Impossibly Tiny: the Rescue Kitten that Saved my Life.

Via Michelle Chouinard
on Mar 20, 2015
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Michelle Chouinard 1

If I’d been working that morning, I never would have gone into the backyard.

The kitten looked impossibly tiny sitting on my back porch. He was watching my cats, Morpheus and Trinity, through the patio door with his one good eye; the other was swollen shut, twice its normal size. He didn’t run or seem frightened when I approached; he just turned and looked at me, his head cocked like he was asking me a question. All sharp bones and huge head, he looked several weeks younger than he turned out to be.

I swept him up, rushed him to the vet. He was starving and thirsty, that was obvious. The eye was due to some sort of cold virus; his mother had probably abandoned him because of it. But the most urgent problem, Dr. Silva told me, was the fleas. They were draining his blood to a dangerously low level—she pulled his mouth open to show me the gray-white gums and tongue that should have been pink.

They set up an IV for him, for fluids and nutrients. They started him on several medications. She gave him a pill to get rid of the fleas, and as I watched, fat flea after fat flea squirmed off in spirals onto the table; the little black spots falling off his black fur like he was coming apart bit by bit, and would crumble to nothing.

I didn’t think about the timing of it all then. I’d just quit my job; after twenty years of training and work, I had to accept that my chosen career was damaging me, body and soul. I felt like a failure, a wasted life. All those people I’d set out to help, I was abandoning them. Sure, I’d been able to help some, but so few, in the grand scheme of things, and I didn’t know how to be at peace with that.

I breathed a sigh of relief when it came time to take the kitten home; he looked much better, and was playing with everything in sight. Even his towel-blanket.

But when I checked on him the next morning, something was wrong.

I rushed him back in; a different vet, Dr. Knudsen, had me leave the kitten and come back in two hours. I didn’t knowing where to go while I waited. I pulled up to a beauty supply shop, and wandered up and down the aisles, tears silently falling.


Why had the universe entrusted me with this kitten just to take it away?

And how could I love him so desperately in less than 24 hours?

I went to my car and started a session of Tonglen, meditation that breathes in the pain of others, and breaths out compassion for them. I tried to focus through the tears.

Answers filled me. This wasn’t about me, or my pain. It was about how I could help another being, about a soul that could die cold and alone, or warm and loved. The outcome was not in my control, but my actions were, and my role was kindness. Compassion. Love.

I went back to the vet.

“It’s not looking good. We can keep treating him, but it’ll just cost you a lot of money, and he’ll likely die anyway.”

I looked up at him. I saw the cynicism and burn-out that comes from watching countless animals die despite your best efforts. I saw a man who’d seen more little kittens like this than he could count, and who knew there were thousands more. I understood that from his perspective, this one kitten just didn’t make much difference.

But from mine, he did.

“Treat him.”

“You understand he’s probably going to die regardless?”

“Yes. Do everything you can for him.”

He gave me an odd look, and nodded.

I returned several hours later. The vet tech, Wendy, came into the exam room carrying the kitten.

His eye was open. And he was playing with his towel again.

We hadn’t won yet, she told me. He’d need special formula every two hours, fed from a syringe. She showed me how, and I watched with laser focus; one slip and I could drown him. He’d need four medicines several times a day, and he’d need a water bottle to keep him constantly warm. I’d need to wipe his bottom because he couldn’t eliminate on his own.

But he was alive.

Little Neo survived; he’s almost three years old now, still playing with everything in sight. And every day he’s my reminder that while it sometimes feels like what tiny amount I’m able to give doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it does matter.

To someone, it makes all the difference.

Michelle Chouinard 2





Rescue a Life: Before & After.

A Letter to My Dog. {Amazing Video}



Author: Michelle Chouinard

Editor: Renée Picard

Images: via the author 


About Michelle Chouinard

Michelle M. Chouinard has a Ph.D in developmental psychology from Stanford University. She enjoys writing when her large dog and four cats relinquish her desk and chair. She is currently shopping her first novel, Hazel-Green. Find her at her blog and on Twitter.


8 Responses to “Impossibly Tiny: the Rescue Kitten that Saved my Life.”

  1. Andreaé says:

    Thank- you Michelle for preserving Neo's life and sharing this powerful story that serves to remind one that YES we all do make a difference and the joy and love I am sure you have received back from him is priceless.

  2. Bronwyn says:

    I love this story. I love the outcome, of course, but I especially love the lesson, that love and kindness can be so uncomplicated, and yet so powerful.

  3. Bronwyn says:

    This is such a great story. I love the outcome, but more than that, I love the way it's an example of how acts of love and kindness can be so make tough decisions clear and uncomplicated, and that in the simplest of these acts is the greatest power.

  4. mishka824m says:

    Thank you so much! He has been such an incredibly joy in my life. He makes me laugh every day, and somehow I don't even mind that he has a penchant for tearing up the couch, lol. 🙂

  5. mishka824m says:

    Yes, absolutely. I've been guilty in the past of forgetting that even the smallest act can impact someone in either a good way, or a bad way–and that choice is always in my power.

  6. lexacain says:

    That was beautiful Michelle!

  7. karebear1967 says:

    I had a similar experience back in 2012. My stepdaughter found a tiny kitten who was probably 4 weeks old. His tail was mangled, we weren't sure if some larger animal got to him or what. He was neutered, & the tail amputated to a little stub (when he and our rescued boxer drink from the same bowl, they look like two "stumpy butts"). It wasn't too long after that we discovered his special "talent". I have epilepsy and he somehow knows when I have a seizure coming. He has assumed the role as my protector now. It's almost as if he is taking care of me as I took care of him!

  8. mishka824m says:

    Wow! Isn't it amazing how sometimes we think we're rescuing someone and it turns out they're rescuing us? 🙂