I’m a dog person. I’m a dog person who comes from a long line of dog people — who married a cat person.
Until we bought our home on the Northshore last year, we lived in a “no pets allowed” apartment for years. While living there, I eventually became fond of a certain neighborhood stray cat we’d nicknamed Narco. (I’ll give you one guess as to what our Netflix binge of choice was at that time.) Narco disappeared about a year or so before we moved, so taking him with us on a move to suburbia wasn’t an option.
Less than a year into our Northshore move (and becoming parents), I found myself jokingly begging my husband for a dog. Admittedly, this was driven by the fact that our son was learning to feed himself and keeping the floor clean was a constant battle. The reality is that we are not in a great position to adopt a dog right now: I was laid off due to COVID, we’ve got Baby #2 on the way, plus we live in a fairly new subdivision and our yard isn’t yet fenced. Adding any more mouths to feed is simply not an option.
At first, our subdivision seemed a bit “country” to me, a city girl born and raised in Metairie and Mid-City. But that was mostly just because it’s quiet and about a 15-minute drive to more populated areas (like a Target-anchored shopping center). We are actually located just off one of the busiest highways in the area and, though the speed limit is 55, cars quite often speed by at 60+ MPH.
Over the weekend, I was driving home down that very highway. It was about 7:00 PM and already pitch black outside. About 20 or so yards ahead of me, I saw something dart across the highway and assumed it was a raccoon (one of the most common roadkill victims around here). Relieved it happened so far ahead of me, I kept going — but suddenly I saw something small and white appear in front of my SUV. It was so fast, almost like a plastic bag blowing across the road. But I had a feeling that even though it was almost across the highway, whatever it was hadn’t quite cleared my car.
The nausea set in almost instantly, the guilt along with it.
I was literally less than a quarter mile from my home, so I called my husband and, through hot tears, told him I needed him to meet me outside and to ride with me back up the highway because I needed his help.
I was afraid I may have just hit a kitten.
In less than 3 minutes after the impact, my sweet husband was risking his own life standing on the side of a dark but bustling highway, cradling a tiny kitten in his arms.
“She’s alive!” he called as I pulled the SUV up to him. “And she doesn’t seem to be bleeding!”
A wave of relief rushed over me. We brought the trembling calico kitten back to our house to get a better look at her.
While she wasn’t actively bleeding anywhere, I could see a bit of dried blood around her mouth. The sick feeling was back; this tiny kitten was probably bleeding internally.
Though she’d been quiet up until we’d brought her in the house, her mewing started. Another wave of relief. Maybe she wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I called an emergency vet clinic and explained through sobs what had happened. They told us to bring her in.
The drive there was agonizing, but she was mewing louder and louder and trying to climb out of the Pampers box we had her in, so it felt like she was doing better than I’d originally thought.
My husband was trying to lighten the mood a bit and said, “Looks like we just got ourselves a cat.”
My sobbing started again.
“But I didn’t want a cat, I wanted a dog. I never meant to do this, I never meant to hurt this poor little cat!”
I calmed down when we reached the vet. We raced inside and the team was ready for her. I can only imagine how it must’ve looked to them: this visibly pregnant woman sobbing over a tiny kitten in a diaper box.
They gave me some paperwork to fill out as they took the kitten back to X-ray and examine her. My husband held my hand as we sat in the exam room waiting.
He asked me if I’d thought of any names and I just scoffed. I truly did not want to adopt a cat right now, but I also didn’t want to leave there without her. I could feel my anxiety rising again.
The doctor came in with the kitten a few minutes later and thanked us for bringing her in. She was so kind and reassuring. She told us that they’d examined the kitten and estimated her to be between 8 and 12 weeks old and was almost definitely feral. She also said that she seemed to have suffered some head trauma and wasn’t using the back half of her little body. She was likely paralyzed and had internal bleeding.
Her recommendation was to put an end to her suffering.
I nodded as the tears started flowing again. “Could I hold her when you do it?” I asked.
“Of course you can,” the doctor said. She gently placed the bundled up kitten in my arms and left to go collect the syringes.
My husband and I sat in the exam room quietly. I cradled the kitten and stroked her tiny face, careful not to touch the bandaged area where they’d run an I.V. She mewed softly as my tears fell on her. “I’m so sorry, sweet girl,” I whispered to her over and over. When I thought about how she’d likely never been held before that night, I cried more.
The doctor came back in and gently administered the medicine through the kitten’s I.V. I continued to stroke her softly until she was gone, no longer in pain. Then I held her some more.
When the doctor took her out of my arms, she thanked us again for bringing her in and doing all we could for her. As we were leaving the room, she smiled warmly at us and said, “Makes me believe there are still good people in the world.”
I felt so exhausted and numb as I walked back to the car. The ride home was quiet, peppered by my waves of sobs and endless apologies. I’m not sure who I was even apologizing to at that point. I was just so very sorry.
The heaviness has stayed with me longer than I expected. Maybe it’s the guilt I feel whenever I pass the spot where it happened. Maybe it’s the flux of pregnancy hormones. Maybe it’s just that this year has tossed more at us all than we could’ve ever possibly fathomed.
Maybe it’s that I see the bulk of 2020 encapsulated in the microcosm of that night’s events.
Something comes out of nowhere to completely upend any plans made. The rollercoaster of emotions that immediately starts: the confusion, the worry, the fear, the anxiety, the anger, the sadness, the grief. And the outcome that feels like the absolute worst because it is most definitely NOT what you wanted — but it’s literally all there is, so you try to make the best of it. Even though “best” is certainly far from how you’d describe any of this.
We are all processing so much right now. For some of us, it may feel like we are finally coming up for air. For others, it feels like we are teetering on the edge and one more thing may push us over. There are others who fall somewhere in between and still others who aren’t even on that spectrum at all. And where anyone is can change in a moment.
In a world where uncertainty seems constant, try to be gentle with each other. Even if that sometimes means being gentle with yourself.