I had carefully lifted the kitten I found in my dog yard and hurried inside. I put the broken thing on a soft blanket in a carrier, and then I immediately dialed Older Daughter. I knew she was going by my house soon and that the first thing on the agenda when she got to work was a vet trip. This would be the quickest route to medical help. I told her it appeared that Miracle and Jack had severely hurt the kitten and that I was afraid its back was broken. There was no movement from the neck down. I was trying to catch my breath as I was attempting to describe the kitten's condition. Older Daughter told me to pinch the toes to see if I got a response. Nothing. She said it sounded bad and that she would be there very soon. When I got off the phone, I sat in the laundry room floor and stroked the sweet little gray body. He looked to be about three months old. Extremely thin. He was very cold and I knew he was probably in shock. I wasn't absolutely sure he would even live until Older Daughter could get him to the clinic. I put blankets on him and put my hands on his tiny body to warm him. He was just lying there on his side, eyes staring. His breathing was even and did not seem labored. I didn't know what that meant exactly. Was he slipping away? Was this shock? I wanted it to mean that he wasn't in terrible pain. As I sat there talking to him, I kept staring at that face. He seemed familiar. Wow. Then it dawned on me that he looked almost exactly like Winnie.
He lifted his head a couple of times to look at my face. As the long minutes ticked by, I felt his two front paws become warmer. I gently squeezed those toes. He pulled them back. Then I did the same thing with the two still-cold back paws. I felt a tiny movement in that right back leg. Oh. Maybe not a broken back? No response in the other leg. I checked my phone. Only ten minutes had gone by. It felt like much longer than that. I knew it would be another ten minutes before Older Daughter would arrive. I started feeling hope. I didn't want to. I continued to talk to this little darling. But my mind drifted. Where had this kitten come from? We live in such a rural area. The neighbors (quite a distance from us) don't have cats. There have been only a couple of times in all of these years that a cat strayed close to our home. Those were adult cats who were clearly on the move and had probably traveled long distances. But this little thing was way too young. How did he get here? How did he end up in MY yard of all places? Why would he have gotten into the dog yard? There was one question that I DID have an answer for – How did I find him in time? Well, that would be because of Rocky's alarm. I was so grateful for that. I looked at his face again. Good grief, he looked so much like Winnie! He was even the same age that she was when we found her.
His little back feet were starting to warm. It had been almost twenty minutes. I squeezed that back left leg again and felt a tiny little tug back. I could feel a wave of potential joy. I carefully lifted him off the blanket and he held the upper part of his body erect. I placed him on his four feet. He stood, but then wobbled. I cradled him and ran for a tiny bit of food. His state of awareness was sharpening. He was pencil thin so I knew he had to be hungry. I popped the top on the can and set it in front of him. I placed him on his feet a few inches from the can and he WALKED to the can. He collapsed when he got there, so I held him up while he ate about a quarter teaspoon of food. As all of this was happening, Older Daughter arrived. She found me in the laundry room and I told her all that had happened. She assessed for broken bones and possibly dislocated hips. She checked eyes and gums. Gums were as white as she'd ever seen. This could be the shock, but it was so bad that she suspected severe anemia, especially in light of how unbelievably thin he was.
We sat on the floor and Older Daughter said this – Look. He clearly doesn't have a broken back or even a broken leg. His hips aren't crushed. It's possible they are dislocated since he is really wobbly. But I'm not sure that isn't weakness associated with starvation. My opinion is that you should keep him here today and let him gain a bit of strength. If he goes with me, there will be so much stress – the ride, the clinic, the exam. Since he's willing to eat, you could give him multiple tiny meals and access to water and let him de-stress and rest. Then tonight we'll make some decisions. I would give him everything he could possibly need all throughout the day. I knew we weren't out of the woods, but we certainly weren't looking at euthanasia for a broken back. I was thrilled.
Older Daughter left. I got a big dog crate and set it up with a thick soft bed, litter box, and water. In the food dish I put a teaspoon of canned food. I had to hold him up as he inhaled it. Then I put him on his side and covered him up. He didn't move. We did this several more times throughout the day. He was interested in the food, but as the day progressed, it became more and more difficult to wake him for feedings. I started to fear that he was going to slip away. If starvation is severe enough, and organs have already started shutting down, death is a given. Had he arrived too late? I called in the afternoon and spoke to one of my favorite vets. You're doing the only thing that can be done at this point – she said. Just keep doing what you're doing. That evening, I sat out on the deck and looked up at the sky. Why did he end up here? How could he look SO much like Winnie? Would this be a repeat of Winnie's story – taking in a struggling little soul only to watch the light fade and disappear? And how could I already be this deeply in love? I had to try to brace for another ending like Winnie's. But I knew I was already too far gone . . .