Monday, June 22, 1998

Little Willow

Last weekend, for the third time in my life my heart was broken. There were similarities between this time and the others. It caught me totally by surprise; it lasted all too briefly and ended all too quickly. What is left is a hole that will never quite be filled, and a crystal clear picture etched deep inside that I will never quite forget. The people I shared my latest woes with all told me that at least I could take some comfort in that I did all that I could. And yes, there is some consolation that I tried, yet when I replay the scenes in my head I can't stop wondering if I did do the right thing, and had I done a few things a bit differently if things maybe could have worked out.

As I do every week, I drove to the warehouse early Sunday afternoon to finish up the newsletter. As I was pulling up into the empty lot I noticed a small kitten lying on its side. At first I thought it had been run over but as I got closer it had no marks on it. I wondered what I should do with the body, whether I should scoop it up and throw it in the nearby trash, or whether I should just let it be for the Monday morning crew to deal with. I left it alone for further thought and went inside to finish my work. The kitten lie right outside the window and as the copier was cranking out the newsletter, I looked at its little body. My heart got heavy and my mind filled with questions. How had it gotten there? Had somebody abandon it? Who could be so cruel as to dump it in a parking lot? Had an animal carried it off from its mother? Did its mother abandon it?

I left the warehouse with another issue of the newsletter finished. I still feel a sense of accomplishment with each completed issue but this week my attention was elsewhere. I looked over at the black and white spotted kitten and noticed she had rolled over. I went closer and saw she was still breathing and had her eyes open. I knew any thoughts of just leaving her were gone. I had to do something. So I gently picked her up and she looked at me, defenseless and quiet, without resistance or recognition of my touch, and looked straight ahead. I put her in the back of my car. I drove home, got a box from my basement, a few rags and made her a little bed. I tried to get her to drink some water. She actually tried walking away from me, but kept falling over in the grass.

I went to the pet store and got an eyedropper and a can of special formula to feed newborn animals. I tried to feed the kitten and at first she didn't try to eat. But as a few drops of the formula hit her tongue she finally showed some signs of life and began sucking away at the bottle. She grabbed the bottle and bit hard on the rubber. She ate quite a bit and after she was done looked up at me and meowed. I wasn't sure what she wanted- I tried feeding her some more but she was done with the food. I tried petting her but she didn't seem to want that either. I put her back in the box and she kept meowing. It wasn't a cry for help or comfort but more one of confusion. She seemed one step beyond hopeless, too tired to care about what happened next. I stayed with her awhile as she lie down with her eyes open.

I tried feeding her a couple more times over the course of the afternoon, but she wouldn't eat. The life was not returning to her eyes. I called the Humane Society and they said they would take a look at her. I brought her in and as we entered the building and she heard the screeching and howling from the other animals in back, she once again began to meow. They took her into the back as I filled out the paperwork. Just as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone. I said a prayer that night, thinking about how fragile life is and how our destiny is often determined by mere timing. And I wondered is it better to only feel sad rather than nothing at all? It also occurred to me it's a human truism we can only love those we relate to.

The previous Sunday as I was pulling out of the warehouse parking lot a man approached my car. He told me he needed money because his daughter had been struck in the eye and was in the hospital and he had gotten a flat tire and the gas station couldn't do anything unless he gave them $35. I gave him $5 while thinking I was about to be carjacked or something. He begged for more and I thought if he was telling the truth I was being rather callous, and if he was lying he was stooping to a pathetic point. Yet here I was one week later spending over $10 to try and save a kitten. There probably is a lesson about where I am in life, with my sense of humanity and lack of connection and belief in others of the human kind, but the ever present soft spot for trying to help those that I think I can help. And sometimes feeling a tad too sensitive for my own good.

I called the Humane Society on Monday as soon as they opened. I asked if the kitten had made it through the night. They told me because the kitten couldn't stand up that she probably had some neurological damage and they had to put her to sleep. I thanked them for their effort and tried to catch my breath. We had spent one unexpected and now unforgettable Sunday afternoon alone in the world. I'll never know how she got there and never know if she felt the impact her frail life had on me as I held her in my hands and tried to inspire some life inside. That night I held Mr. Max a little closer. He didn't exactly know why but I let him know he was even more appreciated than ever.

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