Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Winston’s Story (Or “The Amazing and Miraculous Thing that Truly Happened to Us”) (PART 3)

I left the vet’s office broken hearted and on the verge of tears. The weight of it hit me all at once and I began cursing myself again for being the cause of it all. Winston was now likely going to die because I hadn’t taken her in for vaccinations when I should have—when I KNEW I should have. I’d also been the one to let her outside in the first place, leading directly to her being attacked and losing a major tooth. I also didn’t think it was at all likely that we would be able to find the cat that had attacked. My gut told me it had been a wild cat, but we’d still have to talk to all our neighbors to find out for sure and I didn’t relish having to do that—especially not the neighbors who live on the road just down the hill from our own, where there are many “Private Drive” and “No Trespassing” signs to be found.

I drove to the cardiologist’s office where Ashley was working and let her know what was going on. I explained the grim situation and then we stood in the parking lot hugging one another and feeling sorry for ourselves and for our cat. To me it seemed like the end of the line for Winston. What the hell were we really going to be able to do about this?

“And you’re sure you didn’t get her vaccinated since 2002?” Ashley asked.

I thought about this for a moment and had a sudden flash of what I hoped was brilliance. I knew that I’d taken Winston to the vet’s office twice since we’d moved to WV and I knew she’d received vaccination shots during the second visit. In my grief-addled mind it made sense to me that she must have had shots during the first visit too. I knew for a fact that the first visit had been in the summer of 2002 because my sister had been visiting us at the time and that’s when we’d raced Winston in ER-style for a seizure that turned out to have been a hairball. Maybe she got some shots then too. And if shots were given every two years, I must have taken her in for the second visit in 2004. Either the vet’s records were wrong or my memory was wrong. I was hoping on the former and thought I knew how to prove it.

The last time Winston had last been vaccinated, the vet had given us her vaccination tags, which I had laid on a shelf in our utility room since Winston didn’t have a collar. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know—I’m going to hell because my cat didn’t have a collar. She’s had a few, but kept losing them so we stopped buying them for her until she could prove herself a bit more responsible with her possessions.) So all I had to do was find those tags and see if they had a date on them. I told Ash of my thought, which she agreed sounded good. If true, it would solve all our problems.

I raced home and searched the utility room shelf. Lots of crap and spray cans to be found there, but no tags. I then spent half an hour turning the rest of the house upside down, looking in all the junk drawers and out of the way storage areas where I might have moved the tags, but they were nowhere to be found. By then it was approaching 5p, so I figured I’d better phone the vet before they closed and ask them what their records actually said in regard to the dates of our visits. The receptionist looked me up and said the first visit had indeed been in July of 2002, but Winston had not been vaccinated since her shots were still current from her vet in Charlotte. (See! I used to be responsible!) Our second visit to this vet, when she had been vaccinated last, had been in November of 2002. My brilliance was dashed and hope was again on the downslide.

After Ashley came home, we climbed into the car and went to go canvass the neighborhood. We started with the little dirt road down the hill from us where we thought it most likely the attacking cat had come from. We’d never met any of the people living there, but as we drove door to door they seemed nice enough, despite the “No Trespassing” signs.

At the first house, a high-school aged girl was home. She said that her family did own a cat, but it was old and gray and not sandy colored like the one we were looking for. Other houses further down the road either had no cats or much fluffier cats than the one on our mental wanted poster. One set of neighbors, though, suggested we go back to the first house, where they said a cat matching our description actually lived. Curious. Had the girl been lying to protect her cat? We’d not seen it, so we guessed it was possible.

Instead of stopping back by there immediately, we went home and gathered up the tufts of the other cat’s hair from the deck and from where they had blown onto the ground below. Just as I recalled, the fur we found was mostly sandy colored and medium-length. Some of the sandy fur had dark tips while other bits of it were sandy and gray, which again matched my memory of other colors within the sandy fur. With furball in hand, we returned to the first house and asked again about their cat.

“Here, let me show you,” the girl said. She fetched her cat for us to see. Its coloration was mostly gray, though there was a bit of sandy hair in there too. However, it was both enormously fluffy and enormously good-tempered. As we were leaving, the girl’s parents arrived. We told them that we were looking for a cat. Before we could even describe the cat in question, they described to us a cat that matched its description saying they had noticed it in the area. Unfortunately, they thought it was a stray.

Disheartened, we left and continued to go door to door on our own street. While there was much sympathy, we had no success and soon returned home.

Seeing that our kitty quarry was likely a stray, I began phoning all the farmers we know from church to ask them if they had any live-animal traps. Nope. Theirs were all Kill-Em-Dead traps. So at nearly 6:30 in the evening, it looked as though our chances of finding such a trap had passed.

“Try Lowes,” Ashley said.

Lowes? Why the heck would Lowes have live traps? They’re home improvement, not animal improvement. Still, at Ash’s further insistence, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to call. Turns out they did have live animal traps, one sized for catching raccoons and/or cats. We rushed right down to pick one up.

On the way to the car with our new purchase, Ashley said, “I really don’t see that cat coming back. There’s just no way that…” Her words dropped off as she realized what a complete bummer she was being. “Sorry. I shouldn’t say that. I should say that I really think we’ll catch it right away.”

“Damn straight,” I said. “We’ll catch it immediately. In fact, it’ll be waiting for us in the driveway when we come home. It’ll offer to help put the trap together, but won’t be able to stand waiting around, so it’ll just wedge itself in the box.”


Still, I knew she was probably right. Even if we caught a cat and not a raccoon, who was to say if it was the right cat? My memory of what the thing looked like, as viewed without my glasses, seemed murkier by the second. All I really knew was that it was big, sandy colored and blotchy. I’d seen its face, but couldn’t really remember it. My only real prayer of hope in this situation was that the cat would come back for a second round with Winston and would stumble upon the trap. This seemed a slim hope at best.


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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.