Bernice: a sad but hopeful tale
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In mid-July 2011 a young female cat was found severely burned on a street on Oshkosh, a city in the state of Wisconsin, USA. There had been no reports of any fires or blazes anywhere nearby at the time, and although no perpetrator has been found, it looked very much as though the animal had been subject to a deliberate, cruel and callous act.
She was taken to the Oshkosh Area Humane Society and then to the Oshkosh Animal Hospital. Her eyebrows and whiskers were singed to her face and her ears were literally crisp; eventually it became apparent that she had burns on some 60 per cent of her body. She was bandaged from head to toe, as doctors tried their best to manage her pain while the healing process began. Often an animal so severely burned would have been put to sleep, but her doctors said she seemed to be a warm and loving soul and showed such a fighting spirit and strong will to live that she deserved to be given a chance. Staff named her Bernice. So many people were shocked by what had happened to her that numerous donations have been made towards her treatment, and her progress is followed by a large number of fans and admirers. There is also a fund for a reward to go to anyone who can find out who was responsible for her plight.
In the first few weeks she made remarkable progress. One of the hospital staff working with her made a video recording her treatment and progress it is very sensitively done, but be warned: it is not comfortable viewing. By mid-August her doctor and 'special care person', Becky Bosetski, was writing an interesting and optimistic assessment, although she warned of possible future problems, and said Bernice's fur will probably not grow back on the most severely burned areas. She will need a very special home; and Dr Bosetski said that before any future surgery is carried out it would be important to assess its impact on the cat and how she would cope with it, and not just go ahead 'because it could be done'.
In late August the hospital released a short video showing Bernice playing and behaving like a cat. By late October 2011 considerable further progress had been made and Bernice was eating well, looking much better and still enjoying a play: see the NBC news report.
She had a white cat friend called George, and plenty of animal soft toys, of which her favourite was a pink teddy bear. There are some pictures of Bernice with her toys, and with George, at the Life with Cats site. She was reported to be suffering from a little 'cabin fever', but a later report from the Humane Society (early December 2011) brought the news that 'Dr Becky' was on maternity leave, having given birth to a baby girl, and that Bernice was spending most of her time between Dr Becky's house and that of her vet technician Dyan. She thus spent the 2011 Christmas holidays outside the clinic, and enjoyed her time with the families. There's an amusing short clip of another cat, called Ozzy, watching a video of Bernice playing, at YouTube.
By March 2012 further news and images showed remarkable progress: see the gallery of photos taken by Adam Jungwirth at the Oshkosh Northwestern. It was reported that Bernice wouldn't be put up for adoption; rather, she'd be going to live with a member of the Oshkosh Animal Hospital staff.
Later in the year the hospital stopped giving regular reports, and by the end of 2012 Bernice had 'retired from the limelight and was living happily with her family'. There's a Facebook group which seems to be run by some of her fans, with comments and pictures.