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Owner: Pet Idol winner is hero
Cancer victim credits feline with helping her through treatments
W Cat pic 3
Tina Williams holds her award winning pet, Odie, who was also seen on an episode of "Dateline." Williams credits Odie, the winner of the Statesboro Herald's Pet Idol Contest, with helping her during five bouts of chemotherapy. - photo by Jessica Lavender/Special

Tina Williams knows how special her orange-and-white cat is. But Odie, her “laid-back, ginger boy,” doesn’t seem to let fame go to his head.
    Odie was the winner of this year’s Statesboro Herald Pet Idol Contest. He received the most overall votes, and voters were captivated by the seemingly prayerful appearance of crossed paws.
    He could have easily been praying for his beloved owner. Williams has undergone chemotherapy five times for cancerous lumps found in her breast.
    “I’ve been fighting breast cancer for 13 years,” Williams said. “Chemo and surgery, five times.”
    Williams maintains that much of her recovery can be credited to her precious cat.
    “If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what I would have done,” she said. “When I was on the couch after chemo, he’d be right there beside me. He was my one constant. He never left my side, and he would smell me like he knew something was wrong.”
    Odie came into Williams’ life eight years ago. Williams spotted a mama cat and three kittens in the yard of a house she was moving into.
“I’d picked out one that I wanted to keep and I was going to find homes for the rest; Odie was one of those kittens,” she said. “When I got back to the house, the mama cat had moved two of the kittens and the only one left was Odie, so it was meant to be.”
    The mama cat never returned, and Williams took the stray kitten into her home. And they’ve snuggled ever since.
    “He’s my ‘snuggle bug.’ He sleeps right beside me every night, and we snuggle in the early morning before I go to work,” she said. “He lays in my lap, follows every move I make.”
    Williams, who is the manager at South Paws Dog Resort, rises at 2 every morning and calls that her “Odie Time.”
    “I feed him, have my coffee and start laundry,” she said. “Then we climb in bed and watch shows that we like.”
With Odie cuddled up beside her, Williams finishes her coffee and an episode of “Criminal Minds” before heading off to work.
    Williams spends all day taking care of pets that belong to others, but she’s always anxious to return to her favorite animal.
“When I get home at night, he is in his suitcase bed, waiting on me and looking out the window,” she said. “I feed him, put on my pajamas, and I’m done.”
    Odie helped Williams through another difficult time in her life, one that involved a murder trial.
    “I was with a man that I was planning on marrying,” explained Williams of the much-publicized case of a double murder in Effingham County in 2008. “Craig Heidt was on trial for killing his dad, brother and shooting his mother. He’d called me four hours before the shooting and apologized for messing up my life and not being able to help me. I do believe I was next.
    “I testified against him in court,” she continued. “Thank God I had Odie to get me through all of this.”
In fact, Odie was such a strong presence in her life that he was included with Williams when the television show “Dateline” filmed the episode “Mystery in Effingham,” about the Heidt case.
    “He has truly been my rock, has been there for me when no one else has,” Williams said. “One thing for sure, when things get rough, you sure do find out who your friends are … they scatter. But Odie has shown me the true meaning of unconditional love.”
    Odie has his work cut out for him this summer as protector, healer, rock and snuggler. Williams will face, yet again, surgery to remove a suspicious lump, along with the possibility of more chemotherapy.

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