Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 27, 2013, Saturday Candy Erhard and Vincent D. Cat Memorial Service

Vincent D. Cat and Candy Erhard Memorial Day
April 27, 2013 - Saturday

Please join us on April 27th to celebrate the lives of two of Rikki’s most memorable volunteers. 
Reserve your spot now, limited space, must have advance tickets.

Please bring a statue, stepping stone or wind chimes to be placed in our Rainbow Bridge Cemetery in honor of our friends.

noon - 1 pm ... Reception and
                   Procession to Rainbow Bridge Cemetery
                       led by Melissa Felts
1 pm - 2 pm ... Memorial Service and placing of
                   Vincent’s Headstone and Statue for Candy
                        service by Rev. Theresa Spears

2 pm - 4 pm ... Special Memorial Tour of Rikki’s Refuge
                    while we remember Candy and Vincent
                          guided by Kerry Hilliard, Rikki's founder

4 pm - 8 pm ... Spaghetti and Salad Dinner and Mingle
                          prepared and organized by Nora Eldridge

Candy and Vincent were very much alike, both brought more joy and kindness and happiness into the world than any other individuals you’ve ever known. 

Always smiling,

always good natured,

always ready to offer love,

always lending a helping hand,

always seeing the positive side of life,

always a friend,

always looking after us,

always making us smile,

always helping us make ends meet.

Not a day goes by at Rikki’s Refuge that Candy and Vincent aren’t remembered fondly.  We know they are together at Rainbow Bridge looking out for all of us here.

We love you Vincent !!!  We love you Candy !!!

Request your tickets now:
Space is limited, entrance tickets required !
Don’t wait get YOURS today !

Please add your memories of Candy and Vincent in the comments here !!!

Remembering Catnip Candy

                                                                      by Vincent D. Cat October 12, 2011

The good news is that I was blessed to know and love Auntie Catnip Candy.   

The Good News is Candy was a great big huge part of Rikki’s Refuge from her first volunteer day on December 6, 2005. 

Candy had read about Rikki’s in the CFC (Combined Federal Campaigns #77674, Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign #3163) catalog a few years earlier and had contacted mom to ask some questions.  She and Paul then became donors.  Later they came on tours.

Candy had retired and their first volunteer work day turned out to be December 6, 2005.  The day after every single roof on every single run in Feline Fields and Rabbit Rotunda, had collapsed under a huge snow load the day before.  Mom had sent out a plea for help to get the roofs temporarily up off the grounds and the runs secure and usable.  many volunteers turned out.

Candy and Paul arrived and said, HI.  They had not yet heard about the disaster.  Mom just assumed they were there to help with the roofs and said thank you, thank you, so much for coming and too them to Cat House #3 where everyone was working.  It was freezing cold, there was snow up to hooman knees, fingers were frozen, and it was hard work trying to shake off the snow from the netting roofs, now laying on the ground, and hoist them overhead and get them tied off with line running back and forth from wall to wall.  Candy and Paul worked tirelessly.  Mom kept looking at Candy’s feet in dockside shoes and thinking, gosh her toes must be frozen, I wonder why she didn’t wear boots.  Once or twice mom mentioned it and Candy smiled her big smile and said, I’m not as cold as you need help!! 

At the end of the day Candy and Paul were talking to mom and told her they’d just come down to donate some food!!!  That’s why they didn’t dress so warm, they didn’t know it’d end up being a day they worked in the freezing weather till after dark!!!!  Mom thought, uh oh, they sure are nice people, I bet today just scared them away forever!

But the Good News for Rikki’s was - it didn’t!  They came back and they helped with so many things.  They’ve both been members of our board for many, many years now.  Such an integral part of Rikki’s that it’s hard to remember a time before Candy and Paul!

Candy makes and sells her famous catnip sacs for Rikki’s.  Candy and Paul worked at events, especially the Wine Festival in Front Royal every year.  They ran the Mile Long Yard Sale in Alexandria.  They volunteered at the National Capital Cat Shows.  They helped with adoption events.  They worked on teams building and improving Animal Neighborhoods.  They scooped litterboxes when we needed them to.

