FORT WAYNE – It’s Monday, and the clear plastic bag in the middle of the road is one used to package comforters or large blankets.
Orlo Shifley is driving home from his routine walk along the Rivergreenway when he spots it on North River Road in New Haven.
It’s when he stops to pick it up that he finds the mangled horror inside.
Someone that morning, no one yet knows who, had taken three 7-week old kittens, stuffed them into that bag and zipped it shut.
Then they drove out along North River Road and unceremoniously dumped it out of whatever they were driving, leaving those creatures – still living – to whatever fate awaited them.
That fate included at least one vehicle running over the bag, crushing bones and killing two of the kittens inside.
But fate had something else in store for one of those kittens, which somehow escaped what befell her two littermates.
This is the story of that kitten, now dubbed Mercy by the folks at the Allen County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and how she went from disposable feline left in the middle of a road to someone’s future pet.
It’s unfathomable that in this day and age, someone literally would trap those kittens with no way out, said Jessica Henry, director of Allen County’s SPCA.
‘There was the bag’
When he looked in the bag, Shifley quickly saw that one of the cats was still alive.
He removed the living kitten, which had blood on its paws and matted fur, and put her in a safe place in the trunk of his car.
He placed the bag with the two dead kittens in the trunk, as well, and headed to report what he found to the New Haven Police Department.
Then he went home to his wife, a volunteer at the SPCA.
He came home and said, I want to show you something,’ Dorothy Shifley said. He opened the truck, and there was the bag.
The fact that this could happen, that someone could do something like that, she continued, before trailing off.
Of course, Dorothy knew exactly what to do: get the living kitten to the SPCA.
So the couple drove straight there – Orlo behind the wheel, Dorothy holding the living kitten in her lap in the passenger seat.
It was wide-eyed and very alert, Dorothy said. She was frightened but apparently unharmed.
Dorothy, an animal lover, did her best to soothe the cat during the roughly 20-minute drive to the SPCA on Hanna Street.
Anybody would’ve done the same thing, she said of what she and her husband did.
One more week
Jessica Henry has headed the local SPCA for nearly two years now, but what came to her Monday was something she’d never seen.
It was heart-wrenching, she said.
And the age of the kittens made it worse.
Henry said they did not know what gender the living kitten’s littermates were.
But if they were male, at eight weeks they’d be able to be neutered and adoptable.
The saddest part, had whoever done this kept those kittens one more week they would’ve been an adoptable age, Henry said.
Female kittens must be 12 weeks old to be adoptable, Henry said.
Still, even if not old enough to be adoptable, there are humane alternatives for the placement of any animal of any age, Henry said.
The SPCA, many times, has emergency foster families that can take in animals that may be too young for adoption.
Many times, she said, people will leave animals at the front of her shelter in a crate or box, and those animals will be given to foster families who can tend to the creatures’ needs.
Monday, that’s where the living kitten ended up.
But not before tests showed the kitten to be disease-free and not before it absolutely devoured a can of wet cat food.
‘Here to love you’
Now it’s Thursday.
Kris Grimmer is outside her home on a warm afternoon.
In her arms is a kitten named Mercy.
Mercy is struggling a little in Grimmer’s arms, mewing at a photographer and a reporter who have crowded around it maybe a little too close, or maybe giving the kitten a little bit too much attention.
She curled up in her blanket in the back of her crate the first night, Grimmer says.
She didn’t eat until I held her in my lap with a can of food.
Grimmer and her family have been fostering animals for the SPCA for two years.
When an animal needs to be cared for but is not yet adoptable, families like Grimmer’s get a call.
Just days ago, she had taken care of a litter of four kittens – three males and one female.
The males reached 8 weeks old and were given back to the shelter.
Right away, shelter officials thought Mercy might be a good fit for Grimmer, who was still fostering the remaining female feline.
She’s doing much better, Grimmer said of Mercy’s progress. She’s more comfortable with others. We’re trying to socialize her.
Mercy has slept with Grimmer every night, but recently she’s been sneaking into the room of Grimmer’s daughter and spending time there, as well.
She’s still skittish and scared, Grimmer said, but she’s coming along.
And soon she’ll be old enough to be adoptable, which means she’ll be back at the shelter and more than likely given a proper and loving home.
That doesn’t mean what happened is forgotten.
New Haven police, in fact, are asking anyone with information about what might have led to the bag being in the middle of the road to call them at 493-1517.
But for Mercy, at least there’s likely to be a happy ending, even if it comes with unwanted attention.
Soon, she was twisting her body around until she ended up with her head on Grimmer’s shoulder, clinging to her with her paws as if she were a baby.
And Grimmer cooed into the kitten’s ear.
You just like to be loved, you just like to be loved, she said. That’s what we’re here for.
We’re here to love you.