A few years ago a large moving van parked in front of our neighbor’s house. Within a few days it was as if they never lived there. This is pretty normal on a military installation. You drive by a house that you shared many fond memories in of time spent with good friends. Having those friends move is a natural part of military life. I didn’t know this particular family but they left a few "things" behind that to this day are with my family.
Soon after the moving van departed, we had some visitors. A litter of grey kittens and two larger grey cats started hanging around. My daughter took to one of the kittens. He looked thirsty so she gave him a drink. He looked hungry so she fed him. I think you know where this is going. One of the older cats was shy and distant. He never approached us, just sat at the far corner of the house. Every once in a while we would catch him off guard eating or drinking from the kittens bowls. However, once he discovered us, he ran. Within time, these two were the only ones left of about seven.
This cycle of feeding and sheltering went on for about a year. The kitten soon grew into a young adult male cat. I took him to get shots and neutered. Over the year I tried to get the older cat to come near. Once in a while if I were very still he would come to the porch and check me out. I seldom got to touch him though.
One morning I went out to find that he was badly injured. His front leg was swollen and he could barely walk. For this first time I was able to pick him up with ease. I took him to the vet to find out he had been declawed and neutered. Yet, he was abandoned. Left outside to fend for himself and to defend himself. I had to keep the cat kenneled for two weeks and give him antibiotics twice a day. What I learned in that time was he was very afraid of males, particularly males in hats. I also learned that although it was apparent that he had been badly abused, at one time in his life he had been deeply loved. After the two weeks of living in my Newfoundland’s kennel, he decided this was home. He wasn’t out getting beat up; he was getting two meals a day, fresh water and a good rub every day. He definitely decided this was the life.
Fast forward a couple of years…we still have both cats. The older cat has to have eye surgery. He went blind in his eye and the vet believes it is from an old injury. While I was trying to justify getting this eye surgery to my husband I realized how every decision we make affects so many people. I am sure the family that left all of those cats behind hasn’t really thought of who took care of their cats or even if those cats survived. What they do know is that the cats aren’t their problem anymore. Their problem became a gift to me.
I’ve never really been a cat person before this. However, these cats have taught me compassion and that even though taking care of them wasn’t my responsibility it was the right thing to do. My daughter feed them, gave them water and shelter. She felt it was the right thing to do as well.
The older cat didn’t asked to be cared for, abused and then abandoned. He certainly didn’t ask to go blind and to suffer unbearable pain. I didn’t ask for a cat or cats. My husband certainly didn’t ask for them. Yet, here we are…owners of two permanent resident strays.
When I pick up the blind cat and he rubs up against me, I know we did the right thing. We took what someone discarded and we placed value on their lives. Animal lives, yet none the less, lives. I believe all life is a gift from God; a blessing. Monday he will have surgery to have his eye removed. He will then be free of pain and once again know the safety of my Newf’s kennel as he recovers. Sometimes maintaining our beliefs and values come with a price but all life truly is priceless.
Copyright 2010 Lorrie Lane Dyer
About the Author
Lorrie Lane Dyer is a facilitator for the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation with the University of Dayton as well as religious education and parish coordinator. She is working on her Masters of Leadership Development, with a focus in Military Chapel programs at St. Mary of the Woods College. Her faith provides her with inspiration for many of her poetry collections, columns and short stories.