The Reincarnated Soul of St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals
St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals

I’m pretty sure I’m the reincarnated soul of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals. It started like this. In 1986, as I pulled into a McDonald’s in the middle of a brutal Chicago winter, my headlights shone onto a small, moving object. Upon further investigation, I found a tiny (maybe 1-2 week old) kitten, shivering in a snow bank, too cold to even cry. I tucked her inside my coat, took her home, fed her with an eye dropper and nursed her to health. And of course, kept her. Turns out she was blind, but she adapted well and became my study buddy (I was still in college).

Fast forward to 1999. Now living in Napa Valley, California, I was outside washing my car when a bedraggled black cat appeared out of nowhere and collapsed at my feet. I swooped her up, wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the vet.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images
Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Two hours and $700 later, I brought her home, fed her and decided to keep her. My sister, with whom I was living at the time, named her Lucky (“because she is,” my sister said). She died two weeks later, but at least she was well loved and cared for during her last days.

Six years later, as my dog dragged me around the block one morning, we walked by a hedge (separating two houses) that began to meow. I peeked inside and saw several pairs of little eyes staring back at me. The next morning the meows grew louder, more insistent. Momma cat was nowhere to be found.

That night I parked in front of the hedge, drew out my oversized cat carrier and reached into the bush for one of the tiny kittens. The bush proved to be a formidable opponent. Thirty minutes later, when my arms were bloody from the dense brush, I drove home, grabbed a can of tuna and went back. One by one the babies came out and I quickly grabbed them up. There were eight in all. Taking them to the SPCA where I was a volunteer, each found a new and loving home.

My next heroic rescue came five years ago, while I was home recovering from surgery. As I drove down the main thoroughfare in my part of town toward the Starbucks, a mother duck was crossing the street with her three little ducklings.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images
Photo Courtesy of Google Images

I watched in horror as the car in front of me mowed them down. I slammed my car into park, jumped out and halted traffic in both directions. Ushering the babies who all had thankfully survived to the side of the road, I went back and carefully lifted Momma—badly injured but still alive—and brought her over to her babies. Unsure of what to do next, I called my vet to ask if they treat ducks. As the woman on the other end told me, “Um, no, sorry,” the mother flapped her giant wings and flew to the top of a nearby building.

I snapped my phone shut and gaped in wonder as the ducklings ran circles around my legs, crying for their mother. A man approached and as I relayed the story, he told me that the mother was waiting for me to leave, that she would tend to her babies once I had gone. Reluctantly I left the scene and went to Starbucks.

When I pulled into the parking lot at Starbucks, I rear-ended a guy. He jumped out of his car and started flailing his arms and swearing at me. My face scrunched up and tears began to flood my eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I said, my breath coming in ragged gasps, “but there was this duck . . .  and the babies . . . and they were . . . mowed down . . . and I . . . oh, God, it’s just so . . . ”

At this point the guy looked at his bumper, glanced at me like I was a crack addicted clown and practically dove into his car, tires squealing as he peeled out of the parking lot. On my way back I was pleased to see that mother and babies had flown the coop.

Two years ago while I was once again home on medical leave—this time recovering from pneumonia—I went out to the mailbox and found a little duckling lying in the gutter. I stood her up and when she toppled back over, I realized that she was lame and her mother had abandoned her.

Precious (photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince)
Precious (photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince)

Sooooo, I scooped her up, took a picture of her because she was way too cute (see above), and named her Precious because she was. Then I took her to the Wild Bird Rescue some 30 minutes from the house, where she would be raised with other baby ducks and eventually released into the wild.

Since then I’ve rescued a baby mourning dove whose mother abandoned it, buried another one who I was unable to save beneath the angel statue in my back yard, and relocated several creatures (most recently a snail that was smack dab in the middle of the running path near my house) to safer pastures.

And yesterday, on my way to work, I found a beautiful black Labrador running in the middle of the street on a country road I drive to work. I pulled over, called her to me, and tried to coax her into my car so I could move her to safety. No joy. I called a friend at work whose son works as a sheriff in town. He came to help, but the two of us were unable to get her into his SUV. Finally, when a third person joined the effort, we successfully lifted her into the sheriff’s car and he set off to find her family.

