I’m home again. Finally. Two weeks is a long time to be away, even when I’m away somewhere that I love.
We traveled all day yesterday to get back here. Up at 4:00 a.m., long drive down to St. Louis, long wait at the airport, long flight with two stops in Denver and Salt Lake City, then home sweet home at 8:00 at night. I was frazzled, exhausted, and shutting down hard. My cell phone went dead around 2:00 in the afternoon, so I didn’t pick up the two frantic voice mails left on it until after recharging around 9:30 p.m.
That was when I learned that Dane the mangy, rescue mutt, oh mighty predator of predators, attacked the neighbor’s sixteen year old cat Tinkerbell in the afternoon and mauled her pretty badly.
The first voice mail was from our daughter (voice trembling uncontrollably) telling me that the attack took place but everything seemed to be okay. Daughter was house-, dog-, and garden-sitting for us while we were gone. Daughter was overwhelmed by those additional duties on top of the five course load she’s carrying this semester at college and the thirty hour week she works as a waitress. Daughter couldn’t manage Dane’s afternoon walk so she called Sweet and Helpful Neighbor Lady across the street who cheerfully offered to help. But Daughter didn’t realize that Neighbor Lady had cats and made the mistake of taking Dane Cat-Hater over to her house off-leash. The rest, as they say, is now history.
The second voice mail was left about four hours after the first. It was from Neighbor Lady (voice also trembling uncontrollably) letting me know they were at the vet where they’d discovered that Tinkerbell was not okay at all. In fact, Tinkerbell had multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, and surgery on her was going to cost about $3,000. She was sobbing into the voice messaging center that they couldn’t afford it and, if we didn’t pay for it, they were going to have to put her down. I about shit. Then I told the hubster. He about shit, too.
Which is when I first noticed the interesting little voices piping up in my head, having a spirited referendum in there. The first voice (naturally) was Guilt.
I told you! I told you a thousand times. We should have made it a rule that he’s always on leash when he’s out of the house!
The next voice was Blame.
It’s the hubster! The hubster hates leashes! He refuses leashes! And how in the hell could Daughter not know that Neighbor Lady didn’t have cats? We’ve been neighbors for thirteen years for godsakes!
Then Wheedle and Cheat chimed in.
Y’knooooow…mentioned Wheedle. It must be close to an hour and a half since Neighbor Lady called.
Yeaaaaah, that’s right…seconded Cheat. I wonder…what-oh-what could have happened since then?
Do you think they may have already put her down? continued Wheedle. It would be so sad…
…so sad…echoed Cheat.
But it wouldn’t cost us nearly as much…suggested Wheedle.
It would save us a fortune! chimed Cheat.
It would put the cat out of its suffering, too…said Wheedle.
It would be a kindness, Cheat nodded his head emphatically.
Maybe…Wheedle tilted his head to one side and gazed up at the ceiling…we should just say we didn’t get the message and call in the morning?
How compassionate! Cheat agreed.
Compassionate? said Guilt much struck.
Can we really do that? said Blame perking up.
It was only after this exchange that Tattered Shred of Decency finally spoke up.
Oh, come on you guys, her voice was gentle but firm. Couldn’t you hear the anguish in Neighbor Lady’s voice? Tinkerbell is like her child. We can’t dump this off on her.
But we don’t even like cats, muttered Cheat.
Remember how Tinkerbell used to come in our backyard and shit in the pea gravel pathways? reminded Blame.
And y’knoooow…Wheedle slithered back into the conversation. Tinkerbell is a very, very old cat…
There was a significant pause here. It was a hurdle even for Tattered Shred but she powered up and managed to clear it.
Doesn’t matter, she finally crossed her arms over her chest. Neighbor Lady loves her and can’t bear the thought of losing her. Not like this. Don’t you remember all the times Neighbor Lady helped us when we were in a tight spot?
Has she ever, ever done anything to hurt us? Or anybody else for that matter?
And is the pain she’s in right now any fault of her own?
Four heads hung down in shame and wagged slowly back and forth.
So the hubster and I called her back. Neighbor Lady and Neighbor Hubster were still at the vet and Tinkerbell was still alive. Only somehow, during that hour and a half delay, the surgery’s cost had grown from $3,000 to $4,000. And by the time I actually talked to the front desk person to give her our credit card number, the upper estimate had mysteriously mushroomed to $5,000. I wasn’t sure what was going on but at that point I thought it wisest to let the clinic know we were capping the amount we’d pay at $4,000. Privately, the hubster, Tattered Shred, and I remained flexible about covering more, but we didn’t want the emergency clinic thinking we were patsies.
The final amount topped out at $3399.28 and we considered ourselves lucky. (Could that be what the clinic was trying to accomplish by raising the upper end?)
I’m not sure why it’s so much harder to be a good human being when large sums of money are involved, but it is. Thousands of dollars just hurts. Ow. However, the fact that Neighbor Lady is such a genuinely good and loving person made it a whole lot easier for me to step up to the plate and do the right thing.
Is goodness contagious then?
(Shittiness certainly is. I admit if the cat had belonged to the lady who lives behind us, the one who wanted to chop down our apple tree to keep a few apples from falling in her yard, the referendum in my head would have been longer and the outcome uncertain.)
It’s the old Golden Rule I guess. Be unto others as you would have them be unto you.
Only you know what? Neighbor Lady doesn’t have any strings attached where her be-unto is concerned. She’s not kind and decent because that’s how she wants to be treated in return. It’s just who she is. She’s a naturally stellar human being. Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever be that good a person but at least her influence helped raise me a little higher this time around. Maybe if I put a little effort into it there could be some kind of trickle down effect from all this. Next time I’m dealing with Apple Tree Hater, maybe I’ll strive to be a little more understanding and forgiving, too.
Maybe this incident could even morph into something that winds up improving our little part of the world. I owe it to Tinkerbell to at least try.
This morning, the hubster and I drove past a dead cat flung to the side of the road that had been hit and killed by a car. I felt the twinge of regret I always feel with roadkill and then heard the hubster mutter, That better not be our three thousand dollar cat. We looked at each other and started laughing as we realized that for the first time, for whatever time she has left, we’re now heavily invested in the welfare of a feline.
Could it get any stranger than that?
copyright 2010 Dia Osborn