Any Doubt, Check It Out
by Alice Arnold
I was heading downtown to feed in a section of alleys before the rain started – I was glad we were going to get rain. After this long, hard dry spell, the animals needed the rain. I was on I83 near the North Avenue exit when I saw a black lump out of the corner of my eye.
My foot was on the brake before I could think about it. I pulled to the shoulder and slowly backed up to get a look at the black object that could have been anything, an article of discarded clothing ro an umbrella perhaps. But no, the object was what I thought it might be – a cat huddled against the center wall dividing the north and southbound lanes. How did she get to the middle of the expressway, and why?
Next to her was an inset metal grate for water drain-off. The expressway’s drains are not designed like others that animals can jump into for a temporary hiding place or to escape danger. This grate was flush to the roadway and the bars were not far enough apart to allow her entrance. I sat in the car for a minute, thinking.
I’d have to be very careful to avoid scaring her into the lanes of traffic; it was 3:00 a.m. but there were plenty of cars on the road. I waited for a clearing and walked slowly toward her with a can of food. Like a bolt of lightning she started to run. I backed off and ran back to the car. This time I got the carrier and waited for the next group of cars to pass before I went toward her again. I stayed approximately ten feet away, hoping this would keep her from running and I talked to her the whole time. She started to talk back, at first a little cry, and when I answered her she cried louder. I got on my hands and knees, slowly working my way closer and closer. She was shaking so hard I worried she might have a heart attack, and if I didn’t get her soon so would I. I told her I was not leaving this place without her.
She kept trying to squeeze through the bars of the drain-off. I had my eyes on her but I could hear more cars coming so I stood very still until they passed. I got down on my hands and knees again and moved toward her; I couldn’t stand seeing her so scared, crying and shaking, trying to dig her way through the drain-off grate. Traffic had cleared so I took a chance and reached for her. She let me touch her and that was my cue.
I grabbed her so fast, shoved her in the carrier and closed the door; I held the carrier as tightly as I could and flew back to the car. The cat and I were both out of breath. I put the carrier on the seat next to me and I couldn’t help sitting there a minute or two with a big smile on my face. When I opened the carrier door to put in a can of food for the little one, she rubbed my hand with her head. I wondered how she wound up in the middle of the expressway; cats do things for a reason but there was no reason she would cross several lanes of traffic to get to a wall offering her no safety. “Did some wicked person put you out of the car?” I stroked her head one more time and I heard her start to purr – she was still shaking but her purring told me she knew she’d be okay now. She was safe with me and it was time to go.