Maxine Johnson assists her 4-month-old kitten, Rocky Balboa Johnson, at her home in Norridgewock on Nov. 5. The feline was missing for four days and is now recovering from hip surgery after they were broken. The shaved area is where the animal underwent surgery. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

Maxine Johnson says her kitten, Rocky, is doing very well after two surgeries to fix serious injuries caused when someone apparently stomped on the kitten and left it for dead near its Norridgewock home.

Rocky

“He is recuperating fine,” Johnson, 84, said Friday. “The second surgery was not as bad as the first one. They had to connect the hip joint back together. You’d never know he had anything wrong with him now. He leaps and runs and climbs all over the furniture. He is wild. He’ll climb up there on the chair and leap right onto my shoulder. He’s just like a monkey when he gets going.”

Rocky’s condition is a lot different than it was early last month after it had slipped out the door, disappeared and returned home four days later. Maxine Johnson had been so beside herself with worry that she cried when he reappeared.

But she immediately knew something was wrong with the then 4-month-old blondish-orange kitten whom she had named Rocky Balboa because his front paws were so big they looked like boxing gloves.

The veterinarian at Animal Medical Clinic in Skowhegan who examined him determined someone had stomped on the kitten, crushing both hips.

“The doctor came out and said he’s so badly injured you have two choices,” Johnson recalled. “One is very expensive and the other is to put him down and I said, ‘Well we can’t put him down, because he was gone for four days, and somehow he made it home.'”

So she went to the bank and withdrew money for the costly first operation to repair one hip. Then, on Dec. 13, Rocky went in for the second surgery. In total, the vet bills totaled $2,500.

But after a column ran Nov. 7 in the Morning Sentinel about Rocky’s plight, pet lovers and well-wishers sent cards and notes to Johnson  and included donations for Rocky’s care. They totaled $2,400.

“All but about $100 — isn’t that something, considering it was $2,500?” Johnson said Friday.

She was overwhelmed with gratitude, she said.

“These are people who care so much, people that I don’t even know that just read it in the Sentinel,” she said. “Most of them had experiences with their cats being injured or their animals being injured. Most of them read the story and it touched their hearts, and it meant so much to them that they wrote it all down in a little letter. I’m telling you, you could almost cry reading them because you knew what they had been through.”

One man wrote that his 17-year-old cat had to be put down in August and he was still grieving. Johnson read aloud from his letter:

“‘I’m so understanding of your emotions, but I’m so very pleased that apparently Rocky will be okay.'”

A retired 28-year dispatcher for the Waterville Police Department, Johnson said she and her family still don’t know who hurt the kitten.

“Nobody’s come forward to say anything,” she said.

Meanwhile, Johnson said she sent Christmas cards to all 33 people who donated and included a note in each, updating Rocky’s progress. The donations were mostly from central Maine communities including Augusta, Winslow, Winthrop, Unity, Clinton, Skowhegan, Oakland, Pittston and Randolph, but two arrived from Florida and Kentucky, according to Johnson.

She is keeping all of their messages of support in a special notebook, she said.

“I found it at Goodwill and on the front it says, ‘My adoptive mother’s favorite memories,'” she said.

Johnson said she wants people to know how much she appreciates the outpouring of support, which has made her Christmas all the more special this year.

“It had quite a sad beginning and the happiest ending,” she said.

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