My life has been greatly affected by a small being during the last couple of weeks.
No, it’s not a baby. In fact, it’s the most adorable little fur ball of a cat you’ll ever meet. I never thought I would end up dedicating more time taking care of a kitten in Chile than to my own whims and needs (don’t worry mom, I’m fine), but things have a funny way of working out. As an kind-hearted administrator for my study abroad program told me the other morning, “A veces, estás en ciertas situaciones por una razón, y esta vez la razón fue salvar a un gatito.” (Sometimes you end up in certain situations for a reason; this reason was to save a kitten).
It hasn’t been an easy last month abroad. There were a couple of days when I was so frustrated by the lack of concern for animals in my home-stay that I nearly changed houses. But the initial trauma of the situation has worn off, and in its place lays the feeling that maybe I can help save the world just a little bit, one tiny abandoned kitten at a time.
The story is long and rather complicated, but in a nutshell my friends and I found a group of kittens abandoned by their mother in the courtyard outside my house on a Saturday night. After a late night search, we discovered eight kittens in total, yet at various degrees of living and dying due to cold, hunger, and uncontrolled dogs. The next day, my friend Addie and I brought the three kittens that made it through the night to an emergency veterinary clinic. Two of them were extremely tiny, probably just a couple days old, and the veterinarian had to put them to sleep. He told us that while there are a couple of animal shelters in the area, they’re often at full capacity and also full of diseases. The situation for stray and abandoned dogs and cats in Chile is tragic.
But this story has a happy ending. One of the kittens we rescued survived the ordeal. We’ve named him Tom (or Tomcito, if you prefer the typical diminutive Chilean twist). He’s currently fast asleep in my dresser drawer after a big dinner of warmed milk I fed him with a syringe. He likes to sit on my shoes while I do homework and play with the fraying laces. Needless to say, this tiny animal has stolen the hearts of everyone who’s met him.
And this story does would not be completely without describing the lengths that concerned friends and strangers have gone to in order to help Tom survive. It begins with my four incredible friends who helped me search for helpless kittens trapped outside late at night, climbing around in a spidery, creepy garage and an overgrown garden until 2 a.m. My dear friend Addie, her incredibly kind mother Claudia, and her equally caring daughter Claudita have also opened their home to this kitten and cared for him during his first weeks, which has been no easy task. Claudia also helped us track down a veterinarian on a Sunday, which we initially thought was an impossible task in Chile.
The veterinarian at the emergency clinic was also a godsend; he listened patiently as we tearfully tried to explain the situation in our broken Spanish and handed us Kleenex instead of a bill for euthanasia. The clinic was not anything close to a nonprofit organization, but the veterinarian we encountered was clearly dedicated to much more than paying patients. He also raised our spirits by assuring us that Tom was going to make it, and that we’d done the best we could.
As luck would have it, my nanny here has volunteered to give Tom a home as soon as he can eat on his own. She is wonderful with animals, and I am sure that Tom will have a loving home for the rest of his life.
I’ve never witnessed such an extent of kindness and willingness to help something as seemingly inconsequential as yet another abandoned kitten. Perhaps I encountered a little bit of the infamous “culture shock” student abroad students are incessantly warned about when I found those kittens left outside to fend for themselves. Perhaps this scenario could have occurred anywhere; I was just lucky enough to have never seen anything like it before. Regardless of the country, I’ve been touched irreversibly by what I think is a global instinct of many to love and care for all creatures great and small.