When I wrote about losing Mari a couple of weeks ago, I hoped that would be the last such post I had to write for some time. Unfortunately that is not the case. On Monday we lost Lilly in an unfortunate altercation between the cats and dogs.
Typically the kittens do not venture outside of the yard, at least not more than a few feet. The dogs have accepted the fact that they are not to bother them, and have done very well with that. On Monday, however, the kittens decided to venture much farther into the woods, presumably to get to us. We were working near the garden, and the dogs were there with us. When the dogs ran into the woods, towards the creek we thought nothing of it, as this is normal behavior for them. A few minutes later, though, we heard hissing and meowing, and knew something was going on. Andrea went one direction, and I went another, through the woods. I found the dogs in the creek, and Lilly on the ground, not moving. When I got to her she was breathing shallowly, but she was clearly badly injured. Within a few minutes she was gone.
I led the dogs back to the garden, so that Andrea could have some time alone with Lilly, and carry her body back to the house. When she got back up here, she noticed that Tiger was limping and called for me. It seems that he was involved in the altercation as well. We don't know if he was simply attacked, and managed to get away, or if he could have been attempting to defend his sister. I like to think the latter, because he has demonstrated a protectiveness of them.
After a call to the vet we decided that keeping him at home for the night was best, since they would not be able to do anything until the following morning anyway. He was very alert, and did not seem to be in obvious pain, which seemed like good signs. Andrea took him to the vet on Tuesday, and they did some x-rays, which revealed a fractured pelvis. He was given some medicine, and we were told to keep him contained, so he doesn't do further injury, and just to watch him. He has been living in Andrea's room, since the incident, along with Rosa, and seems to be doing very well. He has good appetite, and is able to move in or out of his house when he wants. There is still some risk, but I'm feeling good about his chances of recovery at this point.
This incident has been more traumatic than the last for both Andrea and I, for several reasons. At this point most of our focus is on caring for Tiger, which I think has helped to distract us from thinking about what we could have done to better protect Lilly.
As easy as it would be to place blame on the dogs, I don't think its warranted. I realize that their conditioning only extends so far, and once they are in chase mode, their instincts kick in. They had no reason to suspect that whatever noise caught their attention in the woods were the kittens. They've ran into those woods dozens, if not hundreds, of times in chase of wild animals, and there has never been a problem. It was unfortunate that this time, the kittens were in an unexpected place, and when the dogs arrived there, their hunting instincts had kicked in.
Andrea and I are certainly receiving a lesson in the realities of sharing our home with animals. Sometimes I wonder if the sorrow of the inevitable losses outweigh the benefits. I quickly find my answer, though, after interacting with one of them and being reminded of why we open our home to them in the first place. Death naturally accompanies life, as sorrow does joy.