Saturday, August 9, 2008

For Just One Day

We saw a sad soul laying under the pickup truck. This cat, actually still a kitten, extremely emaciated, with ants swarming on it's back leg. It was timid at first, then immediately friendly, not feral at all. It's back leg had no fur left, it was just a large open wound, along most of the leg all the way up to the thigh. We dreaded the thought of introducing a cat into our lives with the two dogs but we also knew we were both suckers for animals. The least we could do was to care for it until we could get it to the vet in the morning.

We were stingy with food for fear of harming the young cat, reminding ourselves of what we new about the history of concentration camp victims. We gave it just a little milk and a teaspoon of tuna. We did not want to bring it into the house, not knowing what other problems it might have and worried the dogs would upset it.

We took Scarlett's cage outside, put in a sheet and a towel and a container with water. It was going to be in the upper 60's and dry. We set it by the front door, facing the door. We were concerned that other critters not bother it. Sam would go out periodically during the night to check on it. It was resting fine.

The vet would open at 8 this morning and we transferred the cat into a box and headed out. It seemed to enjoy the ride, looking all around, crying occasionally.

There is only one vet in this rural town, very good people and they are always busy. Saturday is first come first serve. We pulled up at 7:45 and found 5 or 6 people already waiting. At triage we found out it was a girl. I said we should name it Sally. I don't know why except that it began with an S and sounded southern.

We finally got in to an examining room at about 10 o'clock. Sally weighed in at under 4.5 pounds. They guessed she was about six months old. The vet was puzzled some by the wound and how Sally may have gotten it. She asked us if we were going to keep the cat. We couldn't imagine what else we could do. The vet suggested before we put a lot of money into all that would need done that they do a feline leukemia test there in the office. It would cost 45 dollars. We said of course knowing full well the list of shots and care she would need would be great.

While they took her away for the test Sam and I discussed what would be the best way to introduce Sally to the dogs, how would we keep her away from them while she healed, should we keep her separate anytime we were away, how would the dogs behave and so on.

The vet came in and told us the bad news. Sally in fact tested positive for feline leukemia. Our hearts fell to the floor. We had barely cared for this cat for 12 hours and yet it broke our hearts. There is no cure. To best describe the condition is to compare it to AIDS. It is an autoimmune deficiency. Now the vet understood the way her leg was, it was not healing because of her low immunity.

I had a cat die of this 30 years ago before the vaccine was discovered. It was too late for my cat 30 years ago and because this cat never had been vaccinated, it was too late for her. I know what it is like to watch a cat die from this and I didn't want to do it again. It's not fair to them and I honestly don't have the time needed for the commitment. We sadly made the decision to have her put down. It was an awful day for all of us.

Reassured by the vet we had done the right thing and that she at least wouldn't have to die alone or in the wild we could at least find comfort in that. We cried and we drove home in silence. God sent us a cat to send home to him. We did what we could.

We gave each other a little love for just one day.

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