The Rescue

The Rescue

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

The Rescue

We must reach out our hand in friendship and dignity both to those who would befriend us and those who would be our enemy.

~Arthur Ashe

It was a cold fall day. The wind gusted under a cloudy gray sky. My children, who were seldom deterred by the weather, were outside playing. Suddenly there was a commotion on the front porch. I opened the door to find my young daughter shivering as she held her damp jacket against her.

Cheeks red from the weather, she stood on the porch and looked up at me. In her eyes I could see both defiance and tears. I pulled her inside and asked what had happened. “What are you doing with your jacket off?” She just looked down and said nothing. Her jacket moved slightly. I pushed aside the folds of the jacket to find a pitiful wet kitten. The kitten shivered and mewed in protest.

“They were throwing the kitten into the swimming pool,” she sobbed. “I begged them to stop, but they just kept doing it.” She hugged the bundled kitten close. I waited patiently for her to continue. “I grabbed it and ran.” Once again, defiance dominated her small face. My daughter had championed this kitten and she did not care about the consequences.

I hugged her and took the kitten from her. Ordering her to immediately change into dry clothes, I found a soft hand towel and set about drying off the unhappy kitten. The kitten wiggled with my efforts to dry him, but soon a fluffy little yellow creature began to emerge. The kitten looked to be about half grown.

Her clothes changed, my daughter hugged the kitten close as I warmed up some milk for him to drink. She placed him lovingly on the floor so he could lap it up.

“Momma, it was awful,” she said. “Why would they do that?”

She explained that a couple of neighborhood boys kept tossing the kitten into one of those small children’s pools that had filled with rainwater from the night before. One of boys was the owner of the kitten.

“I don’t know,” I said soothingly, “but I’m proud that you had the courage to put a stop to it.”

“I’m not in trouble?” she asked in a surprised voice. “I just ran off with the kitten,” she said, as if she did not believe that she was not in trouble.

“No sweetie,” I said, tears now in my eyes for my brave little hero. “I am very proud of you.” I held her close and tenderly, just as she had held the kitten.

Now warm and full of milk, the kitten began to meow again. “I think he’s confused and a little scared,” I told my daughter. She picked him up and cuddled him in her lap, stroking him softly until he fell asleep.

“We need to call his family,” I said. “They need to know what happened and where their cat is.”

My daughter’s eyes widened. “No! They’ll hurt him again.”

I was uncertain about what to do. I knew I needed to make the call, but I also knew that the boy was likely to mistreat the kitten again. I began to pray about it as I got up to make us some lunch.

In his usual fashion, our son burst through the door. Slow and easy were terms that he was unfamiliar with. He stopped when he saw his sister sitting with the kitten in her lap. “Are you in trouble for stealing that kitten?” he asked her.

“She didn’t steal the kitten,” I said. “She rescued it. I’m going to call the family in a few minutes and let them know what happened.”

He shrugged his shoulders and headed for his room. I headed for the telephone. I spoke with the mom and told her what had happened. She was disappointed in her son, but not surprised. This son was born after her other children were in high school. Shortly after his birth, her husband had died from a heart attack. She was left on her own to raise her son and provide for her children. Life was difficult for them. She had hoped he would consider the kitten a nice companion.

“Well, he’s young,” I said. “Sometimes children don’t realize how harmful it is to play roughly with animals.” She agreed to walk over to get the kitten after supper.

Coming home from work, my husband was surprised to see our children, on the floor, giggling and playing with the little ball of fur. He looked over at me with a question on his face. “No, I did not bring home a kitten. It’s not ours.”

“She rescued it,” my son said, pointing at his sister. “It was awesome.” We explained to my husband what had occurred that day. While we ate, we discussed the fate of the kitten, trying to reassure my daughter that everything would be okay. We said the boys had just gotten carried away and did not see how much they were harming the kitten, although we were not entirely sure that was true.

After we had eaten and were settled in our favorite seats, watching TV, we heard the knock at the door. My daughter, once again, had a panicked look on her face.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “It will work out. Just wait and see.” I prayed very hard that I was right about that.

My husband answered the door and asked the mom to come in. Behind her, his head hanging low, was her son. He shuffled behind her as my husband led them into the den and offered them seats. My daughter was on the other side of the room, protectively holding the kitten.

The mother explained how she had spoken with her son and thought he now understood that what he had done was dangerous and that the kitten could have died. Then she spoke to her son. “Is there something you would like to say?”

For the first time, he looked up and we could see that his eyes were red as if he had been crying. He looked directly at our daughter. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just thought it was funny. I didn’t think about the kitten getting hurt.” He looked at the kitten and then hung his head again.

Again, his mother spoke. “We have agreed that maybe a kitten was not a good choice for him.”

The boy looked up, his face more animated. “I’m going to get a dog!”

“Yes,” his mother said. She looked at us. “We are going to the animal shelter to pick out a dog. We want a full grown dog, not a puppy. I want a dog my son can roll around and play with.”

“The kitten is going to my sister,” she continued. “She doesn’t have young children, so he will have a good home.” She reached for the kitten. Satisfied, my daughter laid him in her arms.

The boy got his dog and it was just what he needed. He was lively and fun and followed him everywhere he went. All of the neighborhood children loved him, including my little hero.

~Debbie Acklin

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