It was Good News when Candy took over the Pumpkin Runs in October and November of each year, meeting up with churches, nurseries and others selling pumpkins, coordinating pick ups and delivering to Rikki’s.  All the animals except us cats and the doggies love pumpkins.  It’s really good healthy food. 

It was Good News when Candy picked up produce, bread and broken bags of dog and cat food from several different stores, and delivered to Rikki’s usually at least twice a week.  Rain or shine, snow or heat, Candy’s smiling face was there helping the animals.  She did this for years, saving huge amounts of money on our grocery bill. 

It was Good News that Candy kept track of the pantry and when we were low on cleaning supplies - any idea how much bleach, laundry detergent, trash bags, paper towels, dish soap and so on it takes to sanitize 1300 animals every day? - she’d put out a plea for the needed supplies.  Often what others didn't donate - she simply bought and donated to Rikki’s herself.  Never saying a word.  Just stocking the pantry.

Same with cat food.  If enough wasn’t coming in - watch out - she’d order a huge batch from Wegman’s  (best price around on their own brand 13.2 oz cans) - and the pantry would be stocked again.

Last year when that bad lady stole a lot of Rikki’s donations and stole money from credit accounts and bank accounts and mom was so scared about what would happen to Rikki’s - Candy and Paul made a hugely generous donation to keep Rikki’s floating till things could be recovered. 

It was Good News if Candy was your friend.  Always there for who ever needed them, Candy and Paul helped their friends and anyone they met, too.  Down and out?  Need a hand?  Need an encouraging word?  Candy was there.  And Paul was always there with her.

Puppy Pals, a program where you can donate $15 on a particular day each month to feed canned food to the doggies was dreamed up and implemented by Candy.  And that was Good News!  You can still pick a day of the month that you’d like to claim as your very own to be a Puppy Pal:  Every single doggy will be your pal one day a month!!!!

It was really Good News when Candy started Vincent’s Vittles just for ME and my feline friends!!  Her dream was that everyone would pick a day and a cat house and for only $25 a month you can feed one whole cat house full of felines for the whole day !!!!!   Just pick your cat house, and your day, and sign up!

It was bad news when Candy went to the hospital in early September.  She missed the National Capital Cat Show and we missed her terribly.  We all gathered together and we prayed and we prayed.

And it was very, very sad news when our beloved and always smiling Candy passed away yesterday (Wednesday) morning.  Her husband Paul, her mom, sister and her beloved nephew, Chris, were with her.

Candy will be buried near her home town and where her mother and sister still reside. 

While just searching google for Candy’s on-line information, I discovered she was quite famous!!!  That smile grabs everybody’s heart!!! 

I bet you smiled when you saw her smile!!  Didn’t you?    
               All my love, forever and ever,  

Vincent D. Cat
From Alley Cat to World Renown Spokes Cat
April 30, 1998 - April 30, 2012

It all started in the usual way on April 1, 1998, in Richmond, Virginia when a mommy kitty gave birth to yet another litter of kittens.  Mommy Kitty didn’t know it then, but Vincent, her frolicking little round faced black and white kitten, was destined to be a great teacher.  From a very young age he began to accumulate the knowledge that he would one day share with the world. 

Vincent was chosen by a family and taken home.  He grew and he loved life and he loved running and roaming free to play.  As he matured, his owners didn’t take him to the speuter (spay / neuter) clinic to be “fixed”; and this left him with the urge to run and roam even further looking for cute young kitties.  We don’t know why they didn’t “fix” Vincent.  Perhaps they were simply ignorant of the benefits to their cat.  Perhaps they didn’t know how many unwanted kittens are killed every year in shelters.  Perhaps they didn’t know of the dangers to their own “unfixed” pet.  Perhaps they just didn’t know better.  Or perhaps they thought it would cost a great deal of money.  Maybe more money than they could afford.  Perhaps they didn’t know about the Speuter Clinics cropping up all over where kitties and doggies can get speutered very affordably.  Perhaps they didn’t know about the programs most counties and rescue organizations have to give vouchers to those unable to afford even the low cost surgery.  Perhaps they didn’t know to call their local county shelter and ask about available options.

