Tuesday, July 26, 2005
A Real Story
The kitten was maybe 2 weeks old, at the outside--her blue eyes were just opening to view the world in all of its glory.
She was solid black with a tiny white spot on her tiny neck. Her hands were big--I wondered who her father was... the big black tom with ripped ears and a neck like a lineman? Her fur wasn't sleek or shiny, quite the opposite, it was dull from the lack of care. Her mother had been scared off 4 days ago when the neighbor's dog found the mama cat's nest in the pile of debris beside her house. The same dog I've chased down the street with a baby cotton tail in her mouth; the same dog I've chastised for several springs about hurting baby rabbits. This time the dog killed the other litter mates and left this one because she had been interrupted.
The wound the dog left on this kitten may not have proved to be fatal if it had been noticed 4 days ago. Apparently a nice sized chunk was taken from the hind leg. Since the kitten was so young, the wound infected quickly and by the time I looked at her this afternoon, maggots were busily eating through to her stomach cavity.
I held the kitten as I sped to the vet's office, driving with my knees. I couldn't allow her last moments alive to be the inside of a shoe box in darkness. She smelled septic. Her cries were weak but still she cried--for her mother, for her siblings, for life. She quieted when I spoke gently to her and rested one paw on my fingertip while her chin rested on my hand. I rested my lips on top of her wild fur, smelling deeply past the infection to the world in which she was born--earth, grasses, limbs from trees, brush, wind, rain, sunshine, warmth from her mother, cat milk and kitten purrs... a lot has happened in the last two weeks around here and her fur told the story, one I could vaguely decipher.
We were ushered back into a room as soon as I walked into the vet's office. I told of her declining situation and that I needed to make sure that euthanasia was the right choice, so we waited for Ann.
The first thing Ann noticed when she walked in was the kitten's mouth partially open to breathe--I had been praying that the kitten would peacefully leave before anything else happened and I could see the kitten's breaths come slower and the clicking in her lungs that I could hear signaled to me that the end was near. Just not near enough. Then the kitten's grey gums--a sure sign of shock and a host of other things that aren't conducive to well being.
Ann spoke of how the kitten was nestled in my hands knowing that she was being taken care of and loved even if it was just for a short time. That's when I began to cry. It was little comfort to be complimented for being kind.
I showed Ann the wound and she jumped back in shock--there was no way the kitten could live through a wound as septic as the one she had with as many maggots that infested the kitten's little body.
So I said one last prayer and kissed the kitten's head as Ann carried the kitten away. She assured me that the kitten wouldn't feel any pain any longer.
I left crying.
For several days I've been thinking of writing a eulogy for the cedar tree and others that were mown down earlier last week. The mower came early one morning and I had to be at the opposite side of the house so I couldn't hear the destruction of life. Grassy clumps that have (and could still be) housed jack rabbits, cotton tails, and numerous birds were being eliminated without a thought. I had the boys canvas the lot before the mower could start to scare anyone that was currently living in the area. They reported mama cottontail ran.
I walked the lot after the mowing, looking for any injured or dead bodies. I found nothing but the agave Brent had planted last fall had been mown. I replanted the pup that grew nearby and put limbs around it in case they came mowing again. They left the trunk of the cedar but the arms and limbs they carried a little ways off, left to die, cedar scent on the air. I saw they took a buckthorn with the cedar tree... and the young mesquite and native mimosa we've talked of years of transplanting to our side. The huge drift of horehound is gone as are the random colonies of prickly pear.
Within all of the loss, the wrens have brought their family to raid the downed branches for bugs and so have the mockers. I have seen the mocker kids scramble through the limbs chasing after one of the parent mockers. So, within that death, there is life--even new life.
I am saddened that the tree will not longer afford safe hiding for newbord fawns. I can't count the number of fawns that have been bedded in the protection of that huge cedar. Many wrens have eaten well and courted successfully within the arms of that tree. Hummingbirds have rested by the handsfull in the heat of summer. Kingbirds have fought over the invisible territory lines that crisscross this area. Mourning dove and white wing dove have dived through the branches of that tree, fleeing from a sharp shinned hawk bent on dove for a meal.
I promise to remember that cedar's life of service, no matter the bad publicity its kind receives. I know the real story.