May 20, 2014

Two cats burned but alive after Modesto blaze

The day after an airport neighborhood family lost seven of its pets in a devastating fire Sunday morning, two of its cats returned to the Modesto home scared, hungry and burned.

The day after an airport neighborhood family lost seven of its pets in a devastating fire, two of its cats returned home scared, hungry and burned.

Lucy Rangel and her 9-year-old daughter, Jessie, lost their home in the 800 block of Kerr Avenue on Sunday morning. They might have lost their lives had not Rangel’s nephew, Jesse Delayo, who lives in an apartment behind the house, heard his aunt’s screams and helped them and three of the family’s dogs escape through a small bathroom window.

Four cats and three dogs did not survive the fire.

But Monday, Delayo said, two of the family’s cats returned to the home. Both were visibly burned but eagerly accepted the food and water he gave them.

Linda Sherman, a volunteer with the Humane Society of Stanislaus County who knows Delayo, read about the fire in The Bee and went to his house to see if she could help.

A retired probation officer, Sherman has put her credit on the line and spent thousands of dollars of her own money getting treatment for other people’s pets.

Most of them she meets while handing out dog and cat food to needy families in the airport neighborhood each month.

Sherman has paid the vet bills of dogs who’ve eaten batteries, needed C-sections, been stung by bees or attacked by other dogs. All the pets’ owners promise to reimburse Sherman, and while about half pay her faithfully each month until she is made whole, the others do not.

After losing their home and belongings, Sherman didn’t expect Delayo or his aunt to be able to afford a vet bill. But like dozens of cats and dogs she has helped in the past, Sherman didn’t think twice about taking the two burned kitties to her veterinarian at the Crows Landing Road Veterinary Clinic.

“This is a family that bothered to take care of their pets,” she said. The animals are healthy and the dogs are kept in the yard, unlike so many running around the airport neighborhood, she said.

The cats never were named, so veterinarian technician Jasmine Contreras dubbed them Jesse 1 and Jesse 2, after Delayo.

Jesse 1, a tortoiseshell cat, lost her whiskers and suffered burns to her paws and ears. Jesse 2, an orange tabby, had it worse. His entire face is burned and swollen so badly he cannot shut his eyes and needs ointment to keep them moist. Some of his body hair was singed, and his skin and paws burned.

Both are getting daily antibiotics and pain medicine, and Jesse 2 is receiving fluids. Despite their condition, they are well-tempered and Jesse 1 is willing to be held and petted. The fact that they are eating and drinking is a positive sign, and Contreras is hopeful they will recover.

The bill for their care is estimated to surpass $500. Anyone willing to help can make a donation to Sherman’s rescue file at the clinic.

Delayo hopes both of the cats can return home soon. The studio apartment behind his aunt’s home was not damaged by the fire, so he’s staying there, caring for his dog and about half a dozen of his aunt’s dogs, all of which are helping him deter looters from the burned house. His aunt and cousin are staying with other family members.

Delayo awoke the morning of the fire to the sound of several explosions, which he assumes were tires popping on a vehicle in the home’s carport, where the fire started.

He went to the front of the home and found it engulfed in flames. Delayo said he then ran to the back and heard his aunt screaming for help. He tried to enter the house through a back door that led to the kitchen, but it was filled with smoke.

That’s when Delayo saw his aunt through a small bathroom window. He first helped his young cousin through the window, then grabbed three small dogs his aunt passed to him before the heat became too intense and she too had to escape through the window.

Delayo said neighbors also came to the rescue, including a man who carried to safety on his shoulders a large chow that was in the yard near the fire.

“The neighbors were the heroes because they knew exactly what to do,” he said. “They put water on the vehicles, they put water on their neighbors’ houses; everyone had a part in this and everyone seemed to know what to do. It was neighborly love.”

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