His name is Corky and he was scheduled to be euthanized at a pound in Fargo, North Dakota. A little boy had spotted the cat dragging himself along the sidewalk next to a busy road.
Corky has a congenital deformity called “Bilateral Arthrogryposis” and what that basically means is his back legs were backward and crisscrossed -- a “corkscrew,” if you will (hence the name “Corky”).
It’s a condition you rarely hear about in cats because most of them are put to sleep. But Gail Ventzke and Carol Stefonek saw something special in the little guy. The pair are co-founders and directors of CATS Cradle Shelter and got a heads-up call that Corky was in trouble.
“We have to have him,” Stefonek thought when she first met Corky. “I immediately put him in my jacket, next to my heart, and he’s been there ever since.”
“He’s amazing,” Ventzke tells HLN. “He’s got a very playful little personality and he doesn’t know there’s anything wrong with him.”
Just a few days after adopting Corky, Stefonek and Ventzke started looking at options. Many of the vets they spoke with didn’t want to tackle the case because they felt it was too complicated for them. But Dr. Dan Burchill of Castleton Veterinary Services took a look at Corky’s X-rays, gave him an examination and decided to take a shot at it.
“He’s our hero,” says Ventzke. “He basically invented this surgery for Corky. He’s fallen for Corky, too. He comes in on his days off to personally change Corky’s bandages because he doesn’t want anyone else to touch him!”
They originally thought the surgery would last about two hours and cost around $2,500. But it ended up going more than twice as long and Corky has been in intensive therapy since the beginning of April. They now figure it’ll cost them about two or three times as much as they originally anticipated. But Ventzke says money is the furthest thing from their minds.
“He has grabbed on to our hearts like no other cat we’ve ever had and we owe it to him,” she tells HLN. “We’re going to give him whatever he needs to get through it.”
After putting Corky’s story out on their Facebook page and receiving some attention from the local media, donations started pouring in from countries around the globe: Sweden, Australia and Argentina, just to name a few.
Stefonek and Ventzke travel 40 miles roundtrip everyday to visit Corky at the hospital and they say he's been progressing extremely well. He has hydrotherapy, acupuncture, physical therapy and laser therapy several times a day. They believe he’ll be able to walk again -- although never like a normal cat could, due to the steel plates that are now in his legs.
As far as the future goes, Ventzke and Stefonek say they’re taking it one day at a time. But they do have one idea in mind for him.
“We discussed possibly making him a therapy cat and going into the children’s wards and showing them that, ‘You know what, if Corky can do it, you can do it, too,’” says Stefonek.
After all the money and the therapy, we just had to ask the pair… is it worth it?
“Absolutely!” says Ventzke. “I don’t think there’s anything I’ve done in the last four years of rescuing that’s been more worth it. This little guy is amazing.”
“Every life is important, every life counts. Everybody can make a difference no matter how small they think it might be,” says Stefonek. “If people could concentrate a little more on the good, the caring and the compassion, perhaps our world would be in a better place right now.”
You can get updates on Corky's progress by checking out his Facebook page. The CATS Cradle Shelter is also continuing to take donations on their site for Corky's ongoing care. You can also make checks out to CATS Cradle Fund, 9 Ninth Street, South Fargo, North Dakota 58103.