It started as a normal workday. In October, Chuck Hawley was driving from his suburban home in Silverton, Oregon, to his job in Salem. The sun was just rising on a cloudy autumn morning. Between the traffic, the headlights of passing cars, and the rush of harried commuters, Hawley almost didn’t see the kitten.
Other cars swerved to miss the kitten, but they kept going. Hawley pulled over and stopped his car.
The kitten was impossibly tiny — only a few weeks old. He was standing on the busy road, dangerously close to traffic. Hawley — who works in facility maintenance at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center — parked his car and prepared to approach the tiny fluff ball on the road, wondering why the kitten wasn’t moving away from the terrifying hum of deadly car tires. That’s when he made the discovery that baffles rescuers and police to this day.
The kitten was covered in glue. His paws were stuck to the pavement.
“It was like old school rubber cement,” Hawley recalls.
Hawley crouched near the kitten, looking for a way to carefully peel the delicate paws from the road without causing injury. Traffic swept by. One driver shouted out a car window, all bluster and angry gestures. The front paws came up easily. The back paws required some finessing. Within minutes, Hawley released the kitten’s paws from the pavement, carried him back to the car, and rushed to work.
The tiny kitten weighed one pound. His tail was glued to his side. The industrial-type adhesive clumped in his fur and between his toes. Finding a commercial adhesive remover at work, Hawley made a good start at freeing the kitten from the muck.
“I got his tail unstuck from his side, and then I realized - okay, we probably shouldn’t cover you in Goo Gone,” Hawley remembers. Flustered, he picked up the phone to call what he thought was his regular veterinarian’s office — the one where his elderly dog, Jo-Jo, had been receiving cancer treatment. The receptionist on the other end of the line said she’d prepare the staff to receive a kitten covered in glue. And then Hawley called his wife, Mikee. “I said, ‘I’m on my way to the vet’s. I found a kitten glued to the road.’”
It’s the kind of early-morning call that’s hard for the brain to translate. But pretty soon, Mikee understood that Chuck was taking a possibly-injured stray to the vet. She posted an update on a neighborhood networking website, hoping it might eventually connect the lost kitten to his family.
When Hawley arrived at his veterinarian’s office with the sticky kitten, staff members were surprised to see him. Doctors went to work clearing the glue from the kitten’s fur and assessing his health. They all slowly realized Hawley had accidentally called a different veterinary clinic, where staff were probably waiting still for a glue-covered kitten to arrive in their lobby. Meanwhile, news reporters had spotted Mikee’s post on the neighborhood site and were calling area veterinary clinics to track down the story of the kitten glued to the road.
It was a chaotic morning that nearly ended the kitten’s very short life. Exactly how and why it all happened may forever be a mystery. “The creepiest thing ever, creepiest thing in the world,” Hawley shudders now when he recalls the kitten’s plight that morning. Doctors used mineral oil to remove the remaining glue. The kitten also had a cut on his neck, either from some kind of attack or from a string tied tightly. Police never identified or arrested a suspect in the chilling case of cruelty. The kitten went home to live with the Hawleys. He shares the Silverton home with two canines and four humans.
Today, life looks pretty ordinary for the kitten. But Sticky the Kitty’s beginning is far from ordinary. And his impact on the world is nothing short of extraordinary.
Spot Magazine visited Sticky and family at their Silverton home just days before Christmas. Four-month-old Sticky rough-housed with his canine siblings, gazed curiously at the sparkling lights on the Christmas tree, and then curled up on a fleece blanket for a nap. He’s either unaffected by the visits and cameras and flurry of interest he inspires, or he’s come to consider them normal parts of kitten life. The attention has been constant since he was rescued.
Sitting next to Sticky on the living room sofa, Chuck Hawley reads a Facebook message from his phone.
“Hey, mate. I live in the UK and I have found humanity in you. I’ve been having a really bad time lately - mental illnesses - and I was on my way out, mate, literally about to kill myself, mate, and having seen what you did for Sticky has helped me in a way you will never know. I stopped. You saved my life, mate.”
“That one! I was bawling on that one. That first week, I did a lot of crying. Every story was like that. And they just kept coming, every day.” He scrolls to another message. “This one’s from Scotland.”
“Mr. Hawley, I want to thank you for what you did for the cat. It may not make sense to you, but I saw your story and thought of my pop. I haven’t talked to him in five years because of a stupid fight we had a long time ago. I went to see him the day I saw your story. He has cancer and I didn’t know. I will spend every chance I have with him now and hopefully he can heal and we can make up for lost time. Thank you again. If not for you I may not have seen him again.”
Within days of rescuing the kitten, the Hawleys started to realize the power of Sticky’s story.
Chuck Hawley has been an anti-bullying crusader since his very difficult year in 5th grade. His children have always known, he says, that if they see someone being bullied, they have to step in. “They might get in trouble at school, but they know they won’t be in trouble at home,” he says. In the back of his mind, there’s always been the faint idea of a children’s book — something he’d write to share a message of kindness.
Sticky’s story seemed a perfect fit. “People told me I couldn’t write a book in a month,” he recalls. “That’s a great way for me to get something done: hearing someone tell me I can’t do it.” His illustrated children’s book retell’s Sticky’s rescue story. He’d pre-sold several hundred copies before the books could arrive from the printer.
The box of books joined boxes of other Sticky merchandise — t-shirts, a “#sticktoit” baseball cap, and square sticky notes with an endearing close-up of the kitten’s face. A portion of book sales and all proceeds from merchandise sales now fund the Sticky Foundation. The Hawleys have used the money to send kitten formula to animal rescue operations helping after the Camp fire in California. Soon they hope to help local low-income families pay for their pets’ spay/neuter surgeries.
Mikee Hawley, who commutes to Portland for an accounting job, now comes home in the evening to messages from around the world and orders for Sticky merchandise. “People say, ‘There’s so much negative in the world, but it always puts a smile on my face to come and look at Sticky.,’” she says. Sticky’s fans send messages about random acts of kindness. “They gave their last $20 to someone on the side of the road who looked cold,” she says. Fans tell her they’re inspired by Sticky’s story.
“So let’s just see how long we can keep this going,” Chuck Hawley says. The man who always wanted to spread a message of kindness, who wanted to combat bullying, found a worldwide audience when he picked up an abused kitten on his way to work. Sticky’s Facebook page has 36,000 followers. Hawley plans to use his children’s book to bring an anti-bullying message into schools. They hope to keep the kindness flowing as long as possible.
He doesn’t consider himself a hero. Instead, Chuck Hawley hopes the Sticky Kindness movement will demonstrate the power of small, everyday kindness. “I don’t really feel like I did anything unusual. Who would run over the cat? Why wouldn’t you stop? I’m the most normal dude in the world. So if I can just do a little thing like that and inspire people, it changed my whole outlook on everything.”