The little kitten was only about ten weeks old when when she was found abandoned, crying and alone under a hedge in a street in Co Antrim. She was soot black, but her fur was coarse and patchy in places from ticks and fleas and goodness knows what else she'd had to endure since she'd been thoughtlessly discarded; she had black paws, ebony whiskers and amazing eyes the colour of liquid amber speckled with gold-dust.
The people who found her gave her the name Cindy. It was easy to catch her because she was simply too weak to run away, so they wrapped her up in a blanket and then took Cindy into their warm home. It just so happened that one of their friends had read something in the Belfast Telegraph a few days before, telling readers about a new shelter that was being set up for the rescue and re-homing of abandoned animals. The article was, in fact, my column from September 10, the week that I had started working as a volunteer at the Barn Animal Rescue in Newtownards.
They got in touch with The Barn where the owners Joanne and Glenn were more than happy to take this new charge under their wing. She was malnourished, timid and very sick when she was brought in to us. A trip to the vet confirmed that Cindy was only half the weight she should have been for her assumed age and - even worse - she was riddled with worms that were rapidly sapping the life out of her. She needed to have vaccinations, treatment for parasites and a course of antibiotics without delay. If she survived all that, then she would need a special diet for a few weeks to bring her up to a healthy weight. And that was how the salvation of Cindy began in earnest.
At the Barn, each family of cats is kept together in a separate heated pod, complete with litter trays, food and water bowls, a crate with a cosy heated pad, a blanket, a selection of toys, a cuddling chair and play apparatus. Cindy had all these, but unlike the other cats she had no parents or siblings to keep her company. Joanne and Glenn were worried that Cindy might become depressed so they arranged for every visitor and volunteer to spend some time every day playing with Cindy, cuddling her, stroking her and giving her the occasional treat too.
At first she was so timid we virtually had to crawl inside her crate to be able to reach her. After a while, when she had developed a love of kitty treats, she was more eager and came to the door of the crate voluntarily. She started to explore her surroundings and sit happily on our laps while getting stroked. Simultaneously her weight was picking up, her sores were starting to heal and her fur was beginning to look and feel glossy and thick. As for her amber eyes, well they dazzled us all with their beauty and brightness.
One of the best breakthroughs came last week when I sat down on the chair in her pen and Cindy just leapt straight up onto my lap and started purring contentedly as I stroked her. By that stage we'd had her for eight weeks and it was clear by then that she was fully recovered, fit, happy and healthy. All that remained was to have her spayed and microchipped then she was ready for adoption. Of course, it didn't take long to find someone for such a wee angel. At the same time, a lovely lady called Maud, who lives in Belfast, was heartbroken to have lost her cat after 16 years. Her son contacted the Barn and as soon as he saw Cindy he knew she was the one. So it was with a mixture of sadness and joy that we all gathered around to give Cindy one last cuddle on Friday - and to shed a few tears in the process!. Then off we went on the next part of the big adventure, to take Cindy to her forever home. I'm delighted to report that Cindy's new home and new family are just perfect in every way. The feeling was mutual too, because now Cindy and her new mum are inseparable.