When the Gaunt family picked up Sandy from the RSPCA shelter, little did they know the ginger kitten would grow up to be a life-saving hero. Caroline Zambrano reports
It was the early hours of Good Friday in 2011 when Sally Gaunt woke up to the family cat Sandy pawing and biting her hair. She thought he was hungry and ignored him, but he wouldn’t stop biting her. Sally finally got up and found her six-year-old son Beau unconscious in bed twitching, making clicking noises and drooling.
“We called the ambulance and they began working on Beau to help him breathe with tubes and an air bag. I was very upset and suddenly noticed Sandy sitting under the stretcher. I was astounded and apologised as I got him out,” remembers Sally.
It was at the hospital where Sally realised the cat’s actions had saved her son’s life.
“Doctors said Beau was lucky to be alive thanks to Sandy’s quick actions alerting me to Beau’s life-threatening seizure,” she says. “We are very lucky to have Sandy as Beau would have passed away if we hadn’t found him. Beau now has epilepsy and we are eternally grateful to have Sandy in our lives.”
Sandy has been looking out for Beau since the day they met at the animal shelter in Burwood, Victoria.
“Beau and Sandy have had an amazing connection and a special bond since day one,” says Sally. “Sandy was this huge kitten laying on the ground while all the little ones were scampering everywhere. Beau (age three at the time) sat down in the kitten pen and Sandy just jumped up into his lap and immediately snuggled into him. The RSPCA volunteer said she had never seen this bond so quickly.”
Today, Beau (now age 14) is a passionate animal lover who welcomes foster animals into his home and adores his other rescue pets, cocker spaniels Sugar and Douggie, and cat, Luna.
“Sandy, who’s 11 now, was our first rescue and is the boss!” laughs Sally. “He is super smoochy and a big sweetheart; very loving and accepting. Sandy welcomed all our foster animals with his big open heart. All the animals I have rehomed since him, he has shown genuine affection to and rubs up into their personal space as if to say, ‘It’s okay, you are safe and you are welcome here’.” Unsurprisingly, Sandy is very accepting of the challenges Beau lives with. “Beau struggles to carry Sandy as he has a weakness in his left arm/hand from his seizures and Sandy allows Beau to carry him uniquely around. He just accepts this is how it is—it’s gorgeous to see,” says Sally.
Sandy is also very intuitive; he knows when to give cuddles and picks up on emotions.
“We call him part human; he has this sixth sense. He sits close to you if you are unwell, feeling sad or when you need that extra support,” says Sally. “Sandy slept on Beau’s bed for months during the early years of epilepsy. We have also seen him sit and sleep with Beau’s younger brother Spencer when he has been unwell. Spencer has asthma and Sandy cuddles into him to calm him.”
Sandy’s heroic actions earned him the title of ‘Winner of the Advocate® People’s Rescue Story’ in the 2019 Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards, a national program that celebrates and recognises achievements in the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of companion animals Australia-wide.
The Advocate® People’s Rescue Story category received hundreds of entries from Aussie pet guardians who shared their stories about pet adoption and fostering. Rescue Awards founder Cathy Beer said all the stories were different in many ways but had one thing in common.
“They all demonstrated the difference a re-homed pet can make to an individual or people’s lives. Sandy exemplifies a real-life rescue story because he saved Beau’s life. In stories like this, we often wonder who rescued who?”
Sally and Beau were shocked when Sandy’s name was announced as the winner of the Advocate® People’s Rescue Story while watching via Facebook live the Rescue Awards event held during the 8th National G2Z Summit & Workshops in Queensland in September last year.
“I am absolutely overjoyed that Sandy won!” says Sally. “I knew we were in the top 10 but after reading such beautiful amazing stories of rescue and all the loving homes the animals have, I was very happy to be in the 10 finalists. To have Sandy recognised for his heroic act and have Beau by my side was so emotional for me.”
Sally said she is grateful for the generous competition prizes and pleased that the RSPCA Burwood shelter was recognised, too.
Meanwhile, Sandy continues to keep a watchful eye over Beau. He also enjoys following the Gaunts on their daily walks with Sugar and Douggie. Keeping an eye on the family dogs, no doubt. ′
Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards 2020
Every year, 186,000 pets remain unclaimed in Australia’s pounds and shelters, and thousands of volunteers support more than 1000 rescue and animal shelters across Australia, according to PetRescue.
The Rescue Awards is back again this year to inspire rescue groups and animal shelters to continue their efforts in saving companion animals.
Pet adopters can share their story to enter the Advocate® People’s Rescue Story category and foster carers can enter the Drontal® Foster Carer Story award.
Entries open on 1 May 2020 to close midnight on 19 July 2020. To enter, visit www.rescueawards.com.au and follow the links