DODGE The Freeway Kitty

Phil Johnson shares how this Ginger fuzzball came into his life:

It was on the afternoon of 16 April 2013 that I was sitting at work looking at this photo of me and my little mate Arkie, on what was the first anniversary of her passing. By then I was able to think of her and smile, though I must admit to getting a bit misty-eyed when I focused on her last moments, instead of celebrating the 18 years we shared. I got Ark and her sister Bonnie from a shelter when they were kittens and I was aged 22. Bon left us when she was 16 and Ark went a couple of years later, when she was 18 and I was 40. You go through a lot between the ages of 22 and 40, and Ark was there for me through all of it. I’ve had cats all my life but I decided I couldn’t go through the heartbreak again. That was it for me.

But light will always flow into the darkest of rooms if the door becomes ajar, or in this is case kicked in. It was only moments after I took some time to honour Arkie’s passing that I saw the photo of the little, furry pumpkin with the sad eyes. It was posted by a friend and former colleague, who was working at CityLink at the time and who commented how some days at work were more fun than others. I was immediately smitten by the kitten. There’s a difference between wanting something and actually being ready for it, and when I saw him, I knew I was ready.

I called my colleague to find out the kitten’s story. It turned out he was about nine weeks old and found trapped in the Melbourne’s Burnley Tunnel about a week earlier. CCTV cameras detected him on the side of the road meowing for help. They had to shut two lanes down to save him. He ran under one of the stationary rescue vehicles and had to be fished out from there. He was taken into the care of the Lost Dogs Home, who gave him a much-needed bath and medical check.

So the next call was to the Lost Dogs Home to see if the kitten was spoken for. No one had come forward and they had no idea how he found his way into the tunnel, but he was up for adoption to the right home. I spoke to them about my history of pet ownership and attitudes towards the responsibilities involved. But it was a comment I made almost as an afterthought that I think was the thing that clinched it. I mentioned as an aside that I, along with Ark and Bon, should be on their books because I’d been making monthly donations for nearly a decade to that time. I later found out there were hundreds who applied to adopt him and some had offered thousands of dollars. But the woman I spoke to said I’d made the shortlist and was a real chance, though a decision would be made in a few days.

Sure enough the call came about four days later telling me I could pick him up and take him home the following day. His story generated a lot of publicity so there was a lot of cameras to record the moment. I was able to hold it together until a private moment afterwards when I was carrying Dodge in the cat cage to my car. That’s when the enormity of it hit me and I shed some tears. Dodge and I have made a promise to each other to grow older together. He’ll turn 19 in the year I turn 60.

I often go on about how life is full of irony and the 16th of April is a classic example. What was a sad day in 2012, and one of quiet reflection in 2013, is now also a day of celebration.

For Ark and Bon, it’s not goodbye, but good memories. For Dodge, he was never going to have big shoes to fill, because he was always going to bring his own pair and tread his own path. And so it’s proved. There’ll always be plenty of room for all of them.


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