Death by the Way

I see death every day.

Every day. Any time I venture out, I see death on the road.

One day on my commute, I saw a dead deer on the side of the road in three different spots. Each one had most probably been hit by a car or truck.

Sometimes it is a dead dog, or a dead raccoon, or a dead possum. Sometimes the animal is so destroyed that you can’t tell what it used to be. It’s just a lump of greasy meat and blood.

You can tell when there is a dead animal nearby when you see the vultures circling. You don’t have to smell the death to know that it is near. I saw a dead dog on the side of the road once while I was driving out. When I returned homeward a few hours later, the vultures had destroyed the carcass and had pulled the remains into the ditch. If you were missing your dog, you wouldn’t be able to find it because the vultures would make short work of consuming the carcass, leaving just the bones to dry in the sun. Once I saw a vulture pick at the carcass of a squirrel, and stretch its intestine like a giant rubber band.

I don’t care if the raccoons and possums and birds eat the cat food that I leave out for the cats. Everyone is hungry, although I had noticed lately that the feeders still had food left in them the following morning, as if the possums and raccoons hadn’t been coming around.

It’s everywhere, death is.

Everything I do here at my little homestead is for the animals. It’s a small wooded plot bounded on three sides by the road in the middle of nowhere. I fenced 1/2 acre with 5′ high chain link fence. I am ensconced securely inside, along with Mr. Packett the dog and various cats of age and feralness. There are safe places for the cats to go, like platforms in the trees, the top of the RV, the shed, the fenced feeding station in the woods, and the cat dormitory.

This arrangement has been in place for 10 years. I didn’t plan for it to fail.

*****

Two weeks ago, I arrived home from work in the evening as usual. There’s been a lot of anxiety in my workplace. The business owner was discovered having an affair with an employee two years ago. He fired the person that confronted him, and he fired his girlfriend. He fired some other people along the way. He divorced his wife and when that was final, he brought his girlfriend back to work. He fired the chief operating officer and the human resources manager, and placed his girlfriend in charge of the business. He fired 5 other people in an effort to conserve finances, because the paychecks were either bouncing or being put on hold. Accounts weren’t being paid, and orders weren’t being fulfilled by suppliers. It’s a scary time.

I pulled into the driveway, and there were no cats.

There are always cats here, lounging on the driveway or in the treehouse, running from the woods, and climbing over the fence to greet me. There were no cats. It was deathly quiet.

I walked toward the road, checked the mail, and noticed that there was a white vinyl fence post sticking out of the culvert. I had some fencing supplies along the driveway, but I wasn’t in the habit of storing them in the culvert under the driveway. At the other end of the culvert was a towel lying in the ditch from where someone had taken it from my cat trap by the gate and spread it out in the ditch, like they had been lying on it while looking into the culvert.

I looked into the culvert and saw that Mr. Orange was deceased, lying near the middle of the culvert. I walked to the gate and called for cats and Mr. Packett. No one came.

I continued to stand just outside my gate, looking in and trying to figure out what was going on and who had taken my cats and Mr. Packett. Two dogs ran out of the darkness of the woods INSIDE MY FENCE and stood there looking at me. I opened the gate, not making eye contact with them, knowing that they might not let me in but thinking that they had made no offer to stop me.

The larger one was a young pit bull, and the smaller one was a leggy Jack Russell and chihuahua mix, perhaps 20 pounds, but athletic. They bolted for the cover of the trees, and the security light didn’t cast a light under the trees where they had disappeared. I called for Mr. Packett, and he didn’t appear. I could hear the dogs scrabbling in the leaves and underbrush, and I thought at that instant that someone had killed Mr. Packett.

I ran toward the RV, and looked in the open door. He and Jackie and Georgia were safe inside with no anxiety. I heard the chain link *ZZINGG* like something was going over the fence.

I grabbed a flashlight and walked the fence line, but saw no place where someone could have gone over or under. The dogs had simply vanished.

