A mother cat pulled her five kittens to safety from a blazing abandoned building in Brooklyn (USA), badly scorching herself. One kitten, weakened by smoke inhalation, died of a virus. Her four remaining 4-week-old kittens recuperated with her at an animal clinic.
Firefighter David Giannelli, a 17-year veteran with Ladder Company 175 told reporters "What she did was she ran in and out of that building five times, got them all out, and then started moving them one by one across the street." David found the feline family outside the building and took them to an animal shelter, where the mother and babies received treatment. His colleagues coined a nickname for firefighter David: "The animal guy." "Everyone here knows that anything I can do for an animal I'll do," Giannelli explains.
Scarlett and her babies find new homes:
Three months after her heroic feat, Scarlett and her four surviving babies are not only well, but were adopted in a blaze of publicity. After reading hundreds of letters from people who wanted to adopt the cats, a committee at the North Shore Animal League picked three families.
Two kittens, "Oreo" and "Smokey", went to Debbie Palmarozzo of Miller Place, Long Island. "I might change Smokey's name to Cinders," said Palmarozzo.
The two other kittens "Samsara" and "Panuki", who have been inseparable, are with Corinne and Ginette Vercillo of Port Washington, Long Island.
As for Scarlett, judging by all the cat hair on her new owner, Karen W, there was some heavy bonding going on. "I expected to see a scrawny hairless cat and she was gorgeous," said Karen.
Named for her burned red flesh, Scarlett is certainly more like the feisty heroine of "Gone With The Wind."
Karen's letter caught the committee's eye because she told of losing her own cat seven years ago shortly after she herself was hurt in a car accident.
"The physical and emotional pain I suffered made me more compassionate, and I vowed if ever allowed another cat in my home, it would be one with special needs," Karen wrote.
Scarlett is special all right. "We spoiled her rotten," said Dr. Bonnie Brown of North Shore Animal League. "Scarlett is used to being queen of North Shore Animal League."
Scarlett even has a Web site devoted to her, featuring a poem (Scarlett - A Feline Heroine) entitled "Why is Everybody So Surprised That I Saved My Furry Five?"
Undoubtedly, these cats will live in the lap of luxury.
"My husband's building a cat condo 10 feet tall," said one proud new owner. "I went out and bought everything that wasn't tied down in the pet store," said another.
Maybe, just maybe, this will be the end of Scarlett fever.
Scarlett died on October 11, 2008, while with her adoptive family in Brooklyn. She required ongoing care as a result of her injuries, and shortly before her death she was diagnosed with a heart murmur. She eventually died of multiple illnesses.
The Scarlett Award
The North Shore Animal League has created an award named the Scarlett Award for Animal Heroism, in Scarlett's honour. This award is presented to animals that have engaged in heroic acts to benefit others, whether humans or other animals.