Feline fire victim at home in Manitowaning

Rob Maguire and his new feline friend Dobby.

    Social media connects cat lover and injured Sudbury kitten

MANITOWANING – Manitoulin Island’s Rob Maguire is the proud new keeper of Dobby, a weeks-old kitten who survived a Sudbury-area garage fire and has since moved to Manitowaning to enjoy his new lease on life.

“He was a victim of a garage fire in the Sudbury area and he was only five weeks old at the time. He’s probably about nine weeks old at this point,” said Mr. Maguire. “He was discovered the day after by firefighters and it was actually members of the city that took him into the Walden Animal Hospital.”

Dobby suffered second- and third-degree burns during his ordeal. He has lost three toes and the fate of two more is still unknown. Dobby also lost a part of his left ear and has some scarring on his back. According to Mr. Maguire, the decision by the hospital was an act of grace.

“They put him into care. It was really good of them and everybody involved, because I don’t think everybody would do that. There’d probably be cases where somebody would put the cat down instead, but they took him on as an emergency and endeavoured to save his life,” Mr. Maguire said.

The name Dobby is a reference to Harry Potter, a universe in which house-elves such as Dobby the Elf can only be freed from their masters if they are given clothing. Dobby the Elf was freed by a carelessly tossed sock, which inspired the naming of Dobby the Cat.

“We had to bandage his four paws, so once we had them all done it was the joke that master had given Dobby a sock and now he was free,” said Selena DeVries, practice manager for the Walden Animal Hospital and Gray Street Veterinary Services.

The animal hospital recognized the unique tragedy of Dobby’s situation and began to post photos and videos of him on their social media. The six videos alone have garnered a combined total of 17,500 views and their posts showing photos and describing his healing journey have been collectively shared hundreds of times. Dobby has been featured in the Sudbury Star and CTV Northern Ontario News.

“We had quite a bit of hits from our clients. There was a lot of follow-up of people asking about Dobby,” said Ms. DeVries. “It was nice to be able to give nothing but positive news; he honestly did quite well.”

“He wound up on social media, which is how I learned of him. When I saw the photographs, it just broke my heart,” said Mr. Maguire. “You could actually see the pain in his eyes in some of the initial pictures. That was the part that really got me.”

He kept a close eye on Dobby’s Facebook updates and, when he found out he was making a trip to Sudbury, reached out to the shelter and asked if he could meet Dobby while he was in town.

“They were really receptive to the idea, so I went out and met him. Right after I met him, I immediately knew that I would very much like to have been his adoptive home,” Mr. Maguire said. “I figured he deserved a really good life, and I thought, after I met him, that I was the one to help give that to him.”

Adopting Dobby came with a warning from the animal hospital: he would require further medical care including possible toe surgery and a procedure on a possible hernia. He would require an annual check-up to measure progress and may depend on pain relief for a long timeframe. Undaunted, Mr. Maguire put his name forward and was selected as the lucky new keeper of Dobby.

Rescuing cats is nothing new for Mr. Maguire. Although he grew up in a cat household, he never planned on having any as an adult. About 18 years ago, he took in a starving stray named Omar who passed last year due to kidney disease. Mr. Maguire described Omar as having changed his life.

Then, about 11 years ago, he found a kitten aboard the S.S. Norisle and took it home. That kitten got the name Little Norisle and Mr. Maguire describes him as having “the purest heart you could ever encounter.” He seems to serve as a ‘healing cat’ and offers comfort for those in need.

Six years ago, he live-trapped a female feral cat and took it to a rescue. They had plans to euthanize her after deeming her incorrigible, but he signed a waiver and took her home instead. Her astronomical journey deserved a stellar name, so she became known as Orion.

Finally, Swif was a feral kitten who Mr. Maguire helped adopt out to a family in the area, but it did not work out at the other home and Swif found his way back to Mr. Maguire’s doorstep where he was welcomed back with open arms.

Today, the Maguire house is a cat haven. The kitties have been getting along extremely well with each other and love exploring Mr. Maguire’s catwalk with penthouse, an outdoor ‘catio’ which is an enclosed space for their outdoor exploration, and the crown jewel—a cat castle he built with his staff at TerraStar Building Products.

“We are thrilled with the level of care we see from Rob. I was thrilled to see not only he put in a bid for Dobby but was very concerned; even if we didn’t choose him he was constantly asking for updates to know how he was doing,” said Ms. DeVries. “It seems to be a match made in heaven for those two. When they have a bond, you can see it pretty quick.”

Dobby has been steadily gaining weight, growing from 0.9 kilograms when he was brought home to his present mass of 1.5 kilograms. Many people have expressed their interest in having a dedicated social media channel for Dobby updates, something Mr. Maguire said he might consider if he can make the time. For the time being, Mr. Maguire has made photos of Dobby publicly viewable on his personal Facebook account.

“Under the circumstances of what he endured, he’s so very lucky to be alive. He’s a very happy, good-natured little guy,” said Mr. Maguire.

“We’re expecting Dobby to do a full recovery. Despite a couple of minor setbacks, he should be a very active, playful kitty for Rob,” added Ms. DeVries.