Eleven days ago, Ellis Hutson found his cat Bart in the middle of E 113th Avenue. He had just been hit by a car and wasn't breathing.
"I couldn't stand to bury the cat," the 52-year-old said, so he asked his neighbor Dave to dig 1 ½-year-old Bart a shallow grave next to the street.
Five days later, hair matted and much the worse for wear, Bart was back, somehow managing to escape his grave. He meowed at Hutson's neighbor, Dusty Albritton, for some food on Jan. 21.
"At first it blew me away," said Albritton, 42. "All I knew was this cat was dead and Pet Sematary is real."
Bart had a broken jaw, a ruptured eye and a torn-up face, but he was alive, dehydrated and hungry. And Hutson wasn't sure what to do.
"It was unbelievable," he said, chuckling. "I've never seen anything like that before."
He reached out to veterinarians before getting in touch with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, who offered to take care of Bart. Hutson didn't have much money for Bart's extensive surgeries, but Humane Society executive director Sherry Silk said the organization's Save-A-Pet Medical Fund will help Hutson pay for the procedures, which will cost more than $1,000.
Bart underwent surgery to remove his eye, wire his jaw shut and insert a feeding tube Tuesday afternoon. He is expected to make a full recovery in about six weeks.
Hutson plans to keep Bart after he heals.
"The guy genuinely, believe me, cares about this cat," Silk said. "He's a well-meaning guy."
As for Bart?
"He's purring, even with all these injuries," Silk said. "I can't even imagine how awful he must have felt. He's just a really wonderful, patient, loving cat."
Contact Rachel Crosby at email@example.com or 813-226-3400. Follow @rachelacrosby.