Dances With Tabby: Woman’s Jouney to Save Battered Street Cat
Written by Lynnea Benson, Artistic Director of The Frog & Peach Theatre Co
One November evening as I was coming home from work, I noticed a big feline hanging around our building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — he was hard to miss. Big and fast, he’d paused steps away from the street level entrance to our apartment. I wasn’t sure if he’d paused because he spotted prey or was responding to my soft “Well, hello!”
I immediately ran inside to pop open a can of tuna for him. He wouldn’t come close to the treat with me present, so after speaking softly to him for a moment or two, I went back inside. I peeked out a few moments later, and the tuna can had been licked clean.
I guess you could say that was our first date. With his speed and agility, beautiful black and gray stripes, giant feet and big head, he seemed healthy from a distance. But as we got to know each other better — me, talking love talk as he ate every evening, he, lingering a bit longer after meals to watch or listen to me, I could see that he was not in great shape. His bones were showing through his coat. Something was wrong with his left eye, and he’d received some kind of injury to his rear leg or hip. It was getting colder, and I resolved to catch this rascal.
It Was Not Easy To Catch Him
He didn’t make it easy for me. While I’d helped several cats find their way to safety and adoption, I wouldn’t have called myself a skilled rescuer. If they leap into your arms or walk in through the front door, is that a rescue? My vet, the beloved Dr. K, was long accustomed to saying, “what have you got for me this time?” when I cheerfully stormed his office at all hours, four-legger in tow.
But this New Guy was having none of it. For weeks he’d come every day, but was wise to my makeshift trap — a can of food in a carrier. I’d spot him waiting for me after work, and the food would disappear, but he would no longer dine with me present. I’d still speak softly as I set out the food (“Hey, Handsome!”), and we often found little gifts (dead things — the less said about that the better) by our door in the morning.
Then, for nearly two weeks, he disappeared, leaving my husband and I pretty distraught. I kept leaving the food out in the pet carrier until bedtime, hoping he’d show. But the food would be untouched. It was getting very cold out, and I worried about my big boy.
Maybe he’d found a home, or maybe he’d been poisoned or hit by a car. Maybe he was trapped somewhere, scared and hungry. I asked around the neighborhood, to no avail. Finally, one freezing night near Christmas, there was a ruckus outside in the carrier moments after I’d set it out. I’d sworn to myself that night would be the last time I’d put out food — I’d just about given up on My Guy.
But it sounded like a serious smack-down — growling, hissing, the carrier banging around — and I ran outside to see. Could it be My Guy?
“Hey!” Tufts of ripped-out fur drifted in the moonlight like snow. I never saw the other guy, but there he was! My Guy in the carrier, wheezing and growling, ready to take on all comers. I quickly secured the gate, cooing, “Hey! You came back! I’ve got you now! Hey, aren’t you a pretty boy?”
Actually, he was a mess. Dr. K was open until eight, and we booked it.
It Was Touch and Go
By the time we got him into the exam room, it looked like My Guy had fought his last battle — he was beaten up, exhausted and near death. He suffered from exposure, had a serious eye infection, a chest infection and some kind of run-in with a vehicle (or maybe a dog, or a cruel person) had left him with injuries to his mouth, broken ribs, and a huge abcess on his hip. He was so wormy and undernourished that Dr K wasn’t sure he could even sustain treatment. He needed round-the-clock emergency care for the short term; if he survived the worst of his problems, a long hospital stay seemed inevitable. We had to be prepared to lose him. “It might be best if you let him go right now.”
But Buck improved quickly. We visited him every day to talk to him, and the wonderful staff at Riverside Animal Hospital taught me how to treat his abcess using a q-tip soaked in medicine to scoot way up under the skin around the wound. It was very painful for him, and pretty gross for me, but Buck was just as manly as could be. He only protested the first time, taking a big chunk out of my finger with a valiant chomp of his injured jaw.
We noticed a little piece of his ear was missing — and as he’d arrived already neutered, we guessed he’d been marked by a neuter-and-release group as a kitten.
The Passage of Time Has Mellowed Buck
Now my big boy Buck is going on 10. He’s handsome, sleek and personable with cats, dogs and people. He spends his days surrounded by friends, has a very active social schedule, and wraps up his day with serious luxury, usually on the sofa for TV time or stretched out on the bed with a pal. He’s quite the Ladies’ Man — species not important.
He’s a good friend, and a very important part of our family. He greets us in the morning and when we come home from work. At dinnertime, he ‘asks’ me how my day was, and comforts me when I’m blue. He’s watched and helped as we’ve rescued other four-leggers over the years — some adopted into good homes through Dr K’s office, some Keepers –hard-luck cases like he once was.
I’d never had the opportunity to bring back somebody who was so close to losing his life. Even with Dr K’s generous special rates (for rescues), it was an expense for us at the time, but boy, was Buck ever worth it! I’ve never known a more loving, joyful, dependable soul in my life, and I urge everyone in a similar touch-and-go rescue situation to keep the faith. The life you save may enrich yours forever!
Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase