Posted 07-20-2003 at 07:08:56
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Several months back, Jenny, my youngest daughter, found four kittens in the trash burning pile out back of the house. She came running inside all excited, the kittens cupped in the tail of her t-shirt. I promptly sprinkled them with baby powder, hoping that the mother would still accept them and much to her disappointment sent her back out with them. They were way too young to be away from their mother, and they were wild. Jenny did not know all this.
I hate to say it, but I think the dogs found and killed them. All but one. Ozzie was a cute little tar black thing with a mouth like a foghorn. He opened his mouth and mewed and glass shattered. Jenny promised to take care of him and not cause me any extra work. She did an admirable job. Except for one thing.
When I told her that he was very young and still needed to be stimulated to go to the bathroom, her face went pale, her mouth fell open, and she just stared while I instructed her how to accomplish this task with a q-tip.
"You want me to rub him where? With what? Uh uh!"
I told her that she had no choice and as far as I knew she was doing what she was told. Monday morning rolled around and I go out and take care of the animals. I return to the house and settle down to the breakfast that I had put aside for myself. The minute I lift my fork old foggy lets out a bellow.
I waited for Jenny to get up from wherever she was and take care of her little charge. I was engrossed in the weather report, irritated that she hadn't fed her baby yet. I actually open my mouth to call her when it dawned on me that she was in school. Dangit. Okay I'm slow, but it just now occurred to me who will have to feed this cat every day while she's in school.
I set about preparing his 12cc syringe full of canned milk, whining every step of the way. He clamped on the tip of that syringe and sucked so hard that I didn't even have to depress the plunger. He sucked it down on his own. Okay, I thought, this may not be so bad. After he finished off his meal I took the corner of an old rag and performed the adoptive mother routine. Wiped his eyes, his face, his mouth, his neck, and kept working my way down until I got to the business area. He rewarded me with a good healthy puddle.
I put him back in his box, washed my hands, and again sat down to breakfast. He mewed all the way through sausage, eggs and toast. He mewed all the way through loading the washer. Finally I snatched him back up again.
"What the devil is the matter with you?" I asked. He mewed louder.
I tried to feed him again and he squalled the whole time and wouldn't take a bit of milk. I put him back in the box. He mewed all the way through Good Morning America. By now I had lost my patience. I snatched him up out of the box again and due to my irritation maybe put just a teeny tiny weensie little bitty bit too much pressure on his abdominal area. Okay I squoze him a little bitty bit. Which turned out to be a favor.
The next thing I know this.....substance....very similar to canned cheese, starting coming out of him. I grabbed the rag and held it under him and like the energizer bunny he just kept going and going and going. He stopped, I sighed with relief, and carefully set the loaded rag down on top of the trash can. He chose that moment to go some more. Having the reflexes of a mother, I grabbed the rag and caught the rest. When he was finally done I looked at the pile on the rag and I looked at the kitten. The size and weight was about the same. He and my daughter had been saving this for me since Friday evening.
That afternoon when I picked her up I read her the riot act and accused her of having not done this task. I could tell by the expression and the deep red color on her face that I was right. I lashed into her, describing his discomfort and how she should be ashamed of herself. Then, knowing her affinity for canned cheese on ritz crackers, I went into even more gruesomely descriptive detail about the color, consistency and smell of the product he delivered.
"You know" I said, "just like that canned cheese you like to put on your crackers."
That did it. Her eyes filled up with tears and she glared at me. I had ruined one of her favorite snacks driving home my point.
"Okay! I get it, okay?"
Being prone to lecturing I reminded her that the kitten relied on her for everything and if she wasn't prepared to take the good with the bad then we would take it to the animal shelter. That evening I caught her in the bathroom, holding the kitten over the toilet, a disgusted expression on her face, a soiled q-tip in her hand.
"That's a girl." I said and smiled at her proudly. I don't know who she hated more at that moment. Me or Ozzie.
I'm not sure if was the following morning or the one after that, I hear a horrible scream. Jenny comes to me and thrusts this kitten into my hands. It was bleeding from the mouth.
"Mom....moooom....! I stepped on..I STEPPED on him!" All I could think about was how hard I'd been on her about taking proper care of this kitten. Some of the really rough things I had just said to her about being irresponsible. About being careless, about her duties as his care giver. About how disappointed I was in her for putting her squeamishness over his needs.
She was hysterical. The agony and guilt on her face is something I hope to never have to see again. She was sobbing so hard she couldn't catch her breath.
"Oh, honey.....it'll be all right. I know you didn't mean too." What the he11 was I supposed to do? I couldn't fix this!
I took the kitten and escaped out the back door with him. He was writhing in my hands, desperately trying to breathe, I assume that his lungs were damaged. I didn't know what to do, he was clearly dying. I like to think that God took over, because what I did next is something I would never think to do on my own.
I grasped him by the head and with a quick snap of my wrist I broke his neck. Except for a few transitory little jerks, he went still instantly. I was standing there with blood all over my hands, sobbing, and now I had to go inside and comfort my daughter. I hid the kitten until I could go out later alone and dispose of it.
I found her sitting in a kitchen chair, the trash can at her side. She was physically ill from what she had done.
"It's okay, baby, it's over, he's gone."
"How! How?" She stopped as her gorge rose and she retched and had to get it under control again. "What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything darlin'. He just died. The moment I took him outside. It was very quick, he didn't suffer." I was sick with my lie, but I couldn't let on. I could not tell her that the kitten could have lived for hours as he was. I could not tell her that I was capable of such an act. I felt as guilty as she did.
I spent the rest of the day consoling her. She cried all day long. I was dealing with some very tough emotions but I had to shove them aside. I was very angry with her for allowing this to happen, but I also had to realize that she never would have done anything like that on purpose, so it was my job to help her through this with as little scarring as possible. Some of our biggest lessons as kids are learned the hard way. She had just learned one of the biggest. You can tell someone how not to be careless, but it will never have the impact that actually being careless and having to view the results first hand and face first will have.
Nothing I could have said or done could have made her feel any worse. I will never forget the feeling of that little kitten going limp in my hands, nor the look on my daughter's face. We have never talked about Ozzie again. I think Jenny has pushed that memory way back in the dark little corner of her mind where we all hide those little memories that we want to escape from, and I sure as he11 am not going to bring it up.