“Panic” is my middle name. I’m not one of those people who can keep a clear head during an emergency. Instead, my emotions take over, causing my heart to race, my stomach to churn, and my breath to quicken.
Just last weekend, I was only a block from my home when I saw what I thought to be a gravely injured cat in the middle of the road. As my car passed by, my eyes locked on his, and I knew that I could not ignore his struggle for life. I knew what I was supposed to do but found myself trembling and overpowered with fear. I pulled over (erratically, of course) and called my husband for help. Then I rang the police with my still-shaking hands. They were overloaded with calls, and the operator said they’d try to send a police car later. Try?!
I then phoned a local veterinary clinic and was told that they could administer care or provide humane euthanasia if needed, but I’d have to bring in the animal myself. After discovering that the local animal control office was closed, I called PETA’s Emergency Response Team, who confirmed that I’d done everything I needed to and encouraged me to retrieve the dying cat from the road.
By now, I was in tears and feeling quite nauseous, but with the help of my calm husband, Christopher, I knew that we could manage to bring the dying cat to the vet. Christopher arrived with a big box punctured with air holes, old towels, thick gloves, a shovel, and our 5-year-old daughter. (No one else was available to watch her—highly inconvenient!) But we couldn’t afford to waste another minute. I blocked traffic with my car while Christopher backed his Jeep onto the busy suburban street and placed the cat in the cardboard box. When we regrouped, Christopher told me that the cat was actually a woodchuck and that he was near death. Oh, my. That changed everything.
I called the clinic again to say that we were bringing in the animal and that, by the way, he’s a woodchuck. They replied that they didn’t handle wildlife, so we could not bring him there. Wildlife emergencies require special preparations.
The woodchuck’s suffering ended within minutes of our call to the clinic. Although we couldn’t save him and we were too late to relieve his suffering, we found comfort in knowing that he did not die on the asphalt, overcome by heat and frightened of the sounds of cars passing by. Instead, he was secure in a dark box in a quiet car, on top of soft blankets.
That day is one I will not soon forget. It is also one that I hope my daughter will remember as the day she learned that we all must do what we can, whenever we can, to help animals.
This post was written by Christine Leible, a major gifts officer with the PETA Foundation.