The Good, The Gruesome

This is probably going to be one of the most difficult posts I write.  I’ll start it off on a happy note.  I warn you – you may not want to read the ugly.  It is gruesome.

THE GOOD:

A little while back I wrote about two kitties at the shelter – Alex and Lucky.  I received a text message last night that they were adopted!  Both kitties left our care and went to their new forever home together!!  I had been worried about Lucky and Alex for months now.  I was relieved to hear that they went to a family with two children whom would grow up with the cats.  The kids were so excited about their new family members!  Many congrats  to my boys, Alex and Lucky!

 

THE GRUESOME:

We have a feral cat colony that lives near the shelter.  Many of the cats are friendly and  volunteers have come to know their personalities and have given them names.  The first cat that ever came up to me when I started volunteering was Momma.  She had huge green eyes that pleaded for attention whenever she looked at you.  Momma was a brown tabby with white on her paws, belly, and muzzle.  Her frame was petite and scrawny, but she never looked unhealthy or underfed.  In fact, she ate like a queen in the colony.

Yesterday afternoon Momma was struck and killed by a car.

When J and I saw her convulsing in the street, we started screaming at the top of our lungs.  J ran into the shelter to get a cat carrier so we could transport her to the vet.  Everything happened in a matter of seconds, even though the images replay in my head in slow motion.  There was so much blood and the rain made it worse.  When J ran to get the carrier, Momma tried to stand but fell to her side, hind legs twitching.  By the time J put her in the carrier, we suspected she had already gone to the Rainbow Bridge, as we couldn’t see her breathing.  The ride to the vet seemed to take eons, although it was only a mile away.  Before getting out of the car, I peeked into the cat carrier.  Momma was a lifeless pile of brown fur, wet with rain and blood.  It was only at this time that I became conscious of the fact that J and I had been crying.  We waited a minute or two for the vet to see us.  A man wearing a yellow t-shirt looked at sympathetically while he walked his dog out of the office.  I focused on holding the vomit in my stomach.  Finally we were brought into the exam room.  To my relief, the attending vet placed a towel over Momma’s head before taking her out of the cat carrier.  When she removed the towel, I stood so my view was obscured by the cat carrier.  The vet confirmed she suffered from a skull fracture and died almost instantaneously.  We had her cremated.

When I got home, I lost it.  I mean really lost it.  I cried so hard and I gave myself a panic attack.  Then I vomited bile.  I called Ron to tell him.  He had to decipher words from a string of incoherent sounds and repeat them back to me so I could confirm.  I couldn’t talk.  I couldn’t breathe.  Every time I closed my eyes, I saw Momma in the street.  And what I saw was so much more graphic and disturbing that what I wrote in the paragraph above.  My head is screwed up enough by the incident.  No need to screw up your head.

I couldn’t sleep last night.  I took five sleeping pills and still had difficulty.  I’ve been around death before, and moreover, I’ve been around cats that have passed to the Rainbow Bridge.  Never has it affected me to this degree.  I start to hyperventilate just thinking about going to the shelter tomorrow morning.  The thought of even entering a car makes me queasy with panic.  Today has consisted of intermittent periods of hysterics.  The memory of Momma in the street has been burned into my mind.  The nightmare replays on an endless loop inside my head.

While I know it was an accident, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming deluge of remorse, anger, and guilt.

Wobbles [aka April]

A couple of weeks before Superstorm Sandy ripped through the Northeast, a new cat found her way to one of our feral colonies.  She’s a pudgy little white and tabby kitty, quite friendly and loves people.  It is obvious someone dumped her.  She doesn’t act feral at all.

I was watching her one afternoon.  I try to gauge the personalities of the frequent visitors at the colony so I can anticipate their behavior and adjust mine according to each cat.  The feral kitty cried a few times in the distance.  When I spoke to her, she arched her back and rubbed against a tree.  A meow back.  The charade lasted for some time, until she was close enough to sniff my hand.  As she slowly approached my vicinity, I noticed that her hindquarters didn’t quite communicate with her front.  I was pretty certain she had cerebellar hypoplasia.  The shelter manager confirmed after a few sessions of watching our wobbly friend.