VINCENT LEARNED - People need to know how important the Speuter Clinic is.

This was the first lesson Vincent was to learn.  When you don’t go to the Speuter Clinic, bad things are going to happen.  Either to you, or to your offspring.  No ifs ands or buts: no speuter = bad outcome.  Little Vincent began to store away the valuable things he was learning so later in life he could share these tidbits with the world.

Vincent lived in a neighborhood with regular sized lots and with typical neighborhood traffic on the roads. Usually he could dart across the road before being struck.  Usually.  But one day he wasn’t so lucky.  Across the street pranced a cute young kitty, waggling her tail high and calling out to Vincent.  When he headed across the road to meet this enticing young girl kitty, who also hadn’t been to the Speuter Clinic, Vincent was hit by a car.

This was Vincent’s next lesson.  If you wouldn’t trust your two year old human child to play out in the yard unsupervised because you know they haven’t developed the judgment to avoid traffic --- why would you allow your cat or dog to take that risk?  Their knowledge of traffic and the consequence of being in the road is about the same as that of a two year old child.  We don’t know why his people let him run free so close to a road.  Perhaps they didn’t understand the danger to their pet.  Perhaps they didn’t understand their responsibility to protect their pet. 

VINCENT LEARNED - People need to understand their responsibility to protect their pet.

Vincent was scooped up, hurt and bleeding, and rushed to the vet.  There his owners found out he’d lose a hind leg and need surgery for extensive internal injuries.  Their choice was to put him to sleep instead of opting to pay for his medical care.  Vincent was shocked that his life meant so little to the people he’d lived with and who he loved, and who he though loved him.  His family.  And they were leaving him behind to be killed.  He was only one year old.

VINCENT LEARNED - People need to have compassion for their pets and to provide them with needed medical care.

Thankfully Helen, who ran a Richmond based rescue organization, told the vet that she’d accept Vincent into her rescue program, to do the needed surgery and he could come home with her to recuperate.   She was a wonderful mom to Vincent while he recouped from losing his right hind leg, losing part of his tail, healed from breaks in the left hind leg, and began to heal from internal injuries.

Young Vincent

VINCENT LEARNED - There are really good people out there, people who devote their lives to animal rescue.

Helen provided the best care possible to Vincent for many months.  His leg healed, the stitches came out, the scars faded.  The incontinence remained a problem for dear Vincent.  Helen had heard of Rikki’s Refuge, a place where the handicapped could live full and productive lives and be given the care they needed every day. 

And so when Vincent was about a year and a half old, he came to live at Rikki’s Refuge.

Word of this poor kitty who’d been thru so much, who’d lost a leg, who was undergoing physical therapy to be able to walk on three legs, spread, and people came to love him and to feel sorry for him and to offer him hope and to make him feel better. 

They expected a sad, bedraggled, suffering little kitty.   Instead they found a joyful kitty who’s eyes lit up when he saw them and who scooted over and reached a paw up to their knee, begging, “pick me up, pick me up”.  Once in their arms he snuggled their necks, nuzzled their ears and purred and purred and purred.  He could never get enough love.  And he just loved giving it to others.

Vincent always gave more then he received

His new friends would go away feeling happy and hopeful and brighter about the whole world.  He always had that effect on every one who ever met him.  I never saw eyes light up the way his did when he saw someone to snuggle with.  No one was immune from his adorable shuffle over to them and his placing a paw up on their knee and his Meow of pick me up!

A friend wrote in when she learned of his passing, “Vincent was such a wonderful being.  He inspired us all to hang in there despite whatever life dished out to us. He was remarkable and will be missed by us all.  I know when I was spending time out there during my treatments...watching him gave me hope that if he could survive all the things he had...maybe I could too.  He will always remain a strong influence in how we humans should live our lives.”  The treatments she speaks of were very debilitating while she was fighting a second round of cancer, which thankfully she survived and is now healed.

