The message from Dawn popped up on my phone at 5:19 PM.
“I was just feeding one of my colonies and I came across a cat that has apparently been hit by a car. It was under a parked vehicle and the poor thing was crying and can barely move. There is an injury to his back end, but I can’t tell the extent. I am on my way to Timonium Animal Hospital with the cat now and I’m wondering if this cat would fall under Soft Side’s medical assistance program?”
Dawn is one of an army of volunteer angels who feed and care for the hundreds, if not thousands, of kitties that were either born or abandoned on the streets of Baltimore and left to fend for themselves. Although sometimes people will help her cover the expense by donating food, it’s not often anyone wants to underwrite medical care for animals that lurk in the shadows. For that reason, this past May, Show Your Soft Side set up a medical fund to help in those situations and ensure that just because humans have abandoned them, these kitties don’t have to suffer for lack of necessary medical care.
Our standard response is, “Fill out the submission form on our website and we’ll get right back to you right away.” Instead I opted for a shorter reply, “YES, the answer is yes. Just let me know who to call with a credit card number.”
“Oh God, thank you so much.”
While I was comfortable at home and in the process of preparing dinner, Dawn was sitting in the hospital’s reception area waiting for word on a cat that wasn’t hers and she’d only met a few hours ago. For me, the minutes dragged by – for Dawn, it must have felt like hours. In spite of my relative comfort, the waiting was knawing at me, so I finally picked up the phone and called Timonium Animal Hospital. “I’m calling from Show Your Soft Side about the kitty Dawn just brought in. We’ll cover his medical cost so please let me know what he needs.”
Dawn’s next message was a gut punch.
“It’s bad. They think the spinal cord is severed. They said it’s a girl and there is a chip! They are trying to track that down now. Oh God, I hope they find an owner, I don’t want to make any decision on this cat’s fate.”
Within moments, my phone rang. It was Dr. Gernhart who explained to me they were trying to find the owner, but in the interim needed to do radiographs and blood tests to figure out the extent of her injuries. I said, “Absolutely, we’ll cover them.”
The next time my phone rang, the news got worse.
“We found the owner, but he no longer wanted the cat, so he gave it away. The person he gave it to didn’t want it either, so they just abandoned it outside.”
On the heels of a handful of horrific days that had seen gunmen in two different cities mow down dozens of innocent people, a homeless cat I’d never met was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back and my eyes welled up with tears.
How is it that people can regard a living, breathing little being as something to toss out, like garbage, when it no longer appeals to them? Why is it that people like Dawn and Dr. Gernhart are left to pick up the pieces and provide some modicum of comfort to these innocent little creatures? This can’t be explained away by mental illness, lax gun laws or social media gone awry. This is just wanton disregard for the most vulnerable among us. And there’s no price to pay for their inhumanity.
All evening Dawn had dreaded the thought of having to make a decision on this kitty’s fate, but the decision was ultimately made for her. She named the kitty Angel and held her in her arms as it peacefully and painlessly crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A throw away cat that, in her final moments, was surrounded by the only two humans who had ever shown her any compassion – Dawn and Dr. Gernhart.
Dawn’s final message of the night came five hours after it all began.
“Damn, I’m sorry I was so emotional. I just left. I’m going home, having a drink and going to bed. I am so mad about people who don’t care right now that my head hurts.”
She didn’t have to tell me that her heart hurt, too. Even now, the next morning, mine still does. And for those who say, it’s just a cat, I’d like to end on Dr. Gernhart’s words.
“No this should not be something we get used to. And these things are not okay.”
Thank you to Dr. Gernhart and the staff at Timonium Animal Hospital. Not only did they jump through hoops to care for Angel, Dr. Gernhart donated her usual exam fee. And if you’d like to provide help for Baltimore’s forgotten kitties, you can follow Dawn and her Peninsula Colony on Facebook. Neither she, nor the other kitty angels who donate their time and resources on a daily basis to care for what this community discards, can do it alone.