Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bad May, Part I

Warning: What you are about to read is a ridiculously wordy version of just one of the obstacles I faced in May. It is, at moments, kind of a disgusting tale. You've been warned: proceed at your own risk.

It was 2:50 on the Wednesday before school let out last month. I’m not sure what compelled me to walk to the end of the driveway that day to watch my three older girls walk the last block from school. We live directly behind the school, for goodness sakes – if I climbed on top of my house, I could easily watch them walk out the back door of the school right to the front door of our house.

While I was waiting there at the end of our driveway, I thought I heard a shout or someone yelling. It was like the internal nagging voice that I sometimes hear way back in my subconscious, so of course I ignored it the way I try to ignore the annoyance of a buzzing fly. But the voice persisted.

Then I turned and noticed a guy on the other side of the fence that separates our cul-de-sac from a five lane thoroughfare. He was motioning for me to come over. At first, I flashed back to the time when my buddy Molly had a brush with indecent exposure in our B’ville days – it was the same suspicious “Pssst – hey you” beckoning that we heard that day. But since this guy’s clothes seemed to be covering his body, it dawned on me that his car might have broken down and he needed help. Maybe even medical help.

I jogged over to where he was yelling, “You need some help? Is everything okay?” When I reached the fence, however, I noticed he was holding, with arm stretched out in my direction, a little black furry thing. “It’s a puppy,” he said. “You take it?”

“Uh, I think it’s a kitten.”

“No puppy? Kitty? Here, you take it. I think it hurt”

With that, he showed me the back side of the tiny animal. It looked as if the tail was practically severed. The gash was gross indeed; it wouldn’t survive if I left it there. Mr. Landscape Maintenance was in earnest, too, and he lifted the kitten over the fence and put it into my hands. It was a new-born; its eyes hadn’t even opened yet.

At that moment, my kids reached the driveway. I hadn’t really had a chance to inspect the kitten and wasn’t thrilled to show it to them knowing that the kitten may not survive. Of course they “Ooooo-ed” and “Awww-ed” over it – and wanted to hold it, but I told them that it was hurt (and it had some type of worms on it) and that we needed to let the vet take a look at the kitten right away.

Luckily, there was a vet clinic right around the corner. We didn’t have any trouble getting an appointment, thank goodness. There, the vet examined “Kitty,” and said that she had seen worse. This kitty, although covered in maggots and only a week old, would most likely survive the vet assured us. So I paid my 82 dollars to have the kitten de-maggoted and treated with antibiotics. After being instructed on how to care for a newborn invalid kitten (feed every two to three hours 24/7, hand stimulate urination and bowel movements, remove any remaining live maggots, care for wound, etc.), I was on my way home to tackle being a sleep deprived mom once again.

The first night went okay. The kids were excitedly chatting about what we might name our new kitten and how we would care for it etc., etc. I even let them attempt to feed Kitty its special formula with the tiny dropper. Through the night, I kept Kitty warm and comfortable in my bedroom in a makeshift cardboard box bed filled with an old fleece blanket, a heating pad, and a few beanie baby kitties (donated by my two older daughters for the cause of “helping Kitty not feel lonely”). Kitty ate well, and seemed pretty feisty. A couple times I even thought this little bugger might climb right out of the box!

In the morning, I was confident that Kitty would pull through. The assistants at the vet clinic called to check on Kitty too – which I really appreciated. “Call back if you have any questions at all,” they said.

But Kitty’s appetite seemed to wane. It was fussier as the day went on. By mid-day, Kitty took a turn for the worse. I noticed that the umbilical area was protruding a bit. I called the vet and was assured, once again, that all was fine. They had noticed this at the clinic, and this was typical of newborn kittens. Okay, then.

Then I noticed the second batch of maggots. Lots of them tucked up in the umbilical area. Loads of them. I tried to take them out with tweezers. I pulled out about twenty of the little wormy buggers. It was surreal because this type of maggoty picking behavior is NOTHING like something I would do. I cringe at blood, vomit, and the like. Maggots? Totally disgusting. Still, I was almost obsessed with cleaning this kitty. No matter how many I removed, however, there were more stuffed in there. I couldn’t get them all out. Again, I called the vet at around 4:30 PM.

Around 8:00 PM, I finally got a call back from the vet. “Ugh,” she said, “I looked in the umbilical area, but I didn’t see and maggots there.

“I don’t think Kitty will make it through the night,” I responded. “It isn’t thriving. It isn’t eating as much as it was.”

“Well, bring Kitty in tomorrow morning first thing, and we take a look at it. We will even flush out any remaining maggots.”

“Great. I’ll be there as soon as the clinic is open,” I replied.

Even then, it was already too late, though. I knew it. The vet knew it. I just wish that I knew for sure what would happen so that I could prepare my own children for the inevitability of what would happen. Literally, I prayed, “God, if this Kitty is going to die soon, then help me to know that for sure.”

By 8:30 my prayer was answered, for better or worse. I noticed that Kitty’s bed was bloody. And when I went to pick Kitty up, I saw that its intestines were no longer neatly stuffed in its belly. The situation was terminal. There was nothing I could do at 8:30 that evening except to make Kitty as comfortable as I could until it breathed its last breath. So that’s what I did.

But first, I let my own children say goodbye to Kitty. As tactfully as I could, I explained that Kitty wouldn’t make it through the night, so they needed to say goodbye before they went to bed. The scene was heartbreaking. My 9 year old still held out hope that Kitty would be alive in the morning. Tearfully, each daughter said goodbye to Kitty.

For the next few hours, I held Kitty and caressed it. I told it that it was okay to relax. I prayed over Kitty and asked God to relive its pain. And eventually – exhausted as I was from lack of sleep and from enduring the stress – I carefully tucked Kitty into bed next to one of the beanie babies. Within a few hours, Kitty was gone.

You might think that after this whole Kitty saga I might be a little ticked at the vet for not euthanizing the kitty right off. I was. I would have done it myself, but didn’t have a humane way to do that at my disposal. And I shelled out 87 bucks when all was said and done. Or, perhaps you thought that I should have refused the kitty from Mr. Lawn Maintenance man right up front. That would have saved me a lot of pain (and money), for sure.

Still, I wouldn’t have done anything different. If I am committed to what I say I believe – to care for the earth and all creation; to be generous even when it costs time and money and tears – then I made the right decision. Foolish? Maybe. Nevertheless, I would do it again.


Mimi said...

you did fine. the vet did not. my dad and mom are both vets. I worked in a vet office for five years. This "wait until tomorrow" business is no good, especially when the vet missed those other maggots. The vets I know would have have met you at the office again that evening. But, maybe this is the mentality of a mixed practice vet in that area - not livestock, not that important.

Maybe I'm hard-nosed, but I'd find a different veterinarian in future.

bluesugarpoet said...

My sentiment exactly regarding the vet. She was a little young, so I attribute this one to inexperience. That being said, should something serious happen to one of my beloved pets, I want to pay the vet who can determine that something serious can't wait until tomorrow.

pjd said...

Wow, that kitty got lucky when the landscaper guy took it upon himself to flag you down. It didn't have to die alone, unloved. I can imagine your kids and the emotional high and low of saving and then losing Kitty. I can imagine my boys and how they'd feel and what they'd do.

bluesugarpoet said...

Yeah, Mr. Landscaper was an angel!