Driving along an Illinois State Highway, my four children, all under the age of eight, and I, were destined for the shopping mall to select an appropriate anniversary gift for my wife of twelve years. Suddenly, simultaneously, we all noticed a beautiful shiny black cat half lying, half sitting up in the middle of the roadway—in our lane—just thirty yards in front of us. As I slowed my vehicle and approached it, the cute creature seemed to be laying at a strange angle with half his body laying in the roadway and the other half upright and erect. The effect was that his head appeared strangely high as though supported by an unusually long neck, reminding me of an extended submarine periscope. His wide eyes were bright and inquisitive as he turned his head back and forth, as though he anticipated observing some exciting happenings.
As I maneuvered our minivan to park just off the roadway in a position abeam the feline, my children chorused, “Oh, Daddy, he’s so cute; let’s keep him for mommy—she’ll love him!” Approaching the relaxed-appearing cat, I noted that he strangely showed no anxiety nor made any attempt to move away from me. I mused that whereas my wife had hinted she was ready to consider getting a pet for our eager children, I proudly (or conveniently) decided that if this cute, shiny black cat had neither collar nor tag, I would consider it as an opportunity to satisfy my children’s desire for a pet and fulfill my obligation to purchase a wedding anniversary gift for my wife. Such a deal—a free gift—and a two-for-one free gift at that!
As I looked the precious kitty over, my children chirped, “Daddy, can we come and see him?”
“No, children,” I replied. “Stay in the car. I’ll bring him over in a moment.”
As a pilot, I had neither experience nor inclination toward medicine, or veterinary science for that matter. Hence, my cursory inspection of the collarless cat resulted in my observing nothing other than a simple laceration just above his left eye. “No problem,” I thought, “We’ll just stop by the nearest pet store and have him checked out to see if the cut above his eye would require stitches to heal properly.”
As I carried the cute kitty to our minivan, the children could hardly contain their enthusiasm. Although still dutifully strapped into their car seats, the children nonetheless took turns pleading with me to allow them to get out of their seats and hold the kitty as we drove to the pet store.
Arriving at the pet store, I sent eight-year-old Sarah to get a shopping cart. The cat continued looking all around with his bright eyes as he patiently sat still where I laid him, in the smaller upper basket of the shopping cart. I perched one year old Caleb’s car seat—with the child inside—on top of the large basket of the shopping cart while four-year-old Hannah Joy and six-year-old Andrew walked beside the cart, eagerly peering at their new pet.
Once we reached veterinary services at the back of the large pet store, we proudly declared that this well-behaved stray cat was our new pet, but he needed an examination to determine if he needed stitches for the small cut above his eye! It took less than five minutes of careful evaluation before the veterinarian suggested that we might want to reconsider our decision to make this cat our family pet. Devastated, the children all moaned, “Why, Daddy! We love him. He’s so cute. What’s wrong with him?”
“Doctor, can you provide me a clear explanation as to why you think this cat will not make a good pet?”
“Sir,” the kindly veterinarian gently began, “Do you see this cut above his left eye? This is indicative of having been struck by a car in his hindquarters and knocked forward onto his face. It’s likely a sure thing that he has suffered serious brain damage. Haven’t you noticed how very calm he is? That is not normal. His lack of nervousness is a bad sign. Furthermore, notice this….” As he said these words, he literally lifted up the cat’s tail and demonstrated that the cat’s hide on both sides of his tail was completely ripped apart from his backside and his tail had been very nearly severed from his body.
“With a tail damaged this severely, we’ll certainly have to amputate it to save the cat's life and there’s nearly a 100% certainty that this cat will be incontinent the rest of his life. And, by the way, after the many surgeries required to try to save its life, which will be very expensive—totaling several thousand dollars—it’ll require months of constant nursing to recover to some semblance of a normal life. In a word: the only practically reasonable course of action for this cat is to put it down, and we can do that for just $125.00 and a disposal fee of $35.00. Would you like us to take care of that for you? The nurse will take your VISA or Mastercard if you want to pay with a credit card.”
Dumbstruck, I slumped down on a bench next to the vet’s front counter. My elder children crowded around me clamoring, “Daddy, we don’t understand. Daddy, what’s wrong with our kitty?”
“Children,” I bemused, “I’m sorry, but this kitty is not for us; he was injured too seriously. The veterinarian feels the most merciful thing to do is put him out of his misery. Besides, I don’t think your mommy would be too happy about having to nurse an incontinent cat to health for the next several months—especially in light of all the additional medical care your little brother requires. Furthermore, it wouldn’t make a very romantic anniversary gift.”
After I paid the vet his fees to euthanize “our” kitty and dispose of the body, we slowly plodded toward the front door of the pet store. I’d never seen my children look so glum. I feared they’d trip or walk into a shelf stocked with kitty litter while looking down at the floor as they shuffled toward the store exit.
“Hey, guys! Wait! Look,” my six year old son, Andrew, shook and bounced up and down as he pointed toward a brightly painted multicolored sign which said, “Adopt a Pet Day!”
“Oh, Daddy, look at that beautiful kitty! He’s so fluffy!” the children cried. “Can we adopt him and take him home since our cat can’t come with us?”
“Sure, Children.” Afterall, I mused I’d already spent nearly $160.00 on a pet that we didn’t even get to keep. “At least this one will be free since the sign says, “Pet Adoption.” What a deal! I thought—and free!
Utter shock is the only way to describe my reaction when I learned that pet adoption was not free as I’d assumed. When we’d finally completed our “adoption” paperwork, the store attendant declared, “Okay, Sir, that will be $30.00 for the adoption papers and $30.00 for his mandatory immunizations, plus tax. Will this be cash or credit?”
I nearly broke down in tears as I replied, “Ah—let’s try our credit card.” I silently cried. “Oh, considering what I had to spend to put the injured cat down and dispose of his carcass and adopt this one; this is a $250 cat (plus tax)!” Meanwhile, the children’s angst was transformed to excited enthusiasm as they carried the cat in his cardboard cage to our minivan. They were so excited—surely their mother would share their enthusiasm.
Later that evening, after I’d put our children into bed, after my wife returned from work, the cat purred as it greeted her at the back door. Shocked to observe a strange cat walk right up to her she shrieked, “What! Where did this cat come from!”
“Ah…..it’s a ki-i-ind of a long story, Honey. Let’s save it for another day. Let’s just enjoy the last few hours of our anniversary. He’s your gift to commemorate this important day!”
“I don’t think I’m going to like this long story,” my bride tentatively declared.
“Ah, yes, well, ah…at least this one’s healthy; anyway, Happy anniversary!” I murmured.
“What! ‘At least this one’s healthy?’ you say. What do you mean by ‘…this one’s healthy’?”
After describing our $250 ordeal my beloved bride screeched, “What! You paid $250 plus tax to put that cat down, dispose of its body and adopt this one!”
“Ah….yes, Dear,” I admitted.
“On the farm we just took the seriously injured animal out back, hit it on the head with a shovel and buried it!”
“Yes, Dear. But, we live in the city limits—and I’m not even sure I own a shovel.”
“Oh, really! For the $250 you spent for this cat on our anniversary, you could have purchased ten shovels!”
“Yes, Dear,” I automatically replied.
“Well, as much as I just know I’ll enjoy this new cat, I know what I’m going to get you for our next anniversary, I’m going to buy you a deluxe visit to the local Spa for a pedicure, manicure, facial, and perm…oh, and if your work schedule just happens to conflict, I’ll take your appointment so we don’t lose the spot!”