Helin Jung
December 07, 2011 10:45 PM

Two kittens almost made it to death’s door earlier this summer, but missed it by a hair – thanks to the caring instincts of a dog named Reagan.

Reagan, a yellow Lab and indoor pet in Des Moines, Iowa, often keeps his treasures in the backyard, so it wasn’t unusual for there to be a bag of Meow Mix lying outside when Reagan’s owner got home from work.

What was unusual was that Reagan refused to go inside, and instead lingered by the Meow Mix bag, which appeared to be trash. Her persistence paid off: Reagan’s owner picked up the bag, and found two mewing kittens covered in blood and the remains of other kittens. The 3-week-old cats had been discarded, and had apparently been left on the road, where some of them were run over and killed.

Reagan’s owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, did her best to help the kittens, but realized they needed constant care. After getting rejected by all the Des Moines-area shelters, she called Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary, and eventually, the kittens were picked up to be fostered by executive director Linda Blakeley.

“Reagan protected them,” Blakeley tells PEOPLE. “Her instinct was to nurture.”

Once Blakeley had the two male kittens, named Skipper and Tipper, in her home, she and another volunteer rotated 72-hour shifts, bottle-feeding the cats until they started to improve. Within five days, Skipper and Tipper were wanting to play.

The cats were made available for adoption and their horrific story was posted on Raccoon Valley’s website, but Blakeley says that no one was interested in giving the kittens a forever home. That is, until, area news station WHO-TV picked up the story, and it went viral.

“As of yesterday morning, we’ve had over 50 application requests,” Blakeley says, “but we’re giving it a little time to process them. A lot of people are jumping forward because their hearts are touched, but we also want people to understand the financial and long-term responsibility they’re taking on.”

A little insight into the two cats: Skipper and Tipper are very bonded and will most likely need to stay together, but they have been integrated into a multi-pet home and will not have trouble getting along with other cats or dogs. They are both loving and snuggly, but Tipper is a “gentle soul” and Skipper is “a wild boy.”

For more information and updates on Skipper and Tipper and their journey, visit Raccoon Valley’s Facebook page.

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