel movements. Without it, they'll likely die.
"I named her Little because she was sooooo little when I got her," Didi said in a text massage from Culebra.
The name came from Frijolito Saltarin, the Mexican jumping bean. Lito tends to stand on two legs and jump.
"Lito is short for little jumping bean. So appropriate," Didi said.
Isla Culebra is 17 miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland, 12 miles west of St. Thomas and 9 miles north of Vieques. You may have heard about the two hurricanes that rolled through there earlier this year.
It's home to 1,600 resilient people who power their lives with solar fields and cisterns. FEMA showed up with two huge electrical generators after the hurricanes.
There's no vet care on the island. A veterinarian travels to the island every couple of weeks to do spay and neuter clinics and look after things.
To bring a cat from Culebra to the American mainland, a volunteer has to take a random ferry to the mainland to get papers from a vet. When that was done, Schlosser took a bumpy flight in a five-passenger plane to the mainland for even more papers.
As Schlosser was winding things up to head home, he got a call at 10 p.m., two days before Christmas.
"Lito is not here," Didi said.
They walked all over the area looking for her and calling her name. They even found another stray kitten that was similar enough that if they hadn't found Lito … a substitute, maybe?
Finally, at 1:30 a.m. Didi called Schlosser again. Lito was sleeping in her dresser drawer.
Christmas Eve day, Schlosser and Lito flew from Culebra through the Dallas airport — "which has the best animal lounge in the country" — and to the Eagle County airport.
On his way home from the airport, he dropped Lito at the Shwartz home.
"The kids were ecstatic," Schlosser said.
There was some talk in the Schwartz household that the kitten would be named "Feathers." They decided that because it survived two hurricanes, near starvation and a two-day flight, they couldn't name her Feathers. They stuck with Lito.
Schlosser and the Eagle Valley Humane Society have brought 15 cats from Culebra to the valley. Lito is the latest. Not so long ago, he donated his commission from a real estate deal to the Eagle Valley Humane Society. On Culebra, he works through Friends of Culebra Animals and with the North Shore Animal League from New York.
"Saving one animal might not change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal and rescuer," Schlosser said.