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Posted in Crazy Wisdom on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 2:14 pm by flerly.

I have too many childhood memories of dogs we lost to the busy two-lane road in front of my parents house. Across the street from us was a wooded hill that bordered a pasture, and I guess the opportunity to get over there and chase cows was more tempting to our four-legged friends than we could imagine, thus two incarnations of fences around our house couldn’t keep them in. Despite the fact that many a lazy visitor to the house would leave the gate across our driveway open after they pulled their car in or out, we also were privileged to have some would-be circus dogs whose ingenuity couldn’t be contained by even a properly closed gate. I can’t tell you how many places Dad added boards and river rock to fill in some escape-tunnel under the fence. Somewhere in mom’s piles of old photos, I also know there is a snapshot of one dog who was finally caught in the act of climbing over the chainlink fence. Despite our love for them, the frequent rides in the back of the truck to the nearby lake, or the size of their home yard, these animals could not be contained. Dad couldn’t bear to have them on chains, though we tried for a short while keeping them chained at night. Fourteen years we lived together in that house, and I think I actually remember six incidents, but in my memory it feels like a million. Again and again, it seemed, because we always had friends and family offering up an endless resupply of pets to us, we would lose another dear friend to the road.

Six incidents, though. Six times, a motorist struck an animal and six times we have the news almost immediately because six times, the driver stopped. It was a small enough neighborhood of people, so even when incidents happened several houses away from us, the neighbor could identify the pet and someone came to let us know. Once, I even had the misfortune of answering our front door to find a weeping woman who had hit on the right house first try. Conversely, twice I’ve been in a car that had the misfortune of hitting a dog. Once with mom, once with dad. Both times we stopped. Dad was able to find a house that knew the owners, mom wasn’t. We took that dog to the vet ourselves, then went back to try to find the owners.

My mom reminded me of most of these things yesterday, though we couldn’t decide if people were just kinder then or if that kindness is just something that happens in small towns. People in the big city are just busier, mom mused, and don’t have time to hunt around in all those houses crammed practically on top of each other to say hello on a good day, let alone find a pet owner with bad news. Then you have the people that might be afraid to try, lest they assume some sort of financial responsibility for taking care of the injured animal. You just can’t expect much from people these days, she told me, and it’s a shame.

It may be a shame, but it just makes me angry. You see, I may live in the big city, but it’s a pretty much enclosed community. We’re pretty much in the heart of an apartment community large enough that an outdoor pet could roam and roam and likely never go outside its borders. Thus, if I see a pet roaming in here, I can pretty safely assume that his owners are a resident. When we moved in, we provided a photo and description of our pet to the office, as we were asked, so I assume others have done the same. The office, thus, would probably be the first place I tried if I found a lost or injured animal somewhere on the property that didn’t have any tags. If it did have tags, you can bet we’d contact the owners. It seems hard to imagine to me that someone might ignore an injured animal they saw. More hard to imagine that someone could just drive away after causing the injury.

It’s a big complex, though. Lots of wooded areas, a creek… lots of little paths out to picnic areas, landscaping and trees all around, even a plot of bamboo for the pandas. In short, lots of places for an animal to hide out if it wanted. So, upon being struck by a car and perhaps left behind, an animal that wasn’t killed by the blow, might find it’s way off the beaten path in an effort to find a peaceful place to rest. Or perhaps it was just trying to get home. And thus, all the walking sidewalks and driving around in the world might not spot that injured guy once the initial event was over and he’d had time to move himself.

This apparently was just the case with Samuel. Whoever struck him, the primary injury was to his spine, and he probably instantly loss the use of his back legs. He also, did not appear to feel any pain from his injury, so however possibly mangled his hind quarters were, a mostly confused cat, left to his own devices, did the only thing he knew to do… he made his way home to our front door. His injuries weren’t compound, so he wasn’t openly bleeding, and he’d managed to travel home without being preyed on by any other animal. When I found him, his belly and legs were matted with brown dried blood, which the vet said was probably all due to him having to drag himself home and being unable to feel that he was hurting himself. He was cold from being out in the elements, and the vet estimated that his injury had probably happened over a day before and he’d simply found a place to hide out from the weather before he came home.

More than anything, when I saw him through the window and rushed out to get him, I expected him to have lost another collar in his missing couple days. It had happened before… he wandered through bushes and branches and collars snag and breakaway, all in fun for him, because he knows where he lives and needs no stinking collar. But this time, when he began to drag himself toward me instead of walk, I knew immediately something was wrong. I also saw he was still wearing his collar and id tags, though there really wasn’t time to be angry about it then.

