Monday, March 14, 2011


My parents live out in the country and apparently at just the right distance that people want to drive when abandoning their pets. Over the years, we have adopted what we could and gave a cold shoulder to the rest as they continued into their new lives which almost always ends in death. My dog Ted which I have blogged about extensively is a good example of a pet that was dumped and that we adopted. I can also think of Trixie, Suzie and Polly as other dogs that we adopted. However scores more of dogs have been encouraged to continue on their journey.

Cats also get dumped but we pretty much have a survival of the fittest policy. Those that straggle up to our farmhouse generally get fed and those that don't eaten by coyotes. We do that for a couple reasons. Two many cats on the farm leads to diseases such as distemper and also we generally try to control the population by fixing them and so their is an expense factor involved. Currently we have three cats, Wild Man, Tiger Lady and Tough.

Last fall an entire litter of young kittens were dumped on the gravel road at the end of my parents driveway. Not needing or wanting the expense of six more cats, my mom did the responsible thing and called all the area animal shelters which as normal, were completely full and had waiting lists only. The six kittens were added to the list and five of the six were promptly eaten by coyotes that evening. The sixth cat had a little bit more street smarts and somehow made it down the long driveway to the house. My daughter instantly fell in love with the tiny kitten and when asked by my mom for a name, promptly called him Rat.

I loved the irony in calling a cat Rat and so despite my mom's protests, the name stuck and she eventually adopted the name too. That was back in October of last year. My daughter singled him out and would always play with Rat to the point of telling the other three to shoo whenever they came. Rat loved to follow her around and chase strings that she drug behind her as she ran around the farm. My daughter talked of Rat every time we told her we were going down to the farm and I encourage it since Rat was truly the first cat or dog that she has really wanted to play with and of whom was not scared a bit.

When the call came last week that Rat had met a tragic end as outdoor farm cats sometimes do, I wasn't sure how my daughter would handle the news. I knew she was old enough to understand death and needed to be told the truth and so we proceeded to have a conversation. When I broke the news, she started crying which was hard to see as it was possibly the first time I have seen her cry tears of genuine heartfelt sadness. Fortunately, they lasted only about thirty seconds before she started asking questions of how, why, what heaven was like, when will she go there, when will I go there, etc. I answered all as honestly as I could while keeping it all on an almost five year old level and assured her that death for both her and I was a long ways off. My daughter learned about mortality for the first time and though it is a shame that it happened so quickly, it had to happen sometime and I'm glad that it was a kitten down on the farm that she only saw occasionally and not someone or something more significant.

So for my daughter, God speed Rat. Thank you for the happy times you gave my daughter and thank you about life's lesson. For me, give a playful swat to a large reddish brown dog that goes by the name of Ted if you see him.


R. Sherman said...

We had the same problem. Over the years we adopted two dogs and about ten cats, at least, all of which lived outside. My dad liked to have the cats around for pest control purposes, but their lifespans were measured in months, given the the coyote population. Still, there seemed to be and endless supply from city dwellers dumping them on our road.

Eutychus2 said...

We lived in town and so we didn't experience the 'animal rescue' scene as you did, however I had many aunts and uncles who lived on farms in the area. My father, a generally very loving and gracious man, had a distemper when it came to cats for a variety of woodsman reasons and from time to time allowed cats to help him improve his aim before setting off into the woods.
At my father's funeral I asked my one uncle if he had ever figured out why from time to time the cat population on his farm seemed to take sudden drastic dips, especially around the squirrel or
rabbit hunting seasons ... then I told him the story and it brought cheerful tears to his eyes as we remembered my father.

sage said...

My daughter had a similar reaction when my cat (pre-marriage) died. I don't know why as the cat hated her and anyone under 5' tall, but she was all upset... I dread the day when our dog (who is now ten) passes on.

malor said...

the last paragraph gave me a teary eye and warmth in my heart. i am so dramatic but it is true...

Ron said...

Our daughter has seen a lot of death in her short life. It's good, I think, to accept that reality and make the most of every day.


geri said...

I've already had a death conversation with Evan some months ago, I don't what triggered it - most possibly him asking where Tom's dad was. This post made me really sad. I guess just the thought of those people abadoning those pets is sad. We adopted cat from a shelter and I would sometimes wonder what made his previous owners give such a beautiful creature away (although this cat does have some annoying habits). Poor Little Abbey it is heartbreaking. I remember my sister telling me over the phone how our first pet cat died and both of us had to fight back tears over the news, and we were in our early 20s! Well, I guess Rat would probably bump into ous Miming too =)