I knew I'd caught heartbreak in my hand one afternoon as Ittybit and I were running off to dance class. I just had that feeling.
I could barely understand the words coming from my daughter as she hollered for me to come quick. “Kitten” was the only word that registered.
Ittybit was dragging her dance bag to the car when a tiny, gray kitten startled her. It had been sitting on our porch when the two surprised each other face-to-face. No sooner had they locked eyes than the little feline vanished into the backyard.
"I don't see it," I said, not really wanting to find another pet. We already had a dog and a cat. Our furry family was complete. Not to mention, dance would tap and jazz without her.
"We should go. We'll be late."
"But it's just a baybeeee," she wailed.
Just then she spotted it. We spread out.
Ittybit tried to grab the tiny cat, but it spooked and ran in my direction. I reached out instinctively, and before I knew it, I had the gray fluff of infant feline gently in my hand. As a thank-you, it had sunk its teeth firmly into my finger.
No good deed ...
"Why didn't I just pretend it was too fast for me," I asked my husband as I washed and bandaged my pinky.
He just smiled and nodded. He would have done the same thing.
I smiled, too. “We should name it 'Karma.” It seemed fitting since a few weeks earlier I had teased some friends as they opened their door to a fifth stray cat.
“One more and you might be able to skip the audition for 'Hoarders'.”
Karma … that is a kitten on your doorstep, alright.
Our vet said she seemed healthy enough, aside from the malnourishment and dehydration. No telling how long she'd been out in the world, separated from her mother.
“I'm calling her a girl,” he explained. “But it's hard to tell. She's pretty young.”
So we took her home – this terrified, but now-purring, six-toed animal that had somehow found us -- and told The Champ the good news: It was his turn to name the newest addition.
And there was joy. The kind of joy you forget about when your household gets older.
The lighter-than-air, happy baby, midnight-feedings kind of joy. The imagining what she will look like when she's older, kind of joy.
Of course, it wasn't to be.
Twenty-four hours later this tiny, barely-named kitten died. The dehydration too far gone for little laps of water and smidgeons of food to turn around.
We learned from a neighbor that the kitten's mother had been hit by a car several days earlier trying to move her four babies from one side of the road to the other.
I knew it was coming. She'd almost stopped eating after her first shots at the vet. She wasn't playful. She became cuddly and wanting of attention. She fell asleep as the children stroked her back.
As the children were getting ready for bed the next evening, her breathing turned labored and her mournful cries became whispers. I called the vet.
There wasn't anything they could do.
The next morning, we tearfully buried her next to our beloved dog.
Ittybit and The Champ took turns at the shovel.
Everyone cried. Her passing seemed more tragic that the release of our 16-year-old pup. It was too soon.
The only comfort, whispered over and over, was in knowing we'd given her all the warmth and love we had in her last hours. Knowing that she didn't die alone in the wind and rain.
In a few days, karma paid us another visit, or more accurately our pet-hoarding friends ...
And of course they brought with them a kitten they'd found under a porch – a playful, full-bellied, healthy little bundle of feline energy.