Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press Bustopher Jones, a 6-month-old rescue cat, saved his adoptive family from a potentially fatal fire that ignited in their laundry room in the middle of the night. According to his owner Angi Cornett, pictured, Bustopher Jones' "incessant meowing" woke her up in the night, allowing her to save her children whose bedroom is located next to the laundry room. Bustopher Jones suffered battle wounds from his heroic effort a result of the fire. The family dog, Talullah, a pure boxer, attacked Jones during all of the mayhem, causing him nearly fatal injuries. The Cornett family felt they owed it to Bustopher Jones to pay the medical bills to save his life as he saved theirs. They now the family has $25 to their name and Talullah is up for adoption.
Angi Cornett was exhausted Wednesday night after she put her three children to bed.
She felt terrible. Recently, a doctor had told her that the pain in her stomach was being caused by four cysts the size of golf balls on her ovaries. On top of that, she and her husband, both recently unemployed, had to sell their furniture and electronics to help pay rent this month.
All she remembered was taking some pain reliever and a sleeping pill and passing out on the living room sofa.
At 4 a.m., Cornett was awakened by the loud and repeated meows of the family's cat. Bustopher Jones, named after a character in the musical "Cats," wouldn't shut up -- meow, meow, meow, meow.
"I was a little annoyed, and I raised up and thought, 'What is that cat doing?'" she said.
What he was doing was saving the lives of the entire family.
Awake on the sofa, she smelled the smoke. The smoke alarm hadn't even gone off, and Talullah, Lexiss and Seamus, the Cornetts' three dogs, were asleep, not making a sound.
Seeing orange light and smoke coming from the laundry room, she leapt off the couch and ran to her children's bedrooms.
"The house is on fire," she told Kolbi, 17; Kaelin, 13; and Kyler, 10, before ushering them and her husband into the front yard of their home in Cleveland, Tenn., to watch the blaze.
After the kids were settled, she said she pulled her T-shirt up over her nose and went back in the house to save the animals. During the rescue, she said Jones, whom they had adopted last September from McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, was attacked by one of the anxious dogs and suffered severe head trauma.
Kolbi starting bawling when he saw the beaten-up kitten, barely hanging on. All her kids begged her to take Jones to the nearest animal hospital.
"We couldn't afford that veterinarian bill, but what was I supposed to do?" she said. "The kids were hysterical and he had saved us."
"If the cat had died ... I just can't imagine."
Such noble behavior by a cat is relatively unheard of, said Karen Walsh, executive director of McKamey. Cats are typically independent, not protective.
"This is the first one I've heard of this. Usually, it's a dog thing," she said. "Usually the cat would try to save itself, but in this case the cat was the hero."
Walsh said she and other workers at McKamey are so impressed with Jones, they've decided to award the cat the McKamey Purple Paw certificate of meritorious conduct.
Smoke damage in the Cornetts' house -- a rental -- was extensive, but the family is going to stay, even though they lost most of their clothing, which was in the laundry room. The Cleveland Fire Department determined that the flames began with a faulty dryer.
Jones came home Friday from an animal hospital in Cleveland. The bill was $241 and left the family with about $30 in their checking account.
But Cornett said she doesn't regret anything.
"He fought back from the brink of death," she said. "I just want Jones to be recognized."
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...