Saturday, May 25, 2013

For the Love of Rigatoni

One of the good things about residing in the city is that up until recently, my children have been mostly unfamiliar with pet injury and death.
I count this in the "good" column because I seem to be raising sensitive sorts -- children who name bugs and birds and chipmunks -- who create extensive traps, only so they can love the critters to death.
I was this same type of child, chasing the feral barn cats, knowing that with enough time and attention, they would surely want to wear doll clothes and be pushed in a stroller.
I approached this process each and every time with patience until the panic set in. There was panic, of course, because I believed that cats only lived for three years.
I think I thought this true this until at least middle school.
"This is Mr. Tubbs," my hip, new friend, with her Z. Cavaricci jeans would tell me during my first visit to her house. "He'll 18."
"You mean 18 months, right?" I asked puzzled.
Poor thing -- his life already half-way over.
When you live in the country, you become more accustomed to early pet death and destruction. Mother cats shun their young, and push them off of the garage deep-freeze where they were born. Dogs get hit by trucks.
It's the nature of things, your parents tell you.
My grandpa, the country vet, was a very caring animal lover, and yet, he was pragmatic. He could console widows and comfort children, but he didn't sugar-coat anything but his morning grapefruit.
When I got a dwarf flopped eared bunny early in high school, and it peed on my lap repeatedly, I took this as a sign of affection -- he felt comfortable.
"Or he just had to empty his bladder," my grandfather told me.
Still, he loved animals. My whole family loves animals, up until they get eaten by other animals or disappear into the woods.
And so Friday morning, when my husband called me downstairs, and I could hear in his voice that something was wrong, it hit me hard to see our sweet micro-cat Rigatoni tucked into his arms.
"She was outside," he said, and before I could utter the obvious -- that she isn't an outside cat, he added "and she doesn't look good."
She looked terrible, really -- I could see that even without my contacts in. Her face bloody, her eyes gooey, her whole head swollen. She wasn't breathing well.
He rushed her to the vet, and I called to say they were on their way.
The words fell out, and at the end, I choked on, "she's my son's."
Owen rescued Riggs from a dumpster 3 years ago. She was living on coffee ground and green lunch meat. She was so sick that when you lifted her, poo dripped out of her hind end. The vet classified it as a "public health concern," and she had to be hospitalized and given IV antibiotics.
But she bounced back. She never grew from that point, though -- frozen in time as an 3-month-old kitten, with two little teeth missing in the front.
We don't know what happened to Riggs Thursday night. We don't even know how she got out.
As I write this, we know she has head trauma.
Coming on the heels of losing our first chick to a dog, the past few weeks have been filled with a lot of pet crisis.
My poor kids, part of a family of animal-loving city folks, never knew this kind of despair. A few times we've flushed fish.
And so I'm worried about Riggs, of course. But I'm worried more about our children.
I know that either way, our family will be OK. But the more I try to channel my grandfather's pragmatism in the face of what could happen, the more I realize that that type of acceptance comes after seeing death too much.
It's a farmer's perspective, and I wonder if I'll ever get there.
I wonder if I ever want to.

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