Life, Death and Beyond: An Off-island Adoption

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Tripod and his best friend Simkha, a white Russian wolfhound, at home in New York.

A group of our friends here in St. John decided to hold an evening pot-luck party at the pavilion on Oppenheimer Beach. We got the necessary permission, decorated the pavilion with bougainvillea branches, and all brought our casseroles and desserts.

One uninvited but not unwelcome guest was a small black mother cat who brought her smaller black kitten with her. They kept together throughout the evening, soliciting for food here and there.  

After the party was over and we were all back home, I thought about this mother-and-child trying to find food wherever possible. My mother and I decided to drive back to Oppenheimer the next day with a cat carrier. We hoped to find the pair and bring them back to the house.

When we arrived at the pavilion, a pack of local boys were shouting and exclaiming that the kitten was being washed away in the surf. They gleefully told us that they’d thrown it out as far as they could to see if the mother cat could rescue it. She tried and tried, but almost drowned herself. I dashed into the surf and picked up the sodden little creature. The boys ran away while I tried to revive the kitten, wrapping it in a towel to keep it warm. But it died on the shore.

The mother cat was beside herself with fear for her baby. She tried and tried to lick it back to life. After watching this heart-breaking performance for almost half an hour, I picked up the drowned kitten while my mom picked up the mother cat and put her into the carrier. I dug a hole in the sand and buried the kitten among the shrubs at the beach and put a cross made of branches on the grave.

I named the small black mother cat “Little Lady” and took her North with me to a home with my sister — a veterinarian in Manhattan. Becky gave Little Lady a thorough exam and discovered that she was pregnant again with a litter of St. John kittens!

Little Lady delivered three fluffy kittens at home in my sister’s Brooklyn apartment:  one girl and two boys. After a while, a fourth kitten emerged — a tiny boy with only three legs!

Becky found good homes among her clients for the three fluffy kittens. Brother and sister went to live on an estate in Connecticut. Sammy, the second boy, lives in Manhattan with his devoted human and Becky is his vet. He’s becoming a feisty young male who doesn’t like his doctor visits. Becky kept the fourth, the three-legged kitten that she named “Tripod.”

Tripod’s grown into a bossy tabby who lords it over the other members of Becky’s apartment family — Snowball, a sweet white chinchilla; two very large abandoned skinks who have a fabulous floor-to-ceiling glass condo; Pandora, a rescued New York City street cat, and various temporary refugees from Becky’s clinic.  

He sleeps with his best friend, Simkha, a huge white Russian Wolfhound. Tripod limps outrageously with only one front leg, but he’s mastered getting around just fine. He’s never known anything different.

And Little Lady’s been spayed and won’t have any more kittens.

This true story was submitted to St. John Tradewinds by Jennifer Vesey, a former part-time resident of St. John who lives in Sudbury, Massachusetts. “Stripey,” a tiger cat  from Jacob’s Ladder, and “Maho,” a beautiful black cat from Maho Bay Camp, live with her.

Please submit Off-Island Adop-tion stories directly to Tradewinds, P.O. Box 1500, St. John, VI 00831.

– Jennifer Vesey