Cherryville, NC resident Paula Shipley lost everything but her life and her 3 month old kitten Mittens in a house fire that destroyed her trailer home in the overnight hours on Sunday.
Both Paula and Cherryville fire chief Jeff Cash say Mittens saved Paula’s life when he woke her shortly before 12:30 am.
“I was asleep,” Paula said when discussing the fire after being released from the hospital on Sunday. “He jumped up on me and he clawed my leg all up. I mean he clawed hard. That’s something he had never done. And it woke me up.”
The home was filled with smoke and the fire was already at the bedroom door when Paula was roused from her sleep. She escaped the smoke and extreme heat just before the fire completely devastated the trailer, without even being able to look for her little dog.
Chief Cash said Paula was “up and mobile” when firefighters arrived, and “more concerned about her pets,” Mittens, the cairn terrier dog, and a talking parrot.
Paula was slightly burned and was treated at the hospital, then released later Sunday morning. When she returned to the trailer, Mittens was sitting beneath a table in the burnt out remains of the kitchen, waiting for her.
Paula’s other two pets died from smoke inhalation. Mittens was seen by a vet, who said he is ok.
“I’m numb right now,” said Paula, who is staying with relatives at present, and has lost absolutely all of her belongings, including her identification. “I cried for about eight hours and right now I’m cried out. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.”
According to a story in the Gaston Gazette, Paula is a long-time animal lover who has fostered injured and abused animals for over 40 years, and took in Mittens when his mother was killed. The mama cat, a neighbor’s Maine Coon, was hit and killed by a car two days after giving birth to a litter. Paula volunteered to foster the kittens, then bottle-fed them and found homes for all but one, Mittens, who has 7 toes on each of his big front paws.
Paula is described by neighbors as a caring, giving and resilient person who now needs the help of the community. A fund has yet to be set up, but is in the works. Paula is being directed to local agencies and charities for help.
You can read more on the story at the Gaston Gazette.
Chief Cash said smoke detectors were installed but not working, and the cause of the fire was still under investigation but it was not thought to be of suspicious origin.