It Dawned on Me: Nine lives and counting upward


Dawn De Busk

Dawn De Busk

By Dawn De Busk

BN Columnist

Only its fur moved as the summer-time traffic passed by.

The black cat lay on the pavement of Route 11, near the road that takes me home.

Is that my cat, I said aloud. Wasn’t my cat alive and alert only 20 minutes ago? So, how could that be my cat? Still, the dead or dying cat looked like mine.

My brain stumbled across the reality of it being my cat. Then, all rationality disappeared. I was a crazy woman who parked her car sideways, blocking one lane of traffic — to protect the body of a cat, my daughter’s Christmas Eve cat.

By the time I got out of the car, I had started dry sobbing. I approached. I saw a fang that is frequently revealed over the top of her lower lip. I saw the tiny tuft of white fur on her belly. I saw no collar — same as mine. How can this be? In death, my cat seemed smaller. Her summer weight gain had vanished. Green eyes were open, but could no longer see.

It’s too late for a trip to the veterinarian.

I picked up the feline. Blood from the cat’s internal injuries dripped from its mouth to my dress. Another drop of blood splattered on my knee.

Gingerly, I placed the cat’s body in my vehicle. I was still mouthing the words, “That’s my cat,” as a concerned driver braked and made eye contact with me before continuing on.

My short ride home seemed long and tangled with emotions. The date was July 11, two days after my daughter’s 12th birthday.

As I drove, my single mantra was: This is NOT my cat. But, my real thoughts were like a pinball let loose in a machine with strobing lights and clanging bells. My brain followed the pinball’s crazy pattern of cause and effect, cause and effect.

EP dd48 Photo for column Nine Lives and counting upward copyI struggled with the “what next?” phase. How do I tell my daughter that her cat is dead. This was her birthday weekend, which would make it that much more painful.

For my daughter, Danielle, our household cat, Bugsy, had been a long-promised pet, one that we finally adopted in December 2013.

Bugsy — as she had been named by staff at the animal shelter — was a 4-year-old female. Her former owners must have treated her well. She had been spayed after having a litter of kittens and she was comfortable around humans. Bugsy was sweet and sure-footed.

Almost immediately, this new family member made our home, her home. After some time, Bugsy learned to relax during my daughter’s snuggle sessions, which include the cat being held in the air while Dani sings “And, her name is…John Cena!”

Easily, so many of my daughter’s secrets and middle school goings-on had been whispered to that cat.

Bugsy had bonded with each member of the family.

The cat trained my husband the best. She taught him to run the water in the sink for her. Whenever he stepped outside and the cat heard his voice, she would leave behind her hunting pursuits to be near him. We joked that Bugsy had a dog’s personality. Bugsy had traits similar to his dog, Willow, and my dog, Nina.

Now, a senseless thing had happened; and, once again, I was cut off from the living connection to my dog, to the dogs that were long ago buried. Even worse, the very reason for not adopting a pet had come true: They die too soon.

I parked the car. The pinball in my head stopped moving: What is happening cannot be real. Our cat cannot be dead.

“This is not my cat,” I repeated.

A dead cat lay on the floor behind the driver’s seat. My daughter and two of her friends were viewing the world from the treehouse.

I composed myself, giving a wave to the girls and going inside the house, where I scanned every room and called the cat’s name. She was nowhere to be found.

By the time I located my husband in the yard, the burden was too much for me. I motioned him to the car, and showed him the evidence that our cat had been run over.

He picked up the cat and placed it in the sand. We leaned our heads together and cried over the loss of Dani’s cat, our cat. Then, he took the cat’s body into the forest so that he could dig a hole and bury it.

I was an ear’s shot away from him when I noticed our Bugsy, sitting in the direct sun like a very-much-alive Sphinx. I have forgotten what words I said first, but I let him know our cat was alive.

Anyhow, Wayne welcomed Bugsy back from the dead and — with a much lighter heart, he finished burying the other cat. Around sunset that same day, we devised a cross and gave the black cat a quick eulogy.

Later in the week, my husband and I commented to each other that even though our cat was happy and healthy, the experience was emotionally taxing. Fortunately, Danielle was buffered from the pain of even thinking her cat had died.

If a person were to tell someone, I saw a dead cat and I thought it was mine, the response might be, “So what.” For me, it was sickening to go through that period of time, dealing with what could not be undone.

Later that July day, I sat on the sun-drenched deck with Bugsy lounging nearby. Sweet kitty stretched out a lazy paw toward a butterfly that was never intended to be prey.

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