The #Kitten El #Gatito
A lady who was a client of his establishment for the care of her cat came in one day, with tears in her eyes and a small ball of fur curled up in her hands. She stood by the counter, which is sometimes used as a reception desk, trembling, her lips quivering, and tears running down her cheeks.
As he walked into the ‘reception’ room of his clinic, she held up her hands as if she were making an offering, slowly unwrapping her hands to My Medico Veterinario Mexicano, revealing a tiny, lifeless ball of a kitten curled up in the palm of one hand. They both gazed at the mauled kitten, skull bear of skin, fur bloodied, coiled up, eyes tight shut, as if in eternal sleep.
Clearing her throat, she muttered to him, “I found this kitten late yesterday afternoon as I was out for a walk. It was beside the sidewalk in some grass, just like this. It has hardly moved since. Sometimes, I think it is dead.”
She thrust the tiny-as-a-mouse kitten towards the veterinarian, who instinctively opened his palms to it. He examined it quickly.
He said to her, “Do you know what you have brought me? This animal is a newborn. Already it has been mauled by something. There is no skin on its face. The blood and exposed flesh are drying out. It is struggling to take every breath.”
She repeated, “I found this little animal. It is struggling to maintain its life. I thought you could repair it, give it it’s life back.”
“Madame,” he was quick to reply, “Here in Mexico, it is impossible for me to look after all the strays that run into trouble. I am too poor and ill-equipped to do that.”
“Well, Sir,” she pleaded, “I will pay for it, if you can save its life.”
“And, then,” he asked, “Will you take it to live with you as your pet?”
She stepped back as if she had been accosted. “Absolutely not.”
“Then, there is no use my expending any effort on this animal. To put it back onto the street without anyone to love and care and nurture it. It makes a mockery of your goodness.”
Both stood motionless as each thought about the distance between them. She resumed her argument, “But, I will pay you for the care you give it, whether it lives or not.”
His tongue licked his dry lips, then he spoke, while looking at the corner of the counter. “I cannot do this, simply to save its life. I need to know that it has a life after this.”
“Then, would you put it to sleep, take it out of its miserable life..” It was almost a command.
Without hesitation he responded, “No. As a veterinarian my profession is to save the lives of my patients, not to be the harbinger of death.”
The silence was interrupted solely by the deafening noise of the street outside. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, staring at the almost lifeless form which he still cradled in his hands. The little skull showing through the dried fur that had so roughly been torn from it. Then her gaze fell to her well-shoed feet.
Without looking up at him, she squeaked, “I will take the kitten, if you can save it. I will pay you for whatever care you think is necessary.”
My Medico Veterinario Mexicano took the little life with him into the next room where he did surgery. He performed rudimentary tests and determined that the kitten could not see, could not meow, and, could not hear. All it was capable of was breathing. Occasionally, it licked its drying lips. With a small plastic needle he provided it with liquid nourishment, a herbal blend of sustenance. In its gesture of appreciation its tongue stretched out and over its mangled nose.
He placed in a small foam plastic sandwich container lined with a cloth. Again and again, during the day he fed it in this way. He coddled its skull with peeled aloe vera leaves.
By nightfall, as he was closing the doors of his practise, he nodded to himself that the skull, the skin and the nose showed signs of life.
Early the next morning he performed reconstructive surgery on it tiny face, suturing the skin into place, and, correcting as best he could, its nose. It remained still and unmoving in its container.
The lady returned that morning, and he showed her the small ball of fur. He encouraged her to hold the container in her lap and to talk to it, even to lightly pass a finger over it. He told her that she would become its mother.
She returned to visit the kitten every morning. By the end of the first week, she was stroking it gently with a finger, and it would stretch and yawn. Eyes closed. soundless.
My Medico spent afternoons tending to it, placing it on the floor, observing it while encouraging it to move, to play. The blind, deaf and dumb kitten shivered in fear at first. The Lady, too, observed the little animal, tears sometime streaming down her cheeks, as she saw it stretch like a cat it would become, and, begin to take steps this way and that, stumbling into a chair leg, or wall.
Before each feeding, the Medico would snap his fingers, hopeful that the tiny creature would respond to the noise. Each time he placed it on the floor, he placed it in the same place, facing the same direction. He could see that it had imprinted in its mind where things were, would run up to chair leg or the wall, but not collide with it.
She brought a small, soft ball for it. Instinctively it smelled curiously at it, then timorously reached out to paw at it, sending it to one corner of the room or the other. It turned its tiny head this way and that. It had no idea where. She continuously brought it back to the kitten.
It was the morning when he snapped his fingers and noticed the kitten face in the direction of the ‘snap’ that she, too, noticed the kitten following the ball, tilting its ears to listen to the ball. Soon, it was able to retrieve the ball for itself.
“The little creature has regained its hearing. It follows the ball by sound. It is amazing that it is able to select the sound it wishes to hear, and, to follow it.”
“Oh, poor little thing. It has sent the ball down the stairs, and, in following it tumbled down the first stair, crept to the edge, and waited.. When I brought them back, it took a while for it to chance moving again, fearful of something it did not know.”
Heads turned towards it one day when it issued a high pitched screech. It shook its head at its own sound, backing away from it.
It grew. The ball bounced over the steps, and, the kitten chased it with a leap akin to the jaguar. It had regained its sight.
“There,” said the Medico, “Your kitten is ready for you to take home.” He placed it in her hands.
“You give it to someone else. I cannot take it with me.”
He was stunned. His jaw tightened. His eyes glared. “That was not our agreement. You spent all that time nurturing this little creature, acting like its mother. Now, you reject it. Every morning this little animal was anxious to see you, to have you hold it in your hands, to play with the ball and you.”
She stuttered. “I simply cannot take it with me. There are too many things involved.” She looked at the big kitten eyes, big grey eyes with a twinkle in them.
“Madame, I cannot give it to someone else. No one knows or appreciates the things it has gone through but you. Your foundling. The care and the prayers you have given. I don’t understand. I do not understand how you can do this.”
A year later, about the same time of the year that she brought the kitten in to the Medico Veterinario. She stepped into the clinic, holding it affectionately in her arms. He was talking to a client when he noticed her. In her arms, she cuddled a feline creature with a crooked nose who gazed at her with all the appreciation possible.