Kitten who touched the world memorialized

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas. Publicado en News in English.

On June 20, Swee rescued Chipper after getting a call that a kitten was thrust from a tree-chipping machine when construction workers turned on the machine - leaving the small kitten clinging to life.
Kitten who touched the world memorialized
Published Wednesday, July 26, 2006
by Lindsey Franco

"Oh god I forgot my tissues," one woman said as she blinked to avoid tears.

"Oh no problem, I've got some in my purse," her friend reassured.

Soft violin music played in the background, while Chipper's story was depicted on two large storyboards.

About 20 people gathered Monday to honor Chipper, the skinny 9-week-old orange kitten who died weeks after surviving a tree-chipper accident.

"You weren't there, but these pictures show you how normal he really was," said Boca Raton resident Maury Swee said as he pointed to the enlarged pictures of Chipper.

Swee owns 10th Life Sanctuary, a nonprofit "no-kill" animal-rescue organization in Clewiston that provides lifetime care to more than 700 unwanted, injured, and special-needs cats.

Chipper would likely have ended up there - had he lived.

On June 20, Swee rescued Chipper after getting a call that a kitten was thrust from a tree-chipping machine when construction workers turned on the machine - leaving the small kitten clinging to life.

Swee rushed Chipper to Dr. Salvatore Zeitlin of the South Dixie Animal Hospital in West Palm Beach. Dr. Zeitlin performed nearly $6,000 worth of surgeries to repair the small kitten's broken neck, shattered front legs and deep head wounds.

Chipper was a fighter, and his story was seen on television and in newspaper media nationwide. About a hundred people called to adopt Chipper, among hundreds of concerned e-mails and phone calls.

Swee posted updates about Chipper's recovery on the 10th Life Web site, Chipper survived for nearly three weeks before he died from brain injuries in his sleep July 8.

"We're trying for Chipper to create awareness that there are special-needs animals that can be just as good animals as non-disabled pets," said Sandy Swee, Maury Swee's wife.  

Had Chipper survived, he would have been a special-needs animal - one that requires unique medical attention - the kind Swee's 10th Life Sanctuary cares for on a regular basis.

Swee brought four of the shelter's cats to Chipper's memorial service - three of which have special needs.

One was blind and deaf, another had hind legs that wouldn't function and the third was FIV-positive - the cat equivalent of AIDS. The fourth cat was a healthy newborn kitty that batted the other cats' tails and pounced around a 7X6 foot pen brought for the occasion.

"Look at that face!" one woman exclaimed.

The crowd ooh-ed and aw-ed. Some took pictures, others pet the cats and some discussed animal rights.

"We human beings have problems as well as animals. The animals need as much care as we people need," said Jack Cole, a Royal Palm Beach resident
10th Life Sanctuary established "Chipper's Fund" which would cover the medical expenses for Chipper's $6,000 surgery.

So far, $3,500 has been raised. Swee said once 10th Life reaches the full $6,000 to cover Chipper's surgeries, the excess money would help other special-needs cats.  

"The hard part for me is I know I can do better if I have more money," said Swee, who used his business background to create and maintain the nonprofit organization for the past five years.

Palm Beach resident Susan Meier first heard of 10th Life Sanctuary upon a routine veterinary visit to Dr. Zeitlin with her 10-year-old cat, Eric.

She said Chipper touched everyone at the animal hospital - including vet techs and other clients - and a Lucite box with Chipper's picture for donations now sits in the office.

Meier individually has raised money for Chipper's Fund. She threw a July 4 party on her boat, charging her guests admission, and she also put a coffee can with Chipper's picture in a local neighborhood restaurant, the Sand Bar.

She has raised almost $400 and plans to keep funding 10th Life Sanctuary.

"I'm going to corporate sponsors, possibly a big name law firm," Meier said.

Meier visited the 10th Life Sanctuary in Clewiston and said was impressed by the facility, but Swee said it could be better.

10th Life Sanctuary sits on five acres of rented land, but is currently using just one acre. It has large zoo-like pens for the cats, a 4,000-square foot infirmary called the "Blue Barn" and 9,000 square-feet of outdoor area for the cats. Eventually, Swee said he hopes to buy the land and build hurricane-proof facilities.

"Chipper has helped us create an awareness of our sanctuary and that awareness ultimately will help us raise enough money to provide for more special-needs cats as well as regular cats," Swee said. "Foundation money is hard to get for rescue groups. We're looking for an angel, and hopefully we'll find one."