Every day when I come home, I pull in the driveway and push the garage door button. Having an automatic garage door opener is one of the greatest luxuries in life, and I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it. For the past year, I would push the button and count to five. Before I got to three, I’d see a pair of gleaming orbs sailing through the air and stopping in the driveway just in front of me. When Minerva came to us, she was completely black – a ‘bad luck’ cat if ever I’d seen one. She was probably dropped off – that seems to happen a lot, but she wasn’t very old, and she had a personality that simply wouldn’t quit. It wasn’t long before we fell in love with her and her quirky sense of humor. But with six cats in the house already, each with some impairment or another, Dan and I knew Minerva wouldn’t be moving into the house.
We found a dear soul whose own black cat was getting ready to cross the rainbow bridge, and despite her grief, she thought maybe she’d be able to bring Minerva into her home after her own beloved fur family member had transitioned. Suddenly, this little gypsy cat had better insurance than Dan and I do, and she became a regular visitor at the vet’s, getting immunized, microchipped, spayed, and tested for any detrimental illness that might have threatened her. She was perfect…truly perfect. And instead of being a bad luck feline, her very existence seemed to rally the terminally ill cat our friend was caring for, giving her many extra months of time to prepare her owner for the loss she’d surely feel.
Twelve months have passed, and Minerva became so much a part of our family. She’d jump into my car as soon as I turned off the engine, welcoming me home after a long day by hopping into my lap with a friendly greeting. When I opened the trunk of my car (serendipitously also named Minerva – the goddess of wisdom) this little black cat would leap in and check to see if I’d brought her home any special treats. Each night, Dan and I had to cover the top of the car with a blanket to ensure that Minerva had a safe and comfortable place to sleep, and every night, she was our last check before going to bed, making sure she was inside safely and the garage closed completely. She was so beloved.
Friday afternoon, with only two weeks before she was scheduled to go to her new home, our neighbors’ dogs – three of them, came into our garage and somehow managed to capture Minerva before she could escape. We found her dead, covered with wounds inflicted by dogs who had been trained to kill. No amount of holding her lifeless body to my heart or wracking sobs could bring her back to us, and knowing that she suffered and died in a place we had worked so hard to make safe for her brings me more heartache than anything else.
I should be angry with the dogs for their part in this senseless murder, but they were only doing what they’d been trained to do by the two-legged beasts in whom they trust. I am furious with the neighbors, both for letting their dogs get out of their enclosure and roam the neighborhood unsupervised and for teaching their pets to hunt and kill. When Dan called them to let them know what their dogs had done, the woman was apologetic. If it was the first time their dogs had gotten out, maybe an apology wouldn’t seem so hollow. But it wasn’t, and now there are at least three of us whose hearts are aching.
What I wouldn’t give to turn back the hands of time to try to keep Minerva from suffering. But I am just a writer, and those words can do nothing to change the course of fate or history, and I can do nothing to assuage my pain besides write it down and hope it helps to relieve the pressure and hate I feel in my heart for the callousness of the humans who live so close by. Minerva has been laid to rest, wrapped snugly in her favorite blanket and kissed on the head one last time, but the pain of her loss and the anger I feel are still raw and archly sensitive.
I cannot imagine how the families of a murdered human feel when I am so angry that I cannot even pass the neighbors’ home without glaring and seething. I can feel my blood pressure elevating, and I am disgusted that I half-want to find their dogs out frolicking loose in their yard, so I can turn them into Animal Control and make the assholes pay to retrieve their dogs – if they even would. I want them to pay with sadness and hurt, the way I have, and I pray that this feeling will go away because that is not who I want to be. I want to be kind and forgiving, but I also know that I have more loyalty for the animals in my life than most of the humans.
For now, I will try to remember the happiness of seeing her bound out to greet me as I returned home or the warmth of her nuzzle when she wanted to let me know she cared and appreciated fresh water or food. And I will remember fondly the frogs, lizards, and small tokens of appreciation she left for me periodically – signs of her love and gratitude for taking her in and caring for her. And I will hope the anger will pass and my heart will open to the next lonely and rejected waif that wanders into my home and heart…they won’t be the same as Minerva, but I owe it to her memory to allow myself to love again.