The Angels Were Watching: Vinny’s Story

By Judy Layne

It happened in the blink of an eye. One minute, the 7-year-old stray kitty was walking down the street. The next minute, he was airborne, having been grabbed by a large bird of prey. His future looked bleak. Then suddenly, the bird dropped him. Possibly he proved too heavy to carry, maybe he fought back or perhaps the angels were watching over him. Would he get a second chance at life? Lying wounded and alone, the kitty needed the help of some earth angels. And that’s exactly what he got. 

A Good Samaritan out walking came across the wounded kitty and brought him immediately to the SPCA’s Pictou shelter. We don’t know their name, but their kind heart and quick action saved the kitty’s life. Shelter staff believed that the kitty’s deep wounds were from talons, so he was rushed to the SPCA’s Dartmouth Hospital for emergency care.

The kitty’s wounds were cleaned, he was given antibiotics to prevent infection and medication for pain. He remained in the Hospital for a few days under observation to ensure no complications arose. Shelter staff named him Garrett. The veterinary team took great care of him, but Garrett had a long road to recovery.

Healing physically was the first step, but Garrett needed to heal emotionally from his traumatic experience too. He was often quiet and seemed sad, so staff and volunteers showered him with love and attention. And it worked! Garrett started to flourish. At the beginning of December, Garrett was ready to find his forever home. One of the requirements of his adoption was that he be an indoor-only kitty. As he had already had a narrow escape from a wild predator, he definitely didn’t want to run that risk again!

Another angel was waiting in the wings for Garrett. Airen had been visiting the SPCA three times weekly since August 2023. After a long mourning period following the passing of his beloved 12-year-old cat Charlie, Airen wasn’t ready to adopt but wanted to spend quality time with the cats and see how he felt. In December, Airen’s and Garrett’s paths crossed.

Airen shared “I had no plans of adopting a cat anytime soon. I was always happy for the cats who were adopted into loving homes. I had heard the legend of this cat who fought off a bird of prey, but I didn’t know initially which cat it was. When I learned it was Garrett, I was amazed. I was so impressed by his ability to be sweet and loving despite his horrific past. He would always put his head against my face and we’d sit together tenderly and quietly. After two weeks of me seeing him numerous times, a lady came into the shelter and told me she came to see Garrett. I actually felt heartsick at the thought of him being adopted by someone else and I wasn’t going to ignore that feeling. That day, Garrett went home with me. I knew we were meant to be together.”

Garrett’s name is now Vinny and there’s a significance to his new name. Airen explained “His full name is Vincenzo Gambini, but I call him Vinny for short. I named him after Joe Pesci’s character in the movie My Cousin Vinny. Vinny was small and spunky and underestimated by his movie adversaries. And I figure my cat was also underestimated by his adversary!”

Airen waited until he felt that he had a calm level energy before adopting another pet because he wanted Vinny to come into a space that was peaceful and predictable. That definitely helped Vinny adjust quickly to his new home. “I gave Vinny the space he needed and he adjusted like a true champ,” said Airen.  “Around the three-month mark, he decided that his new bed was my lap and that’s a-ok with me! I’m amazed at his ability to just enjoy life and not show any signs of an emotionally traumatic experience. He’s a great example for those of us with only two legs!”

The SPCA recommended that Vinny stay indoors and that’s exactly what he does. “All of my cats have been strictly indoor cats and Vinny is no exception,” said Airen. I think it’s very important to listen to the SPCA’s recommendations when adopting a cat. He is quite happy to sleep in the window on his cat tree or in any one of many comfy locations around his estate!”

Vinny is clearly living his best life. Airen chuckled “He absolutely loves cat TV on YouTube, watching mice run around or birds feeding. He finds it riveting. After spending too much money on various toys, I’ve discovered I could have saved a lot by simply pulling a string along the floor!  Now I have a little piece of orange string attached to a stick and we play with that several times a day. Vinny still has quite the hunter in him. I play with him in the morning and at night to mimic the hunt. I split his food into three different portions and hide two of those somewhere in the house for him to find.  I think this adds an important dimension of cat behavior to an indoor cat’s life. Of course, being a cat, he loves sleeping most of the time! Vinny also enjoys watching the cat across the street who sits in its window and they watch the birds together.”

Vinny makes everyone smile with his antics. Airen said “His snoring is amazing. I have played a video of him snoring for people and they swear it was a human. I’m sure every cat owner out there can relate to this. Vinny’s favorite place to sleep is any cardboard box or my Sobeys grocery bag. So don’t spend any money on a fancy bed!

Adopting Vinny has enriched Airen’s life. “After the death of my cat Charlie, the house felt very empty, almost lifeless,” recalled Airen.  “I remember the first time I came home from work and saw Vinny sleeping contently in his cat tree. It was heartwarming. Now every day when I come home from work, I lay on the floor and he head-butts and rubs his face against mine for countless minutes. It’s great to come home to that handsome furry face.”

Airen said “I am very grateful to the Good Samaritan who found Vinny and brought him to the SPCA where he received wonderful care. I’m grateful for all the great work they do there.”

And Airen’s final thoughts? ”I want to thank everyone who’s gone to the SPCA to find a new pet rather than puppy mills other less altruistic sources. I’d also like to encourage people to consider adopting an older cat. Vinny is 7 years old and needs love just like any other cat. There are so many pros to adopting an older cat. They are civilized! They do not run uncontrollable ‘zoomies’ all over your house. They have a developed personality so what you see is what you get. And for me, they are as sweet as the babies.”

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.