Pippi’s Story

July 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

When Pippi fell ill, he was unable to eat or use his litter box, crying out when anyone came near him. My friend Emmy was so afraid to ask for help, but she could not stand to see her baby in pain.

We headed for the Animal Coalition of Tampa’s clinic to ask for advice and they told us to bring him in right away. We both thought that with some antibiotics he would soon be back to normal.  ACT’s prices were lower than anywhere else, so I thought this was Emmy’s best option.

But then the vet broke the bad news to us and my first thought was that Pippi, also known as “Pippi the Magic Cat,” had finally run out of magic.  His bladder was blocked and he was in pain from the stones he could not pass.  We were stunned and I worried about how Emmy would survive without her cuddly companion if he couldn’t be treated.

When I first met Emmy, she had survived six decades of painful adversities and was suffering from one day to the next, powerless to control her own future.

When Emmy first met Pippi the Magic Cat, he too was a survivor and was suffering from the uncertainty of being born into an unplanned litter. Together they rescued each other, forming a loving bond that would strengthen them for many hardships to come.

Pippi was going to need surgery to survive.  Emmy burst into tears, not knowing how she would pay for it.  I thought for sure she would be forced to let him go for lack of funds and I knew that this would crush her.

The love between Emmy and Pippi the Magic Cat was born of need — pure in its origin, pure in its power and pure in its ability to turn desperation into determination.  Pippi’s magic was his ability to make Emmy laugh at her dire circumstances.  With him by her side, she knew she could go on, no matter how daunting her situation was.

I have learned so much from Emmy’s fighting spirit. The first time I saw her, she was hobbling past my home on the way back from the grocery store. In spite of the struggle, she lit up the neighborhood with her radiant smile. Then she huffed and she puffed, determined to make it unassisted to my neighbor’s garage that she gratefully called home.

That smile saved me, because I too was struggling.  As a Vietnam veteran who was new in town, I was in need of a distraction from fighting with the VA for my disability benefits so that I too could go on.  I will always be grateful to this beautiful lady for befriending me on that hot and lonely day.

Emmy and I are survivors, each affected by the ravages of war. Growing up poor in Mississippi, she was the daughter of a shell shocked WWII combat veteran who, in a blinding, war-flashback rage, injured his wife and family, leaving his battered oldest child, Emmy, to care for them while recovering from her own seen and unseen wounds. Her childhood was like a nightmare but through sheer determination, she survived.

Emmy put herself through college by winning beauty contests, armed with not only her exotic Russian/Native American good looks, but also with a beautiful singing voice that would later carry her far away from her miserable childhood to New York City for Broadway musicals and a television series.

But every time Emmy wowed the audiences with her performances, it would take her weeks to recover from the stress. She tried other types of work, but she could only hold onto jobs for short periods of time because of her lifelong battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Eventually her frail mother took her in but when she died, so did Emmy’s financial stability.

But somehow she pressed on, fighting for her recovery as well as her independence.  Just as she was making progress, she was injured in a devastating car accident.

Emmy wound up camping on her brother’s couch until he became so frustrated with her for not being able to get a job that he put her in a Tampa homeless shelter.  From there she fell in with people who took advantage of her. Eventually my neighbor, a fellow musician, let her live in her garage.

One day while visiting with Emmy in the garage, I saw framed photos of her “baby,” a fluffy black and white tuxedo cat named Pippi.  She burst into tears when she saw me looking at him, explaining that she’d had to leave him with someone she barely knew when she went to the homeless shelter.

One day I could stand it no more, so I told Emmy we were going to go find her baby.  The woman who had taken him in had a farm way out in Pinellas County, but Emmy could not remember the address nor find any reference to it.

Determined, we drove out there anyway.  Miraculously, Emmy led us to the farm.  We couldn’t get anyone to come to the door when we rang the bell, so I climbed over the fence and then found a way to let her in. When we found him, Pippi was stuffed into a small crate out in the heat – flea-bitten, neglected, dirty and sad.  The woman came out and told Emmy she could not have him back because she had no money to pay her for boarding him.

Never get in the way of an angry female Vietnam vet!  I’ll spare you the details of how it went down, but we wound up with Pippi the Magic Cat in the backseat of my old car, cuddling and crawling all over Emmy the whole way home, his motor almost louder than the one under my hood.  Twice I had to pull over to dry my tears before I could continue driving.

While the hot and stuffy garage that Emmy and her kitty lived in was better than living on the streets, the situation there was grim. So one day I began the long ordeal of getting Emmy the government benefits she had earned over decades of working.

The day we walked into her new government-subsidized apartment for the first time was the first day of freedom for Emmy and her little feline friend. No more would they suffer from lack of shelter in the heat and storms and freezing cold, fearful of predators, human and otherwise.  No more would they be forced to live in dangerous situations, not knowing where their next meal would come from.  Best of all, they would never again be separated from each other.

At last they could forever leave behind the indignities of homelessness. The senior living center is full of people like Emmy – they are all lost souls just like her, hoping to make it through just one day at a time.  Best of all, they let the residents keep their pets there.

Emmy and Pippi the Magic Cat have had a happy life since getting their own place.  When her health allows, Emmy gives back to her community by singing for weddings and funerals and entertaining audiences around town at nursing homes.

They still have many challenges. “So often I feel like I’m caught in a vise,” says Emmy.  “Some people doubt my disability and push me to deny it, while others pile on pity.  My kitty does none of these things. He shows me every minute of every day that it’s OK to just be me.”

ACT came to Pippi’s rescue with an experienced surgeon and medical team, plus respite care overnight and through the weekend at an emergency services clinic. For ACT, no cost was too great to save Pippi so he could go back to performing his magic on Emmy.

Pippi is now on the mend.  His stitches are out and he is healing under the watchful eyes of the big-hearted woman who saved him so he could save her.  He is back to his old self, making Emmy laugh with his magic tricks.

Emmy and her kitty will continue their fight for survival, but with very limited funds and now a huge medical bill to save Pippi looming over them, this is an uphill, very stressful battle.

Can you be a part of their survival with a donation toward Pippi’s medical expenses?  We want the angels at the Coalition to continue performing the magic that saves so many of Tampa Bay’s animals and the people who depend on them.

It is very painful to ask, but it would mean so much to us. Please contact ACT at 813-250-3900.

With love and gratitude –
Pippi and Emmy’s Friend


Entry filed under: Everything else.

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