First Person / Life in the HOV lane
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All I wanted to do that Monday evening after work was go home and take it easy. As I drove north on I-279 in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane, I chatted with my 15-year-old daughter Olivia about dinner plans (perhaps Eat'n Park) and what homework she had to do that evening.
Then I saw the kitten. It was sitting on the side of the HOV lane. A small orange kitten.
What was a kitten doing next to the HOV lane? Could it be something else? A box? A trick of the eyes?
It was getting dark and maybe I just imagined that I saw a kitten. I had a moral dilemma -- I could drive away and wonder if I'd left a kitten to die or I could go back and see if it really was a kitten and then figure out what to do.
The HOV lane is no place to park a car and take a walk, and my daughter's safety was my primary concern. But I had to make sure. So we got off at the next exit and headed south toward Downtown and then got back on the northbound HOV.
Close to the place where I'd seen whatever I saw, I put on the hazard lights and drove slowly so that Olivia could look for the kitten. But I spotted it first and yelled, "There it is!" Olivia shouted, "Pull over, pull over!"
I drove about a quarter of a mile to a safer spot, ordered Olivia to stay in the car and ran back to look for the kitten.
I'm not a risk-taker or an adventure-seeker. Running down the HOV lane in high heels is not something on my bucket list.
The kitten was sitting on a box, crouched down and ready to run and I knew that I had one chance to scruff him and get him out of there.
I will always remember clutching this kitten to my chest and running into the dusk only to see my daughter coming to meet me so that she could carry it, like a baton in a relay, on the last leg of the journey to our car.
We took a risk and we got lucky. The kitten was lucky as well.
So what was a kitten doing in the HOV lane? This was the question that I asked myself for several days.
I don't think a kitten could have strolled up the ramp, so I had to conclude that someone left it there. This was not a happy thought.
In my work as an educator of child-welfare social workers I'm no longer as traumatized by the stories that I hear and witness in my research fieldwork as I once was. Children, the elderly and animals are often the victims of abuse and neglect. However, there was something about this that made me unbearably sad, and I began to doubt the goodness in the world.
Then something wonderful happened. My "help help, I have a kitten" email went viral. People called and sent emails and offered their homes. Others emailed me to say that they couldn't adopt the kitten but thanked me.
My vet gave us some free medicine and examined the kitten twice without an appointment. Total strangers offered to help and I realized that, yes, goodness does co-exist with evil and we don't have to sit alone and curse the darkness.
The reason that I'm writing this, though, is to ask you, please, don't abandon your animals. Do the humane and compassionate thing by trying to find a home or shelter for them.
Even if the animal may be euthanized, it will be done with compassion and respect. That is a far better fate than a life spent dodging cars and sadistic people, or being exposed to disease and starvation.
If you are experiencing short-term financial problems, many of the shelters and food pantries will assist you with food for your animals. We are fortunate to have several shelters in our region committed to the well-being of animals, as well as smaller nonprofit organizations with volunteers fostering animals in their homes.
I also can't emphasize enough the importance of spaying and neutering your animals. We are experiencing an unprecedented rise in animal overpopulation and it has stressed our shelters and foster care organizations to the limit. There are low- or no-cost spay/neuter programs available for you, often in your community, so that your cat or dog does not contribute to the problem.
Finally, if you can, adopt an animal, but please consider an older cat, dog or bunny. They often are surrendered due to family circumstances and make wonderful family pets. If you can't adopt, then volunteer at a shelter, foster an animal, collect blankets, food or toys, drop off a donation or attend a fundraiser. It does make a difference.
Our small orange roadside kitten -- called Sir CrapAlot, Napoleon and Lil' Dude (he has many names) -- will find a home because his story touched people. However, there are so many animals with back stories less dramatic but with the same message. They need a home.
First Published December 24, 2011 12:00 am