If I were a blogging girl, my last two entries would have been on how I really disliked that cat. But this horrific mishap could have happened to anybody, and I will forever declare my innocence in her tragic demise. How could I have known that “Shredder” had jumped into the dryer under all the heavy camping clothes I was quickly transferring from the washing machine? In my haste to get kids in bed after a weekend away, I slammed shut the dryer door without a thought, pressed the deadly “ON” button, and quickly
Fifteen minutes later, my husband made the terrible discovery, clued in by our five year-old twins yelling, “Something stinks in here!” The loud “THUMP, THUMP, THUMP” coming from the extra capacity Kenmore was another dead giveaway, pun intended, that something was amiss. When he proceeded to gently inform first me, and then the kids, that Shredder had just perished in this grisly manner, there was understandably a cacophony of emotion. Let’s just say, a LOT of drama. Loud weeping from the grief, of course. And deep, deep down, amid all my tears and disbelief, maybe an ounce of relief accompanied my burden of guilt.
Shredder was my daughters’ pet, found as a stray eight-ounce kitten four months ago. Now almost full grown, she had at first been a bright spot in our lives. All seven of us had taken turns bottle-feeding her, cooing over her frisky kitten antics. But the “frisky” had, of late, turned into “freakish.” Shredder, true to her name, mercilessly tore at our ankles, arms and faces with her claws, and spread kitty litter EVERYWHERE (where in the house is the best place to put an open box of poop, for heaven’s sake?). In her innate feline curiosity, she would NOT stay in the house, thereby bringing in fleas that, after nibbling on her, left her skin slightly bloody. Convinced she had the run of the house, she deposited remnants of flea blood in lovely locations like the bathroom sinks or the kitchen counter. Despite our scrubbing and ointments, her fleas were an issue that were putting me over the edge. On top of that, Shredder’s psyche couldn’t handle the excitement of a house full of humans. So any time we sat down or reclined in bed exhausted, she attacked every wiggle of our toes or bat of our eyelashes. “This cat needs to be a barn cat!,” I’ve been declaring adamantly these last few days: “We are getting RID of this CAT!” Even as I started the laundry last night, my resolve was firm. And now, she’s dead. The irony is so thick.
To make matters worse, our track record lately with pets is bleak. I think if we ever tried to replace Shredder with another family pet, Animal Control would come after us. We’ve now endured the tearful loss of three pets in the last year and a half. The summer before last, my daughter’s first cat was (we assume) eaten by a coyote. Second, our son’s black lab was euthanized for incurable aggression issues. As if these sorrows were not devastating enough, now Shredder has suffered, well…murder. Actually, I think it’s called manslaughter when the victim is killed unintentionally. After graciously cleaning the crime scene last night, my husband said, “It’s a shame, too, because Sergeant actually survived the dry cycle.” Sergeant, our son’s pet hamster, was a Houdini who insisted on gnawing his way out of his cage and finding refuge in appliances. One day years ago, he pulled some serious Gs in the dryer, but lived to triumphantly consume one and a half pant legs on my husband’s favorite khakis. A few months later, the hamster was sold to an unsuspecting family, much to the kids’ chagrin.
However, last night’s Kenmore catastrophe takes the cake, and has forced upon me some honest self-critiquing about my pet history. I killed my pet rabbit once, too. There. I said it. This is the dark secret of my life: that when I was twelve, my rabbit starved to death. My dad warned me that I wasn’t taking care of Thumper as I’d promised, and in his “tough love” approach, he let me learn Pet Responsibility 101. I got an “F.” And a dead rabbit. For years, I defensively said Thumper “got sick,” but now, I’m coming out of the closet. I committed manslaughter….killed Thumper “without malice aforethought.”
While I’m at it, I need to admit the truth about ‘the snake incident.’ My son’s ball python was at one time the pride of his life, but the weekly mouse purchase to keep Legolas fed slowly turned into a week and two days turned into a week and a half turned into two weeks. I think that, deep in the recesses of my overworked brain, I mused that any mother who allows her nine year-old boy’s ball python dream to come true, especially when she has to load up newborn twins and two little sisters to drive to the mouse store, deserves a little slack. Or a straight jacket. So on the day that Legolas was stiff and unresponsive in his aquarium, indicting images of Thumper’s frigid death flashed across my brain like terrifying scenes from a horror movie. I knew that my report card from Pet Responsibility 101 was haunting me again, and I was racked with remorse. Of course, I told my son (and others) that Legolas, like Thumper before him, “got sick.” But I am now cathartically confessing another closet pet crime: I accidentally killed the snake. Death by starvation…again. With great shame, I offer myself for the public lashing that is due me.
It might be obvious that I’m not an animal person. I think this is because, as a child, my beloved puppy Mabel was run over by a car: that emotional wound has probably blocked my heart from bonding again with anything that has fur. However, as a dutiful mother, I’ve allowed the acquisition of hermit crabs and fish in addition to the ones who’ve taught my kids solid Grief Management skills. The only reason I ever said yes to our first family pet, Sadie the dachshund, was because a dog, I was told, enhances children’s lives.
Lest anyone think I can’t be trusted with Sadie, let me assure you that not only has she has managed to survive in my care for nine years, but she is quite well-fed. PLUMP even. Sadie loves me dearly because I provide down cushions for her by day and buttered popcorn by night. Which is why lots of people say she’s FAT. Deep down, I gloat proudly in these disapproving comments about her weight because it means that maybe, perhaps, there’s hope for me. Maybe I can shirk my past while I boast in the one animal who has not only survived me, but loves me. She’s nestled in her down pillow right now, scratching annoyingly at the fleas Shredder passed on to her before her death—the cat’s living legacy, of sorts. Despite needing a flea bath, Sadie has been on her best behavior since last night’s trauma.
I think she’s afraid I might run her through the dishwasher.
Top Notch Swill would like to thank Ronna Bauman for writing and sharing this post. Ronna loves being an Air Force wife and mom to 5 forgiving children, whom she diligently feeds three times a day. She calls Colorado home, and has one family pet. As of this morning.