This little critter came into my life for four astonishing days. Last Thursday I nearly ran over her on my way to town. She was sunning himself on a chilly morning and I thought she was a plop of horse poop and avoided it. When I realized it was a kitten, I got out and approached, only to have her scurry into the brush. When I told my son the story, he said “catch her!” I determined I just might do that.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this kitty, alone, cold, lost perhaps. The next day I threw a cat carrier into the back of my car as I headed to town and there she was. Just at the edge of the brush where she had run the day before. This time I was very cautious. I distracted the kitten with one hand and reached around to grab her with the other. She was hissing, we were both frightened, but me, being bigger and all, managed to get her into the carrier, back home, quarantined in the bathroom with food, a litter box, water and a couple places to sleep. I shook hard from the adrenaline of capturing what should have been someone’s pet, but was clearly feral.
I called my vet right away on Friday, but there were no appointments available until Monday. So we had three days to get acquainted and perhaps start the taming process in the bathroom prison. I read articles, watched videos and wondered what the hell I was thinking when I picked “Millie” up. I hadn’t really planned on having a taming project for August and my mind reeled, even though I knew there was a possibility she could be sick, carrying one or more diseases all too common in feral cats.
Sunday I had the distinct pleasure of spending the morning in Urgent Care for the tiny little cat scratch I received during the “capture”. Fees paid, prescription filled, I went home and spent a quiet day reflecting on the many unexpected consequences of doing a “good deed” and recalled the quote, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Little did I know that this was only part of the “punishment”.
Monday was long as I waited for 3:00 to arrive. I distracted myself with my commitments as a mentor to training coaches, taking a walk, picking blueberries, making lists, answering emails from clients, paying bills. My heart was heavy with anticipation and dread. Whatever the outcome of our appointment, I had fallen in love with this vulnerable little critter and I had no idea what lay ahead.
A flurry of activity the moment we arrived. Three, no four, staff members went into the room with our little spitfire, tiny kitten. It’s not a girl! It’s a boy! Worms, fleas, ticks, CHECK! Blood work for leukemia and AIDS, CHECK! Suddenly everyone was quiet and I was called in to talk to Dr. Lori and one of her staff. Newly named Xander [for Alexander Road where he was found] was sick. Very sick. This beautiful, sweet cat, who should have been born into a home, not in the woods, could not go home with me. I burst into tears. Dr. Lori hugged we twice. We talked. I looked at his beautiful face again and again and finally said goodbye.
I came home and continued to cry as I took apart the crate loaned to me by a friend which would be his transitional home as he got acquainted with us. I bleached the bathroom that had been his little holding cell and threw away everything he had contact with so that my kitties won’t get sick.
I cried some more as I plopped into my husband’s favorite comfy chair. My cat, Ollie, came bounding across the room into my lap and purred to comfort me. This is unusual for him. He is shy of “lap sitting” because he, too, had been a feral kitten before tamed with tough love at a kindly veterinary clinic. He generally lies “near” me, but not “on” me. I took great comfort in this, that he knew I was hurting and wanted to help.
I fell into a deep sleep early, only to awaken at 3 AM with a compelling need to work “some” of my pain out. This whole experience felt so “unfair”. Unfair that this kitten and his litter mates didn’t have a chance of survival in the wild. If even one survived, what would be its fate? Bringing more homeless, sick, feral kitties into the world? In my research I read that if every single person, including babies, in this country adopted from shelters, each would need 7 cats or dogs to care for them all. That doesn’t include breeders, dog and cat “mills” and certainly doesn’t include the feral cats that populate our cities and countryside.
I wondered if I didn’t have cats at home if I could have, would have, brought him home and tamed him and nursed him. Perhaps he’d have gotten well. I shift my thoughts. I know it’s time to accept it, feel it some more and let go.
I reflected again on the quote “No good deed goes unpunished.” A wry expression I’ve understood in only one way — that people who give begrudgingly will always look for the bad that comes out of it for them personally. Like my boo-boo finger infection. NO, it didn’t apply! Because I had given from my heart. It really was OK. And then it hit me.
In doing a good deed we give from our hearts. When we open our hearts to anyone, any “passion”, any critter, any thing, we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to let love in as we give love. We can never be vulnerable without the risk that we’ll be hurt. We can never, ever love without loss. Today, tomorrow, next week, 30 years — someday we will experience loss from that love. In that pain lies the “punishment” for our good deed.
Yet life is meant to be filled with love, giving and receiving. I was meant to have this experience, even if I don’t completely and may never completely understand it. I know there is something deep and rich that this little critter brought into my life and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface, as the scratch he left me with and my wounded heart continue to heal.
Good night. Good morning. Perhaps just one more hour of sleep before another day filled with love and light.