For four weeks Bandita was in my care, after a crippling accident left her back legs badly broken. After bringing her home from the vet, she flattened her ears, hissed, and knocked the long wooden spoon out of my hands – the spoon that has worked miracles for years now in taming the fiercest of ferals. She was having none of me.
And her eyes: they were hardened by fear, pain and anger at her capture. I would look in those eyes and promise her that I would do right by her. That her crummy life would be better… though I wasn’t sure how.
Over the course of the next four weeks I agonized about what to do with Bandita. If I put her back on the farm, she could easily become coyote bait. And my investigations into sanctuaries that might take a handicapped cat proved fruitless. It seems feral cats are not really welcome at such places.
I consulted with veterinarians, who were also flummoxed at what to do with a feral cat who now had one leg a full 3-4 inches shorter than the other and would likely always walk with a lopsided hobble. One suggested amputation, another euthanasia. But after doing this work long enough, you learn to trust your own instincts, and I just could not give up on her.
I was also haunted by something I’d seen before her accident: Bandita nuzzling with Tommy, the mean old tomcat who ruled the colony. He had a soft spot for the little tortie (probably his offspring) and she for him. Could he protect her if I returned her to the farm? Could she take care of herself?
Heartsick and fearful, I nonetheless made the decision. After one month, during which her bones would hopefully settle and she could regain some of the weight she’d lost, I would let her go.
The day came, and I put up a crate near the ravine at the farm and rested her carrier inside it. (The last thing I wanted was for my crippled kitty to be disoriented and run headlong into the dangers of the creek area.) And I waited, thinking it could take her a few hours before she felt brave enough to leave the protective cocoon of her carrier. It only took minutes.
As her family members gathered around, she rather boldly emerged from the carrier and took a deep breath.
She seemed to remember immediately where she was. I still hesitated to open the crate door – perhaps because I feared it would be the last time I saw her. So I paused and we connected eyes. This time her eyes were soft, unafraid… maybe even grateful.
“See?” I smiled as I felt the lump in my throat growing. “I told you I would do right by you. Now you just have to stay alive.”
I opened the crate door and in a flash she was gone, diving into the thicket on the edge of the farm. It was so fast I could barely see how she walked – it had been a month since she was free and I was anxious about the extent of her limp.
Two anxious days went by and I didn’t see Bandita for the morning meal. Then on day three, this: Bandita after
I was so thrilled. She was walking. Not perfectly, but efficiently, despite the terribly broken legs that bore her up.
Sometimes, even when I fail, things have a way of turning out alright. Thanks, Saint Francis, for the reminder that my instincts are usually trustworthy. Watch over my erstwhile angry girl and keep her safe.