This summer I questioned my ability to do rescue work. So did a couple of friends who had noticed how upset – even tearful – I would get when talking about it. “I worry about the toll it is taking on you,” said one who has known me for 45 years. Said another, “You need to draw a protective boundary around yourself and try not to cross it. You need to say no sometimes.”
“No” was not a word that could be said when I got a call in August, soon after the kittens had happily turned the corner. A young woman who had adopted Colby (he of the broken toes http://bit.ly/2z2sO24) a year ago had died unexpectedly in her studio home, and he needed to be picked up or the SPCA would be called in. I raced over to Higgins Canyon, and it took two coroner deputies and two sheriff deputies and me almost half an hour to get poor Colby into a carrier, pushing at him with brooms, scaring him out from under furniture until he peed himself with terror.
I thought losing the kittens to distemper was the absolute nadir of my rescue work, but then this happened. Worse, I learned, he had been there with his deceased mom for several days. And she was only 33. It was a moment of off-the-charts awfulness and grief following grief. (His mom and I had become friends since she took him in.)
And (familiar refrain) I had no room for him. But knowing he’d be traumatized, I made him as comfortable as possible in my walk-in closet. There, I thought, it would be quiet and he could collect himself while I helped him get through his trauma, which was considerable. He refused food, hissed when I came near (probably recognizing me as one of the chief broom-wielders) and in general never left his carrier except to use the cat box.
Because my boundaries with critters have become so porous, I could feel his anguish over all that had happened. Even as my joy was mounting as the kittens got stronger each day, I’d go into the closet, lay down and talk to him and end up in sympathetic tears. What a tainted trajectory this kitty has had! From misery and pain with his crushed feet, to happiness at finding a home, to misery again in the darkness of my walk-in closet. He was due for a break.
I started to get worried when he was still refusing food after nearly a week, and also noticed that his paws were once again swollen. Did his toes re-break in the frantic scuffle with the deputies and me? I called in the wonderful Dr. Sue, warning her that he was a bit volatile, and to be careful when she approached him. But she is fearless, and animals seem to trust her immediately. She pulled him out of his carrier, and looked his feet.
Because of his previously broken toes, two claws had grown into unnatural circles, and were both sticking into the pads of his feet. As she began to clip and clean him, I left to give her space. And when I returned, she was sitting on the floor with Colby in her lap, and she was petting him. I was astonished.
I lamented that even though Colby was a gorgeous cat, he would be challenging to re-home. He is shy to the point of hostile, and takes a long time to warm up. Not to mention he’d always have “special needs” when it came to his feet.
Then Sue surprised me by saying if I could not find a home for Colby, she would take him on her farm. Out of anguish can come miracles.
It’s because of such things I won’t give up the work. It needs me… and I need it. I’ll try to be better about keeping my boundaries intact, but there will also be times when they crumble like sandcastles at high tide.
Now… St. Francis… how about a happy winter? 🙂