Friday, October 28, 2011
Rifty the cat - 2nd of his 9 lives
I have too many unfinished stories. I better complete this one - where our cat, Rifty, yielded at least another of his nine lives. By then he must have been up to six or seven.
Rifty had failed to come in for his evening feed and to settle down in front of the fire.
It was late winter and freezing cold, with the weather blowing in from the west, puffy snow clouds passing over. Snow clouds billowing overhead are easy to spot, but it was too cold for snow. If it's going to do that, it suddenly warms up just a little beforehand.
It wasn't a night for a cat to be out, even one with the long soft fur Rifty had, but there was nothing that could be done about it. He'd have to take his chances. But it was a bitter one, with howling gusts of wind that rattle the flue and make you hope you built it well enough.
Another day went by, and the wind softened. The temperature rose a fraction and large flakes of snow floated down. Through the night the snow continued, on and off.
I don't know why it is, but if snow comes to the Tablelands, it often seems to be around full moon. Not always, I know, but on so many nights out there at Pangari, with moon and stars the only light in the blackness, a brilliant moon and a snowfall went together.
We could look out on our hills covered in trees on snowy nights, the scene lit up by moonlight, woolly clouds chasing each other across the sky, racing eastward to the coast. When the moon appeared between the clouds, and there was snow on the ground to reflect its light, everything stood out with great clarity. The two-dimensional silhouettes of trees on dark nights became 3D with the full moon. It was a picture almost worthy of a chocolate box.
Poor old Rifty was out there somewhere, alive or dead.
The next night was still, clear and freezing, promising a heavy frost after the snow. The moon remained in the sky a couple of hours after dawn on the third day of Rifty's disappearance, heavy frost still on the ground at 9 am, when he turned up at the door.
He was in a bad way. One of his legs had severe wounds, infected, with holes right through skin, muscle and tendons. He was exhausted and stank. Yet the fire was still in him. The leg bones seemed not to be broken. We got him to the vet straight away.
I had no doubt what had happened, even before the vet confirmed it. Maybe he had been hunting a rabbit on a neighbouring property, but he had sprung a rabbit trap.
He'd tried to fight his way out of it, then lay in what must have been ghastly pain, trapped for three days and nights by a cruelly wounded leg in the snow and sleet and wind, and finally the frost. I'd say that someone who came round inspecting his traps had discovered him lying there, had managed to release him, and Rifty had hobbled off.
You'll readily imagine the vet's treatment - clean up the wounds, x-ray the leg, stitches, antibiotics, bandages, and a return visit a day or two later to check progress.
Amazingly to me, in spite of the enormous damage to tissue and muscles, Rifty returned to a state where you wouldn't have known he had ever been injured. The fur grew back over the scars and it was if it had never happened. He walked normally.
This left an enduring mark on me. Even the worst of injuries may be fixed, with good treatment, determination and a bit of luck.
I think of it now, applied to myself, though I don't expect miracles. We fight with the weapons we have.
As to animal traps that work like rabbit and bear traps, I have always regarded them as abominations. Their cruelty is hideous. OK, I know if I depended on catching animals for my livelihood, and this worked more efficiently than anything else, I might get used to the daily round of finding an animal in terrible fear and pain, releasing it briefly and wringing its neck, but frankly, I don't want to lose the ability to empathise. I don't want to be able to rationalise it.
I try to imagine my leg clamped by the teeth of a bear trap, with no way of escape. The pain must be indescribable. Oddly enough, other illnesses more likely to kill you may not be near as painful as that of a healthy limb being torn apart by such a device.
I don't want to get used to that. Humans can and do, and that allows us to stretch the boundaries. It lets us condone torture and violence, and it's apathy like this that allows even the President of the USA to let it be used on other human beings. Those who inflict it may even enjoy it.
Call me a softie, but let's see how you go with a stint of your leg in a bear trap. If I wanted a rabbit, I'd take the .22 rifle, make sure I had it perfectly in the scope crosshairs, and that would be it. And yes, I do know that a rabbit trap might be a great investment for some living on the poverty line.
But humanity shouldn't be sacrificed for convenience when there are alternatives.
Anyway, on the third day, Rifty rose from the dead. Maybe his middle name should have been Jesus: no disrespect intended. I wonder what He would have thought of traps like these. I can imagine what Gandhi would have said.
Or poor old Rifty.