MISS MOOX + time


Had a rather unpleasant incident happen today which reminded me briefly of too many similar ones from my childhood.

Driving back home from small errands, the bank and the library, I suddenly noticed something startling at the side of the road: a cat, lying in a way no cat normally would, stretched out on its side in the gutter, just by the curb and behind a parked car. It was a very white cat, with few light gray markings, making it stand out brilliantly and rather garishly in the gray street.

I had only a second in which to see it, double take, and react. It was a second that resounded as an unpleasant shock. I swiftly pulled two cars in front, parked, and went back. If the cat had only just been hit, I could get it help, I could call an emergency vet, I could find and alert its owners to prevent a family's small, sad sorrow at the death of a beloved pet.

But as I approached it, hope quickly fled. The cat was completely motionless, not even the shadow of a breath, and its appearance led to the conclusion that it had been there some time. Determined to be sure, I prodded it gently with the tip of my foot. It was stiff like a board and its fur was sodden with last night's rain and streaked with the grime of the street. It was clearly male and lacked collar or other identifying marks.

Apart from the signs of death, the cat looked for all the world like any normal cat which had stretched out on its side for a long, lazy nap: eyes closed, one paw extended out in front, only the incongruity of its surroundings and its un-catlike filth and damp detracting from the picture. No blood, no broken bones, and no bloating marred its body.

What to do? I couldn't just leave it there. I have had too many animals die this way, on the road, not to pity someone else's loss. I looked around, decided on the house closest to it in my side of the street, went up the stairs and knocked on the door.

It was a long time before I heard footsteps coming and the door opened. It was a small, pleasant-looking girl about my age. "I saw you—is it about the cat?" she began. I nodded.

"We don't know who it belongs to," she said. "We've called police and animal control and they still haven't come to pick it up. There's a guy who lives here who's coming home later, and he said he'd help us with it. I don't know what to do with it, I guess we'll have to bury it or something." She shrugged.

Suddenly another door flung open and a very tousled-looking, sleepy-eyed girl with clothing in disarray looked out. "Is it about that cat?" she asked. "Is it still there? We've called the f***ing police and they still haven't come to take it away. It was there at midnight when we got home." I said nothing, but by her appearance I could guess that her night hadn't ended at midnight.

An equally tousled- and sleepy-looking guy soon appeared behind the girl to corroborate their story. The gist of it was that the cat had been lying there all night, they'd called police and animal control and flagged down a passing patrol car, and the police said yes, they knew about it and they'd remove it but they hadn't yet. Animal control was only open Monday and Friday. No, they didn't know who it belonged to, but Andre (which seemed to be the name of the tousled guy) had seen it around the neighbourhood. Yes, it was a shame and very sad.

There appeared to be nothing more I could do. We commiserated about it for some time and I offered help but the situation seemed to be as under control as it could be. They thanked me and I got back into my car and went home.

I guess I wanted nothing more than for the pitiful sight of the dead cat, somebody's pet, to be removed from the roadside. It was almost obscene, like a person had died there and been left for all the world to see, no dignity granted it in its final moments, nobody caring enough to remove it from the public eye. It is odd the difference between a domestic animal dying and a wild animal, like a squirrel or a deer. Both are sad, but I suppose the shocking element in a cat or dog's death is the fact that there have been so many cats and dogs that I have known, that have been part of my family or others' and dearly part of my heart. They have a way of working their small and infinitely unique personalities into your affections to almost the same degree as a human friend. I suppose it is the way God created it: cats and dogs seem uniquely designed as human companions and, I firmly believe, have high capacity for genuine love.

I hope this cat doesn't represent somebody's heartbreak. But I equally hope that he doesn't die unmourned. I hope they are able to find his owner, and I hope the owner is worthy enough to be sad at the loss of such a handsome cat. Cats have long been counted among some of my dearest friends. I was sorry to see one die this way.

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Relevant to: Cat + time