I know.. I know.. it’s been a long while since I’d written anything but life has a way of sidetracking some things. But things are ‘cool’ – at least for the present.
While this issue is not deaf related, it does affect us all as human beings and this incident happened to me just a few days ago. It’s not the first time something like this has happened in my life and each of them have affected me to the point of thinking about it for days on end.
You know we all tend to take each other for granted and this extends to our furried friends as well. Dogs and cats, ferrets and turtles, birds and snakes.. the list goes on. I think of them as a gift to mankind and being such, they should be treated as given their rights to a humane way of life and death.
It was dark by the time I made my way home and the weather had been cold all that day. I was driving down a dark stretch of a street downtown in my area, heading home. There were just a few street lights and being the only driver on this stretch at such a late hour, I almost missed seeing a pair of eyes reflecting from my headlights. I slowed down a bit, straining to see through my slightly dirty windshield and suddenly realized it was a cat.
My first thought was ‘Silly cat for not knowing better than to lie in the middle of the street at night’. With that assumption in mind, I slowed down enough to go around it, blaring my horn as I went by and in that split second, I knew there was something strange. Going just a short way up ahead, I found a place to turn around and crept back to where the cat had been - and hoping I was wrong. At the same time, I kept my eyes open for other cars heading in the direction I had been a few minutes ago and wondered what I would do if a new car appeared. Jump out and wave my arms at them with the possibility of being thought a fool – or worse yet, a drunken one at that?
None of the above happened by the time I got back to where it was.. and it was gone. ‘Well.. that’s that! It’s likely hiding in one of the bushes near the street’ With the temperature dropping by the hour, I was more than ready to be home and work on my painting.
I drove to the intersection and turned around, heading back in the original direction I’d been in the first place and drove on. It still didn’t feel ‘right’ to me and I guess something kept me alert enough to catch from the corner of my eyes a reflection bouncing off from my headlights. The reflection of a pair of eyes making it clear it was still lying on its side and this time to the side of the road. Slowing down even more, I decided to take a good look.
Something was wrong - bad wrong. I stopped the car and slowly got out.
Oh my God – it’s been hit! What should I do? A thousand thoughts flitted through my brain, going on overload as I walked slowly towards the tortoiseshell cat. It watched me, then started scrabbling frantically away from me. Her front claws dug into the cold hard surface of the road as she dragged herself forward, the back legs stretched out in full behind her - and useless. She was plainly in shock and fear- ridden. Stopping where I was, I started crooning to her, hoping to keep her calm and wondering how I was going to do something. I got close enough to lean over her and reached out with my right hand (where did my brain go at this time? You do NOT reach out with a bare hand to an injured animal) Spitting at me, she suddenly lunged up and bit my index finger, breaking the skin. I moved back quickly, shaking my fingers and splattering blood around. She was prong on the ground again, panting heavily with her sides heaving. Wrapping a piece of cloth around my finger, I stood there for a minute thinking..
Since we were in front of a house with lights still on, I took my chances and opened the gate. Finding myself on a old fashioned porch, I knocked on the door and was able to see a large TV on. A woman appeared out of nowhere, her expression concerned and cautious. She walked up to the window and moved her mouth. I pointed to my ears and shook my head then shouted. “Do you have a cat? There’s one out here hit by a car and hurt bad!”
She seemed to say something and I yelled (no idea how loud I yelled) that I was deaf and gestured for paper and pen - hoping for some form of help. A few minutes dragged by until she opened her door and stepped out, her bulky body wrapped in a well worn red jacket. Luckily I could read her lips and it turned out she was going to check with her neighbors across the street because they had a cat who looked like the injured one. I stayed near the cat, watching with hope as she ran across and up the porch of her neighbor’s. She returned a minute later, shaking her head. She saw their cat reclining on the porch so it wasn’t theirs. Now what?
She said she had a box and would get the location of an emergency animal clinic - she was sure there was one across the river. I left my car lights on, blocking any oncoming cars from the injured cat and lit up a cigarette, watching the smoke drift away into the night. My eyes traveled up to the woman’s second floor windows and could see her obviously searching a room. She brought out an oblong box.. one perfect size for a cat with that kind of injury - and a pair of heavy leather gloves. I got an old blanket I keep in my car for emergencies and gently laid it over the cat, thinking the quiet darkness of the heavy cloth would help keep her calm. The woman laid the box down next to the cat, on its side and somehow, I managed to wrap a portion of the blanket around the animal and just barely lifted her enough to get in the box. Did I hurt her worse than she is already?
Armed with the address of the clinic the woman gave me, I moved my groceries to the floor and placed the box on the passenger seat and took off. About ten minutes later found me parking in front of the clinic and as I was bringing the box out, a clinician saw me and came quickly to the door and held it open as I passed through.
I explained its situation as I knew it best and wondered aloud about the possibility of having the cat transferred to the humane society after they gave it the medical attention it needed. The woman nodded and said that’s definitely what they’re already planning on and will call them in the following morning to start the process. They will have the cat placed in a foster home with an eye towards a permanent home willing to take on an animal with special needs. I signed the paperwork, releasing the cat from my care and left. But the cat never left my mind.
And with that in mind, this was not the first time something like this has happened. Many years ago, I came upon a possum in my old neighborhood and it had been hit badly too. It’s entrails were spilled out over the grass where the possum had crawled over to. I knew there was no hope for it and it was in deep shock and gasping for breath. I took a tire iron and took the injured animal out of its misery. It made me sick - literally. A life at it’s end and in the most horrible way.
But not all things ended horribly. Nor has it been painful. Once when I was leaving the barn where I’d kept one of my horses and found a box someone had left earlier. Inside was a mother cat and a litter of kittens. While I was examining them, a car pulled into the dirt driveway to the barn. It was a family I knew since their young daughter took riding lessons at the barn. She and her little brother were in the back seat. Her father asked what I was doing and I told him – and added if he’d like to take them on down to the humane society down the street a couple of miles. Guess what he said?
“No need. They’ll be fine there or someone else will take ‘em in or something”
Right.. something… Though I have no children, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was any way to raise kids with that kind of exposure to a parent’s approach to animals in need? I think not.
I think animals are a gift to us.. and we should not be afraid to help when it’s called for. Even if it’s unpleasant, a hand should be extended to them. (Not extended like I did with the cat!) Trust me - you will sleep better at night instead of wondering if you should have done something.
Just do it.
Until the next time..