Life and Death Then Coffee

IMG_7368 - 2008-08-04 at 07-35-37

I hardly know where to begin, but this is as good a place to start as any, k? Boy howdy, any time I can begin a post with an aphoristic type phrase is a cause for celebration. Such figures of speech are fun and easy to use, and they can lead to a level of peace that . . . ummm, I forgot what I was going to say. Let’s start there.

I’m in a very strange head space this morning. I could blame it on having forgotten to buy coffee yesterday after work, thus relegating myself to a single cup, but that’s a cop out. So let’s skip the attributions and get on past the silliness.

I’m pretty sure that my oversight concerning the coffee was because of the kind of day I had at work. It started out with clocking in, where someone had left a note on the time clock saying that two cats had escaped their enclosures in the cattery. My partner and I headed right over to see what was up with them kitties. The question was answered as soon as we walked in. It was Clinton and Cody, two semi-feral brothers that have always been somewhat of a pain in the ass to deal with. And so the effort to capture them had begun. Cody turned out to be the easy one. We had him corralled and to effect his escape from our presence he ran right back into the cage that he and his brother inhabit, thus incarcerating himself by his own paw. His brother was a different story. We had to chase him for about forty minutes before we finally got him. This required me to walk across the shelter yard, to the cat intake room, where I obtained the capture net and bite-proof gauntlets, then taking them back over to refine the focus of our efforts. When you’ve got a cat loose the best way to effect capture is to wear the poor kitty out to the point where resignation kicks in. We had the screen door to the “catio”, a spacious playroom where we can let cats run around and stuff like that, opened in case we had a chance to corral the critter into there. Our efforts were successful and I finally was able to net the poor fella and return him to the good company of his brother.

When we began our initial work in the cat intake room, after the great escape and capture, I noticed that one kitten looked bad. It wasn’t just the physical appearance of the kitten, I could clearly see with my psychic senses that it was near death. I said out loud, “That cat will die before the end of the day”. It was turned over to the med staff, who later verified that the animal was suffering from panleukopenia, a serious and deadly disease. This was the second case of the disease we have had this season. The first was with a tomcat who obviously carried the virus into the shelter when he was delivered into our hands, only days before. I had helped the veterinarian restrain the tom while Doc tried to save it’s life. This was the first time I had ever been privy to a veterinary medical procedure. The geek in me would usually have been gleeful in such a situation, but the effects from the disease were purely awful to see. The cat was clearly suffering deeply. He had to be put down the next day; the suffering was just too much and he had no chance of recovery. The sadness chokes me up still.

The mortality rate of panleukopenia is nearly 100% in kittens, so we lost that one too. In cases like this it is hard to keep a focus. Death is death. These things happen in animal shelters, just as they happen in the wild, or in the home. It does not mean that neglect or abuse is lurking within the walls of the institution, yet there is often the token nitwit who calls foul, then word spreads, based on a false assessment of the situation. This sad occurrence is not uncommon enough, it should not happen at all, since it only serves to make our jobs even more difficult, which in turn places even more stress on the animals. And round and round. But, a nitwit is a nitwit. These things happen. I have previously seen the passion and heart-felt dedication of my fellow caregivers. Now I have also been privileged to witness the truly awesome passion that Doc has for animals, for the fight that is sometimes necessary to save an animal’s life, and his deft skills, applied under duress, were plain to see. Anyone who disparages his work will get a offer from me to sell them a bridge in Brooklyn. A fool is a fool.

Now, back to my day. Y’all know by now, if you read EyeYotee on a regular basis, that I research death and dying, as a writer. It interests me. But the presence of death is no easier to bear because of that. Yet I know that kitties are conscious being and that this little kitten’s spirit, and that of the big ginger tom, has not relinquished its light.

I think that’s all I have in me this morning. Think I’ll go purchase a cup of gas station coffee and drive on over to the Gorge Bridge for some contemplation under the vast New Mexico sky. For those of you who deign to wonder why I settle for gas station coffee when I could have some heavenly brew – don’t even try it. In the first place, the nearest coffee boutique is 3-4 miles away. In the second place, I happen to enjoy gas station coffee. Oh! Something I almost forgot to weave into today’s complimentary prose is that I am not unaware of the value that witnessing death twice in the past week will have toward the PTSD therapy I have put off for the past 30 years. Any procrastinators wanna try and beat that one?! But I procrastinate no longer. My own dance with death will soon be probed by myself, facilitated by yet another passionate and dedicated medical professional.

Peace out, y’all. Goof gloriously, my friends.

addendum:   say, does anyone know that Pink Floyd song The Wall? What the heck does that one line mean: “Teachers, leave those cats alone”?

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