It is a very somber day in my household, and there is very palpable empty space in my heart and my home.
Two summers ago, while sitting at my dining room table, I heard a faint cry outside of my window. Every time I would get up to go to the window, it would stop. It sounded much like a very tiny kitten, though it also could have been a bird--I was uncertain. I went outside to investigate under the bush that is planted outside of my window...I could see nor hear anything. I would make 3 trips outside to investigate what I was hearing before I would spot this tiny (approximately 4-week old kitten) propped up on my basement window sill underneath an addition. In front of her, in the dirt, there were two dead adult birds in what looked like a shallow hole dug in the soft, dusty soil under there. Her face had scabs on it, like she had been attacked by something. She was wild and didn't want anything to do with me. She looked to be very skinny and frail, so I attempted to coax her out with a little soft food...to no avail. A neighbor's handy-man saw me out there investigating and asked me if he could help. He put a glove on his hand and crawled under the addition and retrieved this little feline baby. I kept her crated and offered her some soft food and "mother's milk" supplement and watched her eat. Right away, I began looking for a home for this beautiful little girl. She was mostly spotted, and I began to think that maybe she was a hybrid of some sort or mixed with one and that maybe she was a dumped runt that wouldn't be worth charging for or something. I'd never seen a domesticated cat quite so spotted. She also had long black hairs that grew over the tips of her ears and these stunning blue/green eyes. I felt confident that I could find her a suitable home--but I knew that I would have to work with her to get her acclimated to human contact. She graduated from the crate into a spare bedroom, where I would attempt to get her socialized a bit. It took about a week before she wouldn't dart and hide when I entered the room...a couple more days before she would allow me to touch her without cowering...or running away..but soon, she warmed up quite nicely. From there, I left the door to that room open for her to investigate the place at her leisure and pace. I kept trying to get someone else to see what a beauty she was and offer her a loving home...and she found one..MINE.
THE NAME GAME
Until SHE became pregnant, she was called "little mans"...and then...well, we had a dilemma..she was definitely not a he. She was; however, a little tom-boy, was very rough, claws ALWAYS out at play, she bit, and was VERY high-strung. She seemed to never quite relax...always in high-alert. I don't think I ever really saw her sleep--until she was with kittens. She began to slow down a lot as her belly began to protrude...she got wider than she was tall or long. She was a very TINY little thing--never got really big. So...all things considered, we had give her a name...little mans just was not gonna work. I began to call her Dots...and then because she also had stripes, that turned into Dots-n-Dashes...and then Bits-n-Pieces...because she was so tiny...and then just Bitty. Then it became BP/DD. She had this tiny little "beeping" meow...so we thought BPDD was apropos. However, my girls have this thing for calling the cats "chickens" because of the way they lay with their front arms and paws hidden underneath them...and look basically like...well...a chicken--and so then her name just became "Baby Chicken."
HOW BABIES CHANGE YOUR LIFE
We watched this roughed-up, wild cat turn into a soft, very loving and very protective mother. She gave birth to 4 kittens, 3 boys and one girl. She incidentally got pregnant by my male cat who at the time had not been neutered yet. She was so nurturing-- and her demeanor became soft and relaxed. Once the kittens had all gone to their forever homes, she became so affectionate and sweet. All of the wild inside her had been tamed by motherhood and trust built with her caretakers. She began to let her guard down and integrate into the family. We LOVED her. So sweet, so affectionate, so quiet and laid back...never a bit of trouble out of her EVER. She didn't claw the furniture, she asked politely to go outside and to be fed, and waited patiently for both. She was the ideal cat--not to mention...she was stunningly beautiful with those bright eyes and small tuft of white fur on her chest that melted into a caramel-color going down her legs and up her shoulders that then became defined by her spots and stripes. She was our Baby Chicken. You would just say her name and she would appear on your lap and begin loving you up--much like a loving and obedient dog.
