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.


Chicken Mama said...

I'm SO sorry, friend. I was so happy to see a post from you (I know, I should talk), but I surely didn't want the post to be this one. :( I'm glad you were there with him at the end, and I'm super glad you & the family got to enjoy him while you had him!

And what I want to say about whomever hit him . . . well, suffice it to say that it's not for mixed company.

Sending a big hug! said...

Thanks so much, Chicken Mama. I didn't expect this to be my "I'm back" post either as I've got so much other good stuff to write about -- like ducklings and giant vegetables and good stuff in the kitchen. But I needed to vent and writing helps me find some closure, so there you have it.
Thanks for the kind words...

Annie*s Granny said...

Fiona, I'm so sorry. We come to love our little animals so much, it's terribly painful to lose them. It's especially hurtful when it happens through someone's careless actions and thoughtlessness. RIP, little Chris.

Susan said...

Fiona, I'm so sorry. We do have, unfortunately, linked misfortunes. Gigi was very much like Chris - not much of a barn cat but a good friend who was woven into my days. You're in my heart and thoughts.

Erin said...

I still remember you introducing Chris not so long ago with the story of him being "unsocialized", that gave me a chuckle, and I hope that is what will bring a smile to your face now that he is gone. Sorry you and the family are going through this. The one drawback to us animal lovers is that we will go through this many times in our comparably long lives. Feel good about the great life you gave that "stray/barn" cat Chris and give the kids a hug from us.

Heidi said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was a very lucky and much loved 'just a barn cat'.

Karen said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Chris. We had a similar situation happen on our patch very recently so I know your heartache. I hope your Chris was warmly welcomed into the Happy Hunting Grounds by our Jimmy.

Mama Pea said...

Oh, Fiona, so sorry to hear you lost your beloved little cat. But I'm glad you found him and put him out of his misery. So much better than if he had had to die a much slower, painful death.

When we lived in Illinois we had a couple of good barn cats. One was K.R. (short for Killer, the fantastic mouser). I was working out in the front yard one day when I noticed him coming home from the field across the road. Just as he was about to cross, a pickup truck came barreling down the road. I ran to the road both yelling at K.R. to "stay" and waving my arms at the pickup truck while pointing at the cat. The guy never slowed down . . . and ran over K.R. He wasn't dead but severely crushed. Hubby was home so he had to put K.R. out of his misery.

It's never easy to lose any animal in our care whether it be a weak chick or bigger grown one that we've become attached to. So sorry you had to go through this. Sending love and hugs.

Krista said...

Chris was very lucky to have found a loving home, with someone who cared enough to love him to the end. So sorry.

Thistledog said...

I am chiming in quite late, but wanted to say that post was really a beautiful tribute to your dear companion and I'm struggling to write through tears, as it should be.

These creatures that share our lives add such depth of awareness to our human condition; how can we ever repay the Creator for such gifts? That they cannot last as long as we do is the painful part, but my heart knows we grow spiritually every time we send one across the river ahead of us; it is a lesson in how to live and die well, should we care to hear it.

It is good to know that your writing about Chris helped you vent and gave you some closure, and we all benefitted from your post. My sympathies to you and your family, take care,

Kay said...

Wow, everyone. Thank you so, so, so very much for taking the time to read about Chris, leave a comment and in some cases, share your own stories. I'm humbled and moved by your kind words and compassion. Truly.

Deanna said...

Fiona, I am so sorry about Chris. I just discovered your blog today and my sadness for your loss is huge. I have lost many cats, one in this exact same way, and I know the pain.
However, they bring so much joy and pleasure and love into our lives that we cannot live without them.
Praying for your healing.

Amy L. said...

I'm sorry. What a lovely tribute to beloved Chris.

Janice Power said...

Fiona, I haven't read your page for quite some time and I found this blog today as I was catching up. I was very sad and fighting back tears reading about Chris. I remember him well from that one visit and I don't particularly usually pay attention to cats much. He was special and very sweet. So very sad that happened to him , but it was fortunate you found him and was able to give him the love he so richly deserved when he needed it most. Hugs.

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