Saturday, September 27, 2008

More than I Bargained for...

Updated at the end at 8:30 p.m.


Last night I rescued this kitten. Katya had been at a friend's house and Natalia and I had gone to bring her home. As we walked to our car in the cold dark, we heard desperate meowing and found a tiny dark kitten pleading for help. I forced the girls to the car, not letting them stop. Then Natalia said, "Mommy, but if a baby were crying like that with no one in the world, we couldn't just walk by and leave it to die..."

She got me.

As we drove home, the girls repeatedly told me that I was their hero. The awe and appreciation in their voices carried me through the rest of the night, giving me strength that I truly ended up needing...

A security guard helped me to force it out from beneath a parked car, I wrapped it in my (thankfully washable) Land's End squall jacket, and we headed home.

I figured we'd give it a bath and I'd call our vet to come check it out tomorrow. I planned on leaving it shut in the bathroom to keep it from exposing our cats -- and kids -- to any potential risk.

Chris was quite sporting about it when I got home...

He helped me to give it a bath. As we unwrapped it and turned on the water, we realized I had taken on much more than I had intended. The cat had been attacked and half of its tail was missing--leaving exposed nerves and lots of blood that began to flow.

It was also covered in fleas that surfaced once the kitten was wet, and its eyes were sealed shut with milky crust.

Chris and I thoroughly disinfected any area exposed to the kitten -- and ourselves -- and placed the kitten in a towel inside a plastic box. I headed out to a 24-hour veterinary clinic, unaware that my evening's adventures were only just beginning.


I waited for two hours and fifteen minutes to be seen at the clinic. I should have gotten in after a mere hour and a half, but a rich Russian woman and her driver were put before me after waiting rather impatiently for a mere ten minutes. Her puppy only needed a shot, so it was supposed to be quick... until her macho driver fainted during the procedure and cut his head! 

When the kitten was finally examined, I learned that the kitten has a virus. The problem with the eyes is a form of pink eye and the tail could be treated with stitches. The fleas, however, are a bit more of a problem... They can't really be treated until after the tail heals. The kitten is very weak, but still fighting to live. 

The real problem was that there's no way to know if it might have rabies -- a problem, it turns out, in the city. The cat had scratched Chris quite deeply (due to the pain of having water and soap on its tail-- before we realized it had an open wound) and we would need to rule out rabies. 

No clinic in Moscow would take in the kitten to treat the virus without knowing if it's rabid, and we certainly couldn't care for it here -- to do so would put our cats, and us, at risk. 

My only option was to pack up at 1:30 a.m. and drive to the opposite end of town to the only open quarantine facility. 

It was scary enough walking out into the dark in the middle of the night from the first clinic. I was not looking forward to prolonging the adventure, but it was too late to turn back... I paid the 600 ruble fee ($20 for the visit and $5 for the iodine and ointment for Chris), even though the vet offered her services for free.

As I got back in my car, I knew with almost certainty that driving alone in the middle of the night would lead to a run-in with the traffic police.


So... I carefully brought the kitten back to the car and embarked on my quest to find the next clinic...

An hour later, after repeatedly getting lost on the dark side streets that formed a labyrinth, I finally arrived. This area, too, was almost pitch black and I wasn't thrilled to be there in the middle of the night...

At least this time they were expecting me and there was no wait. Or so I thought. I had to fill out a lengthy document stating my passport details, the history of the cat, and using all kinds of legaleese about placing the cat with them. I made a mistake in copying and then had to start all over again.

Finally, at 3 a.m., the document was done, I was almost asleep, and the kitten was officially in quarantine. 

The cell is warm, he has the towel we brought him in, and he'll be fed. Unfortunately, that's all the care he'll receive. It breaks my heart to know that I basically handed the kitten over to certain death. I can't imagine how he'll survive without getting his tail sewn up and without medicine to fight the infection in his eyes (and most likely in his tail). 

I was quite persistent, trying to find any other way to treat him. Knowing this is Russia, I offered money to get him medicine while he's there. No. The man there was quite adamant that I would not be able to find any clinic in Moscow willing to take in a cat that could be rabid. This clinic, by the way, is free.