VINCENT LEARNED - It’s better to comfort others and give them hope, than to be depressed about your own problems.

One day a group of girl scouts came out to visit and to volunteer.  One little girl was very sad and unhappy.  She didn’t want to work with the other kids.  She kept crying and saying she just wanted to go home.  She was miserable and refused to participate.  She sat on the steps, looking sad, and watching the other kids having fun with the animals.  Vincent, always knowing who needed him, scooted over to her, crawled up in her lap, and wrapped his arms around her neck and started to purr.  She hugged Vincent and sobbed into his fur for a while.  His lulling happy purr got to her after awhile and she began to nuzzle and pat him.  Soon she was laughing and talking to him and playing with him.

VINCENT LEARNED - Sometimes just listening is the most important thing.

When it was time to go she protested loudly that she didn’t want to leave her new best friend Vincent, “He cares about me, he listened to me, he really cares!”

We’d seen that kind of reaction from many volunteers and visitors.  They’d arrive sad about some life event; the loss of a loved one, a serious disappointment, the loss of a job, a deep hurt.  After “comforting poor little Vincent” for a while, they’d leave with a happy contented smile on their face.  Vincent was always there to put his arms around their neck, purr and listen to all their problems.  And he never once gave them mounds of well intentioned advice they didn’t want to hear!

Not long after that girl scout had made friends with Vincent, we were invited to teach a humane education class at a school.  What about taking Vincent?  He loved everybody. 

Maybe the kids would really listen to an animal talking to them!  So often we’d go into an auditorium with row after row of kids, all rowdy, chatting to themselves, teasing each other, acting up, and we’d never get the attention of even half of the kids while we talked about kindness, caring, compassion, proper treatment of animals and the benefits of speutering.  They’d half glance at the pictures of cats, dogs, rabbits .....  But we rarely really had the attention of more than a few of the kids. 

And so Vincent went to his first Humane Education Class.  The kids lined up in the auditorium, row after row, sitting on the floor, all the usual chatter and pushing and shoving.  When I held Vincent up and told them he was here to teach them about what it was like to be an animal, showed them how he only had three legs and told them he wanted to talk to them ... there was silence. 

When I set Vincent down, he scooted to the first child in the first row, climbed on her lap and snuggled.  After a few moments, he left, and scooted to the next child to snuggle.  Child after child.  Row after row.  He knew exactly what to do and wanted to make sure everyone got his love and attention. 

This time, as Vincent told about kindness, caring, compassion, proper treatment of animals and the benefits of speutering the kids were enthralled and kept raising hands to ask questions or ask for a second snuggling session.  The classes were no longer something to have to sit thru, but something to participate in.

VINCENT LEARNED - Humans prefer to learn from animals!

After seeing the reaction to Vincent at class after class and event after event, we began to take other animals with us on Educational Visits; dogs, rabbits, chickens, goats, iguanas, baby pigs .....  the kids loved it and they always had very intelligent inquisitive questions to ask.

So many questions!  Doesn’t it hurt to not have that leg?  Is your physical pain like ours?  Do you feel emotional pain?  Like we do?  What happens to too many animals in shelters?  How can we help save lives?  Why is speutering so important?  How can I get my parents to speuter our cat or dog?

Many of the kids who were in one of our Humane Education Classes would later bring their families on tours at Rikki’s Refuge to meet the animals who’d visited their school.  The kids talked all the time about what Vincent taught me, or what Nanny the goat had said, or what Duke the blind dog told them.  With the animals in front of them, us humans teaching the class, were nothing but the voice of the animals.  They’d look directly at the animal they were asking a question of, and directly at them while we responded for the animal.

