My friend, Sue is the best thing in my life. She’s warm and compassionate, she’s smart and she is funny. And she loves animals. So do I, but I am not allowed pets in my apartment…which is difficult for me because when I was growing up, my house had animals galore!
There is always an occasional stray animal finding a handout from Sue. Every winter, she sets up a small cat sanctuary by stacking about six bales of hay in her yard in the shape of a small shack. It’s warm and protected and safe from even the biggest baddest wolf in town!
The lucky few that are comfortable around humans even get to come inside. The front room is cat-blessed and when you drive by, there is quite the site of cats lounging in the bay window. The other day there was a huge pile of pussies warming in that sun soaked window.
Well…who else would I turn to when I found a stray kitten behind the mall parking lot on my break last week. This little kitty was walking down the sidewalk searching for something. I could see his lips mouthing some unheard cry for help. I could not be sure, but I think he was saying, “Meeooow?” Maybe.
I pull over, get out of my vehicle and walk slowly towards him. I expect him to be skittish and dart away. But he was as calm as calm could be. I scooped him up and looked around for any more cats…thinking he was too small to be away from a litter by choice. Not even any paw prints in the snow. I am pretty sure I came around the corner at just the right moment and this poor kitten was ditched in the parking area. (If so, may karma visit the heartless slob that did it. We are talking zero degree temperature in Iowa right now.)
The kitten was calm in my car. As I drove, he explored the backseat twice, climbed up the back of my seat and sat on my shoulder like a parrot for the rest of the trip. I took him back to work and tried to convince coworkers and customers to give him a home. But no takers. I scrounged up a can of wet dog food to feed him and he ate. He wasn’t starving, but he knew what wet meat biproducts were, and he dived right in. When his tummy was full he stopped. This cat was never starving, so I am even more sure he was just let go. The only thing he was missing during his short stay in the outside world was a warm body. He craved to be held. Every time I picked him up, he went straight for the crick of my neck. (Perhaps my beard reminded him of his momma).
The first night at Sue’s, she put him in the bathroom by himself because she didn’t want the cat left alone unsupervised with the more established cats. Though the other adult cats tolerated each other, a couple are more territorial than the rest. When we let the kitten meet the rest, he ran right up to them but suddenly stooped and coward when the older cats gave him a low guttural growl. None of them went after the kitten, but none of them wanted anything to do with him either. One gave a half hearted swat at him…so until they got use to each other, it was best to separate them for the first few nights. Eventually, he’d be accepted and end up another fur pillow in the window.
But that wasn’t meant to be. You see, you could tell the kitten had a cold. He sneezed a bit, and had some discharge coming from the eye. But he was active (in fact he was a very good climber) and he ate well, so we felt he was going to be fine. But on the third night, Sue came to check on him in his box and instead of the attention seeking mews, she found him very still. She picked him up and he stirred a little, but he went from being very active to hardly moving. It happened so suddenly. If he would have lasted the night, we would have taken him to the vet, but he didn’t. Sue took him to the kitchen and slid the kitten under her sweater in her lap as she sat. He purred and seemed a little better…but about three hours later…he just faded away.
This cat didn’t know starvation. You could tell all this poor soul wanted in life was contact. He desperately wanted to be close to the other cats. He was way to young to be away from his litter and I’m sure he would have suckled a bit longer if his mother was around. Did the person who “lost” him know the kitten was sick? Did the person realize there are shelters? Sure, they may already be overcrowded…but the outcome at a shelter is defiantly more humane then leaving one to the ice storm winters of southern Iowa.
I am glad Sue checked on him when she did. His last moments in life were at least warm and somewhat comforting.
Animals and humans are alike in many ways. We all need some form of contact. We may ultimately face the big scratching post in the sky alone, but in this litter box of life, it’s nice to have someone warm to call up out of the blue to help find sanctuary for a warm little ball of fur with a runny nose.
Thank you Sue for being you.
Things overheard in a book store:
From the "Get Bent" Department
Customer: I sure wish I had a job where all I had to do was stand around and read books all day!
Me: Me too.