It has been one of those days that goes somewhere completely different than planned.
And at the end of the day you are thankful for sweet strangers. Today was one of those days.
We strap in and head north to New Hampshire. The "Live Free or Die" state with no sales tax.
On the road ahead of us is a cat struggling to move. It has obviously been struck by a car. We all see the cat. The kids see it too. A truck ahead of us pulls over; I pull over and turn the hazard lights on; a lady in a car behind us pulls over. I tell the kids to stay put and buckled in.
The lady lifts the cat from the road. I wave my arms to oncoming cars to slow down and move away a bit. I then help her carry the cat to the side of the road. It is a beautiful cat. We both call it a "her" and "she" and then we speak very little. The cat's right eye is hanging out of it's orbit. It's tongue is out of it's mouth. Seeing the cat is disturbing. But it is still alive.
I notice the lady is wearing a white uniform and a name tag. Carol (and her last name), LPN engraved on her tag. I am a nurse too. We two caring, nurturing women can not bear to see this cat suffer in the road.
The man slowly approaches us. He doesn't speak.
Carol and I notice a collar on the cat. She says that there is a phone number. I run back to the van and grab my cell phone. The cat is still alive.
We have the silent man read off the phone number as I dial.
An answering machine picks up and not a warm, personal message but, a cold, computer-like voice asks me to leave a message. I do.
Then Carol lays the cat down in the snow. It doesn't move but, it is still alive.
We three stand there silently looking at the injured cat. Then Carol and I reach down and pick the cat back up.
Carol and I agree that the cat needs help. I tell Carol that I have four young children in my van and that I really don't want them to be traumatized by the way the cat looks.
She says that she is on her way to work.
We both look at the silent man. He says nothing.
I say, "Okay, I'll take the cat to the animal hospital."
Then I turn to the silent man and ask, "Did you hit the cat?"
He says nothing but, shakes his head slightly.
Then Carol hugs me and then she hugs him and says something about being good people.
Then Carol and I carry the cat to my van. I tell the children not to look at the cat.
Carol is careful to lay the cat gently down in the back of my van and mentions something about being careful in case there is a spinal injury.
The cat is still alive.
My children do not look over the back seat to see the cat. They have remained buckled in. They are quiet. Charlotte is covering her ears. Max has his head down.
So off I drive with a dying cat in the back of our van.
I call 411 and request the animal hospital number. I am transferred to a lovely lady named Anne at the hospital.
Anne and I have an interesting conversation. It goes something like this.
Me: "Hi, I'm Rebecca. A cat was struck by a car and three of us pulled over to help. It is injured. It has a collar with a phone number and I've left a message for the owners. It needs medical attention. It is alive but, has an eye out of a socket and it's bleeding from the eye and it's mouth. What should I do?"
Anne: "Has the cat been seen here before? What is the cat's name?"
Me: "No. You don't understand. It is not my cat. I don't know the cat's name. I don't know who owns the cat. We just couldn't leave the cat to die in the snow by the side of the road. It needs help. I have the cat in the back of my van right now. The cat looks well cared for and is probably loved by it's owner."
Anne: "Oh. Okay. Hold on. I need to talk to the Vet. Where are you now?"
Me: "I'm on my way to the hospital across from the mall where you are."
Anne: "We are in Merrimack but, I'm sure that animal hospital can help you. Hold on."
Anne comes back and tells me that their vet says that I would be responsible for the cost of treating the injured cat until the owners are notified and that even then, the owners may not want to treat the cat or may not be able to pay.
At this point, I am now at the animal hospital across from the mall.
No one is there. They are closed for the holiday.
I let Anne know and she suggests the All Pets Veterinary Hospital about 12 miles away.
Anne and I talk about the ethical dilemma I am now in.
I couldn't bear to leave the cat by the side of the road. If someone came across one of my injured pets and cared for them, I would be so thankful. We have no money right now. I can't pay to treat this injured cat. What will I do if it dies?
Anne tells me that she is pretty sure that the All Pets Veterinary Hospital will take the cat. She gives me directions and their phone number.
I drive to the All Pets Veterinary Hospital.
I leave the cat in the van and go in.
I tell the edited story to the front desk gal Nina and an assistant Eunice. They listen.
Then Eunice says she will talk to their veterinarian. She comes back and tells me to call the Police Department.
The Police Department? Now, I'm thinking I'm in trouble!
Do they think I hit the cat?
Then she explains that the Animal Control Officer is at the Police Station and he will tell me what to do with the cat.
I call the Police Dept. and talk to the receptionist. She tells me that the animal control officer only deals with dogs, not cats.
Eunice is now on the phone calling the owner of the All Pets Veterinary Hospital.
Moments later Eunice and I are walking out to my van to get the cat. The cat is still warm. She lifts him gently and carries him quickly inside. I feel relieved. Finally! It's been about 40 minutes since we found the cat on the road.
My children are now playing with the toys in the corner.
Eunice tells me that the Humane Society will have possession of the cat and gives me a phone number.
I call the phone number on the cat's collar again. I tell the machine that the cat will be at the Humane Society and leave their phone number and my home phone number and in the last moment, I let whoever listens to the message that their cat has passed.
I regret doing that. It seems so cold and impersonal.
Then I cry.
I thank Eunice and Nina.
I call Anne back. She tells me that I did a good job. That most people pretend they don't see. That I went above and beyond. She thanks me!
I feel like hugging her through the phone. I tell her that she's the kind of friend I want on my team. It's mutual.
Charlotte says, "It's okay Mom. That precious cat is with Quincy (our very first cat ~ died many years before our children were born) and Granddaddy Don and Clover too."
(I will tell you about Clover some other time.)
I wipe away the tears and we get back on the road headed to Savers and our favorite discount bookstore.
Life is so unpredictable.
God bless the American Humane Society ~ if you want to make a donation, you can do so here.
After we say good-bye, I cry again.
The kindness of strangers.