SWANZEY — They say cats have nine lives. Cami the cat must have used most of hers in the past three months.
A good Samaritan in Swanzey found Cami under his truck last week, unresponsive and near death. He brought her to Cheshire Animal Hospital in Keene, where veterinarians didn’t think she’d make it. A week later, Cami is resting comfortably after being reunited with her owner in Maine.
The saga of Cami, a 5-year-old American short-haired mix, began Jan. 31, as her owner, April Grotton, was packing up to move to Maine from her home near Route 32 in Swanzey.
Grotton had placed Cami and her dog Sparky in crates in the back of her car, but trouble came when she opened the rear hatch to put some more of her things there, she said.
“I don’t know how she got out of her crate, but I opened the hatch and she got out,” Grotton said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
It was 8:30 p.m., and Grotton had already received a phone call that the moving truck that left for Maine ahead of her had arrived.
“I was a wreck,” she said. “But I had to go, I couldn’t stay. With friends and neighbors and everyone saying, ‘It’s OK, we’ll get her,’ I had no doubt they’d find her, but every day it got colder and colder.”
One friend went to Grotton’s former Swanzey home daily to look for Cami, but there was no sign of her. Havahart traps were set out for the cat, but she didn’t take the bait. When new owners moved in, Grotton thought Cami might show up, but she didn’t.
Two-and-a-half months later, the prospects for Cami’s survival seemed bleak.
“I’d kind of given up hope,” Grotton said. “I’d hoped that she’d gone to someone else’s home. The other thought was that coyotes had eaten her, and I didn’t want to think about her suffering, I just wanted to think about her being happy, even thought I couldn’t have her.”
Then, last week, a flicker of hope.
Swanzey resident Travis Muzzey spotted something under his truck Thursday morning: It was Cami. He brought her to Cheshire Animal Hospital, where the staff got to work on her right away.
“She was just barely with us,” said Dr. Lee A. Pearson, a veterinarian and owner of the hospital.
Cami wasn’t injured, but her heart rate was under 100 beats per minute, about half what a healthy cat’s heart rate should be, Pearson said.
“And real weak, shallow breaths,” he added. “She was skin and bones, and hadn’t eaten anything in a long time. And she was hypothermic. The cat really looked like it was on its way out. If we hadn’t done anything, I think the cat would’ve been dead within the hour.”
They treated Cami with intravenous fluids, a heating pad and warm food, Pearson said.
“We didn’t hold out much hope, but you know, we’re going to try,” he said.
Pearson performed a body scan and that’s when they discovered Cami had a microchip implant with her owner’s information. They called Grotton and left a message.
Grotton could hardly believe her ears when she listened to the message, but her emotions were mixed, she said.
“It didn’t sound like she was going to live, and I hated myself even more because I blamed myself every night for not staying longer” the night Cami ran off, she said.
But by midday, Cami showed significant improvement, Pearson said.
“She started slowly responding,” he said. “We offered her some food, and she wolfed it right down, and when she did that we all got more encouraged.”
By morning, Cami’s condition continued to improve, and hospital staff called Grotton to give her the good news, he said.
Grotton made the three-hour trip to Keene right away.
“By time she got her, she’d improved so much more, we were able to send her home,” Pearson said. “We didn’t perform any miraculous surgery on this cat, we just treated her with heat and food and some medication. We’re just lucky to have gotten her when we did.”
Grotton arrived and the reunion was complete.
“As soon as they handed her to me, I cried,” she said.
Grotton said she believes Cami knew who she was right away.
“She started purring and kneading my sweater, and she sat with me the entire way home,” she said. “She wanted to be held.”
Cami is now resting comfortably, plays with her toys that Grotton kept, and keeps Sparky in check, Grotton said.
“She recognized her toys right away,” she said. “She’s not strong enough to play for long, but she’s head-butting my dog again, putting him back in his place.”
The bond between Grotton and Cami, whom she adopted from the Monadnock Humane Society in 2011, has never been stronger.
“She follows me everywhere now,” Grotton said. “If I’m taking a shower, she’s in the bathroom. If I’m in the kitchen, she’s in the kitchen. She won’t let me out of her sight, and I don’t want her out of my sight, either. We’re feeding her a few more times than normal. When she’s hungry, she meows at me, and she was never a meowing cat at all before. I think she likes being spoiled, and I don’t mind doing it for her.”
Grotton called Muzzey her “hero,” and thanked the Homeless Animal Rescue Team Foundation in Maine and several friends, who helped pay for nearly all of Cami’s veterinary expenses. She also sang the praises of microchips, which ultimately brought them back together.
She still doesn’t know how Cami managed to survive such a brutal winter, but she’s glad to have her back, she said.
“Some people don’t care, and say, ‘It’s just a cat,’ ” she said. “But it’s your animal. It’s your baby.”
Kyle Jarvis can be reached at email@example.com or 283-0755. Follow him on Twitter @KJarvisKS.