As many of you may have read on our Facebook page, B and O Board member and dear friend, Carol Gaul, recently lost her home and her beloved cats in a house fire. Several of her permanent feline family members had been one time B and O kitties that Carol kept when they were not adopted. Her little “black boys,” as she always called them, were rescued from a tree stump when they were only 3-4 weeks old. There were four all black kittens (all male) and Carol took care of them until they could go through our PetSmart routine to be adopted. Two of the boys found a wonderful home, but after the other two did not, Carol and her husband, Chuck, decided to keep them. The “black boys” were an endless source of joy to them and I was always being regaled with stories of their antics.
D. D. showed up at the shop that Carol and Chuck own in 2009. D. D. stood for “detroit diesel,” a type of engine that Chuck often worked on. D. D. was the office cat for a while until Carol decided she wanted to try to find him a permanent home. Since he was a little bit shy, she took him home with her to work with him more. He loved romping with the other cats, but never completely overcame his shyness. Rather than take him back to the shop after it became clear that he was too shy to go to PetSmart, Carol decided just to keep D. D. with her since he loved the other cats.
Miss Charlotte was Carol’s most recent foster. Charlotte showed up at Carol’s house one day this summer wearing an old flea collar that had worn the fur off of her neck. She did not mind the neighbor’s dog or the other cats outside and followed Carol around the yard while she was gardening. Charlotte purred and wanted attention and was so loving that Carol knew she needed a forever home. With her funny little “mustache,” she was also adorable. Carol took Charlotte to clinic and got her fixed and then we placed her at PetSmart for several weeks. Charlotte was a bit afraid at PetSmart, but was doing much better by the end of her stay. Jumping out of her cage, she would weave around your legs, preening and prancing. Because she had not been adopted after three weeks, Carol took her home to give her a break. We never like to stress the cats out by keeping them in the cages very long.
Just two weeks ago, at the end of July, Carol took Charlotte out of the PetSmart cage and put Little Rascal in her place. Little Rascal had been dumped at the park behind Carol’s house and showed up looking for food. He was such a sweet kitty that Carol took him in and worked with him to help him overcome his shyness. Rascal is currently at PetSmart and that is the only reason he is still alive. He is the only survivor of Carol’s cats. Because he replaced Charlotte in the cage, however, Charlotte did not survive.
I just keep thinking if only these guys had been adopted, if only Charlotte had stayed at PetSmart, if only… It is very hard to look at the photos and remember what sweet cats they were. None of them was more than three years old. They had very short lives, but also very good lives because of Carol.
Someone called Carol’s house “the Hyatt for cats”–a place where they were spoiled and loved and treated like royalty. Without Carol, they would have been starving, unloved strays their whole lives. Because of Carol, they were beloved members of the Gaul family, no matter how short their stay.
Carol said that the night before the fire, all of the cats gathered with her and Chuck to watch t.v. The girls sat with Chuck in his chair, one perched on the back of the chair around his neck. The boys all climbed into the chair with Carol. Even Bubba, who was not a lap cat, hung out in Carol’s lap. Carol said it was as if they knew. Then most of the cats followed them to bed.
In the smoke and the darkness, Carol could hear the cats as she tried to find a way out. But she could not save them. She and Chuck barely made it out, climbing to safety via a ladder that was rushed to the house by their neighbor, Greg Pinney, Plain City’s fire chief.
The sheriff’s department kindly collected the bodies of all eleven cats and took them to Dr. Allen’s office here in Plain City. Alice Hostetler made arrangements to have them cremated and they will remain together in death as in life. One of the cats was found under Carol’s chair, a place of safety, where just hours before they had all gathered for a final evening of companionship.
I would ask you to please keep Carol and Chuck in your thoughts and prayers over the coming weeks. Carol’s cats were her family and she lost all of them in one day. It is never easy to lose a beloved cat, but even harder to have them all taken in such a tragic and incomprehensible way.