Up until last week, Dusty the cat spent his time both indoors and outdoors. He would play in his family’s yard on Olympia’s east side, climb trees, eat bugs, and visit one of the neighbor cats. But after a brief noontime escapade on Labor Day, Dusty came back limping.
Mikaela Shafer, Dusty’s owner, told The Olympian her daughter pointed out the way Dusty was dragging his right front leg. Shafer’s first thought: Maybe he got hit by a car or a bus. After all, her house is near a bus line.
But then she noticed what looked like a small hole in Dusty’s leg — her gut said it looked like a bullet hole, but her partner thought Dusty must have been bitten by a dog.
An X-ray at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital showed her gut feeling was right: A bullet was lodged in Dusty’s leg. The bullet caused enough damage that the leg would need to be amputated to the shoulder blade.
Dusty would need to heal, learn to walk and play on three legs, and stay inside.
The vet determined it was a bullet from a real gun, not a pellet gun, based on its size and shape, Shafer said. She said security footage at her house shows just six minutes passed between Dusty leaving the yard at noon and coming back with a bullet in his leg.
The original cost estimate for the surgery: between $2,000 and $3,000, according to Shafer.
“A lot of people are just like, ‘He’s just a pet, put him down,’” Shafer said. “But he’s a member of our family. We love him. So having someone shoot him is like having someone shoot a member of our family.”
Since the incident, Dusty’s story has gotten attention on social media. One hundred forty-nine people have shared Shafer’s post about Dusty on Facebook.
After the story was shared, people started calling Mountain View and donating money toward Dusty’s bill.
“I actually have no idea who donated,” Shafer said. “When I called to pay the bill, the vet told me that dozens of people called in making anywhere from a few dollars to a couple hundred dollar donations and that over $800 had been donated.”
The hospital dropped additional costs to get Shafer’s bill down to just $690. And, thanks to Shafer’s friend Jeni Dixon, that total will likely continue to drop.
Dixon is hosting a garage sale this upcoming weekend in an effort to cover the rest of Dusty’s bill. She said when she heard what happened, it made her stomach turn, and she felt the need to channel her anger and sadness in a positive way.
“I thought, ‘I don’t have money, but I do have time,’” Dixon said.
She got the word out about the garage sale she’s planning by calling friends and posting on Facebook and Nextdoor. Dixon expects the sale to feature items donated by as many as 15 people. She’s picking up the items this week from Seattle and all over Olympia. One donor, she said, is donating the first items she’s been able to part with from the estate of her mother, who Dixon described as a “life long advocate for animals,” and cats in particular.
“The response has been really amazing, and it’s kind of returned my faith in humanity after what happened to Dusty,” Dixon said.
So far, she said, items that will be for sale include “at least a couple sofas,” a wardrobe, other furniture, tools, clothing, “coveted Star Wars toys” that are still in the packages, and a 90-minute massage she plans to raffle off.
If there’s any money left over, she said the money will go toward a cat tree to keep Dusty active and entertained indoors.
Beyond that, she said a “pipe dream” is to put money toward some sort of educational effort to find common ground between people with “a strong love of cats from certain corners,” and an “ever-present dark side of Olympia that doesn’t like cats.”
Part of the garage sale’s message, too, is directed at whoever shot Dusty.
“They’re not going to stifle the love that exists in this community with what they have done,” Dixon said.
Shafer reported the incident to the Olympia Police Department last week, and Lt. Paul Lower told The Olympian the department is investigating. At this point, he said they hope to collect the bullet fragments to keep on file and will be knocking on neighbors’ doors to ask questions and see if others have had any issues.
Especially considering her home’s proximity to a bus line, Shafer said she doesn’t want people to start accusing neighbors or raising suspicions without evidence. Rather, she wants neighbors to start looking out for one another.
“I definitely think the best thing to do is to get to know your neighbors and reach out to each other,” Shafer said. “Support your neighbors and get to know them. Create a support network of people in your community.”
Anyone with information on what happened to Dusty is asked to call the Olympia Police Department’s business line: 360-753-8300.
Dixon’s yard sale is scheduled, rain or shine, for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and Sunday, Sept. 15, near the intersection of Eighth Avenue Southeast and Eastside Street.