It was a beautiful afternoon drive on one of the last nice fall days in Indiana. I made it home just before my son, Aaron’s, school bus was due to arrive. After I pulled the car into the garage, I picked up my bag of groceries and walked out to pick up the mail. Our mailbox stood alone across the road from our driveway. As I pulled the metal hatch down to peek inside I heard a noise coming from the cornfield behind it. “Ow, Ow.” It was so faint I wasn’t even sure what it was. I collected the mail, slammed the door shut and turned to cross the road. Then I heard it again, only louder this time. “Ow. Ow. Meow.”
I knew that very moment I was doomed. If I turned to look I would find some abandoned animal. People often drop off their unwanted pets in the country. As if the creature will miraculously learn to fend for itself overnight and live happily ever after. They particularly like to drop them off directly in front of farmhouses. Most likely because the seemingly carefree farm life is how they would like to envision Fluffy living. I’m sure it makes them feel better as they drive away.
“Meow. Meow.” It sounded more like “Ouch. Ouch. Please help me.” I didn’t look. Instead I marched back to the house, slammed the mail down on the counter and cursed the idiots that dumped an animal in front of my house.
That lasted all of, oh, two minutes maybe. I couldn’t stand it. One of three things will happen to an unwanted puppy or kitten in the country. They will either get hit by a car, eaten by coyotes or slowly starve to death. I was doomed to look. I had to look. It wasn’t my responsibility, but I couldn’t just leave it out there to die.
On the way out the door I scrounged up some gloves and an old towel. I hadn’t seen the cat but I suspected it was in bad shape. After years of growing up on a farm listening to my mother threaten, “Don’t touch it, it could have fleas”, I was conditioned not to make skin to fur contact if I could help it. Because, of course, all good mothers know any wild thing that lives outside must have fleas or lice or “heaven knows what else”. As I approached the cornfield I heard mewing again, then out popped this tiny mess of a kitten, filthy and covered in, you guessed it, fleas. I mean COVERED. Even at a distance you could see them crawling up, around and through the fur. Its eyes were infected and ringed with scabs. The ear canals looked like they were full of mites. The scrawny ball of fluff seemed barely old enough to be separated from its mother.
I crouched down at the edge of the field as the cat walked right up to me. Desperation overrides all fear I guess. I carried it back to the garage carefully wrapped in a towel. No way was I bringing this nasty little thing into my house. I left her there while I gathered water and a little bit of our dog, Lucy’s, food. I’ve never seen an animal that hungry. When she saw the food she didn’t just eat, she attacked it.
Aaron arrived home soon after. He barged through the garage door, saw the cat, threw his book bag to the ground and immediately ran over to pick her up. All of a sudden I heard my mother’s voice come flying out of my mouth saying “No, don’t touch it. It has fleas!” He jumped back two feet but eyed the cat closely. “Can we keep it? He asked.
“No, of course we can’t keep it. You know your grandma hates cats. She would have a fit when she comes to visit if we had a cat. I’m afraid we’ll need to take it to the shelter.”
“But where did you get it?”
“I found it in the corn by the mailbox. Someone must have dumped it. I think it’s sick.”
“Awe, but then we should keep it. It needs a Mommy. You could take care of it just like you take care of me.”
For a special needs child with Asperger Syndrome, a communication disorder, his use of manipulation was truly remarkable. But I wasn’t buying it—well, not completely.
The constant movement of the fleas made it impossible for the poor thing to rest. I could tell she was miserable. It was late enough in the day I knew the veterinarian’s office would be closed. We would have to try to keep her alive on our own overnight.
Still carefully wrapped in the towel, I allowed Aaron to hold her at arm’s length while we drove back to town to get some flea powder and a can of cat food. Once home again I quickly scanned the instructions on the side of the can, then doused the ragged little thing with the powder. She finally rested once they started to die off. While I was cleaning up I noticed at the very bottom of the can in super teeny, tiny almost microscopic print: “Not for use on kittens under 8 weeks old.”
I immediately raced to grab the cat, filled the kitchen sink with soap and water and threw the cat in, violently scrubbing her down until she gleamed like a newborn baby.
Have you ever given a cat a bath? They don’t like it much.
At this point, she looked more like a sick rat than a sick cat. All I wanted was to just keep her alive until the next day. Then I could take her to the vet and if they thought she was going to live I would take her to the animal shelter. Now here I had gone and nearly killed her myself. That’s just great.
(to be continued...)