VERNON TOWNSHIP — Sue Siverling loved cats. She took in neighborhood strays and gave them a good home.

Before Sue died Feb. 4, 2005, she asked her husband Dick to promise her one thing — take care of the 23 cats living at their house at 14063 Route 98.

Dick has lived up to that promise.

“They are kind of pampered,” said Dick, explaining that the 15 indoor and eight outdoor cats have seven different kinds of canned cat food to choose from.

“She told me to take care of them,” he said. “It’s a good thing I did because one of them took care of me.”

As Dick’s attached garage caught on fire while he slept early Tuesday morning, the house gradually started filling with smoke. The smoke wasn’t enough to trigger the smoke detector and even if the smoke detector did sound, Dick isn’t sure if he would hear it because he uses a loud Bi-Level Positive Air Pressure machine to help with his sleep apnea.

Lucky for Dick, he sleeps with four or five cats every night and apparently one of those cats must have become “riled up” by the smoke.

Dick woke as one of the cats made a terrible racket by banging its paw against the curtain and into the window.

“What are you doing cat?” was Dick’s first response, but then he smelled smoke.

He couldn’t find any sign of fire in the house. Then he saw the reflection of flames in the snow coming from his garage.

Dick was able to escape safely from the house and firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after he called for help from a neighbor’s residence.

Vernon Central, Vernon Township, Hayfield, West Mead I and II, Saegertown, Summit and Conneaut Lake volunteer fire departments all responded to the scene.

Firefighters were able to rescue most of the cats, but two cats perished in the fire and two indoor cats were missing after the fire.

“We found most of them,” said Dick. “Some of them were a little wet, cold and shivering.”

The missing cats are Pepper, who is all black, and Sherry, who is mostly black with a little bit of white on her paws. They have no collars.

“I imagine the poor things were scared to death,” said Dick.

Dick said there are another two outdoor cats that are still running loose on his property and they live in a garage offset from the house that wasn’t damaged in the fire.

The house was pretty much a total loss, including Dick’s and his 13-year-old foster daughter’s Christmas tree and presents. He said friends have been generous in giving gifts for his daughter, the American Red Cross is helping with clothing and he is staying at his parents house.

“It’s a lot smaller house, but the kitties are going to have to adapt,” he said. “We are surviving pretty good.”

While Dick didn’t ask for donations, he said that he has an account at First National Bank and people can donate there if they are so moved.

Eric Reinagel can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 283 or by e-mail at

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