I’m not Catholic and I’m not exactly saint material so I’m pretty sure I can’t be canonized, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night AND I’m getting ready to go on medical leave again. I’m already beginning to wonder what creature God will put in my path this time. I can’t wait to find out.

What about you? If you were the Patron Saint of Something (anything at all), what would that something be?

I love hearing from you. And to prove it, for every comment you leave, you’ll be entered into a drawing. At the end of the month, I will draw a lucky winner who will receive a $10 gift card (your choice, Amazon, Starbucks or iTunes). Winners will be announced in the first post of the following month.

Coming Up:

Next Tuesday: You Know it’s Time for a Vacation When . . .

Next Friday: Sacrificial Virgin Wanted: Stupid Tourist Will Do

16 comments on… “The Reincarnated Soul of St. Francis of Assisi”

  1. I am Catholic and I am well aware of St. Francis of Assisi. I am also a great animal lover.

    And I can tell you this – you are indeed a saint!

    • LOL, I don’t know about that, but hopefully I’ve created at least a little good karma (to help offset the bad). Thanks for stopping by Marianna!

  2. I suppose it is people that I gather. Not all of them are in need of another mother, but some of them are and I love mothering them. I think I am about up to 30 children-of-my-heart and I think my angel daughter is putting them in my path to help fill the void her death left. I love them all and their hugs and smiles and seeing them do well warms my heart. I have no criteria for who I pull into my heart, it is just instinct that they will be special to me.

    It’s impressive how you are chosen by the animals. Yes, I’d agree that you are indeed a saint and they seem to sense it. Good for you and good for them. Bless your heart!


  3. Melissa Lewicki


    God put two tiny, tiny kittens in our path (driveway) one rainy night. Took them to the vet. As he was examining one, the other was just desperate to get up on the table to be with the sibling. They were the two most symbiotic couple of cats I have ever seen. One was black and one was white. Before we took them to the vet, we named them Darth and Leia. After the vet visit, they were Darth and Luke.
    Hope your medical leave goes well.
    I am enjoying your blog.


  4. Pamela Knudsen


    Great story Suz! I love reading anything you write, and this was one of my favorites! Sooo, I have one question for you, little sister…
    NOW have you found out what little birdies eat??

    • It’s been a lot of years since I asked that question in the dark of night and I can only say that, not only have I learned what little birdies eat, I understand WHY they do 🙂 Love you!

  5. I’ve given this some thought and I guess I’d have to say I’m the patron saint of adult beverages, since I seem to be drawn to them and they always make me feel good when I’ve enjoyed their marvelous bounty. I also find it hard to resist their siren’s call whenever they are near.

    Aside from that, I can’t say as I have an affinity to helping or attracting anything else. I used to be the patron saint of bad dates, but I seem to have outgrown that.

    So glad you are the animal rescuer. I try to help when these poor creatures when they happen across my door paty, but so far the only thing I’ve gotten is a little brown bear, and to be honest with you, he didn’t seem to need much help so I left him alone to eat my garbage in peace.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Patron Saint of Adult Beverages, I love it! I’ll join you in a glass of champagne any day! Yes, you’ve definitely outgrown the PS of Bad Dates.

  6. I’m am sooo impressed with how you have rescued so many helpless little animals, Suzanne! I have a soft spot for almost all little furry creatures, but they don’t seem to put themselves in my path like they do to you.

    I think I must be channeling St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, because I do LOVE to travel. Doesn’t matter where, I can enjoy something about every place I go.

    AC

  7. No, I’m not much of a rescuer. (Unless you count the 3 wild cats we managed to free from the hollow wall space of my dad’s apartment. Still not sure how they got there.) I will say, I ALWAYS end up the pet care giver. 🙂

  8. Great post, Suzanne. You touched all the emotions. I’m afraid I’m a heartless farm girl; I will do my share to avoid or ease animal suffering, but I think I shed all my St. Francis impulses at a pretty early age.

    • Thanks, Gretchen. What can I say, I’m an animal magnet. And from what I’ve read on your blog, sounds like you’re becoming quite the PS of Gardening (or it is Garden Partying)? 🙂

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