Early in the morning on the way out yesterday, I stumbled on a black mass lying motionless on the street. I didn't need to examine further to know with ominous certainty that it was the neighbourhood Blacky all right. Blacky -- the female street cat we had tried to catch when her caregiver sounded out to us that she was suffering from conjunctivitis. Red sore eyes. We could see so clearly from afar that her eyes were infected and in need of medical attention. We used cat traps, waited for hours for her, peeked beneath vehicles, tiptoed to her quietly, lured her with different food baits, but like many strays, Blacky eluded us. She longed to be her carefree self, going only to humans (her elderly feeder) for food.
About a year ago when C the cat hoarder moved out, Blacky was one of the handful left behind the vacated house when her owner could not house and take care of so many. While some were caught by pest control after adjacent neighbours quickly seized the opportunity to complain about the cats left unattended, Blacky was smart enough to explore the area behind C's house. She took shelter at an abandoned duplex for many months, quietly sleeping there and also met with our elderly feeder who decided to place food along the pavement for Blacky.
Blacky was the the human-wary sort. She took on a stance of either complete ignorance of passer-bys or scampering quickly to underneath cars when humans approached. But patiently and loyally, she would wait out at the feeding spot under some random foliage and hoped in the heart of hearts that no one would hurl a stone at her, stamp their feet so loudly to scare her or upturn her water bowl. Those were our hopes too.
Then, as if part of Singapore's waves of urban residential property redevelopment, the empty house where Blacky stayed was rapidly torn down and workers' quarters, piling materials and the intermittent crane replaced the plot. Blacky was evicted and was found more often than not seeking shelter in the vicinity of the feeding spot (the pavement), what choice did she have?
According to the feeder, she would sometimes be pursued maliciously by an alpha ginger cat, or hissed at and intimidated by other gungho males who followed the feeder to her spots. Blacky did put on a little bit of weight from the good nutrition, but as time wore on, I realised she was less adept to responding to sudden motions or sounds. Her deteriorating eyesight impaired a fraction of her agility and nimbleness. The delayed turn of her head, the contortion of her nose to sniff out her surroundings more deeply... I guess these were signs people who observe cats long enough could tell from. Blacky's reactions were a tad awkward, if I may so say.
And perhaps because of such handicap, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Blacky was knocked down by a speeding vehicle travelling downslope along the street. When I found her, her body laid motionless on the concrete of the street. Her eyeballs were ejected, the subsequent cars must have continued to roll over her.
But her body was intact. Fresh, yet bludgeoned by machines without respect and regard. I had a blue towel in the car, so I wrapped her up in it. My heart teared a drop.
Finally, for the first time, I could lay my hands on Blacky. No longer to give her medical attention, but to grant her some peace, respect and dignity.
We buried Blacky in the caregiver's backyard. Her body covered in the same blue towel.
Uncontrollably, our 80+ caregiver burst into sobs. The demise of the one she cared for and loved. While passbys judged and condemned.
"Remain positive for the rest of the cats." All I could force myself to tell her.
Blacky was nobody's child, but our caregiver gave her the love and warmth she snugly burrowed in.
Covered and compacted. In shalom peace you rest, Blacky.