Updated: Feb 12
As I zipped up my coat and searched endlessly for my purple mittens, I dreaded the thought of walking in the cold just for milk.
I heard on the news report, Live at Five, communicate about a significant storm that was heading our way. It established the need in my mind to go because if I postponed the walk, Sophia would be without milk for days.
The blame I would place on myself would be overwhelming, and the idea of leaving her with somebody in our apartment building would increase my anxiety more than taking her along.
Sophia began to cry as I put her arms in her jacket and tied her giraffe winter hat. “I do not want that one, Mama!” she screamed, challenging her autonomy. “Come on, Sophia, I cannot locate your other hat, and I want to hurry and get back so we can get to bed.”
‘Noooooooo, I not wearing – I hate store!” The tears stream down her face; my heart ached for her as I completely understood her frustration as this will be the third walk up the road today. Today we walked to preschool and back, to Nanny’s to borrow money, and now to the store, mainly uphill.
After chasing Sophia around to put on her boots, I opened up the storage and pulled out our means of transportation- our Step 2 green wagon with a side door.
I pull the wagon down the six stairs to the main heavy entrance door- bang, bang, bang, bang, as the wheels hit each stair. Sophia is now crying in the hallway, lying on the floor after trying the door handle several times to get back in our safe, warm two-bedroom apartment she and I called home for the last four years.
“Look, Sophia! It is snowing out!! Come and see and catch them with your tongue!” The stillness was instantaneous. Sophia slid down the stairs in her snow pants, beaming with excitement as this was the season’s first snowfall. The snowflakes were oversized and appeared to melt upon contact. It was stunning.
Sophia glimpsed a cat following us down the shortcut on our way back home. Sophia immediately loved this filthy, black and white cat. This weak emancipated stray followed us home and persisted in showing up at our apartment building door, looking to be loved, cared for, and most of all fed.
“I just know Mama; God told this kitty where to go because He knows that we love pets so much.” I knew economically, reasonably, and logically that I could not manage another pet.
“Sophia…sweetie… that kitten needs to stay outside so it can find its way back home, and the kitty’s family is probably worried sick”, I stated. “But Mama, it loves us, and it is sick.” I looked deep into my daughter’s eyes and could not tell her that I should put the cat out in the cold. “Well…. how about we place some food and water outside our apartment door-because the kitty kept sneaking in the main door when opened, and then when it acquires some strength back, it will probably find its way home.”
I placed some food outside our apartment door, knowing that this act of kindness would most likely increase the chances of the stray remaining.
Over the next few days, Sophia and I made flyers and placed them around the community to locate the stray’s family. I decided to place an ad on the local radio station, contacted the SPCA, and listed the stray on an online search- still no luck. I hurt for a resolution.
On the evening of the third day, a knock came on the door; “Is this your cat?” the landlord said. “Well…. we have been trying to find the owners but are having no luck….” I stated. “It cannot come into the halls; it will have to go outside,” he sternly said.
As the landlord left, the tears began to swell up in Sophia’s eyes as she squeezed tightly to her filthy friend. This black and white, flea invested, no doubt disease-ridden canine purred excessively loudly. “We cannot put him outside, Mama-It’s freezing out…I love him so much-God knew we would love and take care of him,” she begged.
As my daughter embraced the cat tightly, I observed tears travel down her face. Sophia pleaded with me not to put the cat outside. Logically, the cat belonged outside; emotionally and compassionately, the cat needed a warm home. So without any real idea how I could take responsibility for this cat and justify this decision, Sophia carried the dirty, stinky, extremely weak canine out of the hallway and into our apartment.
I was thankful that Sophia’s Dad was visiting us at the time when a knock came to the door, and a neighborhood child told us they had seen the cat getting struck by a car- twice! The driver hit the cat, then backed up and drove over it again.
I ran out to see, and sure enough, ‘Lucky’ was not very lucky. He was ripped open, his blood was everywhere on the street, and spatter was on the snowbanks. The scene was horrendous. I placed his lifeless body in a bag and proceeded to carry buckets of hot soapy water out into the night to wash away pieces of him clinging to the pavement. I could not have Sophia and the neighborhood kids witnessing this bloody ugliness walking on the sidewalk.
I looked up to our apartment front window from the street, and I could see Sophia wailing. After several buckets of hot soapy water, the use of a scrub brush, and the purposeful melting of the red snow, most of Lucky’s remains cleaned away.
I stepped into our apartment and bitterly listened as my baby cried and screamed, “I told you ‘Lucky’ belonged inside with us!” Sophia’s tears echoed our space and into the street.
Numbness, uncertainty, guilt and the non-repairable feelings of bad mothering loaded my mind that night and for many sleepless nights after.
Sophia called it ‘Pet Heaven.’ On her bedroom walls, all the pets that Sophia knew that passed away were illustrated and shaded. Sophia, her Nanny, and I spent the day creating a Pet Heaven mural as a memorial to Lucky.
I hugged Sophia as she smiled and touched her illustrated, ‘Lucky.’ ‘Draw his toy, Mama,’ she whispered. As I created a tiny toy mouse, Sophia wrapped her arms around my leg and whimpered quietly.