Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Spirit, or Why I Rescued a Cat in a Taco Bell Drive Thru

I rescued a cat on Wednesday. This is kind of a huge deal because 1) I don't really like cats and 2) I'm not usually the type to stop and pick up strange cats. 

Ok, and it's a huge deal for one other reason: I found the cat in the drive thru of a Taco Bell. 

On my lunch break, I was originally planning to get some quick food, run to Target, and buy a TV to surprise Danny. As I pulled into the drive thru of the Taco Bell nearest where I work, I spotted a small, black cat curled up against the curb. Weird, I thought. I assumed that it had bolted the minute I turned my car in. I ordered, rolled up my window, and started to pull forward when I looked in my mirror and saw that the little black cat was still there, looking sleepy and cute. 

Split second decision: I could drive away and leave this cat sleeping along a curb, where it would probably get hit or I could stop, pick up the cat, and make sure it ended up at a good home. 

Talking to coworkers later, many of them said they would have left it. It would have been their first impulse upon seeing the cat. Leave it there, it's too much work, it's not your responsibility, someone is probably looking for it, etc. 

I put my car in park, opened the door, and bolted around my car, hoping the cat wouldn't run into the road as I approached it. Instead, it happily purred as I picked it up. In the car, it curled up in the passenger's seat as I pulled forward. 

At the window, the Taco Bell employee gave me a funny look. "There was a cat in your guys' drive thru," I said, defiantly as I took back my debit card. "I had to pick it up." He laughed and handed me my food, probably thinking I was an insane cat lady. 

I nervously drove back to work, letting the cat climb into my lap and curl into a ball, where it sat purring as I drove. I stared down at it, unsure of what to do with it or what to think about what I had just done. I had a cat in my car and I had 30 minutes of my lunch break left. 

When I say "cat," I should really say "kitten." All black, very cute, and obviously not that old, this little kitten just purred and purred, putting its little head on my arm and trying to get me to pet it as much as possible. 

At work, I parked and grabbed my phone. As I did, one of my workers -- a nurse -- walked by and looked into my car. "Oh my god!" She said, as I rolled down the window. "You have a cat! Where'd you get it?" 

"I found it," I said, "in the Taco Bell drive thru." 

"You mean, you just picked it up?" 

After she left, I called the local humane society in Eugene, Greenhill. Unfortunately, I was told by a very nice girl named Laura, Greenhill could not accept kittens or cats from the area I was in (aka, another city, albeit right next door). The city of Springfield does not do any kind of rescue or animal control for found or lost cats, and will not let Greenhill pick up cats in Springfield. They have to be brought to Greenhill. 

As much as I wanted to help the cat, it would have been a 45-60 minute drive to and from Eugene to get it to Greenhill. Laura told me I had a few options: I could take ownership of the cat; I could put the cat back where I found it; I could drive it to Greenhill and surrender it as its owner; or I could advertise for the owner on Craigslist. 

I panicked. I sat in my car for a long time, wondering what to do with this little cat that had fallen asleep in my lap. It didn't scratch me or meow or throw a fit or act weird. It just happily slept in my lap. It was a good, sweet cat. I couldn't put it back where I found it. I couldn't abandon it again. And advertising on Craigslist could lead down a bad road -- plus, it's an all-black kitten with no collar, so it would be hard to prove ownership. I couldn't take ownership of the cat and I couldn't drive to Greenhill because I had to work. I felt stuck. I felt hopeless. 

In a moment of desperation, I got out of my car, clutching the kitten, and walked into the front office of my workplace. Danielle, my coworker, was covering the front desk and Vicky, a woman who visits the facility to do residents' hair every week, happened to be standing in the office. I had called Danielle to let her know about the situation -- she had encouraged me to take the cat to Greenhill and she would cover for me. 

"Guys," I said, "what should I do with this cat!?" 

Vicky immediately held her hands out. "I'll take it." 

And that's how I found a little black cat a home. Vicky lives on a farm, has several dogs and a mini horse (who is awesome), and is one of the sweetest people I've ever met in my life. It was luck that she happened to be standing in the office at that moment -- she rarely ever visits the front office! She kept the little cat in the salon all day -- the ladies getting their hair done loved it -- and took it home that evening, to the delight of her husband. She named him (because it turns out the little kitten is a boy) Figaro and they lived happily ever after. 

We all make decisions everyday. Every time I see an animal on the side of the road, my heart hurts, but I rarely ever stop to help. (I did, one time, stop and pick up a small dog out of the middle of the road, but its owner lived directly across the street and immediately stopped me from getting in my car with his dog.) We all have the chance, though, to make someone's life better... or to make an animal's life better. Isn't that great? That little kitten probably would have gotten hit by a car if I hadn't picked it up, and I ended up finding him a wonderful home, where he would be warm, loved, and happy for the rest of his days. That's pretty great. 

The more I think about it, the more I think that the Christmas spirit -- the spirit of giving, of helping other people in need, of warmth and happiness -- should be something we carry all year. As a metaphor, there are lots of little cats out there in need of someone to stop and pick them up. Let's be the people who stop and help them, even if it seems like another added stress to our lives. Figaro did not ask me to help him, but I did and I'm glad. 

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