I don’t bother wondering any more why it is that every time I take a different path from my normal routine I find an animal in distress. Instead I have become somewhat of a believer that there is a reason for everything.
Well… almost everything.
One rescue which actually challenged this belief came on a frigid January morning as I made my way through the maze of highways leading in and out of Tulsa’s downtown district. Heading toward the city zoo for my weekly docent training, I decided to skirt the inner city and navigate the outer edges. I was busy switching lanes to make the series of prescribed exits when something caught my eye. I instantly groaned and my heart sank as I located a small, black kitten high up on a grassy hill, playfully tackling something in the weeds. Completely unaware that he was surrounded by deadly highways resembling a den of writhing, pulsating snakes, the kitten was totally absorbed in his amusement. This was clearly not a kitten-friendly situation. Staring hard and taking a detailed mental photograph of the exact location of the stranded kitty, I determined my best approach. Thankful my car had a mind of its own and knew to stay in its lane, I turned around in my seat and looked back at the highways as they angrily circled their prey.
I spent the next 20 minutes becoming steadily more frustrated, exiting different ramps in pursuit of the one which would put me directly above or alongside the kitty. At least the kitten was staying in the same spot, stalking and occasionally pouncing on something in the tall grasses. Relieved, I concentrated harder on finding the right turn off. By this time I was already so late for my docent class that I had resigned myself to missing it altogether and instead focused on the rescue at hand. I finally found the off ramp which would place me closest to the kitten and yet keep me out of danger from the steady traffic. My worst nightmare is chasing an animal into a disastrous situation and realizing things would’ve been better left alone, so I was very careful to survey the situation and plan my approach. I decided to come from above the kitten and hoped I wouldn’t scare it down the hill into traffic.
I pulled off of the ramp, onto the grass, and turned off the engine. I sat a moment, waiting for a lull in the traffic, my car rocking with each passing vehicle. When I got out of the car minutes later, the fierce wind bit into me with such determination, it was difficult not to take it personally. I crouched down on all fours in the grass and slowly moved toward the side of the hill, cooing softly. Suppressing a sneeze, I pulled my jacket collar high up on my neck. No sign of kitty. Cresting the hill, I moved forward cautiously until I saw movement out of the corner of my right eye, about 15 feet from me! Avoiding eye contact, I immediately looked away and engaged in a distraction tactic I have used successfully on several rescues; I engrossed myself in play with an imaginary bug in the grass in front of me. Substituting a small rock for the bug, I poked, tossed and sniffed it, hoping to arouse the kitten’s curiosity. By now my fingers were numb from the cold, my nose was dripping, my eyes were watering, and my ears were nonexistent.
After a few minutes of animated play I decided it was time to confront the kitten and invite it to join in. I continued to grab at rocks while gently tossing my head to the left to determine the success of my antics. I focused casually at first, and then stared in utter disbelief. Hung up on the weeds of the overgrown hillside my “kitten” was actually a small, black, plastic trash bag. It took on a breath of air, then exhaled, dancing a few inches to the left, and then back to the right in unmistakeable cruel mockery. Moments later, and still hovering on the edge of denial, I heard a man’s voice yell from a car behind mine.
“Hey lady… You alright? Need some help?”