Around 5 p.m. most weekdays, you’ll find Tami Currie at the Walmart in Cody, grabbing a few supplies before heading home to Meeteetse.
While there, Currie often draws a crowd – but she’s not the one onlookers are interested in.
It’s her backpack, and the cat in the backpack.
“She’s the Walmart mascot, everyone knows her,” she said. “There’s a couple of employees in particular that look for her every time, because I’m usually there after work every day.”
Stinky The Wonder Kitten
Annabelle, or Stinky to her friends, is a 6-month-old kitten that requires intensive, round-the-clock care.
Paralyzed from mid-spine, Stinky can pull herself forward, but her back legs refuse to cooperate, which is why Currie has bought a specially designed backpack with a large plastic window and air holes.
“She goes everywhere with me,” said Currie.
Found In A Ditch
Five months ago, the kitten was in bad shape when she was found in a ditch near Burlington.
“We suspect she either fell out from a moving vehicle or was thrown from a window,” said Currie. “Who knows how long she was in the ditch for?”
The small feline had facial injuries as well as other, more severe, trauma.
“When I first brought her in, her lip was peeled down over her jaw on the bottom,” said Rhonda Gartner, whose son discovered the tiny kitten crying by the side of the road. “We thought we were going to have to do corrective surgery but we didn’t, it healed on its own.”
But they immediately discovered that Stinky couldn’t move her legs. In the months since she was rescued, Annabelle has regained some mobility, but Currie said she has to help her go to the bathroom – and sometimes, accidents happen.
“That’s why we call her ‘Stinky,’” said Currie.
The Right Person
Currie, a vet tech at Advanced Veterinary Services in Cody, is the right person to take on a challenge like Annabelle.
“I bottle-raise kittens a lot, and then I find homes for them,” she said. “There’s a few that I’ve kept personally that I don’t re-home.”
In addition to Annabelle, Currie cares for another cat with an injured leg, as well as a disabled dog rescued from a parking lot in Meeteetse.
“She’s partially blind, she’s got degenerative joint disease where she can’t really walk,” said Currie. “She had all but four teeth pulled because of neglect.”
Currie gets up at 4:30 every morning to care for her houseful of special-needs animals, but it’s definitely a labor of love.
“When they need extra care, I feel like I’m kind of qualified,” said Currie, who has worked at Advanced Veterinary Services since 2008.
And Currie said her supervisors at the clinic are very supportive of her work with disabled animals.
“The doctors are familiar with the cases, so it’s kind of an easy thing for me to do,” she said. “If I had any other job, I wouldn’t be able to care for her.”
Road To Recovery
Now nearly 6 months old, the curious Annabelle is more mobile, pulling herself across the floor to sniff at a bag of cat food or explore an interesting corner.
“She has gained some mobility because when she first came to me, she was unable to move any of her toes,” said Currie. “But now she’s got some momentum on those (front) two legs.”
And while Currie said it’s unknown if Annabelle will ever fully gain the ability to walk, she said not to count her – or other injured animals – out.
“Disabled pets are not disposable. They will overcome most obstacles,” said Currie. “They’re not like people, they can figure a way around things and they don’t sit around thinking, ‘Oh, woe is me.’”
Gartman, who also is a vet tech at Advanced Veterinary, points out that when faced with injuries and obstacles, animals adapt.
A person might see that “an animal’s leg needs to be amputated, let’s say, but they are too quick to cast judgment,” said Gartman. “That animal could just walk out of here, and it doesn’t slow them down.”
Anyone doubting that can stop by the Walmart in Cody at about 5 p.m. sometime and meet Stinky.