I was a little stubborn and still not fully healed from Sophia's death, but one day I saw a post for free kittens on the classifieds and I thought, "What's the harm in looking?"  So, I contacted the girl giving them away.  We agreed to meet in the park.  I brought Sophia's old kennel, to just "look" at the one little striped kitten.  She mentioned that she was bringing along another kitten for me to look at too, a black one.  I immediately fell in love with Stella and her stripes and little face.  Then I looked over at little Bella who was crying and crying, and all I saw was her sweet little face and her beautiful golden eyes and I was hooked.  I knew I was taking both sisters home with me.  I decided to name then "Bella" and "Stella" because it rhymes, and together it means "beautiful star" in Latin and Italian.  And that's what they are to me, little "beautiful stars" of my life.

Over the past year, both of their personalities came out.  In Stella, I get my chubby, snuggle bug, who would make the best mouser.  She is also more in tune with my emotions and gets a little clingy during thunderstorms.  Bella is my sleek panther, intelligent, bird watcher.  She grew very fond of my friend Jeff because he was the best at playing with her.  He could get her to leap 3-4 feet in the air!  I'd never seen a cat do that and she never did that when I played with her!

We've now made it through a few seasons together.  I remember when both the girls saw snow for the first time.  Stella would sit at the window and try to catch the snowflakes, while Bella would sleep on the couch unamused—I guess there are just not enough birds in the winter.  Bella loves birds.  She does this funny little chirping sound whenever she sees one.  She's never killed one or anything, I think she just likes talking to them!  She likes talking to anyone—a lot.

Another thing is Bella loves is going outside.  I had the intention that my two cats would be indoor only.  I've seen and heard too many stories about cats getting into chemicals, cat fights, and cars hitting them. But then, I'd never had a cat like Bella.  She would meow and chatter and get so excited (or she would simple dart out when I went outside) and she didn't go far AND she actually came back inside when I called her.  So, she earned my trust to be outside for about an hour in the mornings.  There are huge lilac bushes in my front yard and this is usually where she hangs out because of the shade.  I never let Stella out, one because she never wanted to that bad, and two, because she is kind of chunky and is a little lazy when it comes to bolting out the door.  Bella moves like a dang cheetah.  All this aside, I should've never let her out that Tuesday morning.

When she came inside she got sick on the rug in my kitchen.  Gross, right.  Anyway, I just thought she ate too much grass.  So I lightly scolded her, and told her, "That's why cats stay inside, Bella".  And I decided that I would start keeping her inside more.  Something in me knew it was time to end the outside adventures for Bella.

I left the house for a couple of minutes to run an errand.  When I returned, Bella was lying on the rug in the bathroom.  This was not normal.  I got down to her level and started inspecting.  I found a bloody wound.  It kind of looked like another cat or animal bit or scratched her.  Plus, there was a lot of blood around it.  I called the vet immediately and they got the vet to come in (on his day off) to look at her.

I got Bella in her carrier and off we went to the vet across town.  I left her there, and not more than 20 minutes passed when the vet tech called to tell me that Bella had actually been shot and would need emergency after care at the vet in Rapid City.

SHOT?!  Who would shoot someone's pet?  I was so shocked, but I pulled myself together to drive Bella the 40 miles to Rapid City.  She meowed the whole way, which was a good thing because it meant she was lucid and just complaining about her carrier—which she hates.  When we finally got to the emergency vet the tech and the vet were very thorough in explaining the cost of the surgery and the risk of Bella not surviving.  I knew it would be expensive and I only had $100 in my wallet.  I called my mom and told her everything and she offered to pay $300 just to get Bella into surgery. 

From there, the vet took an x-ray of Bella and you could see where the pellet was.  It entered her left hind leg and went all the way over to her other leg possibly grazing major organs along the way.  Exploratory surgery was needed to make sure the pellet hadn't knocked anything.  So Bella had to stay the night at the emergency vet.

This surgery was not going to be cheap.  I knew I would have to come up with funding any way I could.  The minute I got into my car I made a "GOFUNDME" account.  I then shared it on my social media page, as well as the social media classifieds.  You know what?  I received donations by 12 generous people.  They donated enough to cover more than half the surgery cost.  Also, a very special person, Laura Bryant, directed me to the organization, Hobo's Healing Heart through the Spearfish Classifieds.  As soon as I could, I filled out their pre-qualification form.  The form was really easy to fill out.  Soon after, I received an e-mail from Kelly Haworth, Hobo's Healing Heart's President.  She contacted the vet and worked her "magic" and then called me to let me know that HHH had paid for the remainder of my vet bill.  I was so overwhelmed.  Bella endured such a senseless act of violence and without the financial help, from Hobo's Healing Heart, my friends, and my family, she wouldn't have a chance because I just couldn't afford it.

On a happy note, Bella is back to "catting around".  Bella loves treats (wet cat food), chirping at birds, and playing with pole and string toys.  She doesn't get to go outside anymore AT ALL, but I am installing more shelves around the house where she can sit and protect everyone in the house.  She's kind of like a mini-panther lounging around in her tree. 

Thank you again from both myself and Bella!

Written by Nikole D.