This is a story of a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of how some encounters are simply meant to be.
This is a story of the perseverance of the feline spirit.
This is Eva’s story.
Guest post by Renee L. Austin
Second chances are hard to come by, especially when the crazy pace of life can cause us to miss the fact that there was an initial opportunity to begin with. And when there is a chance to change a life, one’s own or someone else’s, a second chance is even more precious – particularly when that life hangs in the balance…
I’d seen her at least a week, maybe two weeks earlier, climbing an embankment on the side of the road. Even though there were no houses or barns nearby, the collar she was wearing stood out, and with some degree of relief I gave her just a fleeting thought. I was in a bit of hurry and traveling the back dirt roads. Well, by December they’re usually treacherously slick and muddy narrow lanes flanked by the dull browns and grays of winter. I have no business using them when they are so bad, but haste often overcomes common sense.
The next time I came upon her was in an even more remote area. She was wandering ahead of me up the middle of the road through the freezing rain. She was so un-cat-like; helpless looking and forlorn, head down, shoulders slumped, plodding through mud the consistency of pudding. She seemed totally unconcerned with my car pulling up behind her and barely glanced over her shoulder before slightly quickening her pace. Dejection and misery radiated from the little body.
When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts. She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel. Before I even got us turned around we were both covered in the mud she’d carried in with her. The inside of the car was a mess, too. And there I was, late-late-late, headed back to the house with a stray tortoiseshell cat loose in my car with cautionary thoughts churning of rabies, crazed tortie attacks, and wondering how I was going to explain this one to the folks at the emergency room. She rode standing in my lap, shivering and smelling of cold, wet earth and winter, front legs wrapped tightly around my neck, face pressed hard against my cheek. It turned out that my biggest concern was being able to keep the car on the road while trying to see around her head.
It was much later that night after I’d returned and had time to really study her, that I understood just how close she must have been to the end – that she already must have decided there would be no more chances. For however long she’d been on her own, and whatever had sustained her thus far, those resources and energy stores were gone. She was spent. Clearly there was no longer any expectation of help. Hope had faded and simply ceased to exist.
I remember looking down at her and thinking ‘no room at the inn’. We do have a full house, and I’d been waffling back and forth between frustration and acceptance over the rate and circumstances at which the fur-footed population was increasing here. Not only that, but I’ve been so slow to heal after losing my two special friends, each my heart and my soul. Sometimes it’s just too hard to find space for others amidst the broken pieces. In that moment I tried to close myself off even more, and then the little gray cat looked back up at me, stumbling and losing her balance in her weakened state. The drawn face filled with anxiety, showed all of the uncertainty and desperation she’d been carrying-for who knows how long.
It’s been a year now, and this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door – when she’s not off raiding the kitchen. She could stand to lose a pound, maybe a bit more, but that’s something we’ll deal with much later. Her enthusiasm for all food is rooted, I’m certain, in her having been so near starvation when I picked her up.
Eva walks with an awkward waddle as she follows me whenever I move throughout the house. Her back, neck, and hip problems are always apparent-even more so-when she first awakens and tries to work the stiffness from her sore joints and muscles. The chronic cough from a heartworm infection sometimes wakes us all in the night. These things don’t seem to prevent her from playing by herself in my office while I work, or from efficiently devouring the contents of my plate if I look away for even a moment, or from applying teeth and nails if I decide too soon that she needs to get down. She is a happy cat – as long as things go her way.
Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no hope. Just hunger and cold and loneliness, and a hopeless fading day by day. And then I marvel at how, with my crazy schedule and ever changing routes, there could have been the teensiest possibility in all of the minutes and hours and days and miles, of coming upon Eva a second time.
A couple weeks ago I was driving the back way through the rain and gloom and saw a gray form moving up an embankment. I kept going and then stopped, backing carefully until I was even with a little gray tortie cat. She wanted nothing to do with me, but as I drove away and worried that she might just simply be frightened and still in need, I realized that I had at least stopped for that first opportunity. I tucked my own concern away, and have not been back through there since. Some things are meant to be, some things are not. You can’t be sure until it happens, or doesn’t happen. The latter is the tricky part, isn’t it?
One thing I do know is that we have to be willing to stop and back up for a moment-and keep our hearts open, even if there’s only just a tiny bit of space among the pieces.
Editor’s note: Eva passed away in September 2014.
Renee Austin is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service. Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more. For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.