The final inductee into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame tonight is Charlie, a sweet domestic short haired cat. Charlie lives in Morrisville with his owner Florence Alexander and was nominated by VVMA veterinarian Dr. Cynthia Pratt.
Charlie and Florence met in April of 1997 when Charlie was 2 years old. Florence was living alone and decided to look for a pet at the local humane society. That day there were over 20 cats at the shelter, all looking for good homes. How to choose? Charlie, apparently sensing that this was his golden opportunity, quickly moved to the front of his cage where he meowed up a storm, hoping to catch Florence’s attention. Although Charlie had a pin in his leg from a previously repaired fracture, he moved with grace and ease. When Florence lifted Charlie from his cage, he began to nuzzle her face, still meowing away. It was love at first sight! Florence and Charlie have been fast friends for 12 years now.
One night in Oct of 2005, Florence was sound asleep in her home in Morrisville. At 2:50 AM, she felt a thump as Charlie jumped onto her bed. He climbed onto her head and began nuzzling her face and pushing at her head. She woke up, confused and disoriented. What could Charlie want at this time of the night? All was quiet, the moon was shining in the window, everything appeared perfectly normal, but Florence didn’t feel right. For a moment, she wasn’t sure where she was. Her head ached and she felt weak. Was she coming down with something? Her stomach felt a little queasy too. As she rose from her bed, still confused as to why Charlie had awakened her, the hallway Carbon Monoxide detector sounded its alarm!
Florence, regaining an awareness of her surroundings, found her phone, quickly dialed 911, scooped up Charlie and headed outside to sit in the car. Moments later, the distance sirens of the fire department and police cars could be heard and soon they arrived on the scene.
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is highly toxic, causing sudden illness and death. The gas is formed by burning fuel. Therefore any fuel burning appliance in your home, be it a range, furnace, or wood stove, is potentially a Carbon Monoxide source. As Carbon Monoxide builds up in a semi-enclosed or enclosed space, any person or animal in the area can be poisoned, just by breathing it. People that are sleeping can be overcome by Carbon Monoxide very easily and can actually die before ever experiencing Symptoms.
The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Florence was already experiencing some of those symptoms. If Charlie did not wake Florence when he did by jumping on her head, it is very possible that Florence and Charlie would not be with us today! After a few days in the hospital for Florence, and good neighbors taking care of Charlie, they both recovered.
This is the second time the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame has honored a special feline friend for awakening his owner, alerting her to the dangerous accumulation of Carbon Monoxide in her home, just in the nick of time. Do cats have a special sense allowing them to detect this gas? We may never know the answer to that question. But Florence counts her blessings and thanks her beloved Charlie for saving her life! As Florence says,” Charlie is my hero and the love of my life.”
The VVMA and Nestle Purina are pleased to induct this year’s Hero, Charlie the cat, into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame.