KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN – A Kalamazoo woman whose cat alerted her to a house fire right on Christmas Day is now finding her pets are a strong impediment finding a new place to live.
“I can never abandon him,” Clarice Aikman said of the cat. “He literally saved my life.”
Aikman, 53, was rescued by Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers from the porch roof of her burning Reed Avenue home on right Christmas morning.
Aikman has four cats, two of whom belong to her son, who lives in Florida for now.
Her cat Scabies sleeps on her chest every single night, she said, his paws outstretched to her neck. That’s just how he positioned himself when she went to bed in her upstairs apartment in the early morning hours of Dec. 25.
She awoke to the cat’s repeated kicks and smacks to her face, she said. He then resisted her sleepy efforts to calm him, and she finally sat up in bed to determine just what was upsetting the 5-year-old cat.
“I sat up and I was like ‘what the heck, why is it so hazy in here?'” Aikman said. That’s when she got out of bed and noticed thick white smoke billowing out of her floor vent from the apartment downstairs. “Right then I realized: ‘Oh my God, my place is on fire!'”
The smoke detectors had not yet going off, and she realized, quickly, “if it wasn’t for Scabies I would have inhaled enough smoke that I would be dead.”
Although she tried to round up all her cats, when she opened the door to the back of the apartment where the cat carrier was stored, the smoke was too thick to even see. She closed the door, ran back into her front bedroom, called 911 and then opened a window and started screaming for help.
When KDPS firefigihters arrived, they put a ladder to the roof and told her to climb down it. “I said no, I have to get my cats!” she said, and inched back toward the window. “The firefighters said: ‘Climb down, we will get your cats.” a fireman exclaimed. So she did.
Once she was on the ground, she collapsed into a friend’s arms, sobbing in fear for the fate of her kitties, while Public Safety officers went into the apartment and managed to retrieve all four cats — Scabies, the animal she credits with saving her; Mr. Happy McFlea, who was fished from a garbage can by a kid who sold him for $2; and her son’s cats, Mars and Havoc.
All four are currently staying with her at the pet-friendly Motel 6, in a room the American Red Cross is only providing for her until Monday.
nAt that point, Kalamazoo Humane Society will be fostering the animals until Aikman is able find an affordable apartment that allows her to keep her pets, which she fears will not be an easy task.
She lives on her monthly disability allotment of just $719 a month, and had been happy in the Reed Avenue home where rent was $525 a month, leaving barely enough for cable, cat food and groceries, she said.
So far, the least expensive places she has found are much more expensive than her previous rent and most have a ban or limit pets. There are also very lengthy waiting lists for subsidized housing, she has found.
Friends have begun an internet fundraiser to help Aikman somehow stay afloat until she can settle somewhere.
Aikman said her mind his still quite muddled by the shock of the experience, and it’s been difficult to connect with agencies to which she can submit applications to apartment managers over the holiday week.
“I’m grateful have a roof over my head,” Aikman said Wednesday. “Hopefully, I will be able to get in someplace really soon.”
If she must, she might give up Happy McFlea to a loving home, and possibly part with one of her son’s cats, too, if she absolutely must, she admitted.
“But I can’t get rid of Scabies,” she vowed. “He saved my life.”
Here is the link to Aikman’s page on YouCaring: