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Norwich Bulletin - 9/14/2008

Ordinary People Doing Extra-Ordinary Things

When you first meet Debra-Ann Milette you get the impression that she is an ordinary person, living an ordinary life, like most of us do. Once you get to know her, though, you realize that Debra-Ann is anything but ordinary.

As a bit of background, Debbie (as I get to call her) was the first female to be assigned to the all male 10th Special Forces unit where she served as a medical corpsman in 1971 and became the first woman to qualify as a parachutist with that unit.

She went on to work for the United States Army’s Natick, Massachusetts Research and Development and Engineer Center, where she earned citations for her work on foods for the space shuttle Columbia and for her participation in the development and preparation of meal entrees eaten by astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery.

Right about now I bet some of you are thinking what does any of this have to do with an animal column? Well, knowing the background on this very interesting lady, it will come as no surprise when I tell you she is an exotic cat rescuer. During her career, she has rescued, retrieved and relocated African Servals, Tigers, Cougars, and Caracals; traveling as far as Texas, Illinois and Kentucky to find them.

She will help anyone who asks her, only requesting gas, food and lodging be taken care of, and that the cats she rescues be returned to a safe and healthy environment. When she is hired, the first thing she will do is to find out as much about the cat that she can and then she begins her search by scoping out the area where it was last seen.

She becomes the eyes and ears of the cat she seeks, and when she knows she is on the right track, she will set up cages with bait inside to help lure the cats inside during the early evening hours. (By the way, the bait consists of stuffed animals or, for African Servals, she used ink, which is like catnip to them).

She does not like to use a dart gun, but if she has to, she will. This woman, who is almost 60 years old, will hide in trees and wait for the cat to walk by and can shoot her dart gun up to 30 feet away from the cat.

If that isn’t enough it itself, Debra-Ann has had her own exotic cats as pets, including a 38 pound caracal named Sara-Linda and a 52 pound Savannah African Serval.

But the love of her life today, is Matahah Me Al (Hebrew for “gift from above”), an F2 Savannah cat whose grandfather was a wild African Serval. This magnificent 22 pound cat, nicknamed Motzie, stands sixteen inches tall at the shoulder who is quite dog like. He walks on a leash, plays fetch, takes over the entire couch for a nap, and when you call his name, he lifts up his head and vocalizes a response.

And you can meet him next week at the Helping Paws fundraiser being held at Kelly Middle School in Norwich. Motzie is going to be collecting food for the St. Vincent De Paul Food bank at the TICA cat show on September 20 and 21, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and kids under twelve, and a $1 from each admission goes to the Food Bank, with the remainder going to animal rescue. Motzie will gladly pose with you for a picture. Despite his imposing presence (I must admit I was a bit intimidated by him when I first saw him), he is an easygoing cat, and sports an affable nature.

I have gotten to know Motzie and he is a cat who works for the greater good. He is a therapy cat who spends time in New York, assisting schoolchildren with reading. Children with learning disabilities are encouraged to read to Motzie as he is a very good listener and never criticizes their pronunciation.

He is a very good representative for his breed and an absolutely incredible animal. Where Debra-Ann is used to the exotic world of the big cats, most of us are not, and it is with great awe and reverence that we welcome Motzie to our show hall. Please make it a point to come to our fundraiser and meet this handsome boy….

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