By Jeanne Sager
SWAN LAKE April 2, 2004 Diane Kern isnt looking for vengeance.
The Swan Lake mom says theres enough bad feeling in the world.
She just wants the person who shot her cat, Marlboro, to know what theyve done.
Theyve just devastated two little girls, she said.
Kern was heartbroken when her 18-month-old cat didnt return home one Saturday night after playing outside.
She spent half the night outside her home on Mount Hope Road calling his name.
And when he mounted the steps the next day, dragging his front leg, she was hysterical.
Kern couldnt even examine the wound she asked her fiancé, Ralph, to check it out.
The news was worse than she expected. He hadnt just had a tussle with a neighborhood cat. Marlboro had been shot.
Kern raced to the telephone and punched in the numbers shes come to know by heart 791-4400, the digits to Abundance of Care Animal Hospital in Monticello.
Dr. Lawrence Mauer told her to come right in. And he confirmed their fears there was shrapnel from where the bullet entered the black and white cats leg, shattering his bones.
At first, Mauer tried to save the leg, and Kern researched everything she could to come up with an answer.
She even talked to a chiropractor about medicines made to help heal bones.
But it was hopeless. Last week, Marlboro was returned to the vets office to have his leg amputated.
I have to give him all the credit in the world he tried to save the cats leg, she said. Hes certainly very passionate about what he does.
Kern knows in her heart that hell be OK. A three-legged cat can maneuver around her house. He can still get in and out of his litter box, and hes still got a purr that sounds like a revving motor.
He gets a lot of love, and you can tell he knows weve done the best we can do, she said.
But Kern doesnt know who shot tiny Marlboro she has her suspicions, but no one has owned up to the dirty deed.
She called the police, but they said nothing can be done unless she has proof that someone is the culprit.
Harder still is explaining away Marlboros missing leg to young Kacia, 6, and Anissa, 4.
Its been two months since he was first shot, and Kern is no closer to answering their questions about why someone would shoot their kitty.
They dont understand why someone would do that, she said.
Kerns also dealing with growing veterinarian bills shes doled out about $700 already, and shes already facing another $1,000.
Its a struggle for a single mom who is living on the Social Security survivors benefits from losing her husband. Her fiancé Ralph has just started his own courier business, so there isnt a lot of money coming in.
When Marlboro was first discovered struggling to walk, the cost of vet visits flew through Kerns mind and went right out the way they came.
When I get a pet, theyre a member of my family, she said. Theyre like my kids.
Marlboro and his brother, Harley Davidson, were part of a litter born on Sept. 11, 2002 the offspring of Kerns cat Jasper.
When Jasper suddenly disappeared, Kern struggled to keep the babies alive herself.
I sat on my bed at 4 a.m. with a little bottle and a little nipple and formula, she recalled. I did that for almost four weeks we kept him alive there was no way I was going to kill him.
Marlboro is the kitty who most resembles Jasper, so hes always held a special place in Kerns heart. He sleeps in her bed with Harley and Kerns miniature pinscher, Kosmo.
The familys other dog, Dylan, cuddles up with her daughters during the night, rotating which family member he wants to sleep with.
The animals were used to going outside before the shooting. The cats would accompany Kacia and Anissa to their clubhouse where the girls dressed them up like dollies or dragged them around in their wagons.
That wont happen again.
Hell never be out of my sight again, Kern said of Marlboro.
Shes even jumpy letting Dylan out to go to the bathroom he has bright Day-Glo collars so hunters wont confuse him with a deer during hunting season.
The cats have always worn collars too, something Kern said should have warned the shooter that Marlboro was a house pet.
He wasnt scraggly, he didnt have rabies, she said. I dont understand why someone would do this.
Marlboro was known to kill mice and snakes, but she said no one ever complained that he was any trouble.
If my cat was being a nuisance, going around their garbage cans for instance, why couldnt they talk to me? she asked. Take a squirt gun or something there are other options.
I never thought in a million years that letting my cat outside someone would shoot him, she said. I just want whoever did it to know this put an emotional strain, not to mention a financial strain, on this family.
Kern has looked on the Internet for some financial help. Shes contacted several organizations that deal with feline and veterinary care, and shes hopeful that the answer will come from somewhere.
Were a little bit behind on bills right now, but well get over it, she said. If I get a little help out of this OK.
If not, she continued, Im a big girl.
Im not looking for tea and sympathy, she said. Im looking for awareness.
Think twice before you shoot something, Kern noted. It could be someones pet.
Kern wants other people in her area to be aware of her situation shes seen other animals running around, and she doesnt want to see a family in her situation.
This was my worst nightmare, she said. I dont want anyone else to go through this.
Folks who want to help Marlboro can call 295-0613.