At RCWC we treat injured, sick and orphaned Pennsylvania wildlife. Every once in a while, though, we are contacted about an animal that no one else can handle. Such was the case when we were contacted by an ASPCA cruelty officer concerning a Canadian Lynx that was an exotic pet. According to the complaint, the Lynx was dragging its rear legs and had stopped eating. It was reported that the owner, Vincent Cimato from Girardville, refused to get the lynx her needed veterinary care.
The lynx, who we named Windigo, was surrendered by the owner to Red Creek and we immediately took to the task of saving this animal’s life. Windy was partially blind and weak from poor nutrition and needed to eat a balanced diet to regain her strength. She refused to eat, however, because of dental pain from exposed nerves of several broken canine teeth. The broken teeth were reportedly caused by the former owner who told us he had hit her in the face with a piece of 2 x4 lumber. She needed dental surgery to relieve the pain, yet was too weak to endure the surgery.
We began force feeding her to try to make her stronger. Only three years old, Windy should have been in prime condition able to outrun and out jump any human. Her condition was so fragile that she couldn’t hold herself upright even when lying down to drink water. She could not jump up onto an eighteen inch high bench and when she successfully climbed up, was afraid to jump back down. Her legs would collapse under her weight and a simple walk across the room would find her falling several times. Her eyesight was so impaired that she walked into furniture and walls. Her blank stare was that of an animal that didn’t care any more. Many nights I worried that our intervention was too late and that she would die.
There must have been a spark of fight left in her, though. As days went by her strength improved.
Full of rage and anger at all people, she did not realize our handling was an attempt at helping her. As her strength increased she fought hard and literally slapped and attacked me daily. After three weeks of wrestling with the thirty-four pound cat, Windigo was strong enough for surgery.
Windigo’s surgery involved removing all four canine teeth. Two of the teeth were so damaged they crumbled to dust on extraction. But the surgery yielded the intended result when Windy began eating with excitement. She was on her way to renewed health.
The saga does not end there, for there was justice to be served. On Windigo’s behalf, Vincent Cimato was cited with animal cruelty. The three hour hearing heard testimony from Red Creek staff as well as Mr. Cimato’s former girlfriend who testified that this magnificent creature endured a lifetime of beatings which began when Windy was only seven weeks old. Red Creek claimed that Mr. Cimato neglected to feed the lynx with a balanced diet, even though he had both the instructions and the supplies for proper nutrition. The resulting malnutrition caused Windy to become weak and partially blind and almost took her life.
Mr. Cimato was found guilty of animal cruelty and ordered to pay maximum fines and court costs as well as reimbursement for veterinary bills. He was given thirty days to appeal the decision.
Windigo is now enjoying a life free from torture and neglect. She is thriving at Red Creek and her health, including her eyesight, has greatly improved. Her demeanor is cautious but that will take time.One major breakthrough came late one evening shortly after the hearing. I was exhausted from the day’s routine and sat quietly in Windy’s enclosure enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with darkness. Two months had passed since her arrival yet Windy still held resentment toward me for her period of force feedings. Sitting quietly at the other end of her enclosure, she suddenly walked up to me sniffing my arms and face. I sat motionless, not wanting to scare her. Then I felt her rough tongue on my cheek. I wonder if she knew that the salty taste was from happy tears.