Summer Courage

Valencia checks out my friend's room the day after she arrived.

It’s cold here and I am reminded of the heat of summer and the courage of Valencia.

We had a heat wave in July and August—day after day after day of 90 to 98° heat. At work it was lovely cold, but at home, every day my cooling pump struggled and only got the temperature down to maybe 80°. Valencia gave birth to four healthy kittens, but I was worried because my cooling pump was doing such a poor job. Still, I never expected to come home one day when the kittens were a week old and discover that the pump had died! I had been gone 12 hours, and the thermometer said it was 98° in the house.

I ran into the birthing room. Val had picked up the kittens one by one, taken them out of the nesting box, and put them in my office chair. She had pushed the chair all the way across the room to a spot that got no sunshine. When I came in they were lying, limp, on the chair and she was licking them over and over but without touching their bodies with anything but her tongue. Kittens that age can’t regulate their temperature. They can only crawl a little distance towards heat or cold—and the difference between “hot as hell” and “hot as hell” was no difference at all.

Val looks over "Snowflake" and "Penny" about a week into their visit with my friend.

The first thing Val did when I got there was to drink half of the water bowl, because her tongue had been keeping them alive. Val and I both cared for them that night (I with a damp cloth and fans that only moved the hot air from here to there). One of the kittens died about the time I got home and another died a few hours later.

Dawn broke and I finally got hold of a dear friend at whose house Val and her surviving kittens could perhaps stay. She told me to come so I moved them early that morning to a quiet room in her home (with nesting box). I could swear Val gave a huge sigh when she found it was a normal temperature there, and she set about nursing her kittens right away despite the strange environment.

Val carries another of her kittens, an older one, from one place to another. Relocating Snowflake and Penny helped save their lives that day.

The little family stayed there for nearly three weeks because everyone else’s cooling pump had broken too and I had to wait my turn. I came to see them as often as I could.

I keep thinking of Valencia, putting her kittens in the best place, lying beside them but not touching them, and licking them over and over for who knows how long. Her intelligence and her ceaseless effort (to keep trying to keep them damp for hours and hours) kept half of them alive.

It may not be correct to call her courageous, but she saved two kittens, and as she sits here beside me, I stoke her and praise her for it anyway.


Copyright January 2012 by Nancy Prince. All rights reserved.