“Not again!” Howard gasped, sick at heart, as he peeked from behind the bushes in his neighbor’s yard. But no one heard his quiet plea, and the neighborhood boys again stuffed the soaked, terrified kitten back into the sack. One boy gave the sack a hefty toss, and again it flew into the canal.
This time, however, the kitten could barely struggle free. As the sack and kitten floated down the canal, the boys finally lost interest.
As soon as the boys turned their backs, Howard dashed from behind the bushes, jumped the neighbor’s fence, and raced to the kitten’s aid. The poor animal could barely meow, and Howard had no trouble fishing it out of the canal and wrapping it gently in his shirttail. As Howard hurried home, tears filled his eyes. He prayed that the kitten would somehow survive.
“Howard William Hunter, what have you got there?” Dorothy, Howard’s younger sister, asked him. She stood on the front porch, hands on hips, trying to look as stern as she thought her mother would.
“Howard William Hunter,” his mother echoed, coming up behind Dorothy. “What have you got there?” She placed her hands on her hips as the screen door banged shut behind her. Both mother and daughter looked at him expectantly.
Howard was still too upset to speak. Instead, he carefully unwrapped the kitten.
“Oh my goodness!” Mother exclaimed, covering her mouth in surprise. Shaking her head, she gently placed a hand on Howard’s shoulder. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she explained to her tenderhearted son, “I know how much you love animals, Howard, but I’m afraid we can’t save this poor kitten.”
“Mother, we have to try!” Howard wailed. “We have to!”
Mother thought for a moment. “Come on, Howard. I think I know what to do.” She turned and hurried into the house.
Inside the hall closet, Mother found an old quilt and a small wooden box and placed them on the kitchen table. Howard and Dorothy watched as their mother lined the box with the quilt. “Now, give me the kitten,” she told Howard. He quietly placed the animal in her gentle hands, and she wrapped it in the quilt. “We’ll put the box where it’s warm,” she said, sliding it carefully under the stove.
“Now what should we do?” Dorothy asked.
“Be very quiet,” Mother said, putting her finger to her lips. “Play outside, and don’t be noisy in the house. We’ll let the kitten rest and see if it’s better in the morning.”
“How will we know if it’s all right?” Howard wondered.
“Don’t worry.” Mother smiled and patted him on the back. “We’ll know.”
Howard didn’t sleep well that night. He dreamed that the neighborhood boys had found the kitten under the stove and were trying to steal it.
Before the sun came up the next morning, Howard heard meowing. He sat straight up in bed and rubbed his eyes. When the kitten meowed again, he raced to the kitchen.
The kitten had climbed out of the box and was meowing for its mother as it wandered around the kitchen. Howard dropped onto the floor beside the kitten, who looked up hopefully into Howard’s eyes. He gently patted the kitten’s soft, warm fur. “I’ll get you some milk,” Howard said, taking a saucer from the cupboard. He poured some milk from the tin can in his mother’s cool pantry, and set the saucer in front of the hungry kitten.
“It’s going to be just fine now,” Mother said as she came into the kitchen and saw the kitten hungrily lapping up the milk. “That was a wonderful thing you did, Howard.”
Howard smiled up at his mother. He felt warm inside as he watched the kitten drink.
[A Great Blessing]
“[Animals] are a great blessing to us, and we should treat them gently and with consideration. … Ill-treatment either of children or animals is all wrong. Kindness, gentleness and mercy are better every way.” President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98), Fourth President of the Church, Collected Discourses, vol. 1, 261.