July 7, 2011 by wcobserver
It was about six weeks later when he failed to show up one evening. With memories of snake bite fresh in mind, I went out the next morning to find him. I searched the yard, the pond, the woods on all sides of the house. No Reeces. I argued with myself that he had stayed out before and came home when he pleased. Surely nothing was wrong now.
That evening, I searched again. Still no Reeces.
The next morning, I searched again, this time walking carefully through the tall grasses at the edge of the woods. That’s where I found him. He was looking at me, squatting in a position he often held when he waited for someone. I went toward him, talking and calling. He didn’t move. Only when I crouched beside him did he finally make a sound. It was a weak “raow.”
I started to pick him up, sliding my hands under him, when he moved in a pained way and let out a louder “raow.” I wondered if he had fallen or somehow broken a bone. It was only after I held him against my body and pulled one hand out from under him that I started to understand his problem. My hand was coated in blood.
In the house, I managed to hold him and examine his swollen belly. At the center of his belly, two fang-mark holes had deteriorated and spread into a grapefruit-sized section of skin that was black and paper thin. A larger black and red mottled expanse of skin covered his entire stomach area, with fur coming off in my hands. Blood and body liquids leaked through my fingers, wetting the shedding hair and dripping onto the floor.
He didn’t fight during the trip to the vet. He had no strength. Dehydrated, the vet said. Probably hadn’t moved since the strike. Two days he had lingered out there, within spitting distance of the house, and I hadn’t found him. Why hadn’t I been more thorough? Again, a shot of antibiotics and a booster of nutrients. His chances weren’t good, vet said.
“Same cat …”
I shook my head. “Yes.”
At home, all cats were banished from my bedroom with its cool, easily cleaned linoleum floor. He refused food and hid under the bed. He didn’t want milk, cheese, meat, or anything else. I sat with him while I had a quick lunch of sliced cantaloupe and cottage cheese, coaxing him — did he want cottage cheese? No, but at the first whiff of cantaloupe, he became excited. He licked the juice from the plate and tried to bite the cantaloupe, but he didn’t have the strength for chewing.
Minutes later, a quickly mashed mound of juicy cantaloupe held his undivided attention. He couldn’t lick it up fast enough. At first, he ate only a little. But over the next three days he ate more and more, regaining energy from the fluids and nutrients of the sweet melon. By the fourth day, he ate some regular food and drank water. By the end of the month, most of the wound had healed, although a pink scar remained and the stomach hair had only begun to regrow. (To be continued)