I saw something sad today (by )

My train to take me to London for the week leaves from Stroud, a small town near us with a train station. It was me, Jean, and Sarah in the van; Sarah's father was coming down on one train, then my train was heading back about an hour and a half later, so we'd hang out in Stroud for a bit, then he'd take my place and drive Sarah and Jean back in the van.

The journey from our village down to Stroud goes via Painswick, a picturesque village frequented by tourists. Because of this, it has a commercial area along the main road through it, with lots of tea shops and pubs. Well, that makes it sound like a thriving metropolis - it has a few tea shops, two pubs, a post office that also functions as a stationer and newsagent, an excellent little chemist, and various antiques and crafts shops. Which is a thriving metropolis compared to our village of Cranham, which has a single pub and a post office that opens two mornings a week (soon to close).

If you don't want to read a graphic account of a cat being seriously injured by a vehicle - stop reading here.

Anyway, since Painswick is frequented by tourists, it was no surprise that we were pootling through the heart of Painswick behind a large coach. But it was a surprise when the brake lights on the coach came on suddenly, and a cat emerged from beneath the wheels, writhing oddly. It contorted about on the pavement for a few seconds, then zoomed up the pavement, past us, screaming in agony... on only its front legs. Leaving a wet red trail behind it.

Uhoh. I popped the handbrake and the hazard lights on, told Sarah and Jean to wait there, and leapt out in pursuit. Around a corner were a couple of rather ashen-looking people.

"Ohmygoddidyouseethatcat?" squawked the lady. "Yes, I saw a coach hit it - did you see where it went?", I replied "Was it you? Did you hit it?" she asked. "No, I was in the van following the coach, I saw it happen," We started looking around, then I heard a faint meowish sound from surprisingly nearby. The poor thing was hiding under the car we were standing next to, it's rear legs hanging uselessly behind it in a small pool of blood. I could see exposed flesh glistening red. From the front, it looked almost normal, but I'm used to cats and could tell it was in shock; there was a look of wild fear in its eyes and it was panting. The lady let out a pained moan. I winced. The other guy looked sad. We held a quick conference. None of us lived in the village, and there was nobody else around. I couldn't remember if there was a vet in the village; I didn't remember having seen one. The driver of the coach appeared, having pulled up a bit further along than me, and looked aggrievedly at the cat. "It just darted out in front of me," he said. We sympathised with him; a lesser man wouldn't have stopped the coach and come to see what the results had been, and he had a coach full of people who needed to be somewhere, so we told him it wasn't his fault and that we'd deal with it, so he hurried back, looking upset.

I dialled 118118 and asked for an emergency number for the RSPCA.

A few minutes in a queue later, and I was through. First, they wanted my full name. That's unfortunate, since "Alaric Snell-Pym" needs spelling out; I let him take it down wrong rather than waste time getting it right, so I think they have me as "Rick Snell-Pin". Then they wanted my address. Then my phone number. Then to know if I was reporting suspected cruelty, or an injured animal (although I'd been through that before I got into the queue, when I was in the "Press One If You Are Calling About..." stage). Then, finally, they asked what I was calling about, so I explained, and describe the location, and the current condition of that cat. And, sadly, I told them that it wasn't wearing a collar, so we couldn't tell whose it is.

Then the man on the other end said "I'll pass that information on to a handler who'll assess the situation. Thankyou for calling, goodbye!"

Ok. Well, hopefully they'd send somebody, right? I'm not an expert, but my hunch was that the cat would soon die of some combination of shock, blood loss, and having its rear crushed, and I'd rather it died by drifting off to painless sleep on a warm towel at the hands of a caring vet than bleeding to death in terror on the tarmac under a car. Part of me was wondering if I should be considering finding something I could just crush the poor thing's skull with to end it quickly.

I told the other two I was going to move my van to somewhere better (it was in the A46 with the engine running and the hazard flashers on, with Jean and Sarah in). So I went back and explained the situation to Sarah, and moved the van to an actual parking spot. Jean was asking about the "sad cat", and I told her I was looking after it. Then I returned to the cat, where the others had heard from a passerby that a vet lived in a house next to the library. So they went off in search while I kept watch over the cat, which was still alive, panting and staring about frantically, occasionally pulling itself along by its front paws to look in a different direction.

A while later, they come back, with a concerned looking local vet, who peered under the car, also winced, then went off to find a cat basket. He soon returned, and the rest of us spread out around the car, creating a barrier with some bits of wood we find in a skip and my fleece in case the cat panicked and crawled off (it managed quite some speed before) as he reached under the car, expertly flicked a towel over the cat and scooped it up. It started screaming in pain again, but it couldn't use its hind legs to escape and he had it held firmly as he loaded it into the cat box.

"I'll take it back to my surgery and put it to sleep," he said. "There's nothing more I can do. It will die of shock otherwise." "There's no collar," I said. "Do you know whose it is?" He shook his head. "I'll scan it for a microchip afterwards, see if I can find an owner." We thanked him, and he hurrids off, carrying his sad burden. Then we thanked each other, and went our separate ways.

I then spent twenty minutes on the phone, in a queue, to the RSPCA to try and tell them that the situation is now in hand. But then I had to give up because I needed to ring Sarah's father, who we were late to pick up, and to conserve some battery power. I wished they'd given me a reference number or something I could have just punched into the interactive voice response system to close the case without needing to wait for a human. I was just trying to save them time and money, telling them there's no need to send a guy out. I left my number with them, so perhaps they'd ring me later, or I'll try and ring them again later when I get off of this train.

That all happened around 6pm. It's now 8pm as I sit writing this on the train. I wonder if somebody's wondering why their cat hasn't come in for its dinner yet. I hope the vet manages to get in contact with them, so they at least get to bury their pet, and know that even when it was suffering it was surrounded by concerned people doing their best.


  • By Charlee, Mon 19th May 2008 @ 8:19 am

    Gods that is horribly sad. Poor you. I can't bear seeing animals in distress, well done for handling it so well.

  • By alaric, Mon 19th May 2008 @ 1:50 pm

    The empathic feedback is the hard part. Having your pelvis and legs and however much further up crushed under a wheel must be really quite unimagineably horrible... and I'm quite prone to feeling the pain of others.

    And I love cats. I grew up surrounded by them, and really missed cats when I left home. I was overjoyed when we were living in a place where we could have cats. I feel myself again with a cat on my lap. Seeing one suffering like that was painful in itself.

    I'm hoping Jean's not scarred by the experience of seeing the accident happen - apparently she's been looking worried from time to time since and saying things like "Orange cat injured!". Well, that's our translation - it comes out more like "Ongange cat ingunged". Perhaps it'll teach her to be careful crossing roads, rather than giving her recurring nightmares about screaming cats convulsing about with their legs pointing in directions they shouldn't.

  • By Seth, Mon 19th May 2008 @ 2:23 pm

    RSPCA=useless idiots. they came to the hare krishna temple and killed one of our cows completely needlessly...

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