And so the tale begins.... Angels_Unaware.
Death row. No other term more accurately described the Animal Control facility in this town. Physical conditions were bad, due to a tight budget and lack of on-staff veterinarian, but the shelter officers gently cared for their wards. Still, disease was as rampant as the roaches that sometimes crawled up the sides of the cages. In the end, a quiet needle with its death inducing solution was the best most could hope for.
Animal rescue was in its infancy in the town, and often swamped with creatures whose only crimes were being born. Luckily, some of the larger rescues from out of town really helped out. A nearby Siamese Rescue was one such rescue, and few Siamese met their end in our facility. Only the desperately injured and totally feral were ruled out, but even here exceptions were made.
One night in late winter I went down to the shelter to check for potential rescue cats. There wasn’t any in the main room that held the healthiest animals and dejectedly, I opened the door to sickbay at the back of the shelter. Here, the injured, sick, and dying creatures were kept until they could be gently put down. Most of the time, there was nothing I could do to help these little ones. Every once in a while though, a Siamese cat or kitten that wasn’t in too bad of shape was put in here. With proper diet and veterinary care, they would survive and be placed in loving homes. I owed it to them to at least check. I meant to just take a quick glance and get out of there fast. I meant to, but the Man upstairs had other plans that night.
In the upper most cage lay an enormous old flame point Siamese. He’d had a hard life, made obvious by the swollen, running eyes, torn ears, upper respiratory infection and massive gash in his back. “Hey fellow, how ya’ doing?” I asked, absently rubbing the shaggy head. He turned his head sideways as if to ponder my question. “You’re a big guy, looks like you’ve traveled a hard road.” He snuggled up to my hand and purred his response. Intrigued, I found myself inspecting the gaping wounds to see their extent. The eyes, ears, and upper respiratory infection could be treated. Hopefully his back injury could too. However, I knew that the visible wounds wouldn’t be the biggest problem. More likely than not, as an unneutered, older male with all of his injuries, Traveler would have Feline Leukemia (FeLeuk) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), both insidious diseases. A normal, healthy cat with proper care could live for years with these if they were kept indoors and not symptomatic. However, Traveler’s other illnesses and injuries would make his recovery almost impossible. Realistically, I knew that Traveler was probably dying of one of these. I closed his cage, quickly inspected the rest, and turned to leave. As I reached for the doorknob, I heard a patient meow calling me back. I turned back to see Traveler bump his head up against the cage bars asking for one final bit of attention. I walked back and petted him, “O.K. big fellow, I’ll ask.”
It was nearly closing time but I stopped to call the rescue from the back office. This struck me as odd since I always call from the front office, but I shrugged and tried to figure out how to get permission to pull Traveler. As the call went through, one of the officers came in carrying a cat in a crate. He set a card in front of me, one that seemed vaguely familiar. I peered through the shadows at the dark cage. The rescue gave me permission to pull Traveler, with the understanding that he had to be tested for both diseases. If both tests were negative, he would be accepted. As I hung up, my curiosity peaked, and I went to inspect the crate. Inside was the most exquisite little blue point Siamese kitten that I’d ever seen. His eyes showed signs of mild infection, but everything else seemed all right. As I petted him, the officer drew a syringe of something. This, too, made me pause. The facility ran out of kitten shots earlier in the week. Then it hit me. The card was a dead on arrival certificate. The officer was going to put this kitten down! A rapid exchange took place in which the officer told me that the kitten was too sick to live and he couldn’t bear to let it suffer. I explained that the kitten had a mild eye infection, which the rescue’s vet clinic would treat the next morning. He glanced from me to the kitten and back, then went to place a phone call. Upon his return, he told me to pick up the crate and take the kitten to rescue. I could pick up Traveler the next day. As I drove home, it occurred to me that if not for Traveler, Close Call would already be dead.
The rescue’s vet ran a health check on Close Call and pronounced him perfectly healthy except for a mild eye infection. Already thirteen families had filed requests to adopt him once his eyes healed and there was every indication that he would grow up into a well loved member of some lucky family. Then she went to examine Traveler.
He patiently sat on the examining table as she checked his wounds and drew blood for the FIV/FeLeuk test. The outlook wasn’t good. From time to time Traveler glanced over at the carrying crate holding Close Call as if to reassure himself that the kitten was safe, his work done. A short time later, the results were back. Traveler was dying of symptomatic Feline Leukemia. There was no hope for his recovery. I snuggled with him as the vet prepared to release him from this life. Traveler lay his head on my shoulder as I whispered my thanks for the life of Close Call. And as he closed his eyes the final time, I whispered another prayer of thanks for a flame point guardian angel kitty named Traveler.
Elizabeth Frisius [email@example.com]