Winter touched down upon the ground, blanketing the world in white. Icicles hung from trees as decoration, and branches swayed with patterns of snow. Footprints whispered of the one who walked this way, but where did they go? Tires crunched and rolled, and life drifted by. A small body rested still with eyes wide open, eyes filled with pain, hunger, but the winter came to take them away. And we walked by, never realizing how much they needed us to stay.
I never knew they were there. Last winter came and went, and I never saw them. Their pain, their hunger failed to reach my heart, and I went through the long, cold days without a second thought. The nights dropped below zero, and I savored the warmth inside my home. But they had no home, seeking refuge from the bitter cold, but I never knew this. But I see them now looking at me with their wide, open eyes.
There are too many of them. I’m told that people are driving by, dropping them out of cars. They either don’t care anymore, or they just can’t take care of them. Granted, we live in hard, economic times, but I’ll never understand how someone could do that. And now they wander along the road, dodging speeding cars, but some of them aren’t so lucky. And the ones that manage to survive go on in starvation, and winter is coming. Winter is coming to take them away.
I recently lost one of my cats, Chelsea, and the year before, I lost my best friend, Sheetrock. The pain of losing them tears at my heart, and seeing a cat lying dead along the roadside pulls at that tear. And I see the strays lingering nearby. Their eyes catch mine, and I find it hard to continue moving away from them. They’ll never know the love I had for Chelsea or Sheetrock. They’ll never know warmth and comfort. They were denied from such things, broken down to surviving the wild and not trusting those that would befriend them. But I can no longer walk away.
There are too many of them, and a few remembered being loved and taken care of. But nobody was taking care of them now. They were all gathered in one spot, dodging across the road, and trying to survive. They were on their own, and their eyes caught sight of those that crossed their path. But only a few would stop and give them what they needed, but it’s still not enough. Winter is coming, the artic cold, and not all of them would survive.
Every morning now beside the gate, I would take time to leave food for them. I brushed the dirt away from the bowls, trying to fill one with fresh water. I could feel their eyes on my back, but they patiently waited for me to step away. I couldn’t blame them. I wouldn’t trust anyone after being thrown out into the cold. I would be suspicious, wondering why was this person helping me when the rest just walked away, but they knew that I wanted to help them. So, as I stepped back, they gingerly approached and then eagerly ate what I had left them. But I can’t take them home, and I can’t protect them from the coming winter.
I’m told that the shelters are full. Some have no choice but to put to sleep the ones that they cannot care for. There are too many strays, too many to save. There are too many strays wandering the roads, the highways. There are too many dead bodies covering the roadside, cats and dogs. There are too many going hungry with each and every passing day, hoping for someone to save them, but we keep driving by. Have we grown too cold, lost in the burden of our lives?
I can’t save them. I want to, but I can’t take them home. My house is already too full with six cats and two dogs. If it were up to me, I would fill the entire house with these strays, but it’s not up to me. And now I see the touch of winter, and I know it is coming fast. And all these cats struggling to survive won’t all survive, but what else can I do?
I sit back in my car, watching them. They are all congregating around the few bowls that I left on the side. Their wide, open eyes turn my way, and I see their pain, their starvation. And my heart breaks in two, razor sharp with loss. I slip the key into the ignition and rev up the engine gently. I can’t save them, but I will try. The bare necessities of life is food, shelter, and clothing, and all they need is shelter, warmth from the artic cold that will come and bury them in white. But shelter is something that I cannot give them but pray for them to find, and I hope that someone else will take pity upon them, saving their life.