From the rubble, a pet emerges alive

Tippi found 17 days after home blast north of Lemon Reservoir

Tippi was found Friday, 17 days after an explosion destroyed a home north of Lemon Reservoir. The 4-year-old cat is held by veterinarian Stacee Santi at Riverview Animal Hospital on Friday. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Tippi was found Friday, 17 days after an explosion destroyed a home north of Lemon Reservoir. The 4-year-old cat is held by veterinarian Stacee Santi at Riverview Animal Hospital on Friday.

Tippi, a 4-year-old short-hair domestic cat, was found alive Friday among the remains of a La Plata County home that had exploded 17 days ago.

The cat was found about 1 p.m. by people doing excavation work at the house, said Patricia Ey, a neighbor who drove the cat to Riverview Animal Hospital in Durango, where it was recovering Friday night.

“I think it’s a miracle,” Ey said. “It shows the tenacity of this entire family.”

The explosion occurred on the evening of Feb. 21 north of Lemon Reservoir.

Tim and Karen Kelley were inside the home with their 9-year-old daughter, Cameron, at the time of the blast. All three survived, as did the family dog, Rocko, who was pulled from the debris about 16 hours after the blast.

And now the family cat has been found alive.

“Everybody seems relieved right now that, finally, the one last remaining member of the family has been located,” Ey said.

The cat lost almost 50 percent of its body weight. It was dehydrated, its hair was thin, its whiskers and eyebrows were singed off, its ear tips were dead, and three foot pads have fallen off, said Stacee Santi, managing veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital.

Still, the cat is in good condition and is expected to make a full recovery, she said. Blood tests appeared normal, she said, and the cat didn’t suffer any broken bones or internal injuries.

“He’s in pretty good condition, all things considered,” Santi said. “He was scared at first when he got here, but now he’s enjoying being in his bed.”

The family also is making a good recovery.

Cameron suffered a broken leg but has resumed classes at Riverview Elementary School.

She will travel this weekend to Denver, where her parents are in the hospital recovering.

Karen has been released from the burn unit, has undergone successful skin grafts and has been out of bed and standing on her own weight, according to a website set up to monitor the family’s progress. She is staying at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

Tim also has been released from the burn unit and has undergone surgeries on both of his legs. He suffered injuries to both knees and shattered the tibia in his left leg. Doctors plan to install a custom-made titanium knee in coming days.

He was moved this week to the Live Care Center of Aurora for rest and rehabilitation but is expected to return to the University of Colorado Hospital for more surgeries, said the family website.

Rocko, the family dog, suffered injuries to his heart, lungs and liver. He has made nearly a full recovery, Santi said.

The dog lost vision in his left eye and is scheduled to make a trip next week to Albuquerque to visit an ophthalmologist who specializes in eye care for pets.

“Rocko is doing great,” Santi said. “He’s back to 100 percent as far as attitude and activity.”

Riverview Animal Hospital has received numerous phone calls from people across the country wanting to know how Rocko is doing and how they can donate to offset his medical expenses, Santi said.

The animal hospital has been directing people to one of two funds set up to assist the Kelley family.

One is at Wells Fargo Bank called the Kelley Family Assistance Fund. The other is at Bank of Colorado called the Kelley Family Fund.

For updates about the family’s recovery, visit www.kelleyfamilydurango.com.

For updates about Tippi and Rocko, visit Riverview Animal Hospital’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/riverviewanimalhospital.

shane@durangoherald.com