Today...I awoke to pools of blood all over the house...all of the animals were inspected and present...except Baby Chicken. I searched everywhere for our tiniest family member...and not a peep or sighting of her. I looked inside and outside...I feared the worst. I feared she had hidden herself to die--much like cats do when they can't just go outside to do it. I was panicked and very afraid...there was a LOT of blood all over the house...pools, spatter...in every room, up the staircase. It was like a nightmare. She finally appeared but she was very weak with a steady stream of blood coming from her nose. She was also coughing it up. I KNEW I would be losing her today. I just knew it. We took her to the vet where we were told it presented much like rat poison toxicity--though they were unclear. What they DID know was that she was not clotting and that her blood looked much like "red Kool-Aid" and had no viscosity at all to it. Some of the differentials that were thrown around were thrombocytopenia, feline leukemia...but as far as the blood disorder, the causative factor was unknown unless they investigated it. What was apparent was that she was critically anemic and was very acutely ill and it was inevitable that she would expire from this unless "heroic measures" were taken...and even those were iffy in bring her back from her critical state. She was conscious, her bright eyes still sparkling, but was very weak and appeared to be oxygen starved. I asked to go see her one more time...my daughter and I opened the cage they had her in and petted her and spoke softly to her. She looked intently at us for a moment and then laid on her side and stretched her body out, nuzzled my hand as I stroked her, began to close her eyes...I decided I wanted to hold her...and this is when I knew that the decision was made for me BY her. She had no energy whatsoever, but fought with everything she had to get out of my arms and back into the cage--where she immediately laid down facing the back of the cage. From that point, we could not even get her to look at us when whispered her name. She laid down and stared intently at the back corner of the cage as if to say "LEAVE me here...let me go..I am resigned...this is good-bye."
You see, animals have a soul and a spirit...they LOVE...they LIVE...and so they readily recognize life and love. They have MORE of an insight and acceptance of the end of THIS life as well. They know when it is time...and in their own way...are merciful in their departure from their loved ones. I think she knew it was already killing us...they sense this stuff...and I think that she knew how much more difficult it would be for us if she were to be more accommodating to our attempts to comfort her (and ourselves). I think this is why a dying cat will just about kill themselves to get out of the house and away from everyone to die alone...so that their "people" will not have to witness their departure. I then struggled with the question of the receptionist there "do you want to stay"....I wanted SO badly to hold her and love her "home"...but I just couldn't. I guess that makes me weak...but definitely NOT unfeeling--I was overwhelmed by feeling. I took the cue that she wanted to make this transition alone.
So today, I came home with one less family member. I cannot describe the feeling. It is like there is a space notched out of the air I breathe, the area I take up, and the place I rest that is just empty. It really isn't the same--and I can feel it. There is a heaviness and a restlessness in my spirit that cannot, at this point be comforted or calmed. I am sad...very sad. I feel so deeply the loss of this tiny baby girl in this house. She was so young and so sweet....and did not deserve to die this way. I rescued her...and she gave me her trust...and there is no other bond quite so strong as mutual respect and trust....patience and love. She was a keeper and now she is gone and I am left to mourn the loss of a life that touched mine so very deeply.
THE THINGS A PET WILL TEACH YOU IF YOU PAY ATTENTION
You can be abandoned, mistreated, left behind, tossed away....and you can be taken in, shown great kindness and compassion, be built up and taken in.
You can be untrusting of people and situations that differ from what you've experienced....and someone can be patient with you and earnestly gain an unbreakable trust through a sincere attempt to offer love.
You can be cold and hungry and very afraid...and someone can offer you shelter, warmth, nourishment and security.
You can be a nothing to one person and mean everything to another.
You can have a tiny stature but take up immense space in the hearts of those who love you.
You can be "the baby" and a mother at the same time.
You can appear in someone's life at a time when it seemed to be the worst time for it...and you can leave it the same way.
You can love unconditionally and not even realize it.
There is no difference between burden and privilege or the rescuer and rescued.
Animals have a soul and a spirit....they live, they breathe, they teach and they learn...they communicate without words and draw the greatest bonds of love known to man.
To my Baby Chicken....I feel blessed that your short stay here was with me and my family and that you're now home safe with my family that went before you. I asked my dad to carry you over and I know he did. I will sorely miss you until the sting of your absence becomes more bearable, but I will never forget you or the contribution you made to my life by nothing more than your presence.