Friday, August 20, 2010
I rescued my first animal today. I usually let strays be strays. Feral cat colonies are a fact of Brooklyn life but last night I met a little fella that made me unable to stand by and not do something.
It all started when I went to visit Sean at Vacation Island where he was recording an EP with Love as Laughter. We met at the Food Bazaar (Bushwick grocery/dreamland) and on the walk back to the studio he pointed out a community garden that he said was full of cats. At that moment a little tuxedo kitty came strutting out of the gate and walked right up to me and starting rubbing against my legs. I was all ready to go with it until I noticed what, in the darkness, looked like a big patch of mangey hairless skin on his tail. Fearing bringing some serious cat scabies back to the three who live at the house I pulled away from him, but he was intent on hanging out with me. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the lower half of his tail was withered and bent in a few places. This little guy had something wrong with him more than just some missing hair. I put a sad face on and sighed and walked into the studio with Sean.
I started talking about the friendly kitty with the fucked up tail and the other guys said they noticed him too. Matt, the proprietor of Vacation Island told me a story about befriending one of the strays who lived in the feral cat colony. He said a cat showed up with a bleeding head. He took it in and put a hot compress on it and named him Bill. Bill would come into the studio on the regular through a hole in some window somewhere. The one day Matt came to the studio and Bill was outside dead. He told me this story as a warning not to get too attached to any of the neighborhood strays because, well, they die.
Of course this had the opposite effect on me and it made me want to help the little kitty more. I texted a vet friend asking for advice on where I could take him. Sean and I left for a dinner break and as I walked by the kitty for the second time it ran up to me, rubbing against my legs, and I got a closer look at it's tail. There was an open sore, it looked like some of the skin was just plain missing.
I debated over dinner what to do. There was nothing I could do then and there, it was too big of a risk to take an untested street cat into our home who obviously was injured. I didn't want a flea outbreak or even worse, to expose our cats to the potential of Feline AIDS. To help him meant waking up early and going to Bushwick to try and track the kitty down and try and lure it into a carrier.
When we got home I looked up the websites and opening times of the places Dr. Jenn the vet had suggested. A final text from her offering to help in the morning if BARC couldn't take the kitty solidified my decision. I set my alarm for 9 am, got up and hopped on the B48 bus armed with a cat carrier, a bag of treats, and a can of wet food.
After about 20 minutes of poking around that block and the next without a kitty in sight I got discouraged, but at Sean's suggestion I put out the can of wet food trying to lure them out of hiding. I then took a little walk down the block to make myself scarce and lo and behold, when I returned three tiny kittens emerged from a trash pile. They must have been about 5 or 6 weeks old max. There were two little black ones and one grey one. The tiniest of the three, a black one, started gorging full force on the food swatting at any of his siblings that tried to get near. Occasionally he'd lift his head and survey the scene, his face and whiskers covered in food. Cute yes, but my injured friend, no. Eventually a fourth kitten appeared, this one a teeny tiny twin to my missing tuxedo.
It was almost 11 am and I had to be at the store a noon. At that point I knew I had to give up. All wasn't totally lost, I got to hang out with cute kittens at least. I called Sean to tell him I was done and while I was on the phone with him the injured tuxedo kitty finally emerged! It marched right up to me and as soon as I hung up the phone he crawled on my lap. It was at this point I saw the full damage that had been done to his tail. The bottom half was dead and dry, there was a place in the middle where the flesh underneath the skin was bright pink and visible. However the presence of this kitty mingling with 4 kittens threw me for a loop. Was this their young mother? Fuck! I couldn't very well separate them, could I? The wound looked severe enough where if I didn't do something death would separate them anyway. Thankfully I got ahold of my vet friend and she told me that as long as the kittens were eating wet food and had teeth that they could be separated. I lured the tuxedo very easily into the cat carrier with treats, but I couldn't take the sad stares of the tiny tuxedo twin kitten. The vet said it would be okay to try and round up the kittens too if I could fit any of them in the carrier, but as soon as the injured cat started trying to escape the teeny tiny kitten ran off scared.
I stood up, carrier in hand and prepared to bring the injured kitty to the shelter. I called ahead to make sure BARC could take the cat. The woman who answered the phone told me they were full. I figured since I'd already gotten the cat in the carrier that I should just bring it to the vet in the city and see what we could do shelter-wise from there. I had second thoughts though, everything was getting complicated and my workday was looming. Then, standing at the entrance to the Lorimer M train stop, I looked down into the cat carrier. The cat's tail had fallen off.
A little less than half of the cat's tail remained, and the final two inches of what remained was a bright pink bloody stump with a sickeningly white tip of bone at the end. The skin had slid off of it along with the dead remnants of the rest of the tail, now laying motionless and unattached in the carrier, a dead black thing, visibly hollow at the topmost portion.
Decision made, I climbed the stairs to the platform. While I was waiting I called Sean and told him what happened. My hands were shaking. When I got on the train a girl saw the carrier and her eyes lit up. "Ooh, kitty!" she excitedly cooed. "You don't want to look in there," I mumbled trying to shield the carrier's screen top from view. I think she caught a glimpse or maybe she was just weirded out. Either way she moved to the other end of the train.
From there the story pretty much mellows. I finally got to the vet and received some amazing help from Dr Jenn and the rest of the awesome staff at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital. They wrapped up his bloody stump. Yeah, that's right, it turned out not to be anyone's mother,just a friendly little male of about 8-10 months who kept the company of an adorable tribe of kittens. His tail injury was termed a "degloving" injury where the skin get separated from the flesh. Apparently this type of injury is not uncommon in strays thanks to their unfortunately habit of hiding in the underbelly of parked cars only to be seriously injured when the owner starts the vehicle. That is what most likely happened to little guy. The vets gave him some shots and after several refusals from many full animal shelters, they finally found a spot for him at Bideawee, a place where he could be surgically treated and sheltered for adoption all in one roof. I repacked him in his carrier and took him from Chelsea to 38th and 1st.
During the shelter intake they told me most of the scratches and scabs on him weren't from fleas but from fights with other cats. They said it looked like he got beat up pretty regularly by other cats in the colony. During intake they asked me if I wanted to name him so I dubbed him Wee-Bey, one of my favorite character names from The Wire, plus a nice play on the name of the only no-kill shelter that would open it's doors to him.
Then, in true asshole form, I didn't realize that they asked for a $40 donations for strays and having just checked my bank account and balance I couldn't afford to give (mama's got her own medical bills.) But I promise that I will write these good people a check as soon as my next pay period rolls around. I owe them.
His tail is going to be amputated on Monday and he'll probably be up on Petfinder by Tuesday, that is if my friends who are in the market for a tuxedo don't get him first. That's the story of little Wee-Bey's rescue, a good deed that turned scary but ended great.