Mikey Wheeler (Copy)

Mikey Wheeler (Copy)

There’s a saying that goes, “Mother knows best.”  Twenty years ago, a mother knew to take her three babies to the home of Ray and Valerie Wheeler, where the two little boys and one girl would be cared for and loved beyond measure. They even gave the mother a home.

Mother Mew, a stray, gently carried balls of orange fur to the back deck of the Wheeler’s New Jersey home in July of 1996. Valerie said cats just know things and Mother Mew must have sensed that she and her babies would be well taken cared for, for a long time.

First, it was Mikey – Valerie’s favorite. Valerie named him after her nephew, because he was long and thin, with a big voice and a mellow personality.

 Next was Joey, named after another nephew for his mischievous nature. Last to be delivered was Rustilina, named for her rusty orange coloring.

Once they were inside, Valerie said, that was it, they were indoor cats.

Four years ago, Valerie and Ray moved to The Village of Santibell, but sadly, their beloved cat numbers were down. Mother Mew had passed away a few years prior, at 14, and not long before the move, they lost Joey to kidney disease, also at 14.

Mikey and Rustilina made the trip to Florida, still living the life of luxury. Days were spent with Mikey sitting with Valerie watching television and Rustilina being every bit a little lady, Valerie said.

They immediately found Buffalo Ridge Animal Hospital to bring cats for their senior wellness care. A relationship between the Wheelers and BRAH was immediate, with Valerie singing the praises of all the staff. As soon as Buffalo Ridge at Pinellas Plaza opened, the new location became their primary location.

Every June for Mikey and Rustilina’s birthday, Valerie and Ray would bring cakes or cookies or treats for the Pinellas Plaza crew.

At about 17 years old, Mikey’s health began to decline and he needed routine appointments for IV fluid treatment. Valerie would sit in the lobby while Mikey was seen. Worrying about the health and age of her two beloved cats, Valerie was not considering getting more cats, which was rare for the long-time feline fanatic who had more than a dozen at one time.

But last year, almost similarly to how Mother Mew hand delivered three orange fur-balls to Valerie, April, a receptionist at Pinellas Plaza, hand delivered a black and white tuxedo kitten into Valerie’s lap.

The kitten had been found in the bushes outside the clinic. Valerie sat in the lobby, petting the little short-coat kitten as she waited for Mikey’s treatment to be done. As soon as Valerie made it home, she called April and said she was on her way to rescue the kitten she decided to name Sylvester. The three cats got along instantly, Valerie said.   

Sadly, Mikey passed away November 2015 at the age of 19. But Valerie can’t think April enough for gifting her Sylvester, who has provided laughter and friendship in Valerie, Ray and Rustilina’s home.

“Mikey was so good. Now, Sylvester and Rustilina get a long really well. Rustilina puts her paws on the cat treats because Sylvester has to learn to share a little bit more,” Valerie said.

Not many cats could have such a long, healthy lifespan, but Mikey did, and so far, Rustilina is still going strong.

“I contribute the longevity of all my cats to being on the Hills (Science) diet digestive care i/d chicken, 1 Friskies can, and some cat treats,” Valerie explained.

And of course the staff, named personally by Valerie, for the excellent care and kindness they provide: Dr. Vernon, Dr. Caruana, technicians Jordan, Rachel, Jackie, receptionists Sandy and April.

“They’re all great. They’re very good,” she said.


The staff at Buffalo Ridge and Buffalo Ridge at Pinellas Plaza was very saddened by the passing of Mikey. We appreciate the heart-felt appreciation the Wheeler’s have for our staff and glad to honor them and their beloved pets in our Featured Patient blog.






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