If I had known that I would never see Max again, I would have taken his picture so I could share him with all of you. I’d want you all to see his tiny green eyes staring up at me from the folds of the cloth bag that he nestled in. I gazed down at his eyes every time I stopped for a red light as I drove us from J. Lewis Hall Park in Woodville to the Northwood Animal Hospital in Tallahassee.
I had first met Max only 15 minutes earlier: a small ball of gray fur that fit easily into my husband’s hand. My husband had been biking when he saw the frightened kitten on the St. Marks Trail. When he saw that the kitten had a wound, we decided to take him to Northwood.
At the hospital we were told that the kitten was a Manx—he was born without a tail—but there was a wound on his bottom, a wound that was infested with maggots. My husband and I agreed to take full financial responsibility for the kitten so he would have a chance at survival.
We went to dinner and talked excitedly about making a home for … Max. Within minutes of leaving him at the hospital, we had named him. Max the Manx. We talked about how we could safely and slowly introduce him to our three geriatric cats. All of them had been strays at one time; Max would be in good company. We ignored the obvious—the maggots and the “septic tank” smell that had emanated from Max.
So we weren’t prepared for the call from the Northwood Animal Hospital. We weren’t prepared to hear that Max had been euthanized because his condition was too far gone. Max had not only been born without a tail, but also without a rectum, a condition called “Manx Syndrome.” His bladder was hard as a rock, and his feces were backed up into his abdomen. He was in pain, and there was nothing else the veterinarians could have done for him.
Worse than my sense of loss was the realization that someone had purposely left Max to suffer and die. His death might have been inevitable, but his suffering wasn’t. He could have been dropped off at any emergency animal hospital.
Our only comfort now, when we think of Max, is that at least for the last few hours of his life, he was in the hands of people who cared about him. I only wish he had started life that way.