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Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Tender Moment in the Valley…

Summer breathes its last...This morning I was pedaling earnestly along in the Valley, trying to make the Loop circuit before Gladys and I were drenched. We were homeward bound, rolling along the straight stretch of road by Willie Green’s Organic Farm when a little gray Toyota whizzed passed. I looked up just in time to see the young woman driver and her passenger, a dog of some medium-size Boxer breed. 

With rain thoughts paramount on my mind I continued on up the road. As usual I glanced up the Meuus’s driveway and wondered how they were doing. Son Tom must be back in school, this his senior year at Monroe High and is probably looking forward (no pun intended) to the Varsity basketball season and beyond that, graduation and college. No sign of activity there, and I turned my attention to the road ahead.

A couple hundred yards up the road I noticed a white something, what at first I thought to be a plastic shopping bag, lying in the road in the middle of the oncoming lane. Just a few yards more and I realized the white form was an animal. Since this stretch of road experiences heavy feline traffic—Deck’s numerous barn cats on the prowl—I was fairly certain the motionless form was a cat whose string of lives had just run out.

Of course we have all seen animal fatalities on the roads and highways, victims a veterinarian once told me of “Death by Goodyear.” Even though I’ve seen dead animals roadside—or centerline--countless times, I have yet to become callous, inured to their demise. Perhaps this is because of the numerous pets that have enriched my life or the fact that we presently own a housecat. For this reason I always experience a twinge of compassion—pet empathy, you might call it—whenever I pass the still form of a road kill. For some reason this feeling is heightened  for me during the winter months…something about death--the ultimate cold--lying on the shoulder stiffened with frost. Seems like an excess of Death’s cruelty. At the expense of seeming maudlin, I admit I also flashback twenty-four hours when the hapless corpse was a living, breathing, vital creature and wonder about its life, what it was doing then, not knowing its life numbered mere hours, minutes…seconds….

These were my thoughts as I approached the stilled form. Just then a small gray car approached, glided to a stop on the shoulder next to the cat. I recognized the same vehicle that had passed us moments before. The young woman got out, crossed to the body of the cat, and knelt next to it. I felt a brief wave of panic: what if the creature were still alive, badly injured…then what? We were within talking distance now, and I heard her ask: “ Do you know whose cat this is"? Does it belong here?” I blurted back, “Is it dead?” My question was answered almost immediately. To my surprise, she carefully lifted the cat from the pavement. I could see its body was stiff with death. She carried her little burden to the grass alongside a driveway and as tenderly as if it were a stillborn child, she laid it gently in the damp grass where its body would not be brutalized by traffic.

Hers was such a simple act, a gesture of decency and respect, and I wondered how many of her peers—or others for that matter--would have done the same thing, take the time to stop their car, turn around and return to the fallen animal. Then touch its dead body barehanded and lay it to rest with the dignity its little life deserved. Just a small thing, I know, but it warmed a dreary, drizzly day for me.

Her name is Blair, she tells me. We talk for a bit. She boards her horse at Cascade Meadows stables, was headed there to ride when she passed the dead kitty. I thank her for taking the time to do such a decent thing. But why wouldn’t she? Her Boxer dog in the car…on her way to ride her horse…obviously Blair loves animals—even dead cats.BlairNice people pass through our Valley. Kind people. Thanks again, Blair, for what you did this morning.   You made my day the better for it.

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