I’m pretty sure I’m the reincarnated soul of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals. It started like this. In 1986, as I pulled into a McDonald’s in the middle of a brutal Chicago winter, my headlights shone onto a small, moving object. Upon further investigation, I found a tiny (maybe 1-2 week old) kitten, shivering in a snow bank, too cold to even cry. I tucked her inside my coat, took her home, fed her with an eye dropper and nursed her to health. And of course, kept her. Turns out she was blind, but she adapted well and became my study buddy (I was still in college).
Fast forward to 1999. Now living in Napa Valley, California, I was outside washing my car when a bedraggled black cat appeared out of nowhere and collapsed at my feet. I swooped her up, wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the vet.
Two hours and $700 later, I brought her home, fed her and decided to keep her. My sister, with whom I was living at the time, named her Lucky (“because she is,” my sister said). She died two weeks later, but at least she was well loved and cared for during her last days.
Six years later, as my dog dragged me around the block one morning, we walked by a hedge (separating two houses) that began to meow. I peeked inside and saw several pairs of little eyes staring back at me. The next morning the meows grew louder, more insistent. Momma cat was nowhere to be found.
That night I parked in front of the hedge, drew out my oversized cat carrier and reached into the bush for one of the tiny kittens. The bush proved to be a formidable opponent. Thirty minutes later, when my arms were bloody from the dense brush, I drove home, grabbed a can of tuna and went back. One by one the babies came out and I quickly grabbed them up. There were eight in all. Taking them to the SPCA where I was a volunteer, each found a new and loving home.
My next heroic rescue came five years ago, while I was home recovering from surgery. As I drove down the main thoroughfare in my part of town toward the Starbucks, a mother duck was crossing the street with her three little ducklings.
I watched in horror as the car in front of me mowed them down. I slammed my car into park, jumped out and halted traffic in both directions. Ushering the babies who all had thankfully survived to the side of the road, I went back and carefully lifted Momma—badly injured but still alive—and brought her over to her babies. Unsure of what to do next, I called my vet to ask if they treat ducks. As the woman on the other end told me, “Um, no, sorry,” the mother flapped her giant wings and flew to the top of a nearby building.
I snapped my phone shut and gaped in wonder as the ducklings ran circles around my legs, crying for their mother. A man approached and as I relayed the story, he told me that the mother was waiting for me to leave, that she would tend to her babies once I had gone. Reluctantly I left the scene and went to Starbucks.
When I pulled into the parking lot at Starbucks, I rear-ended a guy. He jumped out of his car and started flailing his arms and swearing at me. My face scrunched up and tears began to flood my eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I said, my breath coming in ragged gasps, “but there was this duck . . . and the babies . . . and they were . . . mowed down . . . and I . . . oh, God, it’s just so . . . ”
At this point the guy looked at his bumper, glanced at me like I was a crack addicted clown and practically dove into his car, tires squealing as he peeled out of the parking lot. On my way back I was pleased to see that mother and babies had flown the coop.
Two years ago while I was once again home on medical leave—this time recovering from pneumonia—I went out to the mailbox and found a little duckling lying in the gutter. I stood her up and when she toppled back over, I realized that she was lame and her mother had abandoned her.
Sooooo, I scooped her up, took a picture of her because she was way too cute (see above), and named her Precious because she was. Then I took her to the Wild Bird Rescue some 30 minutes from the house, where she would be raised with other baby ducks and eventually released into the wild.
Since then I’ve rescued a baby mourning dove whose mother abandoned it, buried another one who I was unable to save beneath the angel statue in my back yard, and relocated several creatures (most recently a snail that was smack dab in the middle of the running path near my house) to safer pastures.
And yesterday, on my way to work, I found a beautiful black Labrador running in the middle of the street on a country road I drive to work. I pulled over, called her to me, and tried to coax her into my car so I could move her to safety. No joy. I called a friend at work whose son works as a sheriff in town. He came to help, but the two of us were unable to get her into his SUV. Finally, when a third person joined the effort, we successfully lifted her into the sheriff’s car and he set off to find her family.
I’m not Catholic and I’m not exactly saint material so I’m pretty sure I can’t be canonized, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night AND I’m getting ready to go on medical leave again. I’m already beginning to wonder what creature God will put in my path this time. I can’t wait to find out.
What about you? If you were the Patron Saint of Something (anything at all), what would that something be?
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Next Tuesday: You Know it’s Time for a Vacation When . . .
Next Friday: Sacrificial Virgin Wanted: Stupid Tourist Will Do