I’ve always been a bit of an animal lover.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those PETA freaks. Just because I love animals doesn’t mean I won’t eat them. Although I will concede that animals who have been raised as food should be cared for properly and humanely.
My Mother never really cared for pets. As children, my brother and I would often beg her for hamsters, kittens, or puppies and we’d swear solemn oaths that we would take good care of them. Sometimes she would allow us to become pet owners and we would worship our animals like children rarely do. Then, the inevitable always happened. One of us would get a C on a report card or we’d forget to take the garbage out. The penalty we paid for such infractions was to forfeit our pets. She would snatch them up, toss them in her car, drive off into the country and leave them on the side of the road. If we got particularly hysterical about it, she would insist our beloved animals would find homes at nearby farms. Be we both knew the truth. Our animals likely never lasted a week, alone and hungry, on the side of those country roads. They probably got hit by cars…or worse.
My brother and I never really learned our lesson. We thought if we just behaved better, studied more, or worked harder she would spare us our pets. Fortunately, my Mother eventually got sick of the entire song and dance and refused to let us have more animals. With her new policy firmly in place there would be less broken hearts and dead pets in our household. Although it pained us to admit, the policy was actually a blessing in disguise.
A year or two later, I was walking home from school when I happened upon a little black and white kitten sitting on the sidewalk. I held out my hand and quietly cooed to the little creature until she whipped up the confidence to approach me. Once she did, I gently scooped her up for a cuddle. Then I sat down on the sidewalk with her and gave her a nice rubdown. I scratched her behind her ears, stroked her beneath her chin and managed to get her purring like a freight train. Finally, I made my way down to her back side and I decided to give the base of her tail a little attention.
Only…the kitten yelped in pain! Thankfully, the kitten merely backed away from me rather than sprint down the street, so I was able to pick her up again and examine her more closely. Almost immediately, I found the source of her pain. On the underside of her tail, her skin had been sliced off to the bone. The wound was obviously a couple of days old and very infected. Without a second thought, I gathered the kitten carefully into my arms and started marching home. I intended to throw myself on the mercy of my Mother.
My Mother was less than impressed with my injured kitten. Dutifully, she reminded me of the ‘No Pets Policy.’ Pleadingly, I told her the kitten was hurt and if she’d just drive me to the vet, I would drop it off and never see it again. She refused, furious at the possibility she’d get stuck with a vet bill. I insisted that if that happened, I would pay for the kitten myself with my own babysitting money.
My urgent appeals did not soften my Mother to my cause. Instead, they infuriated her. She demanded I put the kitten outside that very instant before her house became overrun by fleas and various other parasites. She promised me if she ever saw me so much as touch the kitten ever again, I would seriously regret it.
I knew better to disobey my Mother when she got into this state, but I couldn’t bring myself to dump the poor, injured kitten outside. Instead, I nicked a recycling box off of our back porch and hid her in the woods behind my house. With a bottle of water and a few strips of an old, torn up T-shirt, I cleaned out her wound and made her a little bandage. The following day was a Saturday and my Mother had plans to attend a picnic. After she left, I planned to sneak into the woods, retrieve the kitten, and walk 6 miles to the vet to get her treatment. I fantasized that the kindly vet would allow me to pay the bill in payments with my babysitting money after he heard my impassioned plea.
The next morning, it seemed to take me forever to urge my Mother out of the house. When she finally left, I hot footed it out into the woods. I only had a small window of time to get the kitten to the vet before my Mother came home.
Still, I couldn’t resist cuddling her just a little bit before we set out on our journey. I couldn’t get over how sweet and compliant she was! I mean, the poor thing had what looked like a seriously painful injury, but that didn’t stop her from looking at me with big, green trusting eyes while she nuzzled my hand and purred.
After a few snuggles, I decided to check her bandage real quick. Carefully, I lifted up her tail and began unraveling the bits of T-shirt. I noticed something strange all over her backside. It looked like mold. Or rice. I wrinkled my brow, confused.
I thought, “How the hell did she manage to get rice in her wound when she’s been in this box….OH GOD!”
It was maggots.
By this point in time, I had managed to completely remove my makeshift bandage and what I saw underneath gave me nightmares for years. Her wound was absolutely infested with maggots; they were mercilessly digging into her skin. Yet, this kitten still was looking at me with her great, big, trusting eyes.
