Westlake School bus driver Denise Wering was in the middle of her morning route when another driver, Marge Laskowski, radioed that Wering needed to check the back of her bus on Nov. 12. The two drivers pulled off of Dover Center Road and found a tail and a paw sticking out of the engine in the back of the bus.
Believing the animal was dead, the drivers tugged on the foot. To their surprise, the foot moved. The two opened the hood on the engine to find a one-year-old cat wedged in the serpentine belt, whimpering. The cat’s right front leg and the back of its neck were stuck.
The Westlake Schools Transportation Department called Westlake Animal Control Officer Jim Wang for help. Officer Wang was able to free the cat from the engine and brought it to Dr. David Love’s Westlake Animal Hospital.
Registered Veterinarian Technician Megan Hoffman said the cat’s injuries were obvious immediately. There was exposed bone on the right leg, showing a very clear break. They stabilized the animal and Dr. Colleen Madden performed the amputation of the leg. To their surprise, an ultrasound revealed that the cat was pregnant with four kittens.
Back at the Transportation Department, drivers Leah Vandersluis and Denise Higgins were driving vans and listening to the radio traffic. They returned to the Transportation Department to comfort Wering and accompany her and Laskowski to the veterinary hospital to check on the cat, which they now called Margie.
“We named her after Marge,” Higgins said. “She saw the tail and tried to free her.”
The drivers even came up with names for the kittens – Lug Nut, Diesel, Axle and Thomas.
Vandersluis said they believe Margie crawled into the engine in the Transportation Department parking lot on Bassett Road. The engine in Wering’s bus is large and drivers keep their engines plugged in overnight to keep them warm for easy starts on cold winter days. They believe Margie fell into the serpentine belt at some point during the ride.
The next day, Hoffman took Margie home to help her recover and deliver her kittens. But due to the trauma and everything Margie endured, she lost her kittens on Nov. 18. Hoffman said Margie is much more comfortable now and her recovery is going well, but they also discovered she has a broken tail that will need to be amputated. She also is slowly regaining her bowel and bladder control, but Hoffman said she will be a special needs cat.
“She’s a major love bug,” Hoffman said. “She just wants to be pet.”
Margie’s care has already cost the Westlake Animal Hospital about $1,800. The tail amputation and additional care will likely run between $600 and $800. The hospital is accepting contributions to its Good Samaritan fund to support Margie.
The Westlake Transportation Department has already collected more than $300 to donate to the fund for Margie, and depending on her prognosis, Margie may find a permanent home with one of the drivers.
Higgins said Hoffman has been keeping the Transportation Department updated on Margie through text messages and invitations to visit Margie when she comes to the veterinary hospital.
“The staff at the Westlake Animal Hospital has been absolutely phenomenal,” Higgins said. “They invite us in to see Margie all the time and let us stay as long as we want. The vets come in and talk to us. Megan is text messaging us at 9:30 at night to give us updates. They are very dedicated.”
Officer Wang said Westlake is fortunate to have a veterinary hospital that tests, vaccinates and checks out stray cats the city picks up.
“Because of that, we can adopt out cats out for free,” Wang said, adding that he is able to find homes for about 100 cats annually because of the Westlake Animal Hospital’s service donations.
Anyone who wants to donate to the Good Samaritan Fund can mail or drop off a check at the Westlake Animal Hospital at 27370 Center Ridge Road, Westlake, OH 441145. The hospital also takes credit card donations over the phone by calling (440) 835-3800. You can follow Margie’s progress on the hospital’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Westlake-Animal-Hospital/280293372240.