MAINE – Donna Haefner has a habit of pulling injured or dead animals off the road, more or less to give them a more dignified death.
This habit may seem a bit unusual to some, but it ultimately will make Christmas brighter for a Forreston family.
On Monday afternoon Haefner, who lives in Freeport, drove with her daughter, Beth Stuart, south on Route 26 near Fairgrounds Road. The two women took notice of a gray cat that was lying in the middle of the road. Figuring the cat was probably dead after being hit, the two women parked the car to save it from being squished by other vehicles.
“My daughter calls me the crazy squirrel lady, because of the number of squirrels I pull to the side of the road,” Haefner stated. “So I knew I wanted to make sure this cat was either going to be saved, or not squashed on the road. I wanted it to have death with dignity, someone trying to make sure it had a chance.”
The cat was injured but still alive, and it ran to the side of the road. A police officer stopped to help, and before long, Freeport Animal Control was called.
Bill Niesman, who is animal control officer, gently picked up the cat, taking it to Freeport Animal Hospital for treatment. That is the last Haefner knew of the injured cat until the very next day when she saw an advertisement in The Journal-Standard about a lost gray cat.
And so she decided to call the owner, Jean Byers of Forreston and told her the rescue story.
By that time, Byers and her husband Richard were in Freeport for a swimming class at Fitness Lifestyles. Their 8-year-old house cat Jasmine had spooked on Sunday and managed to get out of the house. They couldn’t find her anywhere around the farm, but after Jean climbed out of her truck for an appointment in Freeport on Monday, she heard a meow.
Jean discovered Jasmine had decided to take refuge in the engine of the truck. Jean retrieved the cat, but when she tried to put the scared cat into the cab of the truck, Jasmine decided to take off. Jean said she looked for her cat everywhere, but Jasmine was nowhere to be found. She then placed an ad about her and was bracing for a Christmas that was a bit gloomy.
“I feared I lost her forever,” Jean stated.
After they got Haefner’s call, Jean and Richard rushed over to Freeport Animal Hospital. Dr. William Condie, who is a veterinarian, explained to the couple that Jasmine was seriously hurt and he would have to amputate the leg.
Jean said she wanted to do whatever she could to save her cat. “It wears you down when it is your pet,” she said. “I was heart sick, but hoping for the best. No one wants to be sad before Christmas.”
Haefner explained that she gets angry when she sees dead or injured animals on the road. She claims to understand that accidents happen but adds she wished people would just slow down long enough to let the animal pass.
“It makes me feel good to know the couple will get their cat back and that it can heal with time,” Haefner stated.
Just on Wednesday, Richard and Jean went to Freeport Animal Hospital to see Jasmine. Jean were petting the top of Jasmine’s head and told her things would be OK. Condie told the couple the cat was in shock but could recover with time.
“I can’t believe (Haefner) called me, or I may have never known,” Jean stated. “It is so wonderful that she took the time to take care of my cat. I think Jasmine was trying to come home to me, and when I get her home, Christmas will be brighter than I expected.”