The cry seemed to come from the bushes. I moved closer and caught sight of the creature. It was a black cat with white spots. As I took a closer look, I realised that there was something terribly wrong with it! It was emaciated and its coat was dull. Its eyes lacked lustre and its skin had peeled off at places. It was moving, but with effort.
As I looked at it, it threw me a desperate glance.
Its plea was desperate. It wanted a place to rest- a place where it would not be disturbed. It almost seemed to say,”Please don’t chase me away! I can’t run anymore!” Something told me the animal would not live long. The animal seemed to be in the last leg of its journey. And yet, I was surprised by its mammoth effort at seeking a place where it could breathe its last.
“What’s the matter with you, little one?”, I asked in gentle tones. The animal understood. It immediately lay down by the side of the pond. The proximity of water was probably comforting to it. We decided to leave it alone so that it could sleep. We checked after a couple of hours to find that it had moved deeper into the shade of the Bougainville. Every few hours, it changed its position, depending on the direction of the sun. In the evening, we couldn’t find it.
But it appeared next morning. I thought it looked more ill. It was quieter today, and probably in some kind of discomfort. We put out a small bowl of milk, but it refused to drink. It moved yet again in response to the heat, seeking cooler places. We put out some water and this time, it took a few sips with great difficulty. It seemed to be exhausted with the effort and lay down yet again. In the evening, we couldn’t find it.
“Where are you, little one?”, we called out.
“Miaow”, a faint reply came from somewhere.
Eventually, we found it huddled behind a cement slab. It was much cooler here. The animal had however, significantly deteriorated.
That night, it rained. There were loud claps of thunder that made us shudder, despite being indoors. I thought of the cat that lay outdoors, at the mercy of the thunder and lightning, perhaps cold and lonely…and so helpless in its illness. Who was it to complain to? Do guardian angels really make it more comfortable for the dying? I liked to think so.
How fortunate we humans are. We have houses and cosy beds to sleep in. We have people fussing over us when we are ill. We have pills and injections to make us feel better. I wish we had places where dying animals could be nursed and made comfortable. I wondered if the cat had survived the storm. I wondered if it had died of fear.
Next morning, it was my mother who woke up first and went to the kitchen. There were no sounds from the backyard, and in all possibility, the cat had died.
“Oh little one! What has happened to you?”, my mother called out. There was no response. My mother sighed. “Well, end to your suffering”, she said aloud.
After some time, there was suddenly a loud Miaow, accompanied by a lot of noise that sounded like an animal rolling about in pain. My mother called out,”Little one, You are there?” The cat responded to my mother’s call with an agonizing Miaow. To each call, it responded, using the last vestige of its life. A couple of Miaows later, there was silence. My mother found the cat curled up against the cement slab, clutching its edge like how a frightened, helpless child clutches its mother. Its face was now small and the magic of life had gone from its being.
My maid helped us bury it.
We thought of this little creature that had walked into our garden just two days ago. We didn’t know where the dear creature had come from or what kind of life it had lived until then. We didn’t know how it found our house. God must have sent it. Death is never easy to watch, but I still felt glad the animal had sought us in its last days. Every creature deserves to die with dignity. I cried thinking of its suffering, but I was still glad it had come to us and not gone to a house where it would have been chased away. For a moment, the cruelty and selfishness of human beings dawned upon me. We have seized land that belongs to all creatures. Today, they don’t even have a place to die. I promised the dying animal that I would always treat all life with reverence.