The evening could have ended badly—very badly.
But because a trucker took the time to stop just long enough to get through to me, this story has a happy ending.
I know nothing more of the hero of this story other than that he was a black man with short hair, and it seems to me that his rig was white. I could be wrong, though, because it was his words that captivated my attention and stole the breath from my lungs: “I just saw something run under your car; it might have been a kitten.”
I was tired, it was late evening, and I was returning from taking my mother and stepfather to the beach for a few days. Our trip had ended on a sour note; my mother suffers from dementia, and the drive back to their house in Pennsylvania had been grueling for all of us. I wanted nothing more than to get back to the safety of my own home in northern Virginia so that I could decompress and regroup.
I stopped at a rest area along I-70, just outside of Breezewood, to use the facilities and grab some caffeine in the form of a soda. I parked in the closest available spot, and was checking messages on my phone when I heard the unmistakable bellow of a truck’s horn behind me. Startled, I looked up to see a trucker hanging out his window motioning for me to roll my window down.
I felt a little alarmed. What could this man possibly have to say to me? Thinking maybe there was something wrong with my vehicle, I rolled down my window and waited.
He had to yell to be heard over the rumble of his idling truck, but his words were unforgettable: “I just saw something run under your car; it might have been a kitten.”
He popped his head back into the truck and moved on, the flow of traffic ejecting him from the rest area and back onto the open road.
Did I even say thank you? I really can’t remember.
I jumped out of my car and looked underneath. Nothing. I started to get up, but then worried…What if I missed something and ran over a kitten? That would be devastating.
I looked again, and sure enough, under the front passenger’s side of the vehicle, huddled a tiny, tiny body against the tire. Oh. My. God!
I panicked that if I reached for him he’d run into traffic, but there was no choice in the matter. I grabbed for him as quickly as I could, and luckily he was just too little or too exhausted or too sick to try to run any more. I had him!
I was ecstatic. He was safe!
But when I lifted him to get a look at him, I promptly burst into tears.
Not only was he tiny, but he was a mess. His eyes were full of puss and practically sealed shut. He had grease spots all over him, and baked-on oil on his face by his nose and eyes.
By now other people had started to come around to see what all the fuss was about, and another woman volunteered to take him to a barn. I know she was trying to be helpful, but my inner momma tiger quickly came to the fore, and there was no way I was letting that precious being out of my clutches. He was mine to care for, mine to nurture, mine to heal and help on to his happily-ever-after. [aka back off!]
I finished the drive home with one hand as I held him close to me with the other.
Over the next few weeks, I didn’t do anything special—I simply gave the kitten what he needed and deserved: a visit to the vet, formula, quality food, flea treatment, and loving care. He quickly blossomed into the gorgeous kitten I knew was under that sad face somewhere.
I found Trucker a home with some friends of mine in Culpeper, Virginia, where he has settled in to grow to adulthood with “his” little girl, Sophia, and two doggie siblings. He is now named Spark.
How did such a tiny and obviously unwell kitten come to be at the rest area that day? We will never know the true backstory, but he’d somehow survived a trip in the engine of a car, of that the vet and I were sure.
And if that trucker hadn’t taken the time out of his trip to tell me what he saw? The kitten’s life probably would have ended there that day, because I never would’ve looked under my vehicle before driving away. Odds are very good I would have run him over.
I shudder to think of such a horrible trauma, for both of us.
I will probably never know the name of the trucker who warned me that day, but I am forever grateful to him and for him. He could have easily ignored what he saw. He could have made the split second decision that it wasn’t his problem. He could have been jaded enough by all the things he’s seen in his travels that one more thing wouldn’t matter.
But he did stop. And he did warn me. And in so doing a kitten was saved a horrible fate, I was saved the depths of anguish, and a new children’s book was inspired.
I am grateful.
I dedicated my new book based on Spark’s story to “To Those Who Don’t Turn Away When They See An Animal in Need” in honor of the anonymous trucker who inspired a story and saved a life.
Illustrated by Rhonda Van
The little orange kitten stopped and scratched his neck. “Fleas,” he mumbled to himself; he could feel the bugs wandering around in his fur, stopping for a bite every now and again. Yuk! He was hungry, too, but he knew his mother was struggling to feed him and his four siblings.
Spittin’ plopped himself down in their nest beside the barn. Had the humans simply forgotten to put food out? he wondered. Maybe he could be the one to remind them.
Spittin’ had never been around people before, but—pushing his fear aside—he bravely left the den in search of help. When he reached the other side of the barn, he jumped back in shock. In front of him splayed out a whole big world he’d never known existed!
Soon Spittin’ finds himself on an unexpected adventure—he flies through the air, scrambles for a hiding place, and even takes an unexpected ride in the engine of a car. Where will the little kitten end up, and will he get help for his family?
Find out in Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, perfect for ages 7 and up. The book also features vocab builders throughout the story, and excels as part of a humane education curriculum.
About the Author
Tamira Thayne is an author, animal activist, and the founder and former CEO of Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit organization seeking an end to dog chaining.
She is also the founder of Who Chains You Books, publishing titles for those who believe people—and animals—deserve to be free. She is the author of Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, Smidgey Pidgey’s Predicament, Happy Dog Coloring Book, Capitol in Chains, Foster Doggie Insanity, The Wrath of Dog, The King’s Tether, The Knight’s Chain, The Curse of Cur, editor of More Rescue Smiles, and the co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles.
Tamira lives by a river in the woods of northern Virginia, with her husband, daughter, one dog, six cats, and hundreds of outside birds and critters she adores from afar. You can reach her through her website at tamirathayne.com.
About the Illustrator
Rhonda Van is an artist, wildlife rehabber, and lifelong animal lover. She particularly adores jackrabbits, squirrels, her animal companions, Shark Week, vegan dinners in Santa Cruz, and her husband Tony. Rhonda has been drawing forever, but only got deeper into illustration after she started drawing the wildlife friends she cares for.