*****

The next morning Sugar came over and was able to get poor deceased Mr. Orange out of the culvert, and he found a spot under the fence where the dogs had dug under. He barricaded the hole and secured the base of the fence. By then, the cats had all appeared as if out of thin air, except for one tortoiseshell girl, the one that Sugar calls Pumpkin.

I buried Mr. Orange. Collins was forlorn and kept digging on the driveway above the approximate spot where Mr. Orange would have been in the culvert.

The next day I smelled death, and I found the Pumpkin deceased in the woods. Neither she nor Mr. Orange had any wounds on their bodies.

*****

This past weekend, I went to see my daughter and her husband. It’s a 5ish hour drive, and I took off from work on Friday, and Mr. Packett and I left for our road trip. Sugar was going to feed the cats, but I told him that the feeders and the water bowls were full and he didn’t need to go but once on Saturday since I’d be home on Sunday.

Sugar, being Sugar, went Friday night, and Saturday morning and Saturday night. About 6:30PM he sent a message that he had seen the dogs running loose with some teenagers who were out walking. He stopped them and told them to keep their dogs away and off my property because they had killed 2 of my cats. One girl said that the pit bull belonged to her, but the dog kept getting off the chain.

The next morning, I got a panicked message from Sugar to call him asap. He had gone to my place, and the dogs were in my yard. They had killed Jackie. I drove home in record time. We spent the afternoon cutting down trees and lining the bottom of the fence where the dogs could push under.

Do you know about Jackie? She was found in a public trash can in Savannah when she was a small kitten. Someone had cut off her left ear and stabbed out her right eye and stabbed her body. like with an ice pick. She had gone to a rescue organization that saved her life, and she has lived here with me for almost ten years. She was a special girl that talked to me, and patted me with her paws to get my attention, and curled up on my pillow at night.

This is almost more than I can bear.

I have lodged a complaint with animal control. The animal control officer has made an inspection, but the results are not public. If the dogs were at large when she made her inspection, she could confiscate the dogs if she could catch them. She knew of the smaller dog, and had tried to catch him several times, but he was too wily and fast even for a tranquilizer gun.

We suspect that the smaller dog is not the killer, merely the instigator. We think that the dogs returned for the thrill of the chase and the lust of the kill. I can’t get the image out of my mind of the pit bull shaking each cat until their necks were broken. I can’t imagine the terror of being hunted and knowing that you were going to die. I can’t stop imagining the sweep of fear washing over them when they knew they were trapped and would soon be dead.

This is a good reason that I don’t need a gun. I’d walk right into someone’s yard and shoot their dog. This would not bring back Jackie, or Orange, or Pumpkin, but there is serious trouble in the ‘hood if these dogs can’t be caught. There are farm animals across the road, cattle, horses, calves, colts, donkeys, pigs, and goats. Sugar is so traumatized by this that he comes over every day while I am at work just to check on things.

Rest well, my sweet darlings, until I see you again.

 

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6 Responses to “Death by the Way”

  1. Libby Hromika Says:

    I’m so sorry, Ruth. I know the gut wrenching pain of losing a beloved animal. Losing them by a vicious assault is more than I could take. I hope you feel the peace of knowing that for awhile they were greatly loved. I know that I know that we will see our pets again. Rest in peace, sweet kitties. Irresponsible animal owners need to be punished! No dog should be chained!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Maggie Says:

    I am in tears reading your story and want to send my love and sympathy to you and Sugar.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sharon Says:

    Ruth, I just checked my emails for the first time since last week. I am crying for you, Jackie, Pumpkin and Mr. Orange. My heart hurts for their endings, but my spirit tells me nothing was in vain, because they were loved and cared for while here. I am so like you when people tell me I should get a gun, I know myself better than they. Sending all of you love and hope for that is the fuel to get through tomorrows. Sharon

    Liked by 2 people

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