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Eight lives to go: cat finds new leash on life

Of the Keizertimes

Some animals and humans seem destined for each other.

Malibu gave Ryan Laudon two chances just in case he didn’t get the message the first time around. The first time the pair met, Malibu was just a stray in Laudon’s south Salem neighborhood.

“I heard him crying outside and I went out and he’d gotten tangled in my kids’ soccer net. He’d gotten the net wrapped around his neck five times when he struggled, and one of his paws was wrapped up twice,” Laudon said.

Laudon freed the then-kitten with a serrated knife, but Malibu knew he’d found a friend. He kept returning to Laudon’s home for free meals and companionship.

Last week, Malibu turned up at the Laudon’s home with a badly broken hind leg and in more pain than Laudon himself could bear. Laudon suspects he was hit by a passing car.

“He’s such a cool cat, a beautiful cat, and you could tell he was in pain, but I swear he was purring the whole time,” Laudon said.

Laudon’s rescuing instincts kicked into overdrive. Unfortunately, Laudon only had $240 to his name and he knew the medical treatment Malibu needed could be wallet-draining.

A series of phone calls to friends and animal rescue organizations – the Willamette Humane Society was closed the day Malibu turned up injured – led Laudon to a Salem veterinarian who he heard worked with low-income families.

He visited the following day, but all he could get out of the vet on duty was a write-up of what would need to be done. The exam alone was going to cost all of what Laudon had on hand, and he would need to find someone to loan him $50 to cover that.

Ryan Laudon with Malibu who lost a leg to amputation after being struck by a vehicle. The benevolence of a Willamette Valley Animal Hospital vet gave Malibu a shot at recovery. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

“I was really upset at the time because I felt like I was going to have to bring him home and put him down,” Laudon said. “I could have paid it, but I still would have had a broken cat.”

In retrospect, he thinks that the staff at the clinic might have suspected he was the one to cause the injury and understands more their wariness.

Fortunately, Laudon had another option and his next stop – Keizer’s Willamette Valley Animal Hospital (WVAH). Laudon had called WVAH as well because he’s taken other pets to the veterinarians there when he was a Keizer resident.

“I opened up the door and they asked, “Are you Ryan?” Laudon said.

Malibu ended up in the care of Dr. Sydney Lee at WVAH. Keizertimes reached out to Lee to talk about what happened next, but we were unable to connect by press time. Regardless, the damage was even worse than Laudon suspected.

Malibu had his right rear leg and part of his hip amputated – an operation Laudon suspects would have cost easily four figures – and the clinic charged only $165, and included a full round of shots, neutering and pain medication to take home.

In the days after the operation, Malibu was groggy but resting at the Laudon home where he’s already learned to use a litter pan despite his injury.

“He’s just really started getting to the point where he will lay on that side, but I told the vet he’s never going outside again. He’s been the best thing ever,” Laudon said.

Malibu is confined to a corner right now in a makeshift corral, but he probably doesn’t feel like moving much at any rate. He’ll have limited space to explore for two weeks, but is expected to make a full recovery even though he’ll have to figure out how to manage with only three legs.

“He is going to be treated like royalty around here, but (Dr. Lee) was so great to us. (The clinic) took a chance and let me contribute what I could without looking down on me. There isn’t a rating system that goes high enough for what (Lee) did,” Laudon said.