If he's still alive in ten days, there's a possibility I could get him moved elsewhere... 

We're not going to give up on him. If he can make it through this, we'll do whatever we can to help make him well and find him a home. 

The attendant then insisted on procedure and came out to spray the interior of my car. THAT was a lovely smell to drive home in...

Which brings me to our next chapter...


It was now 3:05 a.m. and I headed back into the dark spiderweb of confusing and poorly marked back streets, trying again and again to make my way back to the main roads. 

Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize that one street was one-way -- and I was headed down it in the wrong direction.  I was going very slowly, looking for any street sign to find out what it was called, and there weren't any other cars out.

No cars, I should say, until the three police cars suddenly appeared.

I was screwed.

Little did they know just how screwed I could have been...

Due to continued problems with our registration here, our papers are not in order. I had also just withdrawn $600 to pay bills, money the cops would instantly extort from me if they found it in my possession. 

Somehow I managed to remove our car documents from the glove compartment and hide them -- with almost all my money before pulling to a stop and having the cop at my side. 

I truthfully told the cop I was lost and couldn't see any street signs (it was really dark) to have known it was a one-way street. Then I laid it on. I know that lying is wrong, but this is the way things are done in Russia... There are MUCH more pressing needs for our money. (Many of you will recall the time I was pulled over and all my money was taken because the cop simply thought I looked so horrible that I must certainly have been drunk...!) 

I made sure he saw just how incredibly tired I was. My husband's scratch by a possibly rabid cat turned into my young child's. I made sure to tell how the past six hours had been a long misadventure brought on by simply trying to be a good samaritan. I was shocked our documents -- which were certainly all in perfect order -- weren't in the glove compartment; my husband must have forgotten to put them back there after renewing them. Then I reiterated that I knew how wrong it was to drive the wrong way on a one-way street and asked if I could just please pay my violation fine and head home. 

All of this transpired once they made me come sit in their car. That's usually a good sign -- it means they're going to accept a bribe. I pretended to give them everything I had, giving them every bill I actually had in my wallet -- a whopping 210 rubles (about $8.25). They did look as I pulled out the money; had I not removed all my big bills, they'd have been gone.

The cops actually let me go, and even explained quite clearly how to get to road I needed. I still ended up getting repeatedly lost, however. I'm not used to that side of town -- so even though I knew where I was, I hadn't been prepared for not being able to make legal turns at most places I would have needed to -- causing lengthy detours.

Every time I passed a cop, I felt my stomach turn into jagged rocks.

At 4 a.m. I finally arrived home, ate a quick snack, continued the laundry that needed to be  disinfected, and fell fast asleep.


The girls are quite upset about the kitten, wanting reassurance that he'll live... I don't want to lead them on, but I'm not sharing the full story with them. 

They've been so good about this, staying in their room with the door shut last night as Chris and I scrambled to react to the blood, Chris's scratch and the kitten's pain.

I've made my way through the day in an incredibly tired state. I'm headed to bed early and am about to take a nap. Chris bought me a GPS navigator for car this afternoon after having been so worried while I was repeatedly lost during the night. I'm very thankful!

We'll call tonight and  get an update on the kitten...

Sure wish we'd had a vet like you, Shad, to share the moniker of hero around here last night...

I would have taken pictures throughout the night, but my camera's battery died just as I was walking out the door to the first veterinary clinic. Ah, what pictures they would have been...

Updated at 8:30 p.m. I just called the clinic and was told that Smokey, as the girls have named him, is doing fine. Whatever that specifically means, they wouldn't say. "Fine" could simply mean not showing signs of being rabid... But I'm hopeful! Especially now that my mom has said she would take him!


Tina in CT said...

I can't believe the first vet would not stitch the tail and start antibiotics since the kitten was already in his office! Only in Russia! Yes, too bad you didn't have a Shad. I hope the poor kitten survives the 10 days. I can't believe you were out driving out around the city alone during the middle of the night. You did the right thing is rescuing the kitten. I would have done the same thing. I hope Chris will be ok. Will he need to go for shots or anything? I also hope none of the fleas escaped into your car or apt.

