It’s not very often you find your next pet left for dead on the side of the road, but that’s exactly what happened to Dennis McDonald.
The burly truck driver was passing through Burnaby in the middle of a thunderstorm on March 10, when he nearly ran over a dead cat.
“I looked over in the passenger mirrors, and it was weird,” said McDonald. He sensed there was still life in the little fur ball. “I said, ‘That cat’s still alive!’ It hit me like lightning.”
McDonald turned his truck around, pulled over and got out.
“I got down on my knees, and he kind of backed into my haunches, and he was a mess,” McDonald said. “I saw a cat with his face hanging on the other side of his face with his tongue sticking out. He couldn’t even hold himself up. It was one of the worst things I’ve seen.”
McDonald put the cat in a box and took him to the Burnaby SPCA, fearing the worst.
When he arrived, staff began the intake process, but McDonald knew there wasn’t time.
“I said, ‘Ladies, we can worry about paperwork later. This animal has a chance. Let’s go!’”
The cat had a fractured upper and lower jaw, a ruptured ear drum and multiple facial fractures. His nose had collapsed, and his palate was broken, all the way to the back of his skull.
The SPCA tracked down the cat’s original owner, who had given the cat to a neighbour, and was unable to pay for the surgery. The cat had been missing for some time and was effectively abandoned, and the original owner decided then to surrender the cat to the SPCA. That part hurt McDonald the most.
“That just broke me in about a million pieces,” McDonald said. “I can’t do a lot on this planet, … but no being deserves to die anonymously in the corner. I said: ‘You know what? He’s mine.’”
The SPCA sent the cat to the Burnaby Veterinary Hospital, and between that clinic and West Coast Veterinary Dental Services in Vancouver, the two donated thousands of dollars of free vet care.
When McDonald called back later that day, he was astonished the cat made it through surgery.
“I’m overwhelmed because of the generosity and the kindness,” McDonald said.
Veterinarian Claudia Richter said the cat will stay at her clinic for another six to eight weeks to recover, and there’s no long-term damage expected.
“He’s doing great. He’s doing really, really well. He’s a nice cat,” she said.
The Burnaby Veterinary Hospital has been calling the cat Kevin, but McDonald wants to name him BB-8 - a nod to Star Wars. BB is also a reference to the cat’s original name, which was Blackberry, and eight is how many lives he’s used up so far. McDonald has been to Burnaby three times already to visit Kevin.
McDonald might seem intimidating at first - he’s 6-3, has long hair and weighs more than 200 pounds and plays in a band. But when it comes to cats, he’s a big softy. He’s already adopted two cats, and BB8 is about to join the family.
“I look like a big scary guy, but it’s just me and my kitties,” he said. “My life is just coming home and letting them out to run in our closed yard.”
McDonald’s rescue story is already spreading on social media, and he’s planning to start a Facebook page for the cat.
“He’s amazing,” McDonald said. “He’s gurgling when he purrs. He’s so happy. He doesn’t know why, but he knows people are looking after him.”