I’ve had a pretty crazy experience here in Turkey.
Being isolated thousands of miles away from US soil, surrounded by people who in large don’t speak english (and that is to be expected in a foreign country).
But over the last couple of days the friends I am staying with found a little kitten, or should I say the kitten found them, and we have been its care takers.
This story is about the past few days, but I must warn you it isn’t all cuteness and cuddles, it ends quite sadly, but there is a powerful lesson hidden within the story.
READ ON WITH CAUTION- sad story ahead
Here in Turkey, wild animals are dealt with very differently than they are back in the states. Wild cats and dogs roam the streets freely, to the extent that Istanbul created a program where people can recycle goods in exchange for animal food. (Thanks to my mom for the story)
Anyway, these animals are everywhere: climbing into dumpsters, crossing the road, fighting with each other. You might think this is quite terrible, but in some ways it’s actually nice for the animals.
Back in the US wild animals are caught, chipped, and either someone adopts them or they are euthanized. That means older animals that aren’t kittens or puppies are often caught and put to sleep.
In Turkey animals may often roam the streets, but many people in the neighborhoods actually claim them as their own (they just don’t usually let them inside their homes). A lot of the people who live here put out scrap food or animal food for the neighborhood animals and they look out for them. If a cat or dog gets hurt or sick, many of people will take the animal to a local veterinarian to be looked after.
So the other day my friends were crossing a very busy city street when they saw a small kitten running across, all they could do was cover their eyes and hope it wouldn’t get hit, and somehow it crossed unscathed and ran into some bushes
When they got to her she was terrified and her eyes were filled with gunk: she could barely see.
So they brought her home and we cleaned her up, gave her water, and gave her some food.
She was a very small kitten, maybe around 6-10 weeks old, full of energy and super sweet. At this point, my friends have already adopted 2 cats during their time here and they really didn’t want to take in another, so after making sure she could see, feeding her, and giving her some water, we let her out into the garden the next morning.
The plan was to show her where the food is outside and hopefully she would stick around so we could keep an eye on her, but when my friends came home she was waiting for them at the door downstairs.
We decided she was just too young to be out on her own, so my friends resigned to letting her stay until she was big enough to take care of herself. At this point my girlfriend and I already wanted to take her home with us, but we found out it is a difficult process to take an animal home with you from another country.
The next day we took her to the veterinarian, got her: some flea medicine, a worm pill, and a vaccination.
We asked the Vet about taking her back to the states with us, and he told us she would have to be a minimum of 6 months old before we could take her back with us: it would not be possible for us on this trip no matter how bad we wanted to take her with us.
So for the next couple of days we watched over her, grew close to her, and tried to keep her entertained. We all grew attached to her despite her constant diarrhea, getting into things, and crying at night, and then tragedy struck us.
Warning, sad story ahead…
I woke yesterday morning and noticed she had gone to the bathroom again inside of her crate so I let her out and made sure she was clean. It was a beautiful day (as it usually is in Antalya) and we had the windows and doors open.
The kitten came out and played with my feet for a while, and then took off exploring through the apartment as usual. I made my coffee and started working on my blog, and after a while I noticed that she hadn’t made any noise for a while. I started looking around for her and couldn’t find her anywhere.
I woke up my girlfriend and we searched all over but couldn’t find her anywhere. We started worrying, and I decided to walk downstairs and see if she tried to jump off of the balcony.
As soon as I got downstairs I saw her lying outside of front of the door (probably where my friend found her the other day), I opened the door to let her in and she just laid there. I tried to pick her up, but she was already gone.
So there I stood with this little kitten, limp in my hands, the same one that played with my feet the same morning and fell asleep in my girlfriend’s arms the night that we brought her home.
She was lifeless, peaceful, gone forever.
I know she was just a kitten- I understand that great injustices and tragedies happen on a massive scale to people and animals all over the world (and I don’t mean to make light of them)- but I was so sad to see her like that: gone forever.
She was so young, so helpless and innocent, just a small living thing in a huge world; we felt inclined to help her, to watch over her, and I couldn’t help but feel responsible for what happened: like I had failed her.
I didn’t have the courage to cry at all until I was writing this post, even though I held my girlfriend tightly as she cried.
I just want to pick up the little kitten, shake her and make her wake up… come back to me, but I can’t.
I walked back inside the apartment and told my girlfriend the kitten was gone, that she fell, and I told her I was sorry for not watching her more closely.
And as I stood there holding my girlfriend, one of the other cats played with a ball on the floor.
Eventually we ate breakfast, I started working on my MYBS again, my girlfriend watched netflix to distract herself. We got back into our routines because there was nothing else to be done; we couldn’t undo what happened and there was no way to bring the kitten back. Her life was over, but life had to continue on.
I’m still very sad about it; I feel responsible and guilty, I feel that it is so unfair, and I just hope that at least for the short number of days that she stayed with us that she was happy and comfortable (certainly she wouldn’t have made it out of the street).
So despite all of the danger lurking out on the street, and despite the fact that the kitten wouldn’t have survived on her own, even in the comfort of our apartment (being cared for and fed) death still found her.
Life and death are so unpredictable; we all must pass on at some point and we have no idea when that moment might come for us. All we have are these individual moments stuck together like a film reel and we never know when the film runs out.
Life is so precious… all we have is this life: the moments we share, the smiles that we bring to the faces of those we love, the times that we take advantage of our gift of life and actually live.
I guess when it is my time to go I would like to go out like the little kitten did: taking a risk and balancing on some high up rail, living my life and not just being alive.
It makes me think about the meaning of it all, makes me feel a little smaller and a little more humble, makes me hope that I am living my life to the fullest and doing the most that I can. My heart is more than a little saddened thinking of the little one lifeless in my arms: she is asleep now, and I hope for these short days that she felt well loved.
As I go to sleep tonight I know that I am in some exciting place, doing what I love, doing my best to be the kind of man that the world needs more of: I know that despite not being perfect, that I have lived and done my best to cherish each moment.
I genuinely hope that you can say the same tonight, and if not, I invite you to make tomorrow a new day. Realize that yesterday doesn’t matter, tomorrow is not promised, and all that you have are these moments to be alive. Take advantage of the time you have been given, love freely, live with courage, take some risks, try to better yourself each day, and live a life that one day you will be proud to have lived.