On one tour a little boy was looking for “that lady who drives Vincent around”.  I picked up Vincent and went to meet him.  He was so excited.  He told his mom, “This is Vincent, he’s the one who told us about doing something to our cat so she stops having kittens.  Vincent tell my mom!”  His mom wasn’t familiar with speutering and didn’t know it was simple and could be inexpensive.  Vincent snuggled her son, while I told her the benefits to her cat and how it would stop all those kittens.  She was grateful, as she hated “having to get rid” of the excess kittens several times a year.  She lived a financially challenged life and we were able to get her hooked up with a speuter clinic and get her kitty “fixed” for her.

VINCENT LEARNED - Reaching out to teach kids, can teach the older generation too!

Each and every story I can tell you has been repeated over and over again, and I’m sure I’ll hear every one yet again and again.  It’s the first story of it’s kind that is so moving to me, when I realize what a difference Vincent or another animal is making in someone’s life.  Rikki’s Refuge was started to help the animals, the furry and feathered kind.  Yet the longer we’re here, the more we see how we help the human kind too.  Kindness, compassion, sharing, love, crosses all species, we don’t need to limit it - we need to reach out to every creature, large or small, human or other, and just be kind.  And you’ll find it helps your soul too.  If you’re sad, angry, disappointed, unhappy and you reach out to give a kindness to someone else, regardless of their species, you’ll find yourself just a little bit happier.  And if you do it over and over untill it becomes automatic, you’ll find yourself happy despite all the usual events of life.

A dog named Jack came to Rikki’s Refuge many years ago after what must have been horrible abuse.  His background was unknown, but his back was filled with scars, and he cringed in the corner and shook and wet himself when approached.  Whatever had happened to Jack had been not only physically but also emotionally traumatic. 

Childhelp is a wonderful organization who works with emotionally challenged kids. Often from abuse, bad home situations and the like, these kids are working to overcome emotional traumas.  Several counselors at Childhelp had been bringing kids out to Rikki’s on a regular basis.  One week there was a new boy.  Just to look at him was to hurt with the sadness and fear and rejection you could see in him as he hung his head and did not speak.  His counselor said he hadn’t spoken for over a year after a horrible traumatic event in his little life. 

At this point Jack had been with us several months and would now let us approach and pat him, and though he’d back into a corner, cower and shake, he no longer wet himself and sometimes we’d see the fear lesson in his eyes as he’d briefly lift them to look at us.

As we walked into Doggy Downs that day, this little boys eyes immediately went to Jack’s.  Jack stood up and approached the front of his pen.  Never, never before had he done that.  The boy walked to Jack’s pen, the two never breaking eye contact.  His counselor asked if he could go in with Jack.  I opened the door and the boy walked in and threw his arms around Jack.  Jack sat down and they stayed there, snuggled together for the entire visit. 

When it was time to leave and the boy had to go, he looked up at his counselor and said, “I love Jack”.  The first words he’d spoken since his trauma.  Week after week they visited and week after week they both improved.  The boy graduated from Childhelp and I pray has had a wonderful life.  Jack was adopted and had a wonderful happy life with his forever family who cherished him.

Usually it’s the kids and their stories that make such an impression on me.  Though you ought to see Vincent and his friends in nursing homes!!  They light up the residents eyes and lives!!  It so warms my heart to hear the folks talk about pets they had and how much they enjoy stroking Vincent or Duke or one of the other visiting animals.  And what a gift it is to us to be able to see the faces of folks, when we are able to take their elderly animals to visit them.  It’s a hard decision for so many folks, what to do with the beloved older pet when they must go to a nursing home.  Now a days, knowing the benefits, many allow animals.  But in the past few did.  And when their animals would come to the 9th Life Retirement Center at Rikki’s Refuge, if there was any way possible, one of our volunteers would take the animal to visit their owner.  Everybody was warmed by the experience, the previous owner, the animal and the volunteer.

VINCENT LEARNED - Being physically different, doesn’t change who you are.

I was setting up for a Humane Education Class in a school auditorium one day while the kids were filing in.  The last to come in was a little girl in a wheel chair, straggling way behind everyone, no one paying her any attention.  Vincent immediately picked up on her and scooted to the back of the room and reached up to her knee.  I went and lifted him up to her lap and they snuggled.  He told her that if he was a people he’d have a wheel chair too, but with three on the floor, he could scoot!  She smiled. 

