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Trial by fire yields warrior’s spirit

Wren Wertin
CVR Xena Burn Cat BH 3-11 Vail Daily/Bret Hartman Eagle County Humane society foster mother and Castle Peak Veterinary Nurse Lori VanCampen holds Xena a cat that was severly burned in a fireplace Feb. 17.
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Looking at the burned face and legs of Xena, the term mercy killing comes to mind. She’s missing the tips of her ears, a couple of toes and her tail – all casualties of her recent experience in a burning fireplace. She’ll probably end up without any toes and might require skin grafts on her forelegs. It’s difficult for her to pick up dry food, since her lips were burned to numbness.

But there’s nothing wrong with her motor.



“Every obstacle she comes to, she just gets over it,” said Lori Van Campen, a veterinary nurse at Castle Peak in Eagle and Xena’s foster mom. “You walk into the room, and she literally lights up and starts purring.”

While Van Campen speaks, Xena illustrates her point, nuzzling her face into her foster mom’s palm, purring like mad and mewling when Van Campen pauses between pets.



How she got there

At 3:30 a.m. Feb. 17, 911 dispatchers received a call from a 13-year-old, asking for help for his mom and his cat. According to the police report, the woman, who has a history of mental illness, threw the cat into the burning fireplace because she was afraid it would give birth to ants. The woman’s boyfriend wrapped the burned cat in a wet towel.



Responders to the scene took the feline to a representative of the Eagle County Animal Shelter for emergency treatment, which was provided by Castle Peak. The shelter will retain custody of the cat for the duration of her recovery, probably at least a year.

Xena’s condition

Xena has first, second and third-degree burns.

“The frustrating thing about burn wounds is they don’t show themselves right away,” said Denny Simonton, Castle Peak veterinarian. “The tail was so damaged we knew we had to amputate it within three to four days.”

The tail was dead, so it was not only painful for the cat but also risked gangrenous infection. The ears went quickly, too. They’ve also amputated two toes and expect to amputate all of them.

“We’re hoping to leave enough pad tissue so she can walk and use them,” said Simonton, spreading his own fingers out and pushing on his palm to illustrate.

“We’ve consulted specialists on whether or not she’ll be able to walk after she’s lost the rest of her toes,” said Char Quinn, Eagle Valley Humane Society director. Though it’s impossible to know until it happens, the general sentiment was if she’s able to walk now, when pain is at a maximum, then things will only improve with time.

“Medically, she’s still got a long way to go,” said Julie Hunter, another Castle Peak veterinarian.

Lion’s heart

“But she’s a fighter,” Quinn said .

Once Xena’s true condition was assessed, they did talk about euthanasia.

“How do you justify that when she’s the one overcoming the obstacles?” asked Van Campen.

Animals are able to communicate that they’ve lost the desire to live by being still and listless, forsaking interaction with anyone, explained Quinn. From her first night in the clinic, Xena has sought attention. She’s also consistently used her litter pan, even from the first night when the pads of her paws were most sensitive — a small detail that illustrates her determination.

“That kitty has so much heart,” said Hunter, looking at Xena. “She’s become part of the clinic for what she represents — what she’s gone through and how she’s dealt with it.”

“Since she’s got the will to live, we’re going to keep going,” said Simonton.

Oddly enough, she’s not afraid of people. Though having her bandages changed is a painful experience. She doesn’t bite, but she does demand pets during the ordeal.

“She’s so forgiving,” Van Campen said. “She doesn’t hold anyone responsible for what happened to her.”

Cost of life

Castle Peak Veterinarians are providing for Xena at a discounted rate, and they’ve thrown in the TLC for free. But there are hard costs, such as painkillers, anesthesia and bandages, which have to be changed daily. They estimate Xena’s bill to be $4,000 to $6,000.

The Humane Society is helping with the financial end of Xena’s care. To help offset the costs, Eagle Valley Humane Society has applied for assistance through American Humane’s Second Chance Fund. The fund strives to give victims of animal abuse a “second chance.” American Humane recently awarded $1,000 to the Colorado Humane Society on behalf of Ashley, the puppy that was set on fire in Arvada.

People who wish to contribute to the care of Xena can do so by calling 328-PETS.

The christening

In her former life, Xena was called Pearl. But the folks at Castle Peak changed it.

“She’s a little warrior,” Van Campen said . “And we wanted her name to reflect that.”

CAT CARE

How to make a donation for Xena’s care:

1. Mail a check to the Eagle Valley Humane Society, P.O. Box 4105, Eagle, CO 81631, Checks can also be dropped off at the county animal shelter.

2. Call 328-PETS


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