Posted on August 1st, 2013
he leg didn’t look like we thought it would—well, where the leg had been, I should say.
Lemon the three-legged kitten went in for surgery on Monday. We had been unsure about whether or not we would. Amputating even the remnants of a limb (if even a few inches of a leg remain, shouldn’t it be left there because removing it would be that much more of a loss?) seemed strange to us. And it’s just you and me here so I’m going to be honest: surgery was going to be expensive. Even with our incredibly kind veterinary clinic picking up half of the cost of the amputation, how much were we willing to pay to make sure our hippity, hoppity pound kitten could walk better? I mean, she was walking. Wasn’t that enough?
Why can’t the ‘right thing’ always the ‘free thing’? If it were, maybe more of us would be doing it.
Then we exorcised our inner Grinch and committed to taking the kitten in for a procedure that would cost more than 10 times what we’d paid for her. We stockpiled special food and Peaches made homemade toys to be dispensed over the course of her recuperation. But the kitten we picked up after surgery looked different than we had anticipated. Instead of a modestly bandaged incision, the procedure had produced a smooth, stitched surface where what remained of her broken leg had been. She looked like Frankenweenie.
More upsetting than the change in her appearance was her altered personality. Disoriented, medicated, famished and understandably furious, Peaches’ beloved kitten yowled as she half-heartedly tried to scratch and bite us both.
“What’s wrong with her?” Peaches wailed.
As I scratched the top of the head of the post-surgical kitten, Peaches wept in the backyard, overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all. I tried to remember why we’d done this to this cat much less to ourselves. Wasn’t everything alright before? Sure, Lemon’s injury carried the potential for it to become worse but she’d been making do. Why had we made everything so much harder for her?
Then we fed her and she stopped caterwauling in her previous, disconsolate fashion. She slept. And this morning, less than 24 hours since we’d brought her home, I watched Lemon begin the work of learning how to walk all over again. It was unsteady, but already her gait looked smoother than it did before the procedure. She does not have to think any more about the part of her that doesn’t work, making allowances and devising work-arounds for it. Now she can spend all of her energy focusing on the parts of her that do.
It’s been awhile since the circumstances of my life were broken enough that I was forced to make significant changes to it. I am grateful for that but I can easily call back those times when they were, and what I have remembered watching Lemon is this: that the only changes that really mattered, the elemental ones, were made when I thought I couldn’t walk anymore only to discover an entirely different, more elegant way of doing it.∗