I am writing to you from the postpartum recovery sofa, with my coffee, my four-year-old and my four month old flanking me…feeling very blessed and alive. I am treasuring the little brothers and gaining so much joy from getting to be the mama. Just a few months ago though I was 32 weeks pregnant and I ran into some trouble with the law. I thought I’d share it just to give you a laugh, and more important- I feel an obligation to keep yall informed. There are these moments when you realize it’s time to take a look, and reevaluate what you are actually doing with your life. The cat- it was a canary, you know, one of those things that makes us aware of trouble- of overwhelm. A red flag. I had been running in so many directions… so fast that when the Cat Debacle happened, it alerted me to something: I was far too pregnant to continue doing so much.
Thinking back, I grew up surrounded by nature and all of God’s green earth. We felt like we were in the country- off the beaten path, but really we were on the outskirts of town, sandwiched between farmland and the local cemetery. We had neighbors who chained their dog outside. We had regular interactions with all different species of birds and learned their calls and names and migratory patterns, thanks to my biologist dad. We climbed trees with a fierce ambition that I now own as competitiveness, and would race to the top of the pines. One time my older brother, Christopher got so high he could see Cicarelli Farms over on Geddes Road. We loved our woods and had special locations within that were so known by us that we named them: the temple, a little spot where we cut away the brush and placed a cross- it was a rule to go there first upon entering the forest to thank God….the tunnels- the Horns dug a straight up military bunker filled with Doritos and Frito Lay snacks because Lee across the street had a father who worked at the plant in Detroit, an atrocity because we were good Christian kids and knew better than to steal- but we ate our fill anyhow. We valued our life and the threats were real. There was also a creek, the sledding hill, and the good climbing trees. It wasn’t strange to find an animal dropped off by a stranger who thought our land was “THE WOODS” and in this way, we inherited an angora rabbit, Cottonball, a quail- Vanilla, several cats and many dogs- most of which my father brought to the Humane Society.
But this upbringing did not prepare me for the likes of Ann Arbor where animals reign supreme. Where people treat their pets better than they treat people….
We have an old house, and so when the snow flies, we have mice unless we have cats. Earlier in April, we had kittens- four little fuzzy ones and then had adopted a fifth when a friend had found a stray. It was really cool to see our mother cat- initially opposed to the sassy youngster- decide it would be easier to lick him top to bottom and then nurse him! Such a mom thing to do. Wash up and then have dinner! We were able to find loving homes for all of the kittens except two. We couldn’t bear to part with them, little Kevin (the stray) a fat orange tabby, and Delilah (soon to be called Dill- or Samson depending on which child you asked) who was a beautiful gray tabby with brown ears. We took them and the mother called Ray into the Humane Society for shots and to have them neutered and spayed, I had to leave mama cat Rey there because she was sick and we couldn’t afford the treatment. We did however pay a 75$ ‘surrender fee.’
Several weeks later both kittens disappeared. We have no idea where they went, and we were all afraid to admit they could be actually gone. Since it was just starting to get cold I decided to go get another cat from the same friend that had given us the mother cat. Rey’s relatives were all outdoor cats and although I had never gotten an adult male cat that wasn’t litter trained, I suppose I assumed that Miso (full name: Professor Miso Tofu Scallion) would acclimate just fine. But he did not adjust well, he was pooping everywhere and wasn’t eating much. No matter what we did, Miso wasn’t a happy camper- and so when on the fifth day of his stay in our house we came home from homeschool co-op to a sofa covered in feces- I lost it. I put that poor fellow in the cat carrier and into the van, and my son and I dropped him off on a country road- rather close to the Humane Society, and in my haste to get to a volleyball game, didn’t stop even when a woman exiting the Humane Society made eye contact and pulled over just where we had left the cat.
Well, she called the police and reported that we had abandoned a cat and the animal control officer came to my home that evening. I openly told him I had left the cat in a moment of pregnant insolence. I was tired of cleaning up cat poop- which I’m not supposed to clean because of the risk of toxoplasmosis- and the kids were sick of being told to clean up the mess, too. I was forward and honest and when he left the cop said, “thanks for your transparency.” I was like yeah, I respect the work you do, my sister is a police officer and I know how hard your job is…He was like, “Oh yeah, who’s your sister?” I told him her name and he left. I thought it had gone well. I was happy that I was the kind of person who didn’t feel like they need to lie to the police, I didn’t feel like I had done anything wrong!
Boy- did I make (another) mistake. It turns out that “abandoning an animal” is actually a misdemanor- and the Law says: 90 days in jail or 1000$ fine. ALSO: NEVER TALK TO A COP! The interesting thing is they can take a statement from you (or record it, which is totally legal), and write it up however they feel. SO in my situation the kind young man who I thought I had a good interaction with reported that I name-dropped my sister hoping to get let off easy- as in would it make any difference if my sister is a cop? WHAT?!?! Are you serious, yes, yes I am. My sister got pulled aside by her Sargent to make sure that she knew if I ended up in jail she would have to treat me with complete anonymity.
So I got a lawyer, went to court, and plead no contest to Animal Cruelty and received fines and probation which included community service, drug testing, and counseling. The good thing is that because I completed my probation I can have this charge taken off my record. Otherwise, it would stay with me for a minimum of seven years. Every time I get pulled over, or what have you- “ANIMAL CRUELTY” is right next to my name. Mind you, I didn’t harm an animal, but abandoning an animal falls under that heading.
What about the cat? Professor Miso Tofu Scallion ended up being caught by that Humane Society worker who brought him back to the vet and had him evaluated. On top of being quite sickly, he had fleas, ear mites, and an eye infection. He wasn’t well. I wonder if he was adopted?
There are many points to learn from my sad tale- but I think first and foremost is that as mothers we need to know our limits, and be thoughtful about how much we take on. If you feel like you’re drowning, what can you do? Bow out of an obligation? Delegate? Spend a little time caring for yourself– mentally, physically, spiritually? Notice the yellow canary alerting you to danger. Take steps to somehow lessen your load. I know it feels impossible. But also I broke the law in a panicked pregnant moment when I could have just as easily given the cat back to my friend.
There is no amount of preparation we can have in our lives to be able to understand the ways of the world we live in. You can do jail time for abandoning an animal and in the same town a minor can take the life of their unborn child- legally.
I am praying that this Mother’s Day you are filled with hope. Hope for yourself- that you can make the shift to providing for your own needs on top of what your family needs from you, and in that feel positively empowered that it is the right thing to do. Part of us being great mothers is showing our children how important it is to care for ourselves. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ implies that we must love ourself.
Blessings and kitty cats.