In this dog-eat-dog world, we should all be so lucky as to have a friend like Idgie — a friend who refuses to leave our side, even if we're lame and lying in the dirt by a busy road.
That's how Seminole County Animal Services found Idgie — a pudgy 2-year-old Dachshund — standing guard over a 7-month-old paraplegic cat. It was early October and still hot, and someone apparently had dumped the animals by a gated driveway outside Geneva, perhaps hoping the homeowner would take pity on them.
Idgie growled and barked protectively whenever anyone approached. The kitty, it turned out, could only move by dragging herself along by her front legs. The back ones were limp and useless, the paws twisted.
"We actually don't know what's wrong with her," said Diane Gagliano, program coordinator for Seminole County Animal Services. "We think it may have been something she was born with. It was really a strange situation — both of them were found in fairly good shape, not filthy or malnourished, so it seems as though they probably had a home at some point. But on the flip side, no one came and claimed them, and how could the cat get very far without the owner knowing?"
The shelter tried steroid shots to see if that would help the cat, named Ruth, but to no avail. A nonprofit called TEARS, for Together Every Animal Receives Support, paid for a series of experimental therapy and acupuncture — about $150 a session — but that had no effect, either. And every time Ruth was away from Idgie, Idgie was profoundly unhappy.
"It was like she was constantly looking for her," said Gagliano, who had to set up a special pen for the two of them. Usually dogs and cats are segregated at the shelter.
Then her staff contacted Jacqueline Borum, who — in addition to running the Hollywood Houndz Boutique & Spa in Lake Mary — has fostered and found adoptive homes for 1,300 dogs and cats in the past six years. She also has a nonprofit called Project Paws to help fund pet-rescue groups in emergencies.
So now, Idgie and Ruth have a new home at Hollywood Houndz. They nap in a large pen by the front window, the dog curling her body around the cat, who is moved and fed and bathed daily. Idgie gets regular walks and treats and attention from the entire staff, not to mention a parade of customers. But should another pooch approach, Idgie barks and growls as fiercely as a wiener dog can muster.
"Otherwise, she's a total sweetheart," Borum said. "I mean, we've seen friendships between dogs and cats before, but never anything like this."
She named them after the two main characters in "Fried Green Tomatoes," Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison.
"They stuck together through everything," Borum said. "Of course, Ruth doesn't make it in the end."
It's not certain how long Ruth the cat has, either, especially if her condition is degenerative. But however long it is, Idgie will be by her side.
"Idgie would take a bullet for that cat," Borum said.
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