I come from a very small town and live in a very distinctive house. It’s the biggest one in our village, and it also has a sign out front declaring it an inn. This means that people I don’t even know know exactly where I live. This had its advantages: I never got off at the wrong place on the school bus. And disadvantages: when we were learning how roads worked in second grade my house was a point of reference. I still couldn’t figure out how to head north on the highway. (I kinda almost get it now.)
Well, one day a few years after my elementary school days had ended, my family got a horrible phone call. One of my former elementary school teachers had hit one of my cats with her car while speeding in the rain to get to work on time. Now that it was lunch, she was calling to tell us to go look for the poor thing’s body. Wasn’t that caring of her? I suppose some people just aren’t born with the decency or law-abiding nature to stop when they hit a pet.
I ran out into the rain searching for my cat. We found poor Tigger, my gray-striped tabby hiding in a flower bed. He was bleeding, and his hip was obviously broken. My mother rushed him to the vet in town. They sent him to a specialist, and the prognosis wasn’t good. Tigger needed hip surgery, and it would cost at least $3,000. Growing up we always had food on the table, new sneakers, and dance lessons, but $3,000 on an animal just wasn’t an option. We took Tigger home to say our goodbyes.
Thankfully the wife of the pastor across the street had had a cat that was badly injured, and she suggested that we lock Tigger in a kennel for six weeks, only take him out to put him in the litter box a few times a day, and never let him walk. Either his hip would heal on its own and he would live, or it wouldn’t and he would have to be put down. We changed out the sheets in that kennel twice a day every day while Tigger waited his six weeks in confinement. When it was over, his hip was healed! Yay! But he wouldn’t use his front paw. He had lost the claws on that paw in the accident and now had nerve damage and muscle atrophy. I was so worried that my poor kitty would never be able to run again. I decided to give him physical therapy.
I brought Tigger to the downstairs bathroom and locked us in. Just him, me, and an old rag. I snuggled Tigger into a sense of security, and then I used the old rag to tie up his good front paw. I had impeccable logic. If his good paw were bound then he would have to learn to use his injured one. I set Tigger down on the ground with the air of one setting a baby bird free. And Tigger flopped to his side and lay on the ground giving me a glare that would send grumpy cat running. But I would not be discouraged. I set Tigger back up again, and again he fell over. I tried standing him up and helping him reach his bad leg toward the floor. As soon as paw met ground I let go, and the cat face planted with a yowl.
This kitty physical therapy went on for hours. The only result was a few more cat scratch scars on my arms, and a cat that didn’t trust rags or towels. Tigger eventually forgave me and learned to use his paw. Although, for the rest of his life if he was tired of walking or just wanted extra sympathy he would flout his old war would and run on three legs just to make small girls swoon at the bravery and masculinity of his neutered self.