Last Breath - caution, this is a graphic tale.


“There’s another one,” my husband muttered. “Two dead cats.”
It had already been a long night, and the last thing I needed was to pull poor roadkill off the wet street. But I told myself there wasn’t an option not to. “Turn around and go back. I’ll get out and pull them off.”
My husband turned back, and stopped. The orange cat was easy to see; his guts were strewn out by his body. I pulled him off first, then headed toward the grey cat I could barely see.
I remember thinking no wonder someone hit him, he blends right in. And then to my horror, I realized he was still alive.
Immediately I rushed to his side. He was struggling to breathe, choking on blood. Headlights were already coming over the hill. I took off my leather jacket, and then picked him up. He struggled hard, but I managed to get him off the road just as an impatient driver went around our car and raced off down the street.
I petted the cat, not sure what to do. He’d been hit in the head severely, and was almost sure to die from internal bleeding. But there was no way I was leaving him alone to die, or possibly crawl back into the road to be hit again. Gingerly picking him up, I got back in the car with him. He struggled, crying out and trying to get on his feet. I comforted him, as my husband drove towards our vet’s office while simultaneously trying to call my mom, who hopefully could locate the vet’s emergency number for us.
I held the cat, talking to him gently, telling him he was a good cat and it was okay to let go. The ride was interminable. Blood was all over my hands. No one answered at my mom’s. The cat continued to choke and fight for breath, to struggle, trying to stand up. He meowed a few times awfully, then would relax back, still gasping. Tears were running down my face as I petted him, and tried to hold his head up with my hand, to help him breathe.
We made it to mom’s. By then the cat’s movements were slowing. My parents came out, but after they saw the cat they agreed he was dying. My husband went inside to try again to contact a vet, just in case.
I continued to pet the cat, told him I was sorry there wasn’t more I could do, and that he was safe. I told him I was sorry that I didn’t have anything to help his pain, or make his passing easier.
The cat struggled weakly a few more times, then tried to huddle close. I hugged him, wincing at the smell of blood and poop. He meowed again, then his back arched, and he cried one more time. And then he took his last breath and relaxed back limply.
I knew him for thirty minutes, give or take, but I’ll think about him the rest of my life. Neither cat had a collar. Yet cat wasn’t a stray; he was well-cared for, someone’s pet, maybe a friend of the orange cat we also pulled off. Maybe he got hit investigating his fallen friend. Maybe he was a housecat, recently escaped. I don’t know, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. I do say this to whomever hit him and didn’t go back to pull him off the road: there is a special place in hell for you. I wish for you to end life as the cat would have; badly injured, your last minutes terrified feeling many cars barely miss you, choking on blood and fighting to breathe before one comes along to finish you. And may there be no one like me to come along to save you from that fate.
Two cars did stop to ask if they could help, restoring my flagging faith in humanity. And I close by sending out this plea to you all: when you see an injured animal lying on the road, and can remove it safely, please, please do that. 99% of the time it will be dead, like countless ones I’ve pulled to the side of the road. But that 1% that isn't is what you do it for. I couldn’t save the cat – he was doomed from the start. But he didn’t have to take his last breath alone or unloved. That does matter.
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Published on December 01, 2012 07:37 Tags: last-breath-by-tara-fox-hall
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