Tarleton looked like he might have just been lying curled up in any cat bed.
Except that it had been a bucket of molten roof tar when he first was placed there and he was stuck fast. It took a few moments to realize what we were dealing with. There was no lifting him out. The tar was covering the whole side of his body and his legs were buried in it. It was going to be a slow, painstaking process to free him from this grave. Through it all he just stared up at us with big, wide blue eyes.
We injected mineral oil and vegetable oil around him to loosen the grip of the tar.
Next came cutting the bucket away for more access.
Freeing him led us to learn that he had a badly broken leg (so badly, in fact, that it had to be amputated) and a broken pelvis. His skin was also burned from the chemicals in the tar. Angry, fiery red patches came up on his feet and underside where the fur and skin had been burned away.
Tarleton was never cross with us or fractious. It was like he understood from the beginning that we were working hard to help him. His grace through that kind of pain was breathtaking. We worried about how quickly we could get the petroleum based tar off him and how much had already seeped into his system. We used warm water and Dawn to start to wash him bit by bit.
Those of you who know FFL probably think we have an SOP for everything–(and it’s true for most things:) But we didn’t have a page to flip open that read “How to extricate a badly injured cat encased in a bucket of tar by a horrific freaking sociopath.” So we did what we do in this business alot–we problem solved. You’ve heard me say every shelter director should be asking one question every day:
“How can we innovate to save lives today?”
We talked with Uncle Google. We brainstormed. We rolled up our sleeves and prepared to get grubby. But here’s the thing: it was never, never, never an option to just kill this cat without trying. And that’s where the rubber meets the road in sheltering.
We start from a basic and non-negotiable place:
Sheltered animals have a right to live.
Everything else is just figuring out how to honor that right. Tarleton came through his surgery like a champ and has had cage rest to allow his pelvis to heal. He is a loving boy and shows us grace every day.
If this is the kind of thing that you think shelters ought to be doing, we need your help.
How You Can Help
So how do life-affirming things like this happen at shelters? You decide that as a community you want it to happen. You support the shelters that do it.
When did we get comfortable with the norm that it is ok –and even looked upon as sensible, to kill the long shots at animal shelters? We are a species that loves a long shot. We live for the Hail Mary pass. Studies show we will actually change our opinion about which team and which candidate we support based on whether we perceive them to be an underdog. So what happened in sheltering? Somewhere along the line shelters got convinced that it was not possible or not worth it. We reject both of those positions utterly. Full Stop.
We Need You.
You may not be able to glove up and pull a desperate cat from a bucket of molten tar but you surely are a vital part of making it possible. This is the kind of thing that your vote for FFL supports. Saving lives is messy, heartbreaking, tedious, costly, exhausting. Saving long shots is all that and more. Sign us up. But we believe saving lives lost without our effort is why we have shelters.
Stay tuned for updates on Tarleton who is now in a happy foster home being adored.
June 2016: Best update of all!
Tarleton is adopted! Thank you all for the love and support that helped this guy get all the way home. We are so grateful to you.