Charlie’s Journey Home

By Alicia Bailey

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The perfect pack is something all pet parents can relate to. Whether you have one pet or several, there is a calm and loving feeling that radiates when everyone is home, living in harmony, and doing their thing. For Royce Chang, her home is at its best when her two dogs and two cats are welcoming a revolving door of foster animals. When her cat Cody passed away in 2017, she knew she would eventually adopt another cat, but she wasn’t in a rush. She continued to foster and could have easily adopted one of her neo-natal kitten fosters, but she didn’t. She waited, knowing the right cat would cross her path eventually.

Photo by Alicia Bailey

Nearly a year later, during a routine visit to The Veterinary Care Center in Los Angeles, Royce spotted a pair of kittens with no eyes housed in the lobby. At first, she was startled, taken aback by the two tiny kittens who did not have eyes, but out of curiosity, she asked the front desk about their story. The pair were born in Florida, and at 3 weeks old they were anonymously dropped off on the front porch of a local animal rescuer. The rescuer’s daughter who was visiting from Los Angeles, arranged for the kittens to travel back to L.A. to receive the care they needed and find adoptive homes.

Photo by Royce Chang

The kittens had a congenital condition called globe hypoplasia, meaning they were born with empty eye sockets. Their eyes had to be surgically removed, leaving them completely blind. Once they recovered and were ready to mingle, the kitties moved into the “adopt me” kennel in the lobby of the animal hospital. They wasted no time capturing the hearts of visiting clients, and adoption applications started to come in.

Royce noticed one kitten was smaller, and seemed to hide behind his more outgoing brother. Assuming they needed to stay together, and not quite ready to adopt, she gave them both a few scratches and said goodbye. A few weeks later when she returned for a follow up visit, she noticed the smaller one in the kennel alone. His brother had been adopted.

Photo by Royce Chang

Seeing the little kitten with no eyes, all alone in his kennel, was all it took. In that moment, she knew this little boy was going home with her.

Photo by Royce Chang

“I just thought … he will not thrive alone in that kennel. It made me really sad to see him sitting there, especially since he seemed to rely on his brother so much,” Royce said. “I’d never had a special needs pet before, but I knew they had a harder time finding permanent homes. I was already more than a little smitten with him and knew that as he grew out of kittenhood, he would be even harder to place. So, I went for it, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Photo by Alicia Bailey

She named him Charlie, and when they got home, he snuggled into her arms right away. To get Charlie acclimated to his new home, Royce started him out in a large dog crate and gradually allowed him more room to roam, little by little over time. In a few months, he was comfortable navigating his new home.

Photo by Alicia Bailey

“He is genuinely a happy and kind boy. He doesn’t like too much commotion and will get spooked a bit easier than seeing cats, but he re-acclimates himself and keeps going. He has also proved to be a great tester cat for my foster dogs and loves socializing with the foster kittens.”

Charlie has a long list of favorite things to do, including exploring his backyard, lounging in the sun, puzzles, and even hiking. When Royce takes her dogs hiking or walking through the park, she brings Charlie in a backpack and leashes him up so he can explore, too.

“He’s a very tactile being, and I try to give him a lot of new experiences to keep him happy and enriched. But, honestly, his most favorite activity is cuddling and having his belly rubbed. He even likes his paws being rubbed, I’ve never had a cat who enjoyed that.”

Royce’s advice on adopting a blind kitten, cat or other special needs animal? “Do it! The extra time and attention they might need is insignificant to the bond they form with you and the love they give. Charlie is the most precious boy ever and has taught me so much about being in the moment and staying happy and trusting. He has a very Zen way of being.”

Photo courtesy Royce Chang

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