A Chance Encounter

Posted by on Dec 26, 2015 in Holiday Stories 2015 | Comments Off on A Chance Encounter

By John Deal

I teach at a school that gives a long four-day weekend for the Rosh Hashanah holiday, and I came back to work this year on the following Monday rested and ready to grade papers. I didn’t expect my colleagues to come rushing into our shared office, faces stark, saying only that there was a “kitten emergency” that I’d better come check out.

The kitten emergency turned out to be a fluffy little orange tabby stuck deep down at the bottom of a trash can, right outside the academic building where my office is located. Actually, this kitten wasn’t quite so fluffy: it had rained over the long weekend, and he was not only trapped in the can, but sitting dolorously in a fair bit of water, too. To say he looked scared and miserable would be a gigantic understatement.

The little guy had clearly jumped into the garbage can out of hungry desperation, and then gotten stuck by its high, inward-curving walls. He was so little and so thin.

I ran to the cafeteria and begged some fresh-cooked chicken from the cooks, thinking we could perhaps lure him out and then nab him while he ate. I returned, we carefully tilted the can sideways, and the little orange fluffball bolted toward the science building. I followed after, but I never stood a chance of catching him.

Chance Then

This was Chance when he first came to us


Chance. That would be his name, I decided, because the night before my first attempt at humanely trapping him a week later, I dreamed that one of our rescue cats, Olivia Tusca, had given birth to a kitten named Chance. I left food out near where we’d last seen little Chance on campus, and someone was eating it, so the morning after I set the trap my hopes were high.

You can imagine, then, my surprise at peeling the tarp off the trap and discovering…a skunk. The same skunk, I’d guess, who’d been eating and drinking the cat food and water I’d been leaving out. Fortunately, I escaped being sprayed, and Mr. Skunk ambled out of the trap as calmly as you please when I slid open the hatch.

I decided to get more strategic, and started asking around to see if other teachers, staff, and students might have seen Chance, and if so, where. I set the trap again—no luck (but also no skunk, thankfully). Weeks passed without any trapping successes, not even stinky ones. Finally, I got a reliable tip from a campus security officer that an orange kitten liked to hang around between our main athletic field and one of the entrances to the cafeteria, and I set the trap a third time.

The next morning, a very woebegone, but also well-fed, Chance looked up at me nervously through the bars of the humane trap. He smelled of fear and confusion, and he wasn’t at all happy going to the vet for his neutering, but he was a tough little fellow to survive all those weeks, and a few snips at ear and, um, elsewhere weren’t going to keep him down for long.

I was confused too. The veterinary staff who’d assessed Chance didn’t think he was adoptable, but he was so young and so cute that I hated not to try. On the other hand, maybe releasing him back to campus would be best. But with winter coming…I called my friend and spirit guide Theresa Samsingh and asked her point-blank what I should do.

“I always think we should try to save them all,” she said. “Bring him to the shelter.” And so, through crazy traffic across the George Washington and Triboro Bridges, I did.

Chance stayed just under a week at For Animals, eating, growing strong, and—yes!—purring and interacting affectionately with Theresa. He wasn’t a feral, he was a housekitten who’d been cruelly dumped. He was very adoptable; he just needed socialization, patience, and love. And Theresa, doing so much for so many already, thought he needed a new living situation.

We could provide that, my wife and I, so we brought him home to our apartment and our already-resident feline community to foster him a spell. We fed him—he loved literally every kind of food we put in front of him—bought him his first cat bed and dangly toy, and talked to and around him as much as possible. I read him poetry and seasonally appropriate passages from Dracula while he scarfed turkey and tuna so that he’d associate human voices with good stuff like canned cat food. As for my wife? She merely fell in love.

Chance Now

Chance getting into the holiday spirit!

Our intention was to bring Chance to adoption events. Tiny, orange, silky-fluffed, and endearing, he would have gotten snatched up quickly, I suspect. But he was so happy with us, and as I said, my wife couldn’t bear to give him up. Plus, Chance had another fan in our household: Olivia Tusca, our pulled-from-death-row calico and a fellow veteran of life outside. I had literally dreamed he was her kitten, and now that they were together, she became his surrogate mother, hovering nearby him at all times, letting him (and him alone) eat her precious kibble and drink from her water bowl. When he passed out in her designated cat bed, she’d simply sit and watch him as he slept.

The other cats came around in time too, and now Chance has playmates galore. He is growing by literal leaps and bounds, and when I feel his side, where before there were wee, frail little riblets, now there is the rounded bulk of a well-fed kitten with plenty to eat and as much warmth and shelter as he could ever want.

So yeah, dumb pun or not, we took a Chance, and he took to us in turn. It’s hard to say who got luckier, really.

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