Amidst sea foam and the hot sun, me and my brother found our cat.
It's something of a daydream this memory, hazy, warm but still absolute. The temperature was perfect, and the taste of sea salt was lingering on my lips as me and my brother, Seán, cycled to the pebble beach at our grandparents. I was ten, so that made him 12. We were laughing loud, free from any fear of annoying anyone, free from really any cares at all. Looking back, it's something of a miracle we heard him at all.
It was Seán who first heard the tiny whimpers from down the hill, amidst the rocks and pebbles adjacent to the shoreline. He stopped and looked at me and I heard. Not quite sure what to expect, we decided to investigate, abandoning our bikes on the crest of the hill. As we approached the sounds, they grew quieter (we'd later understand the poor animal was using its last bits of strength to cry out for help). Finally I saw him, just as the sun glinted off his tiny amber eyes. On a dull day I'd have never seen his black, brown and white fur among the similarly coloured pebbles. But that day I did.
He was tiny, able to fit in the palm of my hand.
His bones jutted out against his skin and his eyes were hollow and lifeless. There were several things wrong with him and even I could tell that, someone who, before this, had little to no experience with animals.
First and foremost, the beautiful little kitten was painfully malnourished. Secondly, there was a distinct amount of blood around one of his legs, stopping him from moving. Seán noticed the blood was dry and said the cat must have been in the sun, in that spot, for way too long. I noticed the plastic bag hooked around his back leg.
The plastic bag puzzled me. Weeks later, when I remembered the detail and questioned my mum she was frank and honest with me. She told me the farmer's up the road from our grandparents had simply had one t0o many kittens and that he'd placed the cat (who'd later become ours) in a plastic bag and threw him, without any remorse into the sea. The coward failed and fell short and left the day-old animal to die of its wounds. The brutality was so foreign to me at such a young age, I genuinely couldn't understand it. I still can't fully. It did however open my eyes to the horrible things happening to animals who aren't lucky enough to be found by caring owners daily.
We cycled back at break-neck speed, me carrying the tiny cat in one hand, Seán leading the way. Luck was on our side that day as neither of us fell to our deaths. The miracles didn't end there either. As if by some divine intervention, our aunt, a vet, was staying with us for the weekend. When we reached home, she took the animal from my hand and was quick to asses it's needs.
Despite the many allergies in my family, we all came together to help get the newly anointed "Pebbles" food, milk, warmth, newspaper and shade. My mum, always against getting an animal due to our constant travelling, couldn't help but fall in love with him. In the strangest turn of events, there was no debate, no fight; we were going to keep him. He's was barely in the house ten minutes and we knew he was part of the family. Pebble's life began, after it had been so close to ending, now with human beings who loved, cared for and fed him instead of one willing to throw him away for no more than inconvenience.
When I was a kid, younger than I was when me and my brother found Pebbles, there used to be a story pinned up in my classroom. I never understood it until I got to do my part in saving an injured kitten who would become a treasured friend and family member for years to come.
The story by Loren Eisley goes:
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.
Then, smiling at the man, he said…..“I made a difference for that one.”
No matter how much or little you do to support animals getting to live a full life, never think it's not making a difference in its own right. Feed that stray cat. Adopt that old, sheltered dog. Love that three-legged turtle. You are making an immense difference in these acts of kindness to the animals who have been thrown away and unloved.
So, in honour of Pebbles who lived a full and happy life with me and my family until his death last year, here's a small list of all his favourite things that he, like every other animal, deserved to live long enough to find out.