Trapped : Smudge’s Story

Smudge-manI really love my kitty. See that cute freckle on his left paw? Isn’t it cute? I mean, really. How does a CAT have a FRECKLE?  He’s just too adorable.

I don’t spent hours a day loving on the guy.  He’s pretty independent, as cats tend to be.  Maybe that’s why I like him so much.  He requires little effort.  He’s not an affection monger, but he does enjoy attention from time to time. So, I’ll pet him by the fire for a bit in the mornings, then he’s done. Or I’ll give him a few strokes in the afternoon when he’s napping in the sun.

Do you give your animals and family members pet names?  Smudge will answer … well … acknowledge … er … knows he has many names.  We call him Mr. Boo, Smudger, Boo-boo, Smudgey, Cat-boy, Boo-Boolicious, Smudge-man, Schmitty-cat, Dog Wrestler and well … things just go down from there.

When we lived in Albany, Ga on the Marine Corps Logistics Base, many people lost cats.  The sweet felines would venture outside and never come back.  Our Smudge was one of the lucky ones. Peek-a-Smudge-a-boo

We let him out one Thursday morning, like we did every morning. He would spend the day outside and come back in around dark.  Though he’s fixed, there is too much mischief to get into at night, so we keep our cats in at night. This particular Thursday evening, he didn’t come home.

Friday morning, the weather turned sour and it began to rain.  I don’t remember the month, but I know that it was quite chilly outside.  I expected to open the door and have a cat dart through any moment.  There had been a few daring nights when Smudge had refused to come in  during his short life, but the combination of hunger, rain and cold paws would bring him home quickly.

Friday came and went. As did Saturday and Sunday. Monday still brought no kitty.  We were praying. We asked neighbors far and wide if they had seen our cat. We even made flyers.  We scoured the woods behind our home. We called Animal Control. We walked the streets calling him.

We heard nor saw a trace of him. Nothing.

Smudge still didn’t come home on Tuesday.  We walked down the little dirt road beside our home and called him.  He would – almost without fail – follow us down that road each night as we took Dulcie for her evening romp.  He enjoyed our walk as much as the dog. Couch Snuggler

It was late Wednesday afternoon when I rode my bike down the dirt road … alone.  Most of the time we walked down the dirt road, we were traveling as a family. There was noise from feet shuffling along and people calling Smudgey’s name. This afternoon, I rode my bike by myself.  I wanted to cover as much ground as possible.  I rode slowly. I called and I listened.

As I turned the bend, calling his name … I heard his meow. I stopped, jumped off the bike and yelled for him. If a kitty can yell, he did.  In the loudest meow I’ve ever heard from him, he answered me.  Tears welled up in my eyes. I still remember it. With each call and response, I took steps towards his voice.  At last I was close enough to see him.  He was sitting upright beside a small tree. I was surprised.  He looked fine. Why wasn’t he coming to me?

Then I saw.  His foot was in a trap. It was holding him at the point that would be equivalent of his wrist.  He couldn’t move. It took all of my strength, both hands and a knee to pry open that trap. I was so very afraid my grip would slip and  it would snap back on his swollen foot and he would try to run away.

After freeing him, I held him close and folded the bottom of my t-shirt up around his body. There was no blood … only a swollen paw that looked much like my little man was wearing a fat mitten.

I walked as quickly as I ever had, being careful not to scare him or bounce and jostle him. As we neared home (maybe a quarter mile?), I saw the next door neighbor was outside with his huge husky – that was not on a leash. From a distance, I yelled that I had found my cat and asked him to restrain his dog.  We passed by, I grabbed a child and  the cat carrier. We headed to the vet, not sure what was to come.

I know that I know that I know that he was trapped for almost a week.  He would NEVER have chosen to stay away from home, warmth, dry sleeping arrangements and food for more than twenty four hours. The fact that his foot was swollen like a mitten but that the skin was barely broken was a miracle. His wound  looked more like a cut – though you could see both his tendons and bone once the vet began to show us his wound. He wasn’t even bleeding. There wasn’t evidence of gangrene or infection.

It took weeks for his foot to heal.  The vet gave him iv fluids as he was dehydrated and antibiotics to ward off infection.  He stayed there overnight and then his foot was wrapped in a bandage. There was talk of amputation if his foot didn’t heal.  But it did. The first time his bandage was removed, his entire paw was black.  It was a frightening sight.  Eventually, he lost almost all the meat off the top of his paw. He lost his nails, as well.   The vet was gracious to allow me to leave the room each week as he changed the bandage.  But, after several weeks, things began to look better.

Finally, the bandage was off for good.  He didn’t put weight down on that leg it for a while.  But, as the weeks rolled by, Smudge walked more comfortably.  He didn’t seem to have much flexibility, but about a year later, we realized that he was again sitting in cat fashion with his paws turned up under his chest (like the picture at the top of the page).  I thought I’d never see that happen.  That was the final victory.

Mr. Boo

Today, you would never know he was injured unless you saw the sliver of skin that shows on his wrist.  His hair never grew back in the spot where the metal held his paw tight for all those days.

Though the rain that we received several days during that week was irritating, it probably helped save his life. He could have lived without food for that long, but he would have most likely died of dehydration.  His fur was beautiful when we found him – he had spent a good bit of time preening his damp, rain dappled hair.  That rain … the rain that caused him to catch a cold and left him sneezing often during his first week home, is the same rain that allowed him to live. The same rain that made him sick, preserved his health.

Why was there a trap wired to the base of that small tree?  Months after we moved (maybe a year after his trapping), a man was jailed for trapping cats, killing them and throwing their bodies into a swampy, alligator-filled pond that backed up to our neighborhood.  We know several kitties that were probably lost to this man’s meanness.  How was he caught?  He was bragging about his activity.  Dead cats were found in the trunk of his car.

Our Smudge was a rescue when my mom found him on the side of the road as a tiny kitten
and he lived a second rescue story later in life.
He’s our miracle kitty and I’m so thankful for his presence in our family.

Do you have a rescue story you’d love to tell?

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