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Picking Up the Pieces for Those Who Didn't Care : Responsibility: A discarded kitten is the last straw for an animal lover who is tired of finding abandoned and abused pets at every turn. 'What were you thinking when you threw him out?' she asks in an open letter.

June 02, 1991|DIANE CALKINS | Diane Calkins is a free-lance writer and a member of the steering committee of the Spay/Neuter Action Project. Since Turbo, the Calkins' family has taken two more orphans, Foxy the dog (which has a new home) and Frodo, a white Persian cat, which is still recovering from severe neglect

Dear neighbor: Just wanted to let you know that I found that kitten you discarded. On my way to an appointment, I stopped to drop off a camera lens at my daughter's house in La Jolla.

As I got out of the car, I looked up and spotted the tiny creature. At the sound of my greeting he ran to me; when I picked him up he started to purr.

I took him, still purring, from door to door, but no one admitted to having seen him before. By the time I'd given him more than a cursory glance, I realized I was glad you hadn't claimed him.

The adult flea collar you'd wrapped around his neck twice hadn't worked very well. His tiny belly was covered with fleas and flea dirt.

It was also bloated and reminded me of the pictures of starving children in Africa.

The appointment already missed, I headed to the veterinarian's office (where they've offered to set up a cot to save me the trouble of driving back and forth).

As I drove, he sat on my lap alternatively trying to nurse on my fingers and bite at his fleas. At least four times he sneezed out the signs of respiratory disease, a common killer of kittens.

"Just what I need," I thought, trying to hide my anger from him. "I cannot possibly take care of another animal in a household already full of animals."

As we waited at a traffic signal, he put both front paws on my chest, looked up at me with pale green eyes and cried a noiseless cry.

At the vet's he was tested for feline leukemia and bathed. At a mere 5 weeks he couldn't even have his kitten shots yet. He had to be isolated from our five cats until he fought off the respiratory infection (with the help of antibiotics, of course).

But neighbor, I can't help wondering--what were you thinking when you threw him out? Was he the last in a litter of kittens your unspayed cat gave birth to, his siblings already given away to strangers in front of the local grocery store? Did you really think he could fend for himself? Did you count on someone else to take over your responsibility for you? Or did you really not care one way or the other?

Well, I'm getting tired of picking up the pieces of your disposable lifestyle, and I'm getting tired of caring.

Because, neighbor, this is the ninth of your discards we've stumbled across in less than one year.

What about the terrified gray mom and her four kittens? (It took an entire morning to catch them, but all are in good homes except for Tiny Trouble. He finally died despite the vet's heroic attempts to save him from coccidia, a parasite common in strays.)

What about the three orphan tabbies who had to be bottle fed and who slept in the bathtub for the first three weeks? (Two share a new home together, but Sassafras stayed here with us.)

What about Squeakie, Sassy's best friend, who was dropped off at the local pound and lived under the office for months until she was finally trapped? (She's slowly learning to trust the four of us but is still terrified of strangers.)

And neighbor, that's just this year's accounting. You've also populated our home with Chauncey, the black Lab who was abandoned at the beach; Daisy, one of a litter of puppies left at the Humane Society; and Bonnie Beagle, an $8 bargain from the pound who had rope burns around her neck and fly bites ringing her ears.

Jose, the black cat who turned up 16 years ago with a broken pelvis (kicked by a human, says the vet), ear mites, fleas--a hissing and spitting ball of fury--is still here in spirit. He died in April after a three-year battle against kidney disease.

Others, like Bobby McGee, Thing One and Thing Two and the four wild babies of the one-eyed mama cat, have passed through on their way to people who truly wanted them and considered them a commitment rather than a casual plaything of a moment.

Do you realize, neighbor, just how many of us are out here picking up the lives you leave behind like so much trash?

Friends Cherie and Bart have Murphy, who hated men (the cigarette burns on his terrier ears probably had something to do with that), and Stoney, the yellow Lab who obviously never had a day of training until he ran away and got caught by animal control.

Rosemary and Steve have taken in a rabbit, named her Bodecia and turned her into a house bunny. She had lived in a gated community with no food or water in her cage.

Gwen and George share their home with a never-ending stream of creatures, from tiny orphans to moms with babies.

Right now, the three poodle-mix puppies are almost ready for new homes.

Their mother will take more time, though. She remembers what the puppies don't--being boarded up in an abandoned building and left to die.

We'd all love to find you, neighbor and have a little chat, but somehow we only find your leavings.

Your latest, the kitten we called Turbo Motor Man, was lucky enough to find a good home because, as Rosemary says of her new house rabbit, "she gives so much more than she gets."

Too bad you don't know about that part of the equation, neighbor.

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