Dumpster Kitten Has Calming Effect on Little Girl

By PetcoFoundation on Mar. 23, 2017


Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Katherine Abernethy won Independent Animal Rescue in Durham, North Carolina a 2016 Holiday Wishes award. 

There are two parts to this story.

Last April, a volunteer with Independent Animal Rescue spotted kittens climbing in and out of a dumpster. The dumpster was scheduled to be emptied the next morning. To reach the kittens, volunteers painstakingly pulled the trash from the dumpster.

Hours later, they rescued a litter of five black kittens around three to four-weeks-old. They had runny eyes and noses, worms and fleas. They received wonderful care during the quarantine period at the shelter and then came to my home for foster care. The kittens made a seamless transition into our home.

The other half of this story involves a special little girl named Lexi.

Lexi came into our family over six years ago. Her first few years of life had been fraught with abuse and neglect. She was in the care of the Department of Social Services, but they could not find a home for her because of her special needs.

As a long-time paraprofessional in self-contained classrooms (where students receive special education services), they contacted me about fostering her. I had known her since age three and as a single parent, I admit, I was leery. Lexi has severe, nonverbal autism. She was aggressive and self-injurious. She did not want to be touched and had no self-help skills.


She came to live with us, and we fell in love with her and saw her potential. Today, Lexi is happy and a permanent member of our family, thriving in her school and community.

Lexi never demonstrated an affinity for animals. She ignored our dogs. She never harmed them; she just preferred that they not get too close to her.

When the kittens arrived, however, one kitten, Charlie, proved to be the leader of the pack. He was the first to do everything and the other kittens followed. He was also extraordinarily social and people-oriented from an early age. He seemed drawn to Lexi.

The first time we saw Charlie climb onto her lap, we collectively held our breath to see what would happen next. Miraculously, she allowed it and began to pet him. It was clear that we would have to adopt this kitten.

Over two years later, all the dumpster kittens are in great adoptive homes, and the bond between Lexi and Charlie continues to grow. He sleeps beside her at night and immediately finds her lap when she is sitting.

But more importantly, on bad days, when she is agitated, he positions himself across her body and seems to calm her. It has been an amazing thing to behold.

I can’t imagine Lexi’s life without Charlie, and I cannot thank the wonderful volunteers at Independent Animal Rescue for spending so many hours on that April morning saving Charlie and his littermates.

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