Saturday, August 14, 2010

Not just a barn cat

On his examination report card from the veterinarian, his name was noted as "Barn cat."

On the invoice record when I paid for his euthanasia, he was simply known as "Stray Cat."

But he wasn't a stray and he was so much more than 'just' a barn cat. He was our Chris, my constant barnyard companion, and now he's gone.

We found him this afternoon about 10 feet away from the road. He was curled up and alert but his hind legs weren't working well and he was covering in slug goo. Fearing the worst but hoping for the best, I rushed him to the vet. Her face told me what I already knew before she gave me her prognosis: his back was broken. Some driver had hit him and failed to stop. And it's not like ours is a busy road.

As the vet talked about x-rays and neurologists and surgery and rehabilitation options, this massive surge of sadness opened up in me. Tears streamed down my face and dripped off my nose as I hung my head and said, "no."

"There's a third option," she said. I nodded.

During the time it took for the sedation to take effect before the final injection -- about 15 minutes -- I rubbed Chris and thanked him for all the great memories.

He was supposed to be an unsocialized barn cat, but he was never very good at that job.

He'd get locked in the hayloft, caught frogs instead of barn mice, got stuck in trees and was relentlessly bullied by the rooster. His meow was almost inaudible and he always needed a piggyback to the barn whenever it snowed, as he didn't like getting his feet wet.

But he was great at many things: snoozing on our deck, either underneath the hammock or on one of the kid's chairs, playing tag with the dog and befriending our other barn cat Gracie who before Chris, was too scared to leave the rafters. He napped under the bird feeders, paddled in the ponds and slept with the goats at night. The moment you stood still, he'd wind himself between your legs, arching his back, simply begging to be petted and loved. While his meow was but a squeak, his purr rivaled that of a lion.

He'd escort the kids to the school bus in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day. He was the first face I'd meet in the barn in the morning and as darkness fell, he'd wait at the front door of the house to walk back with me.

He was just a barn cat, but his absence leaves a huge hole at our farm.

He was just a barn cat, but already we miss him terribly.
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