This post is a hard one to write. You probably know that John and I foster sweet souls for an amazing cat rescue out of Kenosha, WI. (Check them out here.) In November, we began our third full year as volunteers.
During our first year, we fostered 64 cats, the second year 100, and we’ve hosted more than 40 this year already. Most of the cats we take in are down on their luck, to be sure.
People always ask me,”Where do all the cats come from?” Well, everywhere. But the majority have either been picked up as strays or for whatever reason, have lost their homes and found themselves living in cold, steel cages. Ugh. How frightening. And as bad as it sounds to be imprisioned in a cage, for some of these sweet souls, it beats where they’ve been.
She was a four-month-old, long-haired, blue-eyed kitten who was surrendered to an inner-city animal shelter in Chicago. Our rescue’s director sent me this picture of Beth and asked me if we’d take her in.
Of course, I said. Beth looks older in the picture than she was. She only weighed about four pounds and still had some baby teeth. See that mark on the tip of her right ear? It was from a cigarette burn.
Beth arrived at Wolf Crossing on a Wednesday night. The only thing that accompanied her from the shelter was an index card indicating she had been surrendered because her family was moving. I don’t get it, but that’s a common reason people give for surrendering a pet. Whatever.
But Beth’s blue eyes were dim. She didn’t want to make eye contact, nor was she playful like you’d expect a kitten to be. Still, she was alert and seemed healthy, so we made an appointment for her to get spayed and vaccinated two days later. John took her in Friday morning and picked her up that afternoon. That’s the drill around here. Most cats breeze through the surgery and kittens usually act like nothing ever happened.
But Beth didn’t bounce back; she never ate again. On Monday, John took Beth to the vet. In the course of trying to diagnose her, our vet did bloodwork and took X-rays. Are you ready for this? Beth had been shot with a BB gun THREE TIMES. Although her wounds had healed, the BBs were still embedded in her little body.
The following week was a roller coaster of progress and set backs. It was always one step forward and two steps back. Beth was treated with medications and even hospitalized for a couple of days in a warm incubator and given intravenous fluids. When she seemed strong enough, we brought Beth home. Twice a day, we administered sub q fluids, and three times a day we forced high-calorie food down her using a syringe. At times, we’d muster all the optimism we could, and we’d say aloud to ourselves and each other,”It’s baby steps, but she’s getting better.” And to Beth, we’d say,”You’re not leaving. You’re not going anywhere. Not on our watch, baby girl. Not on our watch.”
She died anyway.
Exactly two weeks after her surgery, Beth took flight for the rainbow bridge. It was a sunny Friday morning about 7:30. Her beautiful pink nose had turned white. She lost the battle.
I could have cried for a week and would still have had enough tears left to make an ocean. But I had to go to work. So I put an eyeliner in my purse while John wrapped Beth’s broken body in a soft pink blanket and took her to a local pet crematorium. The people there are so wonderful. (Dieters Pet Crematorium in Washington, IL.) Beth isn’t the first foster we’ve taken there, and she likely won’t be the last.
It’s been about a month since Beth left us, and John and I still can’t talk about her. But she is not forgotten. I think about her short life filled with unspeakable cruelty, abuse and atrocities. And cruelest of all? She was so close to safety–she had made it to rescue, but not in time. Fate doesn’t play fair.
One thing tortures me still. This is the point in the story where I should say something like,”At least Beth died knowing love in her final days.” But did she? It seemed all we ever did was stick her fragile skin with needles and force food down her throat, when the very smell of it made her wretch. Did she know we were only trying to save her? Or did it simply seem like more abuse to her? I don’t know.
People say,”You did everything you could.” But the raw truth is, it just wasn’t enough.