The black cat wanders in aimless circles, dazed, confused, as if in a delirium or drugged.
Gender unknown so the cat will be called a he. He drags his gimpy right front leg that looks to be broken. He is skin and bones. The vertebrae of his spine are discernible by the lightest palpation.
He wears the wounds of a cat fight. A piece of his right ear is missing and above his right eye is a bald patch swollen.
He spins, he just spins and stumbles in his circle.
The fur on his neck is ratty and clumped in a way suggestive of another animal’s jaws and saliva.
He is starving. I set a bowl of dry kibble before him. His head falls into it. A bowl of water is placed before him. He does not or cannot drink, even as I gently prod his nose into the cool liquid. His golden yellow eyes are bloodshot, dazed and delirious.
I could be an EMT or homicide detective. In human trauma crises, I’m calm, mentally unfettered by emotions and focused on what needs to be done. I could handle limbs torn off and bloody scenes. I wouldn’t like it but I’d get used to it. But an animal that’s suffering really tears me up. I can barely look. I can’t take a photograph.
“I’ll take him to the shelter,” I tell the neighbor who found the emaciated black cat limping in its circles in a yard not his home. After he is set in a towel-lined cat carrier and I’m about to leave, I suddenly remember that it’s a holiday and the shelter is closed.
They’re open for several hours only to receive strays. I wait outside at the receiving door at a cold and damp noontime. Finally a staff member appears. The black cat is very injured and there is no vet due to the holiday so the shelter woman directs me to a 24-hour emergency vet in the next town.
“Just hang on, just hang on,” I tell the suffering animal. “You’re safe now. We’re getting you to a hospital.” Through the ordeal, from being picked up and cuddled to put into a strange box to the car ride to handling, he never makes a sound.
I just hope he makes it to the hospital in time.
The woman at the emergency hospital asks where the cat was found. I respond, “Tacoma.” “We don’t accept animals from out-of-town,” she informs in a kind manner. “You’ll need to go to Tacoma’s animal shelter.”
“I did. They sent me here.”
The sick, traumatized and dying black cat is received.
He has no collar and whether he is microchipped remains to be discovered. Good Samaritan paperwork is completed and the cat is surrendered to their care.
Only God knows whether he will survive after he is assessed. A thank you to the good folk at the pet hospital who broke from policy and accepted him.
His or her name, to my imagination, is Joey. Because every domesticated cat without a home, crippled, sick and who may or may not make it deserves a name.
Joey: Be well, wherever your road now takes you.