Today is Halloween, which means the last day of my Halloween-themed posts. (Except for Christmas-time, but that’s another tale.) Fret not; I will continue to cover the weird, freaky stuff of our planet.
I wanted to make this last October post somethin’ special, a razzmatazz of rollickin’ rowdy writin’. I wracked my brain all week and all today, searching for the right whatever. I already covered, briefly, the origin of Halloween. Did a fair bit on serial killers. I even blogged about sharks and James Dean’s car.
I came up empty, though.
Disgruntled, I watched Food Network. Then it hit me. Chopped wasn’t on, but when it was, they had Halloween themes. The competitors had to cook black chicken, and chicken feet, and other wacky stuff. And the Chopped logo, when they cut away to commercials, had a black cat running across it.
I would blog about black cats. Why they are associated with witches, why they are bad luck, etcetera. I was settling in for an hour or so of research when my own black cat, Smudge, hopped on my lap. She bumped my hand so I’d pet her head. And I lost the desire to read about the shit cats have had to put up with through the centuries.
I chose a different type of horror post for today: How I came to adopt Smudge. I didn’t get her on Halloween, but the tale is scary, nonetheless.
It was a week before Memorial Day, 2010. My ex-husband, who at the time was not my ex, was employed with the Department of Transportation, and that particular hot day, he was part of a crew sent to the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Port Arthur. (Need to add that I briefly told the story of Smudge in a past post, but I got the name of the bridge wrong. I said it was the Rainbow Bridge, which is the bridge that runs parallel to Veterans. The traffic only runs one way on each bridge, so that is why there are two. I confuse them a lot. Do not take directions from me. You will regret it.)
I don’t recall what bridge stuff they had to do; they had a couple of work trucks out there, so I assume checking to see if anything needed repairing. Ex was sitting in the driver’s seat of his pickup when he happened to glance in the rearview just as a car passed his truck. Ex saw what he first thought was a small piece of rubber from a tire of the passing car bouncing along the narrow shoulder of the bridge toward his truck. Then the small piece of rubber stopped bouncing and got to its feet. It was a tiny black kitten.
Ex got out of his truck and the kitten scrammed across to the opposite side of the bridge. Fortunately, traffic was light. He and the rest of the crew chased the terrified little cat until finally, one of them caught it by the scruff. (All those burly guys–and one burly woman–running around in hard hats and orange vests after this tiny cat . . . it always makes me smile.) They put the kitten in a plastic pipe, as they had no AC in the trucks and no other way to contain it. It was, as can be expected, freaked out.
Ex called me 15 minutes before my lunch break was over. Back then, I worked for a veterinary clinic. He told me what had happened, and asked if I could pick the cat up. He couldn’t leave, not for another 3 hours, and it was hot out there. I said I couldn’t; it would take me about an hour just to get there, but I told him I’d call my dad and see what he could do. My dad’s retired, and a cat lover. Bonus bonus.
The future Smudge’s luck continued that day: I literally caught my dad as he was walking in the door. He and my mom had just gotten back from cruising on their boat. I explained things to him, and he agreed to pick up the kitten and bring it to the vet.
Two and a half hours later, they carried in the 6 week-old kitten, wrapped in a beach towel that smelled strongly of coconut sunblock. The vet examined it–her–and, other than a broken hind leg and some road rash (there’s a spot on her hind leg where the hair still won’t grow), she was fine. Her tongue was poking out, and there was road rash on her jaw, but her jaw wasn’t broken. She just likes sticking out her tongue. She sometimes does it while she sleeps.
I badly wanted to believe that she had just hitched a ride aboard the car’s chassis and had fallen off. I got my last cat, Mackerel, that way. I saw her drop out from under a parked van in front of an Office Depot. Mackerel, though, had been covered in engine oil and grime and smelled like exhaust. The black kitten was clean and smelled like milk and pee. Someone had thrown her out of his or her car. I guess they were aiming for her to go over the bridge railing.
We did a test for feline leukemia and FIV (the feline equivalent of HIV). She came up clean. Ditto for parasites in the fecal test. She got her first kitten shots, and a cage in the back. I wrapped her up in the beach towel, bid farewell and thank-you to my parents, and checked in on her during the rest of the day. She didn’t seem interested in solid food, so I heated up some kitten formula in a bottle. She didn’t want to nurse it, but when I squeezed out a few drops, she lapped them up.
The vet didn’t want to put a cast on her leg until the next day; she wanted to give it a chance to swell, if it was going to. (It didn’t.) I took the kitten home in a carrier and fixed up the spare bedroom for her, some place she could chill out and not be bothered by my other 2 cats and dog. I even plugged in a night-light and turned off the overhead light. I checked in on her every hour, which didn’t exactly thrill her. The last time, about 9:30, before I went to bed, she was out of the carrier. When I opened the door, she took off and hid behind the futon and hissed when I reached to get her. I left her alone. At 2 the next morning, I woke to her meowing. She bolted when I came in with her bottle, and spat when I picked her up. She calmed down when she got a whiff of the formula, though.
I brought her in to work at 8 at that morning. The doc put her under (major heart-stopping moment for me; putting a little kitten under is risky, but holding her down so the cast could be applied would have been riskier) and put a soft cast on her leg. Befitting a black cat, the bandage color was orange.
It was two days before she stopped running every time I opened the door, and another three before she finally purred when I picked her up. She quickly learned to use the litter box and adjusted to her bulky cast. I fed her solid food after about 2 weeks–before that, it was kitten chow mixed with formula. I guess her jaw bothered her too much to crunch the chow.
Other than her cast, she was a normal, happy kitten.
I slowly introduced her to the others; short trips, about 10 minutes in length, four times a day for about a week, always supervised. At night, she had the run of the spare bedroom, and I was expected to get up at 2 or 3 in the morning to bring her food.
I lengthened the trips out of the bedroom. Mackerel, to my surprise, loved her.
She’s the sweetest-natured cat I’ve ever had; a ying to Mackerel’s moody, hissing yang. She’s not fond of strangers, however, and most of my friends have never seen her in the flesh. Can’t say I blame her.
(there’s a blog here on WordPress dealing with rescuing black cats. check it out: http://blackcatrescue.wordpress.com/ )