NEW YORK – Herbie, who is a black, grey and white tabby cat — might seem like your average feline, but to his owner, Janine DeMartini, he’s a hero.
“He’s not your rare breed cat … but he’s a perfect cat,” stated the New Springville resident.
DeMartini, who works with Staten Island Hope Animal Rescue to foster cats, explained that Herbie had little time left in the city’s municipal shelter system so she chose to take him in.
“They told me he’s friendly but nobody wants him,” DeMartini reflected.
However, as it turned out, Herbie was much more than just friendly.
DeMartini discovered Herbie was also a hero. When the cat noticed something was wrong with her youngest daughter Isabella, who was just a few months old back at the time.
The busy single mother, who was juggling school, work, and her kids — was headed to bed after falling asleep studying. When she closed the door to her bedroom, Herbie, instead of resting calmly at the foot of her bed to go to sleep, started meowing and running to her door.
“I was thinking maybe he wants out of my room. Maybe he wants food. I just wanted to ignore it but he wouldn’t stop,” remembered DeMartini, noting the mellow cat’s persistence.
Despite being very tired, DeMartini got out of bed and opened the door to her room. As soon as she did, Herbie ran out and headed right to her daughter’s room.
“Herbie kept pawing at the door and when I opened it, he ran inside and jumped into her crib. Isabella had turned over while sleeping and had pulled a toy blanket over her face,” DeMartini explained.
Isabella was having some trouble breathing and was making loud noises, struggling for air as the toy blanket smothered her, DeMartini went on to say.
“I pulled the blanket off of her and held her. I almost lost her had I not listened to Herbie and followed him.”
DeMartini, who has five cats of her own, a dog and several foster cats, noted that she was only fostering Herbie when the incident happened, but could never give him up after he saved her daughter’s life.
“He was always purring and rubbing on me — very affectionate. I always said, ‘You’re just a little love bug’ …. but i never intended on keeping him,” DeMartini stated.
Herbie became extremely close to the children: Bella, who will be 3 in December, along with her six-year-old brother, Giovanni.
“He is still so protective,” DeMartini stated.
DeMartini, who is a social worker, has done countless papers on animals and their benefits on children, adults and seniors and has seen the positive effects firsthand when she completed an internship at Clove Lakes Health Care and Rehabilitation Center using therapy dogs.
“I am a very big proponent of animal-assisted therapy,” she stated, pointing out that animals help those battling depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, among other illnesses. “Animals are highly underutilized for their health benefits.”
As for Herbie, DeMartini knows he will always look out for her and her children, and this furry rescue hero cat, in return, will always have a home.