If these two can get along, there's hope for everybody. 

Mother's Day

There's nothing like a mother's love to nurse a child back to health. But for one Richmond kitten, "mother" is a relative term.

The tale of Princessa begins during a hot spell in July when a friend of Sherri Cantor found a sickly kitten, about a week old, in a backyard shed. Apparently the kitten had been abandoned by its mother at birth. The friend took it to Cantor, a Fan resident, and her roommate, Aileen Benkerroum.

They named the kitten Princessa. She weighed 1.5 ounces. She fit in the palm of Cantor's hand, Cantor says, "and I've got small hands."

Cantor and Benkerroum took Princessa to a vet, who treated her for an eye infection and an upper-respiratory infection. He gave them formula and a doll-sized bottle and taught them how to feed her.

Back home, the roommates had to make sure that Princessa ate every four hours. "I literally sat in a chair with her in my lap all weekend and didn't move," Cantor says.

Then something happened that startled both women: Their 2-year-old female poodle, Sassy, took over. The dog began licking the kitten and overseeing the process.

That turned out to be a good thing, Cantor says, because Princessa balked at drinking from the bottle. Apparently, the kitten had begun thinking of the dog as her mother and expected to nurse from her. "We finally had to hold the bottle nipple next to Sassy's nipple so she would drink it," Cantor says.

Sassy and Princessa were inseparable. They curled up and slept together every night. They followed each other around. Sassy even taught Princessa to use the litter box.

For the next weeks, the roommates took turns leaving work every fourth hour to go home for feedings. But Princessa continued to try to nurse from Sassy, apparently not caring that no milk was there to drink.

But about a month later, Benkerroum noticed that the poodle had started lactating. "Aileen was like, 'Oh my God! Sassy's got milk!'" Cantor says.

Was this normal? The women asked their vet, who said that it was very rare but not unheard of. With everyone happy at last, Sassy nursed Princessa for months, even after the kitten had started eating soft foods.

The experience has changed both dog and kitten, Cantor says. "Princessa's got, like, doggy hormones in her now," Cantor says. "She picks up balls like a dog and she's wild. She goes after everyone to play. Now we've got a doggy-kitten and a kitty-dog." She's joking. Sort of.

"I think that Princessa is so healthy and so strong and so socialized because of Sassy," Cantor says. "Between us and everyone, she was still so tentative and so whiny and so lost. But Sassy just brought so much life into her.

"She is such a good mom," she adds. "And they've just got this incredible


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