The old gentleman walked slowly into the veterinary examining room and laid the small bundle on the table. He drew back a cloth fold to show me the tiny, lifeless body hidden inside.
 

"I got here as quickly as I could," he said sadly. "I found it in the ditch in front of my apartment building. It was still breathing when I picked it up, but I don't know now ... I think it died on the car ride over here." The man's chin trembled as he studied the kitten. "You know, I always liked cats. Can't have one where I live now. I just couldn't leave it there to die alone. I really don't know what I was thinking when I picked it up, I just felt sorry for it. I can't afford to take care of it, and my landlord has a no pets policy."

I know the feeling all too well. Sometimes being a Good Samaritan to our animal friends can be a costly and disheartening experience despite our best intentions. If the kitten had lived, it would not have had a home after its recovery. The best I could do for the old man was to assure him that he had done his best. It was a small comfort to offer.

I said that I would take care of burying the little patient for him, and he seemed relieved. When he asked how much he owed, I waved a hand and told him, "Not a thing. We're just sorry we couldn't do something for it." Normally there is a burial fee, but I felt that we could ignore it this time. This gentleman didn't seem to have funds to spare, and it was such a tiny little thing to bury, anyway. He shook my hand and turned away sadly. After he left, I realized he hadn't even told me his name.

I turned back to the kitten lying on the table and felt a regret that its young life had been cut short. It was a black and white kitten, not even old enough to be weaned. Its frail body was very thin. As I touched it, I could feel the delicate skeletal structure. Its eyes and nose were matted. It probably had a respiratory infection that it couldn't overcome.

Then it gasped.

I stared in surprise for a moment, then hurried to alert the veterinarian. He laid his stethoscope across the rib cage and listened, then murmured, "This kitten's not dead yet. We still have a chance." The room was suddenly alive with a flurry of movement. Everyone was busy at once, setting up a recovery room and working on the limp patient. It was wrapped in warm towels from the dryer. Injections were given and fluids started.

Several times that day I went back to the intensive care cage and checked on the tiny patient. It seemed to be at death's door. The breathing was rough and ragged, and it lay on its side without movement. But leaning over it, I could hear a faint purr as I stroked its head.

Unable to sleep that night, I thought about the tiny kitten. Would it survive? What would become of it? Who would pay the mounting veterinary bill in the end? One thing I knew for sure -- trying to save it was the right thing to do.

Anxious to know the kitten's fate, I hurried to work the next morning. I peered into the recovery cage to see two small eyes staring back at me. The kitten stood up took a few baby steps towards me.

"Hey there, sweetie! You're looking much brighter today!" My heart swelled with relief and happiness. My little friend just might make it, after all. I rushed to open a can of the special diet we keep for invalid animals and waved a spoonful under its nose. The kitten attacked the food with gusto. Finally, with its rounded tummy full, it curled up for a nap.

The veterinarian checked the patient during his rounds, and pronounced it much improved over the day before. He also told me that my new cat was a little female.

"Oh, no, I can't keep her," I said sadly. "I already have four cats and that's really too many for me. But I think I can find her a good home." But can I really, I wondered? Not just any home would do.

Over the next few days the kitten continued to improve. Her matted eyes turned a clear green colour. A flea bath made her hair coat shiny and soft. The special diet was changed to kitten food and she began to put on weight. It wasn't long before her recovery cage was full of catnip toys and a stuffed puppy, all courtesy of my cheque book. I began to think of names, and finally decided on Paige.

A small voice in my head whispered, "You know what they say? If you name them, they're yours. And you know you want her." I tried not to listen.

Often during the day, I would stop by for a snuggle. Paige would work her way up under my chin and purr, happy and content to be held and loved. That insistent little voice said, "Four cats aren't too many. And besides, this is such a tiny one. How much trouble could one more little cat be? You know you can make it work."

One day I opened her door, and Paige sprang through the air and landed in my arms. The purring was loud as she snuggled close. The vet tech said with a smile, "You know, I think she's chosen you. You just got yourself a new cat."

I turned around to protest, then stopped. I had to be honest. I very much wanted this precious kitten. And obviously, she wanted me, too. With a sense of relief, I admitted that Paige now had a home. And that stubborn small voice whispered, "Told you so!"

by Pamela Jenkins

 

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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