At this moment, there is a good chance that somewhere out there a person is mourning the loss of a beloved pet. And somewhere out there, two total strangers are mourning the loss of that same pet.
I am one of those two strangers.
I don’t know the circumstances behind this cat getting out on a busy street. Maybe the owner did everything they could to keep the cat safe and sound inside the home. But all too often in my life, I’ve seen owners let their dogs and cats roam free.
If only I could force those people to see what I saw on Western Avenue. The car that hit this cat disappeared so fast I can’t say I remember anything about the vehicle or the driver.
But I saw the cat. I saw it stumbling about. I saw it trying to limp across the street. This is the grim reality that comes way too often just before these animals become those grizzly scenes you try to avoid seeing on your morning and evening drives.
The cat was suffering. As I frantically looked for a place to safely pull over, I was relieved to see a lady getting out of her car to help the cat. I looked ahead quickly, realizing I needed to drive up a bit to warn oncoming traffic to slow down. With one last glance I saw the cat fall to the ground.
The situation did not look good at all. Oncoming traffic was still coming over the rise at a fast clip. I drove ahead, honking, flashing my lights, doing everything I could to ensure the other “stranger” wasn’t hurt as she tended to this suffering creature.
I am the other stranger.
I am the lady in the summer dress, wind blowing hair and garments, bending down somewhat unladylike to scoop up this poor animal in the middle of the street. Trying not to get clawed or bit. Sacrificing an old jacket to wrap around this little life. But the cat did not try to bite or claw. It looked at me with confusion as I scooped it into my arms, trying not to damage it further. Was its back broken? A leg? It’s mouth was open, but tt wasn’t howling. It was past that stage. I had to get it to the doctor.
Earlier, as I made my way down Western at about 3:30 I had been surprised by the traffic. It is usually not very busy, so why is this car in front of me stopped? I crane my neck to see what the holdup is. The car in front of me swerves right, and I see it. Flailing about on its back. It’s an injured cat in the road.
Cars slowly are driving around it. And NO ONE is stopping. Why is no one stopping?
I stop. I put on my emergency lights. I don’t see the other cars. I don’t see the stranger flashing his lights to provide me safety. I only see my mission to quickly get the cat into the car.
The whole action of stopping, scooping, and back in the car took less than a minute. The drive to the vet, however, felt like hours.
I call to the cat in the back seat, “Kitty? Kitty? Stay with me!” Its head, once propped up, started to droop. I could no longer see it in my rear view mirror. “Stay with me, Kitty!” I step on the gas.
At the vet’s office, I interrupt the receptionist busy with another patient. A woman I assume to be the vet quickly takes it away. It? He? She? I don’t even know the sex of the cat. I don’t know its name. I didn’t notice a collar. I only know it as a life that needed to be saved.
Within minutes the vet returns and tells me that she has euthanized the cat.
“He was on his way. It’s good you brought him in.” I nod at her and start to tear up. We both stand there for a moment, then I turn and leave. I feel a big cry coming, and I want to be in my car when it comes.
Flashback about 10 years ago: This has happened to me before, another job, another city. … on my way to work when a car barreling down the street hit a dog. The dog was stunned, and fell to the ground, bleeding, panting heavily. Again, I grabbed a jacket from the car and carried the dog to the back seat, heading towards the vet. Its fate was not unlike Kitty.
When it comes to animals, I admit I have a soft heart.
I’ve told this story a few times, and people congratulate me, saying, “it’s a blessing you were there,” and so on. But why are my actions to be lauded? Why wouldn’t anyone do what I did? How could you leave a poor creature to die in the hot Oklahoma road if you are able to stop? Sure, we see road kill all the time, but this domesticated creature was still alive. Lived many minutes in what must have been agony. How you could turn your back?
I was able to slow traffic down, but by the time I was able to turn off on a sidestreet, it appeared as if traffic was moving again. My son was about to get home early from summer school, and I struggled as to whether I should still go back or not. Feeling bad about the whole experience, I wrote a “rant” and posted it on my “OKC Central” blog.
And it was then that Yvette, who works about 50 feet away from my desk, checked in with me to find out if the incident I had witnessed had occured on Western Avenue. Yes, it’s a small world. If I cried a tear or two, I can only imagine her own grief. These dogs and cats that give us unconditional love as we endure the ups and downs of our daily lives really ask very little back from us. Yeah, they appreciate the occassional treat and a good scratch behind the ears. But thanks to centuries of domestication, they also need our protection. So please, please keep your dogs and cats safe, indoors if at all possible, and spare yourself – and a couple of strangers – the heartbreak of senseless suffering.