Five years ago, I dashed home between errands to find that after ten days of failure, we’d trapped the cat.
I had almost exactly ten minutes to spare in my schedule, so I burned rubber to get the cat and the cage back to the animal shelter. She was bleeding from her paws from trying to claw her way out of the bars, and she kept yowling. I snapped the above picture because I didn’t know if she’d test positive for feline AIDS or FeLV and they’d put her to sleep before I ever saw her again. She howled in rage and terror the whole way there.
When the cat shelter volunteer unloaded her from the car, she said, “This was the best day of your life, the day you walked into that cage.”
Before I left I looked at the cat — bleeding, trembling, maybe about to be euhanized — and I couldn’t agree. She was fine outside, fine until she’d gotten injured. She’d survived for six months in a wildlife-filled, relatively car-free Swamp. She came when I fed her but wasn’t so hungry she’d walk into the cage for ten days.
Later we found out she’d been shot by a beebee gun, twice. Her leg was permanently wrecked. And from her behavior we deduced her previous owner was either neglectful or outright abusive.
Last week, while puttering around my bedroom, I heard a rhythmic, “tik-tik-tik-tik…”
The cat was sitting on the bed, looking at me lazily. I wasn’t interacting with her at all, and yet she was purring.
Our previous cats were happy with us. I have no doubt about that, although Hazel would have burnt at the stake before admitting it, and yet none of them ever sat there just purring. Purring because their human was in the room, purring because there was warm sunlight and a soft bed and a bowl full of food and a cuddly brain-damaged cat companion and no one to hurt them.
So was it really the best day of her life? At the time I said no. For six months after, while the cat slunk around depressed, I’d have said no. But now I wonder.
I looked at the devastating things in my own life, those plunge-points of tragedy where the ripples spread out and changed everything that happened afterward. I can’t say those are the best days of my life, those days where I did the equivalent of ripping out my own claws trying to escape the cage that had suddenly trapped me. I can see where they formed me, but you’re never going to get me to say they were good. Emily’s death created a lot of good (in the world, in me) for example, but I will never, never say her death was good.
Yet maybe the cat awakens in the night sometimes from a nightmare of a suddenly-slamming cage and steel bars, panicked, and would never think of that as a good thing. Maybe she likes where she is now but doesn’t connect it to the horrible stuff that came before. So I don’t know: maybe we never recognize the best days of our lives.