They talked about being handicapped and needing help from others to do some of the most mundane things.  Soon I had her up in the front of the class and Vincent began to teach his first class about being differently abled.  She said the worst was that nobody wanted to be her friend and no one would play with her at recess, nobody wanted to sit with her at lunch.

Vincent visited some of the other kids and asked them if they wanted to play with him.  YES!  Did they view him as different, less of a cat, no fun, cuz he had only one hind leg?  NO!  Pretty soon we had the whole class talking about being physically different.  Some of you wear glasses.  One kid said he had a hearing aide.  One had special shoes nobody had known about.  Others had handicapped siblings or parents or grandparents.  Do you love them?  YES!  Are they just the same as you?  YES!  

Some of the kids said it was scary to play with somebody in a wheelchair, they didn’t know how to act, do they treat them different?  We got to talk about how somebody with a wheelchair, a walker, crutches, missing a leg or arm or eye - they’re just the same and they want to be treated just the same.  It’s ok to help them and open an door or carry a package, but other than that, they are just like you and me.

VINCENT LEARNED - The differently abled are just that: differently abled - they aren’t dis abled.

The next year Vincent and I went back to that school for our Humane Education Class and that same little girl was the first to come rolling in the room, big smile on her face, with kids crowding all around her, obviously she was a part of the group now.  She rolled right up to Vincent and said, “You’re my friend!  And now everybody wants to be my friend cuz you’re my friend!  Thank you Vincent for teaching them that you and me are just like everybody else!” 

Over the years as word about the Rikki’s Refuge Spokes Animals got out, they’d get bookings for 2, 4, 6 events a week.  Everyone wanted to meet Vincent and friends.  Often with the schedule, different Spokes Animals would attend different events.  Everywhere Vincent was, the lines were long, waiting to hug him, to have a photo taken with him, to meet him.

A few years ago Vincent got a hold of a ‘puter and created a facebook page, within days he had the maximum number of friends allowed, 5,000.  From all over the world.  He was a wise sage kitty, offering advice on problems, spreading love and peace.  He always emphasized how important love and kindness was.

Animals take the front seat at Rikki’s Refuge, because after all, we are an Animal Sanctuary.  Though people frequently ask to move in, we don’t have the proper habitat for them!  After working with humans and seeing the difference our animals make for them, I’d can dream of a place that has facilities for kids in need, the elderly, the differently-abled amongst the animal neighborhoods!

In the animal biz, I often hear people say, “I hate people, that’s why I like animals, why can’t all people be nice to animals.”  They’re referring to the people they see day in and day out who’ve hurt animals, physically thru abuse, emotionally thru abandonment, and it’s hard to remember they are a small segment of the human population. 

Vincent never, never discriminated against species.  He snuggled up and purred for other cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, sheep and humans! 

He felt all deserved that extra little bit of kindness.  He would encourage people to be nice to each other.  He’d tell his fans, today is “be nice day” - find just one nice thing you can do.  Open a door for someone, help someone carry their groceries to their car, pick up the neighbor’s paper and take it up to their door, get their mail from their mailbox for them, let somebody merge into traffic.  It doesn’t take much of your time to make a huge happy in someone else’s life.  And you know what?  It even makes you feel good!  Try it - you’ll like it !

These were the lessons Vincent shared on facebook and in his weekly newsletter, “Hairballs - what’s coming up at Rikki’s Refuge”! 

VINCENT LEARNED - Kindness counts, no matter what species you are.

Teaching kids, everyone, to be kind to animals and to everyone, was very important to Vincent’s life.  One day a lot of his friends were talking about bad news and sad news and unkindness in the world.  Convinced there is kindness and there are good people, Vincent, posted on his facebook wall GOOD MORNING GOOD NEWS and listed a number of kind and good things in the news for the day. 