Tina in CT said...

I am being optimistic that the kitten will survive so hope that you can find a loving, forever home for him. If not, keep him and bring him back here and I'll take him. Maybe Liesel would like him. After all he is going through, he needs a loving home.

Carolynn and Steve said...

Holy cow, what a night! Thanks for sharing your adventure, and please know that you're in my prayers that everything turns out well for your family and the kitten. Good for you--your daughters are correct, you are a hero!

Annie said...

Yeah, Tina! Cats are such wonderful friends!

Wow - now THAT was great story-telling....and wouldn't I have given just about ANYTHING to be your company through the dark Moscow streets at night? Instead, I was slogging away with class lists in East Lansing, while you were having adventures you didn't want to have alone.

The one area in which my dear Russia truly puts me off, however, is regarding those "Militsia". That's where my good old Puritanical USA wins my vote.

Francie said...

Wow, I almost was about to emphasize with you, but by the second chapter, just couldn't stop reading and realized that I've never had such a terribly dramatic experience!!! You're writing is pretty addictive... I'll have to read more of your posts now!

Tina in CT said...

I grew up with cats and dogs and we always had 3 cats and 2 dogs but I am more of a dog person. I do like cats a lot and if this cat survives and is healthy, I want it to have a good home. But, I would prefer that it finds a good home in Moscow.

Rob said...

Although any experiences I can think of immediately pale in comparison to this, it does seem like it's always these sort of innocent goodwill gestures that often end up becoming the most harrowing tests. It's as if someone said, "Oh, you're up for a challenge?" and then lays it on thick.

Anyway, I enjoyed your narrative and I hope all turns out well for everyone involved. And maybe that GPS will help keep you out of a bind next time you don your superhero cape!

Steph said...

That's so sweet of you and your daughters to try to rescue this poor kitten in the first place.
My goodness, what you've endured as a result!
As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
You're my hero! I wish the best for all of you, including Smokey.

Tami said...

Wow! What an adventure! I can't even begin to imagine driving around Moscow by myself, after midnight. Whew! Quick thinking on hiding the money...and I think God'll forgive the little white lie!
Yep, too bad Shad wasn't around to help out. I could guarantee he would have stitched her up, given her a flea bath, put her in quarantine...AND given her pain medication, fed her and called you every day with an update! :)
Hope Smokey is alright...poor guy.

Tina in CT said...


I wish Tami had been near you so Shad could have cared for the helpless, injured, sick kitten. I sure hope he survives.


Rachael said...

Oh, poor little Smokey.

And, poor you! At what point in this adventure were you wishing you hadn't happened upon the little thing?!

Tina in CT said...


I'm happy that the girls pulled on Tamara's heartstrings so she rescued the injured 6 week old kitten. Hopefully he will survive and get healthy. He probably would not have lived another day. I get so upset about animals that are hurt.

Annie said...

The timing of this post was interesting for me. This morning Maxim and I were delivering our papers. My least favorite part of the route is a street which, though mostly residential (houses on both sides, an occasional church), is still a kind of thoroughfare, has four lanes and is rather busy. I turn on my hazard lights, and urge speed, but still am a traffic hazard during this part of the route.

Today I look up from my list to see a police car beside me. I roll down the window and he asks if I am having car trouble, I say no - just trying to deliver the papers. He says something like, "Well, it isn't too good to stop your car on this busy road." Then he takes off. It gave some contrast to my usual Russia-rave to be able to relate what happened to YOU. In the end, Maxim and I have one question. Why, do you think, are the police paid so little that they have to resort to bribes to feed their families? (Such, anyway, was the explanation given to me by someone for this sort of activity.)

Fioleta said...

I hope that everything will turn out well and the kitten doesn't have rabbies and will survive to receive proper treatment.

And your actions definitely deserve admiration of your kids.

Katya said...

Oof. What an adventure... do you remember that calico cat from grad school? You have a history of rescuing problematic strays...