Monday, November 26, 2007

Gracie Ellen Tripod

Hi Folks!

Thanks for joining me for another critter adventure!

Today I want to tell you about my youngest cat, Gracie Ellen. Normally, I'm a one-critter-name type of person, but I picked up a certain habit from my friend Sam. Sam has a tendency to give her animals a middle name when she's yelling at them. So instead of just saying, "Lucy!," she'd say, "Lucy Marie, what are you doing?" The funny part is that she never uses the same middle name twice. The next time I'd visit, she'd call the dog Lucy Belle or something. I must've picked up Sam's critter-middle-name habit around the time Gracie showed up.

I found Gracie huddled under a car in my therapist's parking lot. It was a cold, crummy October day, and Gracie seemed to have an injury to her left front leg. The leg was frozen at an angle, and it dragged uselessly on the ground. I coaxed the little grey tabby out from under the car and wrapped her in my arms. She immediately began to purr. We sat in my car until my therapist showed up and got the critter carrier out of my trunk. Because the therapist is also an animal-lover, I brought the kitty into the office and let her have the run of the place.

My shrink surmised that maybe someone dumped Gracie in the area because the local Humane Society was just up the road. There certainly weren't any houses in the neighborhood to explain her presence. Whatever the case, I knew I couldn't take her with me - look what happened to Spanky the last time I brought a cat home! So I dropped her off at Dr. Green's office for boarding while I tried to figure out what to do.

I took her to the Humane Society the next morning - after one of Dr. Green's Vet Techs told me she was pregnant - and the shelter folks made it pretty clear that a pregnant little gimp probably wouldn't last the day there. In other words, the "Humane" Society had already decided that she was unadoptable, and would more than likely euthanize her.

Now I was mad. What good was supporting an animal shelter if the shelter folks spent my donation money on euthanizing perfectly good animals? Who were they to decide what made an animal unadoptable? The fact is, handicapped animals have become very popular these days. I've read a number of stories on the Best Friends website (see the link on my home page) about how people come to the sanctuary asking specifically for blind or deaf animals, or those with a physical disability. I can tell you, with that "kill" policy in place, and their extortionate adoption fees, my local Humane Society has become pretty unpopular of late.

In any case, while the staffer was telling me that this innocent little cat didn't stand much of a chance at the shelter, the innocent little cat in question laid quietly in the carrier. She was a gentle creature who had clearly put all her trust in me, for she didn't seem the least bit worried. I stood there taking in what the staffer told me and thinking, "This is crap. I've only just walked in the door and she's already condemned this cat to death. We're outta here."

Thinking that I might be able to get her into a rescue program, I took her back to Dr. Green's to be spayed. That would at least buy me some time to make a few phone calls. As it turned out, though, there was no room for Gracie anywhere. It was just as well: I was starting to get a little attached to her.

Dr. Green believed that Gracie's leg had gotten caught in one of those awful hunting traps. There was no way to fix the leg, for it had healed, more or less, in that broken postion. Dr. Green recommended amputation, which I initially held off doing. After a few months at the chicken coop, though - in which Gracie continually whacked her bad leg while jumping in and out of the bathtub - the leg started to swell, and smell, and I knew the time had come.

I hated the idea of amputating, even though the leg was useless; at least with all four legs, she had the appearance of wholeness. But once the leg came off, Gracie got around much easier. She hobbles a bit now at the walk, but she runs like she's got four good legs. She doesn't seem to mind just having three.

Because I'd spent so much time working on building Spanky's self-esteem, he was actually the first cat to extend the paw of friendship to Gracie. Unfortunately, Gracie prefers to go it alone, and doesn't spend much time with any of the other cats except Buddy, who has his own loner issues. Gracie must recognize that in him, because every once in a while, I'll find the two of them lying a couple of feet away from each other on the bed. For those two, that's a close relationship!

It took Gracie well over a year to settle in. She'd had a hard life out there on the streets, or wherever she'd been before I found her. She's still got a scavenger mentality and is the only cat who will go after scraps in the garbage can; she's just not confident about where that next meal is coming from.

When I'd go to pick her up, she'd flinch as though I was going to hit her - which I never do, EVER! I'd tell her, "Gracie, you're o.k. This is your home now." And Gracie would reply uncertainly, "I'm not sure, Kelly." I understood: when the whole of her young life was shrouded in uncertainty, it was tough to get the hang of being sure.

Two years on, Gracie has settled in comfortably enough to not just ask for my attention, but demand it! She can be very shrill indeed when she wants to be petted. Her favorite time with me is when she can lie on my lap while I'm at the computer. In fact, she spent most of this blog entry on my lap before moving on to other things.

I sure hadn't planned on having five cats, but Gracie has added another dimension to my life. By not letting her disability get the best of her, she's set a great example for me to follow. We humans take so much in life for granted - especially our health - and suffer such huge losses of ego and esteem when that health is diminished. Meanwhile, the critters in the world - who have no access to wheelchairs or artificial limbs - simply get on with it. There's something to be learned from that, I think.

Well, folks, that's all for now. I've still got three more cats to tell you about, fifteen other ducks, and a barn-ful of horses, to boot. Stay tuned! And in the meantime, please be kind to all the critters!

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