So many fans wrote in saying thank you and the next morning asking for another “edition” that Vincent has published Good Morning Good News daily for several years now. 

His adopted sons, Opie and Timmy, will be continuing the publication as soon as their typing skills improve.

Vincent always believed that if there was something bad happening and you could do something to change it, then do it.  If you couldn’t, then find something that you could change for good.  Don’t sit around and moan about the bad - do something good.  If you can’t think of anything else  - make a donation to your local animal shelter or rescue. 

And he knew everyone everywhere counted, not just him and the animals at Rikki’s Refuge.  But animals and even people everywhere needed help and encouragement. 

VINCENT LEARNED - Share and Share alike.

He began advertising adoption events, fundraising events, and special needs for other animal organizations.  As his outreach grew - thru followers of GOOD MORNING GOOD NEWS and several facebook pages - he became aware of more and more need.  And he began to help with human issues too.  Food banks in need, homeless shelters.  And the contests!  With fans and supporters in every state and in 37 countries around the globe, he could seriously help animal shelters in Romania, Italy, Sweden, Egypt as well as others in need. 

Vote with Vincent !

A year ago Vincent discovered another avenue that he could help lots of animals and people.  With social media and the internet the way it is - people all over the country are seeing animals that will be euthanized for lack of space if not adopted.  Often someone falls in love with a cat or dog that is hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away.  Thru Vincent’s network he could ask for travelers and volunteers willing to help that animal get to it’s new home.  It worked!!!

He started a special project just for moving animals to new homes.  Katie’s and ZuZu’s Souls Train. Katie, a young black kitty, who’s owner had died and ZuZu, a big black and white boy, given up when their family moved, both destined to die in a shelter in New York were the first two to be rescued with this new project.  Since then, dozens have found new homes.

Vincent always loved Fancy Feast and with the advent of on-line shopping and, may of his fans sent him monthly subscriptions of cases of Fancy Feast.  Vincent D. Cat got more mail than you can imagine!!!

Ron bringing Nums for Vincent

In the fall, Vincent and his facebook kitty partner Polly, who lives in London, adopted two little boys, Timmy and Opie. 

At home in the Tree House, Vincent, Polly, Opie, Timmy

Timmy came from Winchester, where a motorist saw him fly out the window of the moving vehicle in front of her.  She stopped and picked up the badly injured month old kitten and took him to the first vet clinic she saw.  Ken, a Rikki’s Refuge volunteer worked there.  The doctor worked on little Timmy for over a month, and Timmy become the love of the office.  Sadly Timmy’s hind legs would never function properly again, and so he came to live with Vincent and apprentice as a Spokes Kitty. 

Velcro giving Timmy a physical therapy session to exercise his legs

Opie came from Waynesboro where, Barbara, a volunteer of Rikki’s Refuge was called about a mother cat “eatin’ the legs off her kittens.”  She took the family to her vet and discovered the missing limbs were birth defects, no fault of their loving mother.  There were nine kittens!  A huge litter for their young mother, Nellie.  In addition to the leg deformities, the kittens had other issues, and despite loving round the clock care, Opie was the only survivor. 

Barbara introduces Opie to Vincent

Opie and his mom now live with us at Rikki’s Refuge. Mom is kind and loving and will be a Humane Educator.  Opie will represent the differently-abled.  Born with no hind feet, he hops along just fine, but with a hard thumping noise.  A friend of Vincent who lives in New York is designing special padded socks for Opie!

Timmy, Vincent and Opie

Vincent began having some serious health issued last summer.  His wonderful doctors, Meredith Vargas and Andrea Kellum of Culpeper Animal Hospital worked diligently with him, calling in specialist when needed.  Time and time again they’d have our little man back up on his feet and feeling great again. 

He’d had a real tough bout in February and with the love and prayers sent from around the world, pulled thru and was able to spend more time loving his fans and sharing hugs and purrs.  When he had a down spell in early April and would eat only one flavor of expensive Fancy Feast Appetizers - packages addressed to Vincent D. Cat, poured in from friends all around the world.  After a week of hospitalization Vincent was feeling like himself again. 

