In August 2017, three tiny kittens arrived at Richmond Animal League (RAL) from a partnering municipal shelter. These kittens, like many of the more than 500 who were cared for by RAL in 2017, were neglected, underweight, and had goopy eyes and digestive challenges. Placed in a foster home, the kittens received the attention they needed and deserved.
At eight weeks, the veterinary team at RAL noticed that one of the kittens, Flossy, had an indentation near the bottom of her rib cage. X-rays confirmed that the kitten was born with a congenital birth defect called pectus excavatum (PE). Flossy’s thoracic wall, sternum, and ribs did not form properly at birth, and caved in instead of out. As she grew, Flossy’s developing heart and lungs would be compressed and displaced. Untreated, Flossy would not reach adulthood. However, because of support from RAL donors, Flossy was able to have life-saving surgery.
During Flossy’s recovery, a RAL video of her went viral and was shared on a support group for people who suffer from PE, like Jake Carreno on the West Coast. Jake’s mom, Sherrie, reached out to RAL from California: I would love to adopt Flossy! My 15-year-old son, Jake,
had surgery for PE in December and currently has two bars in his chest. I would love to surprise him with a kindred soul.
But by that time, Flossy had already been adopted. Just a few weeks later, however, a new litter of kittens arrived at RAL and were placed in the same foster home as Flossy and her siblings. After two weeks in the home, the foster mom noticed one kitten, Waylon, had an indent toward the bottom of his rib cage. Thinking there was no way this could be PE – as it is rare – the foster mom notified RAL.
X-rays confirmed the kitten had the same chest bone abnormality as Flossy.
When Richmond Animal League contacted the Carrenos about adopting Waylon, Sherrie laughed out loud. “Honestly, I thought RAL was in Richmond, California,” she explained. “But once we committed to it and found out he was in Richmond, Virginia, it didn’t matter. We decided to go get him anyway!”
Waylon had the surgery almost exactly one year after Jake Carreno had his surgery, and after a few months of recovery, met his new family in mid-February.
“He’s such a cute kitten!” Jake said. “I have never even met a person who has had this surgery, so to meet a kitten who has it is really cool. I think it’s kind of cool that there are even animals going through the same thing as me. I didn’t think anyone else in the world had the same thing as me,” Jake said.
As Richmond’s oldest nonprofit, no-kill organization, RAL is committed to saving lives by providing hope, help and homes for animals in need. Founded in 1979, RAL’s main goal is to reduce euthanasia rates in Central Virginia by transporting pets from partnering animal control agencies. RAL provides temporary housing, medical treatment, low-cost spay and neuter services, and quality care to more than 2,000 companion animals each year until they are adopted into permanent, loving homes.
Elizabeth Thomas, acting executive director of RAL, says, “Our mission is to save animals in need, but it’s the human-animal bond and seeing these lifelong connections that really inspire us to do the work that we do.”