After the vet helped produce a scenario of events… after she remarked about how the blood was old and the scratches scabby and how cold his back legs were… after she remarked on how weak his heart sounded… there still wasn’t really time to be angry. Samuel’s condition had to be assessed, his future outlined, decisions made. In the end, beyond hazards of living with the paralysis, it was his weak heart that wouldn’t allow him to survive. A factor that was very well exacerbated by his lack of immediate treatment and resulting lengthy trek home.

Yesterday was a day to be sad and process memories of a sweet, wide-eyed cat who was mostly just confused why people wouldn’t let him jump down off the table. He wasn’t feeling pain. He let me hold him and pet him and he’d raise his head and close his eyes with the joy of it, almost like any other day, but he didn’t really have the strength to purr. The lower part of his body wrapped in the towel belied his calm demeanor. I had agreed with the vets decision to euthanize him, and I held him while they did it. The vet, who also pet him and spoke sweetly to him all the while, monitored the whole thing with her stethoscope, and told me his heart stopped just from the administration of the anesthesia, even before the final shot. In her mind, this was confirmation that he was really too weak to survive any other treatment.

Yesterday was a day to figure out how to pass on this news to the person who I most dreaded telling, but who most needed to know. It could never have been a good time, but it just seemed so terrible a time, with him so far removed from home, so out of reach in a foreign desert, so unavailable for whatever words of comfort I could manage, though I couldn’t manage many. I don’t have to explain to him how loved Samuel was, how spoiled, how he enjoyed his leisurely life bossing the people around to let him in or out and feed him upon command. I don’t have to explain how he will be missed. I think even the other cats know somehow … those few minutes I carried Samuel inside to lie down while I ran for keys and wallet. Motley at least was attentive to him, surely smelled the blood on him, and I have to wonder if they have some instinct of what that smell might mean.

Today, I think I’ve finally managed to wash that smell off of me. Today, I have the time to be angry. I walk back and forth passed the counter where I lay his collar and the grief pamphlets from the animal hospital and I am angry at this community. Someone out there, resident or visitor, struck this sweet cat and didn’t take responsibility. I doubt they’d have stopped to check on him and not noticed the collar or called the number on it. More likely, they didn’t stop at all. So, I’m angry… I want to put up signs with his story and his picture. I want to write to the office and make them put something in their stupid monthly newsletter. I want people to know that no matter if the gates are working or the trash is always picked up or the junk cars are towed away, that this is still not the nice, safe community that it might appear. I let those sweet people who met me out front to go on about how sweet Samuel was and the people who commented about him to us when he would follow us to the mailbox or the pool or the tennis courts all fool me. I thought these people were nice and appreciated Sam, too.

Today, though, along with Mr. Janow, I am angry at not owning property to have a good place to bury this beloved friend, who survived long enough to make a final trip home.



  1. mcsnee has made a Comment

    I’m so sorry.

    August 31, 2005 @ 2:15 pm

  2. scienceiscool has made a Comment

    i’m very sorry. that is a horrible thing to happen to an innocent cat.

    August 31, 2005 @ 2:21 pm

  3. skjarl has made a Comment

    Christ taught me to forgive those who sin against me. This lesson is hard to remember in the face of such overwhelming grief as I feel right now. It will be the true measure of my character to see if I can ever do it.

    About the only other things I feel are shame and regret. He deserved a better owner than me.

    Samuel was my companion for 13 years. At times, he was my best friend. If I could stop crying for a while, I’d write something more. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

    August 31, 2005 @ 2:45 pm

  4. schlemaggle has made a Comment

    sam was the first cat i ever so much as liked, and he quickly found a place in my heart. he never left that place, even when circumstances were such that it was impossible for me to play with him, care for him, or spoil him rotten with his favorite brand of canned tuna.

    this absolutely breaks my heart to hear. i am so very sorry, for jim and for you guys. if there is anything i can do (read: if you need help posting flyers with sam’s story throughout your neighborhood), please let me know.

    August 31, 2005 @ 3:14 pm

  5. anonymous has made a Comment

    For what it’s worth, I truly hate to hear about this. In the earlier years, I hung with Samuel for a bit. I mostly don’t care for cats that much, but Samuel was a really good one. Sorry about that, Jimmy.

    Jake Langston

    October 13, 2005 @ 11:57 pm

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