Robin Richmond Mason: 'The Blind Dog and the Crooked Cat'

Robin Richmond Mason

It is Thanksgiving 2021 and our world is going through unique challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, political chaos and economic uncertainties have left us all searching for certainties and foundational character.

In thinking about Thanksgiving and the blessings of our present and past lives, the presence and identities of our children comes to mind at the top of any list. Rodger and I can answer in unison without a pause that the four things we value most in all the Earth and in our shared lives is our kids. During the recent months, we have watched a common strength of character, demonstrated by all four young adults.

That observation compelled me to dig into my writing archive, where I found “The Blind Dog and the Crooked Cat,” written in the last century. At that time, Rodger and I were working hard to demonstrate compassion and kindness for our young brood. In 2021, we see kindness beyond our highest hopes.

Ashley Beth, along with the diligent help of Jarrod, Will and Henry, daily respects the life of Mandy, their very old collie dog. Mandy needs soft food, careful maneuvers, daily medications, warmth and lots of love.

Ariana and Brock rescued a set of kittens from an active tire warehouse this year. Their daughters, Kylie and Noelle, petted and preened those kittens until they became prized pets for new owners.

Andrew helped his friend adopt a puppy from the pound. I also watched him dig a grave for a dog that was killed in the road this summer.

Alison has just arrived home with another basket of abandoned kittens. We’ve lost count of her rescue successes. The kitten milk is waiting, the tiny bottle will be sanitized, and the warming pad will be snuggled into place. This batch of babies are bob-tailed. I am calling them the Royal Bobs because they are about to get the royal treatment of tenderness and nurturance.

Rodger and I have shared more than 40 Thanksgivings. We have held hands and looked around the table and thanked God for the families that we came from and the family that we have raised. The hard work of a Christian home with intentional parenting is worth it. Character counts, and pandemics and chaos call fourth foundations that have been laid.

Here is the recollection from my newspaper column, written about the same subject, in a previous century.

The Blind Dog and the Crooked Cat

We only intended to raise thoroughbreds. If a family is going to invest resources and continual, custodial care in a pet, then that animal should have some value. Rodger and I made it through seven years of marriage without a single pet. We were free to travel from home without paying someone to feed the animals and we didn’t even know the name of a veterinarian.

Then we broke down and bought a beautiful, pedigreed collie from Buddy Gabbard. In this major decision, we successfully stuck to our value-centered goal of pet ownership. Barkley was beautiful, her temperament and growth rates were genetically predictable, and she would only produce puppies of inherent value.

Well, those must have been the good ole days. If I take you from there to now with a chronological pet history you’ll have to lie down in the floor with belly laughs. I don’t know how it happened but somehow four-legged creatures have compromised my vision of domestic bliss. Who am I kidding? They’ve practically taken over my life!

Our last bastion of rationality in animal ownership crumbled this week. Rodger and I had been gone from the homestead for one hour. We only went to a plant shop to purchase a small landscaping plant to replace the one that our dog slept on. What could possibly happen in one hour?

We arrived home and walked into the kitchen door to see three girls dramatically displaying distressed emotions. One of them was crying so hard that she couldn’t explain the problem.

The story came together and presented a complicated dilemma. Ariana and Alison had rushed out the back door to play on the trampoline. Somehow in the distracted discourse a three-week-old kitten had moved into their travel path. Ariana stepped on the kitten.

The kitten cried loudly and pulled itself underneath the steps. A half-hour of casting blame, sharing sorrow and playing doctor ensued. That is when Rodger and I came home. Rodger examined the injured kitten and announced that at best its leg was broken right up near its hip.

Now, you also need to know that this kitten was one in a litter of five. He was not especially attractive, and he certainly was not a thoroughbred. He is also the son of a mean, pleasure-seeking she cat that we acquired by accident. Dina is the worst mother cat that we’ve ever owned. She has a nasty temperament, she swats the other pets, she does not kill mice, and she has lost (or abandoned) several of her previous kittens in the forest. I personally dislike Dina so much that my family has fondly donned her “Mom’s cat.”

So here was the moral dilemma before us. A fragile, mixed-breed kitten with a negligent mother had been terribly wounded by a gentle-spirited child. We analyzed the situation and came up with three possible responses to the situation. They included:

Put the kitten out of its misery. The break was obviously painful, and the poor little thing would probably die anyway. Why consider shots, surgery and isolation only to have him die in the end?

Do nothing. If the kitten survived he would still have three good legs. Lots of animals live perfectly normal lives with an impaired limb. Besides, we’ve had a blind dog for years. Smucky stays close to home, he recognizes us by our voices, and he has provided many opportunities for teaching ethical lessons in compassion and acceptance.

Take the kitten to the vet for whatever treatment necessary. The kitten wasn’t worth 50 cents, but Ariana certainly was. Did we want Ariana to carry a memory of guilt for the rest of her life? Would we write a new descriptor onto Ariana’s self-image? Right there below athlete, learner, good sharer, we’d carve “animal killer.”

Then of course there was the possibility of perpetual sibling torture. Imagine the scene 40 years from now. The subject of pets would come up and three middle-aged women would all remember the day that Ariana stepped on “our” kitten. No doubt the memory would be embellished by time. The scrawny runt would become a prized specimen. His undeveloped personality would have become endearing, and the accident would represent a lone, premeditated act of wicked depravity. Probably they’d still be fighting about the kitten as I lay on my deathbed.

So, we talked about it. Ariana offered to give all the Christmas money that she had received from her grandparents, and Ashley offered a matching pledge. Alison was unsure about her coin count, but she spread it gladly.

So, the cat went to the animal hospital. He was shaved and wired back together. The pathetic creature had to be fed, warmed and massaged. Alison provided additional lullabies, and Ariana prayed her heart out.

What did it cost? What did it cost for us to add one more worthless, food-consuming beast to my list of dependents? Sit down.

It cost over $200, dear reader, and we’re still not sure if the kitten will live. What an impossible decision, what an expenditure of resources, but guess what? We’d do it again. Building real character doesn’t happen at Disneyland, and life’s important decisions aren’t always the big ones. Who knows, this may have been the best $200 we’ve ever wasted.

Robin Richmond Mason grew up in the Beaverdale community of Whitfield County. She resides with her husband and four children in Paint Lick, Kentucky, and teaches at Eastern Kentucky University. She can be reached via email to beaverdalecolumn@yahoo.com.

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