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A chilly May morning, two newborn kittens lie outside a cat shelter barely clinging to life. A bewildered wild young mother wanders about, innocent of the consequence of her absence. Mary chances upon the scene and recognizing the peril, returns with a heating pad and blanket, administering a resuscitating massage. One kitten responds. The search for a surrogate begins.

Twenty-five miles to the north, an abandoned Himalayan female, starving and afflicted with a severe case of ringworm, shows up at a shelter nursing three day-old kittens. A fortuitous call and some generous veterinary staff help unite the parties. The struggling newborn is whisked off to the Animal Health Clinic in Blackfoot where it finds an amenable host.

The Portneuf Animal Welfare Society accepts guardianship of the clan and though the surrogate accepts the newcomer, it does not survive. After a two-week stay at the clinic, the quartet arrives at its new home, a modified pump house at the home of the society’s administrator. They remain there for more than a week awaiting warmer weather and a more habitable environment.

The troupe arrives at its summer residence in early June complete with an assemblage of kennels, cages, tarps, litter boxes, cat food, dietary supplements, and medications. Mother, who we named Anna Purrna, was well into recovery from her affliction yet still had to be administered to several times each day. Kittens, cute and animated as they always are, receive most of the attention. Abe, the alpha male, is the lone short hair tabby while Frankie and Jonny, virtual twins, resemble gray furballs with legs. None remotely resemble Anna Purrna.

Ironically, several days pass when P.A.W.S. receives a call that a month-old female had been nearly run over and picked up by the driver who cared for it for a few days. Requiring a surrogate, the kitten arrives to be nursed by the accommodating mother.

A short time later we stumble upon the idea of replacing the unsightly and burdensome cage assembly with a camp tent. This, we determined, would at the minimum provide us more convenience. As things worked out, it proved the perfect solution. The continuous wet weather had made it nearly impossible to maintain a dry environment but the new accommodations provided not only that but comfortable confinement with a view.

A week passes with our hands full of rambunctious playmates whose only other interests are sleeping and eating. Mother doesn’t seem to mind how often they interrupt her solitude and accommodates their every desire.

I’m spending the morning on my bike and decide to take 1st street toward Ross Park. As I approach the Benton overpass I notice scurrying streaks of furry felines bolting in and out of the basement windows of an abandoned warehouse. Stopping to investigate I could get no closer than a few yards of the diminutive clutch. As I prepared to leave I happened to notice a bedraggled bundle of hair and grime sitting in a window well, motionless. I approached expecting it’s quick departure. It did not move. Only looked at me. I reached down to pick it up. It sat in my hand. Soiled, stained, blackened soles for paws, bones in a scraggly coat, smelling like wet dank fur. A homeless indigent. I stroked him. His eyes never left mine.

I set him back down on the sill and asked if he wished to come home with me. I walked back to my bike. I reached to pick it up and there he was behind me. I returned him to the sill. He followed me again. I then knew his answer was yes and I could not leave him. He was the smart one. I road back to my car and returned only to find him gone. I searched to no avail and was disheartened when I prepared to leave. I returned to the sill where I had left him and called out. A disheveled lump somewhat alive appeared. Slumdog had been rescued. And now there are five.

A few days later on her way to the same Blackfoot clinic where this saga began this same PAWS administrator stopped along the highway to assist a vehicle in distress.

Upon arriving she discovered it wasn’t engine trouble. It was kitty trouble. A traveler had spotted kitties along the road and stopped to help. One had stowed away in the engine compartment. She eventually coaxed, pulled and convinced a feisty ball of energy from within the confines and into a legion of forsaken misfits. Having been found on the reservation we found it appropriate to call him Frybread.

There was to be one final addition to our menagerie when a coworker called that her grandson had discovered a tiny month-old golden kitten inside a box tucked in an alley. Inside the box along with the little critter was an unopened can of cat food, a baggy of dry food, kitty treats, and a toy. What more could any self-reliant-month-old ask for?

Our band of 7 kittens and a now totally healthy mother were too numerous for that two man dome. Remarkably a donation appeared in the form of a large 4 man tent with 6-foot clearance. Large enough to house a large kennel, lawn chair, play house, two litter boxes, collapsible stool, a hanging mobile, a cardboard play pen and food and water dishes. We recently installed an air conditioner. Really!

UPDATE: That was the story last summer. By autumn, Frybread had been whisked off to Colorado to accompany a lonely feline female. He has adjusted splendidly to the transition. He lives indoors much of the time but often gets the urge to prowl among the Colorado sage with his pal, Pitch.

Abe and Goldie found refuge with a local gal and two appreciative young children who provide the feline pair with plenty of daily exercise climbing stairs, rifling through the laundry and keeping their claws off the furniture.

As for Anna and the remainder of the clan, following a short stint at a farm in Aberdeen, they returned to Pocatello to join an established colony, sharing a comfortably spacious residence with a convivial variety of welcoming feline colleagues. They spend much of their days relaxing among the many comforts of their accommodations when not engaged in typical feline activities (chasing each other, sleeping, mousing, snacking on their conquests, etc.)