I think that no matter how long I live, I’ll never understand certain human behaviors.
Take today’s experience. I had just left our downtown waterfront park after an enjoyable morning walking, dodging jets of water at the public fountain, and having my baby girl take her first-ever carousel ride.
I had just merged into expressway traffic heading home when I started seeing dark, roundish objects bouncing on the road ahead. I watched as a few cars swerved to avoid hitting the unknown items.
Before I had time to do anything I was upon one of them. I realized at closer range that this was an animal of some sort. At first I thought it was a dead squirrel. Then it looked like a rat, but it wasn’t dead, it was twisting around, legs flailing.
My mind was racing, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. I’ve seen rats many times, but never on the highway.
Then I heard it go under my wheel. I glanced in my rear-view mirror to confirm my worst fear. Suddenly the “rat” stopped rolling, upended itself and started sprinting toward the shoulder.
That’s when I realized in absolute horror that is wasn’t a rat* at all, but a month-old tabby kitten. It rolled a few more times, obviously mortally wounded, before making it to the shoulder.
I looked forward again to find more kittens on the highway. It struck me then that SOMEONE HAD DUMPED A LITTER OF KITTENS ONTO THE HIGHWAY. From an overpass? From a car? I couldn’t guess. I couldn’t even imagine the sick mind that could conjure up this as a solution to the pressing problem of what to do with an unwanted litter. Worse yet, I wondered if it was a sick prank.
By now, I was so distraught I had to pull over. I desperately wanted to get out of the car and chase after every one of those poor, doomed creatures. I wanted to scoop them up and wrap them all in blankets and nurse them back to health.
But I had Girl from the East in the backseat. I was alone. It was the inner-city. Traffic was fairly heavy and moving quickly. I couldn’t risk my daughter’s safety for this seemingly hopeless cause.
But I couldn’t bring myself to just drive away, either. Didn’t anyone else notice these animals in distress — in the middle of freakin’ 70 mph traffic?
Finally I got it together enough to call Mr. Husband to get the phone number for the Humane Society shelter in our area. I got through and reported the incident.
But my heart sank. What could they do? If they could even find the exact spot where I saw the kittens, I’m sure it would be too late, if they even had the resources to send someone out.
I took a deep breath and pulled back into traffic. The image of that gray furry kitten — I saw its face — as it tumbled toward my front grille — is not going to leave me for quite some time.
I’ll never understand the motivations behind abandonment of any living creature no matter how small or perceived as insignificant. I’ll never understand some people’s complete lack of conscience in dealing with the results of their own irresponsibility. I’ll never understand how others, upon witnessing these behaviors, will continue on their merry way without so much as a second thought.
It’s haunting me that I didn’t do more. I know life can be cruel. Life in the big city can be so heartless sometimes. Another day in the city.
*Edited to clarify: In no way am I suggesting that the lives of squirrels and rats are less significant than kittens. It’s only that rats and squirrels are wild animals. If they found their way onto a highway, it most likely was not at the hands of humans. I’d still feel horrible inside if a family of squirrels or rats were being knocked around like pinballs on the highway.