Through the fall and over the winter, Vincent had snuggled with Timmy and Opie and taught them about being Spokes Kitties.  Timmy did the Christmas Photo Shoot with Vincent and made his debut into the world. 

Timmy’s first photo shoot, Christmas 2011

They’d snuggle visitors, but didn’t go off site for their first visit until the week before Vincent’s 14th Birthday.  Vincent, Opie, Timmy and Duke (a Doberman doggy, blind from birth) making up the Differently-Abled Team went out for a very successful photo shoot.  Opie is super outgoing and took instantly to being a loving cuddly spokes cat, knowing just how to pose and to ham it up when the camera came out, just like his dad, Vincent.  Timmy was a bit scared and will have to do some more car traveling and visiting different places to gain that level of comfort.  But they were great!

No one knew this would be Vincent’s last off-site photo shoot

Vincent had a big birthday bash scheduled for the 28th of April.  Though is birthday is officially on the 30th, his celebration was Saturday so more of his fans could attend.  He didn’t want them to have to explain to their bosses why they needed to take a day off work!!  Though one beloved fan and friend came all the way from St. Louis for the party!

The morning of the 27th Vincent wasn’t feeling well and went to see his docs.  Early in the morning he had seemed just a little off, but as the day wore on he was really not feeling well.  He’d had kidney insufficiency for quite some time, though with daily subQ fluid therapy he was doing and feeling great.  Everyone at Rikki’s Refuge, Culpeper Animal Hospital, and his friends and fans around the world were praying this would be just another little bleep in the road.  It was on the morning of the 28th, his birthday party day, that we had to face we’d probably reached the end of what modern medicine could do, there hadn’t been an improvement and likely wouldn’t.  Though Vincent had surprised us again and again over the years with his will to live and to pull thru health issues ....  maybe with prayer ....

His party started at 1 pm and we arrived a bit late, coming home from the vet.  He wasn’t feeling good.  Mostly sleeping, only lifting his head occasionally, and purring when I’d rub his nose, he always loved nose rubs.  Instead of a happy joyful party, it started out with a lot of tears as Vincent was held by those who loved him so much.  It was a chilly cloudy day.  But the love of his friends made it warm.

When it was time to open presents, Vincent sat up and said “HEY, I’m in on this!”  He begged to get down, and he went to help open presents, to eat - and he really ate - his fishy smelly birthday cake, and to share with his friends, cat, dog, goat and human!  As we sang Happy Birthday and cameras came out, Vincent just glowed and basked in the excitement of the party.  He never saw a camera that he didn’t start posing!!!   He scooted about, ate more fishy cake, opened more presents, played with his toys and friends.  He had a blast.

And what had started as a sad day, turned into a wonderful fun happy birthday party.

VINCENT LEARNED - Always put love first.

Despite not feeling well, he wanted to be a part of the love that day.  And his burst of energy, the tremendous amount he’d eaten, the way he seemed to feel so much better, made us hopeful.  Sunday was a lovely sunny day, and though weak, Vincent wanted to be out in the sun and was able to spend the afternoon in the sunny day run with Opie, Timmy and other friends. 

When we went to bed that night I knew most of his strength had drained away.  We cuddled up just like usual, his nose against mine, with several other furry friends.  His breathing was slowing and shortly after midnight, now officially his birthday, he crossed to Rainbow Bridge.

WE LEARNED - What Would Vincent Do?

Vincent spent 12 of his 14 years of life teaching about kindness and love and compassion.  His adopted kids, Timmy and Opie, and all of his friends and fans, will carry on that tradition.  Before making a decision, we’ll stop and think, What Would Vincent Do, and we’ll reach out to the world with a little more love and compassion and with less judgment and anger.

I’ll see you at the Bridge my beloved Vincent,

by Kerry Hilliard, founder of Rikki’s Refuge

Rainbow Bridge
     Author unknown

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here,
     that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor.
Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
     just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
     they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet,
     you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head,
     and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet,
     so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

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