My precious cat Lucy was hit and killed by a car yesterday. I had just let her out of the garage, where she sleeps at night. Uncharacteristically, she ran down our long driveway towards the busy road. People drive far too fast along this road, despite the fact that there are three primary schools in the area. Only a week ago two little girls were hit just around he corner. Luckily they both survived. I often yell at cars to slow down as I walk my daughter to school in the morning. (Not one to bottle up my feelings, me.)
I drove down the driveway after Lucy, on my way to a meeting. I saw her, a little tabby smudge, sitting just by our mailbox. Then she turned and dashed to the right, out of my sight.
In the few seconds it took me to reach the road I prayed that she had run down the pavement or into a neighbour’s property. Then the road came into view, and with it the sight of my darling Lucy tumbling and flying as the wheels of a large white car trapped and released her. She scrabbled and gasped and fought for her life as I leapt from my car and ran to her, screaming. Mercifully, she died in front of me just a few seconds later. There was not a mark on her, not a drop of blood.
You wonder how you might react in a situation like this. I didn’t expect the guttural, primal screams that came from deep within me. The desperate, groaned expressions of love and denial. My most beloved cat, whom I had adopted ten years ago from the SPCA, who had been alive in her little bed in the garage just two minutes previously, was dead. How can you take in something like that?
Builders from the site next door to us gathered by the roadside, curious for a moment. I knelt on the asphalt, still screaming, shaking with shock now. I didn’t know what to do. Should I touch her? Where is the car that hit her? Please, can someone stop and tell me what to do? This is not how Thursday morning was supposed to go. I am not here, I don’t know where I am, how can she be here with me, but gone?
Please, could someone stop?
Car after car slowed down and drove around me. Car after car. Person after person.
The car that had hit Lucy had disappeared. The driver hadn’t stopped.
Then I sensed a presence and it was a woman touching me. I cried like a baby to her. They didn’t stop, they didn’t stop, they didn’t stop. I said it over and over.
Two more women stopped. We’ve got to get you off the road. Lucy spasmed once more. We all screamed. I took off my cardigan, put my cat in it and lifted her into my arms, breathing quickly. Vet, the vet. My vet is just down the road.
You can’t drive. She can’t drive, she shouldn’t. I’ll be OK, I can drive. You can’t, you’re in shock. I’ll take her car back. I’ve got an appointment at 9. I’ll drive you. I’ll drive her.
I cradled Lucy in the strange car. No, Lucy. Oh, my Lucy, no. The woman cried with me. She came into the vet’s with me where a wonderful nurse and doctor rushed to us. Of course, it was too late, but I already knew that.
I hugged the lovely woman who had interrupted her day to help a stranger. Tears were running down her face. Then there was just me and Lucy in a little room, and a nurse rubbing my back, then my partner was there. And after a short while we took Lucy home.
I was so grateful for the help of the women who stopped. Their kindness will stay with me. It goes a long way towards mitigating my incredulity at what we have become, a society of individuals who are forgetting to remember that we are all in this together; that we are all bound to one another.
What has happened to us? What would make a person who has hit a cat just drive on? I don’t blame him or her for hitting Lucy; there was nothing he or she could have done to avoid her. But not stopping? I still can’t fathom it. I am bewildered. And as for the other drivers who simply swerved a little and carried on to their important meetings/appointments/school drop-offs: would it really have been that costly to give up five minutes of your time to help a fellow human being in need?
We walk on by, we drive on by. It’s safer that way. We don’t want to get involved. We’ll be late. We wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. Someone else will stop. I’m too busy. I’ll pretend I didn’t see. If I ignore it, it won’t have happened.
Today I write in the sun and feel the enormous absence of a treasured companion. We prepared Lucy for burial, curling her up in her little bed with her catnip mice, little fish treats and a photo of my daughter, who added a hand-written card saying how much she loved her. As we held hands and said a prayer over Lucy’s body, I made a promise to myself and to her.
I promised that from now on, I will be that person who stops.