A Good Samaritan, Chris, was walking by an old church on a summer day in Trenton, when he spotted a little black kitten. He noticed that the tiny feline looked different, and that the chance for its survival in the outdoors would be slim. So he decided to bring him to a shelter. The Good Samaritan made a good decision.
Months later, another do-gooder, Doris Weiss, saw the little black kitten in a rescue. She decided to adopt him.
The journey started with Animals In Distress in Hamilton receiving the call that a one-and-half pound kitten was turned in to Mercerville Animal Hospital on Edinburg Road. The rescue organization and the hospital work together in the medical treatment of all of the felines.
Dr. Colleen Stevens gave the kitten his first check up. She noticed two things about him right away.
“The kitten had ringworm, and he also had no eyelids—eyelid agenesis—a condition that is extremely rare,” Stevens said. “There was something about him, and I just knew he would be a fighter, no matter what he had to endure for us to take care of his issues.”
Veterinarian technicians Jen Conner, Karin Sienkiewicz and Liz Thielke, all Hamilton residents, along with other vet techs at Mercerville Animal Hospital, started taking care of the kitten. They named him Ringo due to his ringworm. Always friendly, Ringo received daily baths and eye ointment to aid in corneal scratches, due to his condition. He would soak in the love and attention.
“Ringo actually looked forward to the baths, which is rare for a kitten,” said Sienliewicz, who was the first to see him at the hospital. “We would each say to one another that this kitten is just awesome.”
Thielke and Conner refer to Ringo as “the little fighter,” and they both feel that he sensed they were there to help him.
After Ringo’s ringworm was cured, a decision had to be made about whether to fix Ringo’s eyelids. Eyelid surgery would be costly, and then there was the question about whether someone would adopt him with his health issues. Pat Soltis, the president of AID, and Hamilton resident Carol Pfeiffer, secretary of AID, decided that it was worth the money and effort because Ringo had a fighting spirit that they had never seen before. The surgeries and visits to NorthStar cost $2,780 in total. AID received a 10 percent discount because it is a rescue organization.
Rescue volunteers now had the task of giving Ringo lots of TLC and socializing, hoping to prepare him for a future home. Sandra Harms, a volunteer and treasurer with AID for years, had a special connection with Ringo.
“It is amazing how well he tolerates his health issues,” Harms said. “He deserves to be given lots of love.”
Ringo went on to have two surgeries for his eyelids, which were done by Dr. Kristina Vygantas at NorthStar Vets, a veterinarian emergency trauama center in Robbinsville. Vygantas is a specialist in the field of corneal surgery and wound healing, as well as equine ophthalmology. She performed reconstructive surgery to reform the upper eyelid, which required skin grafting. The skin from under the eye is used as a graft to make an eyelid, and is sutured to below the eyelid. This allows for better blood flow and improves the chances of the graft being successful.
In a second surgery, the skin is cut from where it is attached to below the eye, and is released. After the initial surgery, Ringo received an injection of long acting antibiotic as well as oral pain meds and eye ointment.
Pfieffer took care of Ringo around the clock, tending to his post operative needs.
“When I looked at Ringo after the first surgery, I thought, ‘You poor baby,’” Pfeiffer said. “But Dr. Vygantas did an amazing job with the surgeries, and everyone at NorthStar Vets, like MAH, treated him with so much care and compassion. Because of this, Ringo bounced right back, taking everything in stride. Even with a cone on his head, and stitches in his lids, he never stopped playing, eating and being happy. He even chased my cat Chloe around the house.”
Ringo now has the ability to close his eyes, and shut out the light while he sleeps, something he was not able to do before the surgery.
Now Doris Weiss, who was able to take Ringo home right before Thanksgiving, is enjoying every minute with her new cat, who she has renamed Binx. He joins Weiss’ other cat, Peanut, as part of the family.
“The first time I saw him at the shelter, he broke my heart because I didn’t think anyone would ever adopt him,” Weiss said. “I have a soft spot for special needs cats, and I wanted to give him love. Binx is my little baby, and he and Peanut love each other already. I can’t thank Carol enough, and everyone who assisted in Binx’s care, for all they did for him. He has brought so much joy to this home already. Life is good. Very good.”