Like his namesake from Treasure Island, our feral feline friend Pew was struck and killed today, not by a stagecoach, but by a car.
Pew showed up in the midst of trapping Mommy Cat and the five kittens this past summer. I first saw him jammed into a kitten trap – he, an adult cat, had managed to stuff his whole body into the tiny kitten trap in order to get the sardines that we used as bait. At that time I had assumed he was someone’s pet, but as the summer went on it became clear that Pew did not have a home, and he became more and more dependent on the food I put out on our deck.
Jim named this all black cat Pew because he was so sad: tongue lolling out constantly, a cataract in his left eye which made the eye all milky white, and a scruffy coat. Annette, the cat trapper, guessed that Pew was “a hundred years old” (she probably meant in cat years), and she also surmised that he didn’t have a tooth in his head, which would explain why his tongue always lolled out, hanging an inch or two down from his mouth. If you know Treasure Island, you’ll know that the literary Pew was a blind beggar, a tragic figure who met his end under hooves and stagecoach wheels.
Yesterday morning I got a good look at Pew – my last view of him alive, as it turned out – and he was looking a bit worse than usual. His good eye was all runny and yucky looking, and he was particularly hungry, snarfing down all the canned Friskies and a lot of the dry kibbles that I put out for him. Yesterday I thought, once again, that it would be a miracle if Pew could make it through the winter. I’ve been worrying about how to best help him keep fed and warm, especially since he long ago proved to be more feral than stray: skittish and unwilling to come near me, though very willing to eat the three plus cans of food and also dry food that I put out for him each day.
And then there is today. Jim and I were going to head to Concord to have lunch at Helen’s, and I had just finished getting ready when I stepped into the kitchen and noticed the food in the bowl on the deck was gone. ”Who came and ate?” I asked Jim, since it could be either Pew or Mommy Cat. ”It was Pew,” Jim replied, “He was just here eating.”
As Jim stood in our foyer putting his jacket on, he saw Pew in our driveway, heading towards the street. Not many seconds later we were about to get into our car when Jim looked across the street and said, “Is that a cat?” It was. It was Pew, his body twitching its final twitches just on the side of the road, a smear of blood extending from the middle of the road to the side of his poor mangled head. We hadn’t heard brakes, or a car horn, and there certainly wasn’t a car stopped in guilty horror to examine the poor cat that it had just hit. Just Pew, dying.
We both went over and stood by Pew as he died, trying to decide what to do next. Pew died quickly, probably a much more merciful death than if he had died of cold and hunger over the harshness of winter. He had been hit mostly on the left side of his head, the side with the bad eye, so hopefully he never knew what hit him. And he died with a full tummy, probably looking forward to a nice nap in the sun. As he left us, I told Pew that he was a good cat, and gave him my love.
Jim got first one, then another shovel, and together we slid Pew off the edge of the road and under the bushes a few feet in from the road. Jim called the police department, and a very rude police officer said that he would let the highway department know and that they would take care of Pew’s body. Perhaps we should have buried Pew in our yard, but let’s just say that Pew’s mercifully quick death left more than a bit of a mess, and we’re not up to taking care of his remains. [Update: the highway department never came, so on Monday Jim buried Pew in our back yard, at the spot where we first saw him last summer. We both feel better knowing that Pew is home, cared for, and not dealt with as random roadkill by strangers.]
Rest in peace, poor dear Pew. I’m glad we could keep your belly full for your last few months; I’m sorry we couldn’t do more to make your life safe and easy.
And to the callous idiot who hit Pew and didn’t even have the decency to stop and see if Pew needed help: a pox upon you. You were driving too fast, you didn’t even hit the brakes, and you didn’t care. You do know that a black cat crossed your path today, and that you killed that cat, don’t you? That can’t be good for you.