I’m afraid I lost my mind a little. Crying, borderline hysterical, I scooped the kitten up and ran with her back to my house, Mother’s rules be damned! I fetched a bucket from under the sink and filled it with warm water and a little rubbing alcohol. I snatched a comb from the bathroom and took all my tools outside onto my cement back porch. Then, I proceeded to dip the kitty in my water/alcohol solution and comb out her maggots. Dip and comb, dip and comb…I was determined not to stop until I got rid of every single one of the evil little parasites.
I sobbed as I worked. During normal circumstances, I wouldn’t touch a worm if you paid me. But guilt and panic drove me to pick the little buggers out of her wound with my bare hands. I felt sure that the maggots were the result of something I did.
The neighborhood kids crowded around me while I toiled on. They were disgusted by the maggots like I was…but they were also very afraid. They’d never seen their babysitter in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
I have no idea how long I tended to the kitten, but eventually, someone opened the back door of my house. I was so worked up I didn’t even notice until the neighborhood kids scattered.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” my Mother shrieked.
“Mom!” I blubbered as I got to my feet, “Mom! She’s hurt. There’s maggots. Please let me take her to the vet! I’ll do anything!”
My Mother responded by clocking me. I fell onto the cement porch with a bloody nose.
“I thought I told you to stay away from this thing!” my Mother howled. Then, she reared back and kicked the kitten…hard. Horrified, I watched its little body fly across the yard and land a good 6 or 7 feet away. It didn’t get up.
Before I could think, my Mother grabbed a handful of my hair and pulled me into the house.
I got punished.
Afterwards, I was left alone in my room. I opened up my bedroom window and called out to one of the neighborhood kids.
“Amanda, where is the kitten?”
Amanda dug the toe of her shoe into the dirt. I could tell she didn’t want to answer me.
“It was really sick, V.” she finally said.
I could feel the tears welling. “I know she’s sick. But where is she right now?”
“One of the boys…killed her.”
“They killed her?”
“Well, after you went inside, they got her. She had all those thingys all over. And there was blood coming out of her mouth. So one of the boys said they had to kill her.”
My voice broke. “How did they kill her?”
“They smashed her head with a rock. I didn’t want them to, but…”
Amanda trailed off. I didn’t reply at first. I just stood in my window and bawled.
Shamefaced, Amanda tipped her head in my direction, “We’re sorry, V.”
“It’s OK, Amanda. It wasn’t your fault. It was my fault.”
People often ask me why I bother amassing more wealth when I repeatedly claim I have everything I need. Generally, I shrug my shoulders or find some other way of avoiding the question. But the truth is, someday, I’d like to open up a pet rescue. Often, I have envisioned what it would be like. I would have many acres of lands with various heated/air conditioned buildings with their own fenced in yards. I would split the pets up based on their individual needs. For example, I’d have separate areas for feral cats, declawed cats, senior cats, aggressive dogs, submissive dogs and so on and so forth. My shelter would be no kill and no cage. Perhaps I could convince a few vets to volunteer their time for a good cause or maybe I’ll hire my own to work full time. Either way, I’d like to open up a shelter where anyone could bring injured or unwanted pets, no questions asked. And even if I couldn’t adopt them all out to loving homes, I could make sure they lived their lives in relative comfort…as opposed to dying on the street or rotting in cages at the local pound. This has always been a very vivid dream of mine.
After this story, I guess it’s pretty obvious where I stand on the Michael Vick issue.
For those of you who haven’t heard, the Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback, Michael Vick, was indicted by the grand jury on charges of sponsoring and participating in dog fighting. If that’s not disgusting enough, Vick and his cronies killed weaker dogs (or dogs unwilling to fight) using absolutely deplorable, inhumane methods such as drowning, electrocution, hanging, or slamming their poor bodies into the ground.
A lot of people have reacted to the charges against Michael Vick with stunned disbelief. They wonder to themselves how it’s possible for a person to be so sadistic and cruel to a helpless creature. Unfortunately for me, I do not have the luxury of their naiveté. After all, I saw my own Mother punt a helpless, injured kitten across my backyard without a second thought. So it’s really no surprise to me that there are other people out there just as cold and evil as she was.
Michael Vick should rot in jail or hell or both for what he did to those dogs.
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