I started to call her Wobbles.  While the volunteer staff names the cats to be adopted by somewhat “normal” names, fun names that describe physical traits are reserved for the feral colony.  This way, everyone is on the same page as far as who’s who.  Wobbles was very people friendly.  Even if it wasn’t feeding time, she would let us pet her and rub up against our legs.  She wouldn’t let us hold her, though.

The weeks the shelter was closed because of Sandy, Ron and I broke through police barricades, tangles of electrical/cable wiring, and flood waters to feed the feral colony.  Wobbles was stuck on a concrete wall that separated the feral barn from a golf course.  She was surrounded by water.  Ron trudged through stagnant muck to rescue Wobbles from her solitary perch.  He showed her the way back to the barn so she wouldn’t get stuck in mud or high water.

Since then, she has been extremely sociable with volunteers.  The more time I spent with her, the more I became angry that someone could dump a special needs cat.  Wobbles was on her way of becoming a candidate for adoption.  She even let us give her flea medication.

In the beginning of April, something happened to Wobbles.  The shelter manager and I opened the barn one morning to find her sitting on one of the perches with her eyes glazed over.  Her neck looked like the size of a grapefruit, while it was evident by the loose skin at her sides that she lost weight.  As we carefully approached her, we saw coagulated blood around her neck with missing tufts of fur.  I was horrified.  The shelter manager tried to trap her, but Wobbles ran off, backside swinging after her.  It looked like she got bit by a raccoon or fox.

Another volunteer who monitors the feral colony managed to trap Wobbles and take her to the vet.  According to Doctor P, it appeared that Wobbles suffered from a severe laceration across her neck.  As far as cause, the vet postulated that it could have been from getting caught on sharp fencing or the claws of another animal.  Wobbles was giving s.q. fluids, a rabies vaccination, and antibiotic.  She had to have drains put in her neck as well as many stitches.  The volunteer named her April for her medical records.  I still call her Wobbles.

Wobbles was kept in a small cage for about a week after visiting the vet.  There was no way in hell any of us were going to let her back outside in her condition.  She was frightened.  After two days living in a cage, Wobbles managed to rip both drains out of her neck.  She spent the remainder of the week under close supervision at the vet.

I saw Wobbles on Wednesday.  She’s back at the shelter, sans drain and stitches.  And she looks amazing.  Her old, spunky personality returned.  The best part is she allows volunteers to give her hugs and kisses now.  I think she’s relishing in the extra attention and love.  We all agreed that we would not allow her to go back outside.  We made it our mission to find her a forever home.

Girlfriend and Handsome

Girfriend

Girlfriend

After cleaning cat cages the other day, I decided to sit outside and watch the feral cat colony.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen some come and go (and some pass away naturally).  One of the cats that is really friendly hasn’t been seen in a few weeks.  He’s a huge brown marble tabby I named Hemingway, because he’s polydactyl.

One of the smaller kitties is a tortoiseshell that was born in the colony.  She used to be terrified of people.  Now she walks right up to the volunteers and sits on our laps.  We named her Girlfriend.  She rubbed against my legs and then took off behind the wire fence.  I thought she was running after another cat at first.  When I looked closer to the furry brown object moving by the cinder wall, I realized it was a groundhog.  I groaned internally and held my breath.  I was certain she was going to attack it.  But to my surprise, she didn’t.  Instead, Girlfriend perched herself on top of the cinderblock wall and looked out across the golf course behind the shelter.  The groundhog made its way on the wall and sat next to her.  Another black and white cat hopped on to the wall.  Again, the cat didn’t bother the groundhog.

Handsome

Handsome

Another of the friendly ferals made an appearance that afternoon.  We named him Handsome, for obvious reasons.  He’s at the top of the pecking order of the colony.  All of the other cats move out of the way when it is feeding time, and he finds the best spots to nap in the heated barn.  I worry about him, though.  Handsome is one of those cats who test out their nine lives.  He doesn’t move out of the street when cars speed by.  Luckily (so far), through traffic has stopped for him.  I’m terrified of the day when a vehicle won’t stop, or purposely tried to mow him down.  Handsome is a funny cat.  When I talk to him, his eyes get lazy and he blinks deeply.  I can crouch down close to him, but he hasn’t really let me pet him.  Occasionally, I can brush his head lightly if I’ve got a platter of wet food to set on the ground.  Other than that, though, I suppose I haven’t fully earned his trust.