All day I have been wallowing in guilt.
Why do I have to love animals so much? It just hurts. Even animals who don't own me end up affecting me.
This morning I left to go for a walk in the neighborhood and noticed that our friendly neighborhood stray cat, the tom cat who drives my cats to distraction by sleeping on our lawn furniture directly in front of the living room window where Cooper and Moses perch like sharks, tails wagging and voices yowling, was curled up in a ball in the neighbor's yard. "Ah," methought, "Mr. Tom is having a little siesta this afternoon." And with that, I began my four mile trek through the neighborhood (which isn't nearly as invigorating now that I've been banned from running).
You can see the end coming, can't you?
At the end of the walk, Mr. Tom was still curled in his kitty fetal position, and I wandered over slowly, not wanting to touch him because all the pregnancy gurus say, "If you're pregnant, stray cats are the enemy...beware of toxoplasmosis...danger, danger!" I got near him and whispered, "Hey, kitty..." and poor Tom opened his blood-matted eyes and stared at me with a pathetic look. I realized that Tom was a sick boy. He was breathing quickly and shallowly. It wasn't good.
I asked around to some of the neighbors whether anyone knew where Tom lived, what happened, what should be done, and from a conglomeration of sources learned that Tom was fine yesterday, but apparently had been hit by a car (the report of a four-year-old), and had been curled up near that same tree for the past day. No one seemed interested in pursuing the matter further.
R. and I chatted. It was, after all Labor Day, where could we turn? We didn't have the money to invest in getting Tom taken care of at the Emergency Vet, nor did we have a home for Tom to return to (my cats are fiercely protective of their turf and would attack a weakened male in a heartbeat, not to mention spray every conceivable surface with urine in the process). I called the SPCA, who had a nice holiday message saying to call the Humane Shelter and Animal Control. I debated. I hemmed and hawed. I went out to check Tom again. Still sickly. Not opening his eyes. Poor baby.
I called the Animal Control folk and explained the predicament. They were very helpful, said they'd send someone out to "help." And, they did. Three hours later. Which turned out to be fine, as Tom was in the exact same position, with a few leaves which had fallen out of the tree resting gently on his little yellow back.
Mr. Cat Catcher showed up with his cat catching paraphenalia. I showed him where Tom was sleeping. Tom didn't even wince or put up a fight when the cat catcher picked up mama-cat style by the back of his neck and placed him in the rusty cage. I began to cry. "What will happen now?" I asked the nice man. He smiled sadly and said, "I think you know. We just don't have the resources to help each cat."
It took everything I had not to interrupt him and say, "I changed my mind. Nevermind. I'll take him. Give him to me."
But I didn't. And I'm not sure I can forgive myself for that. I feel like a traitor. I feel like a skunk. I feel like I took the easy way out.
I came in the house and lay my weary body on the couch and continued to weep, and out of nowhere I felt tiny paws kneading my side. Moses had jumped onto the couch and offered his own little brand of cat sympathy. But I'm not sure I deserve it.