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Meet Jake, the lucky cat named after the Iowa truck driver who saved his life

Cat had three broken legs, hip fractures and a collapsed lung

Jake the cat is recovering from multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung in the SAINT Annex at Chesapeake Central Equestrian in Solon on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Jake was named for Jake Heiar, who found him on the highway and brought him to a vet for emergency care. Critter Crusaders funded his care and he's now in recovery at Trish Ringgold's foster care room. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jake the cat is recovering from multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung in the SAINT Annex at Chesapeake Central Equestrian in Solon on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Jake was named for Jake Heiar, who found him on the highway and brought him to a vet for emergency care. Critter Crusaders funded his care and he's now in recovery at Trish Ringgold's foster care room. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — It would have been easy for Jake Heiar to just keep driving that day.

Heading down Highway 151 toward Cedar Rapids on March 30, Heiar was outside Cascade when he spotted a cat in the middle of the road. The tabby had been struck by a passing vehicle and was in rough shape, Heiar said.

“I saw him flailing around,” the 38-year-old truck driver from Hiawatha recalled. “I just figured any good person would turn around. ... It was just instinct.”

So he doubled back and scooped up the feline off the pavement, wrapped him in his jacket and headed to Cedar Rapids, where he got in touch with Critter Crusaders, a local nonprofit that provides lifesaving medical care for stray or homeless animals.

Jan Erceg, medical coordinator of Critter Crusaders, said the cat had three broken legs, hip fractures and a collapsed lung — but more importantly, he had fight in him.

“He allowed everyone to work with him and handle him, even though he was in quite a bit of pain,” Erceg said.

Critter Crusaders of Cedar Rapids was founded in 2008 to provide medical care for animals that otherwise may be euthanized because of sickness or injury.

“We do tend to take cases that teeter on the edge, but we generally will take on anything that will give this animal a shot at life,” Erceg said.

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It took two surgeries at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Des Moines, but the cat, which is between 1 to 2 years old, has been healing well.

On Thursday, the white and gray tabby played with the other cats at a Saving Animals in Need Today Rescue foster care location at Trish Ringgold’s equestrian school outside Ely.

He still has a cast on one leg, but enjoys playing with the other cats and watching TV.

MORE PHOTOS:See more pictures of the cat rescued from Highway 151

In her two years as a foster caretaker, Ringgold said the furry feline had some of the more severe injuries she’s seen.

“He’s the worst that I had. He was very touch-and-go for a while,” she said.

Ringgold and Erceg said the cat still needs at least one more check up to make sure his leg is healing properly, but they’re hopeful he could be ready for adoption by the end of the month.

Erceg said the little cat owes it all to Heiar.

“It was brave, it was special, it was a split-moment decision that he committed to,” Erceg said. “Hero is so overused, but this was a very heroic act.”

On June 7, at Critter Crusader’s annual wine-tasting event, Heiar was presented with a lifesaving award for his actions and had the opportunity to reunite with the cat he picked up off the road more than a month earlier.

“It was a good feeling to see him again and see how good he is doing,” Heiar said. “I just hope somebody else would have done the same thing.”

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As for coming up with a name for the cat, Erceg said it was an easy decision — he’s been named Jake, after the truck driver who didn’t leave him behind.

Saving Animals in Need Today Rescue and Adoption Center has an open house every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center is at 1200 16th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids.

• Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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