Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace. Albert Schweitzer
Last month, my husband and I realized a long-held dream to take an extended road trip. Our goal? To visit some of the major southwestern national parks and monuments (Zion, Bryce, the Arches, Canyons of the Ancients, Mesa Verde, the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite).
The trip started June 6 and was to continue until July 7. We returned June 30. What happened? Were we not enjoying ourselves? On the contrary. We were stunned by the beauty and mystery of the southwest. Freedom of time limitations and commitments stretched out before us like a golden ribbon.
What brought us home early was a two-pound, 7-week old kitten we rescued from under a sagebrush in the middle of the desert. Hence her name, Sage. The story unfolds …
Although the majority of what we’d been seeing involved amazing terrain with brilliant red rock formations, this particular region was absolute desolation. Flat. Hot. Parched. We could drive for hours, hundreds of miles past thousands of acres and see nothing. Nothing. Not even a rolling hill! Not a building or a house or even an animal beyond some free-range cattle who spent their days in that blazing heat without shelter.
Periodically we’d see patches of “survivor” flowers and at one random point, decided to pull over and take photos. Suddenly, I heard meowing! Following the sound, we walked into the desert. After crossing a cattle guard and climbing through a barbed-wire fence, I lifted up one of the few sagebrush in the area. Yellow/green kitten eyes posed a gaze that locked with mine. Only then did her meowing stop.
As I pulled her out from under the brush, I just couldn’t imagine how she got there. Who would dump a kitten in the middle of the desert with 100+ heat and predators all around? As I carried her back to the van, I was filled with the vibration of her purrs and the joy of finding her. Saving her. The odds that we would stop at that particular spot at that moment in time are beyond my ability to calculate.
Using a bowl from the back, we gave her water. I didn’t think she’d ever stop drinking. We gave her some turkey bologna. She almost tore it from my hand. She then snuggled into my lap and slept.
Finding a store that provided pet supplies was challenging. Some number of miles on down the road, we discovered a small store that carried the basics. Little did we know that would be the only “pet” related resource for days.
Our plan had been to rescue her, find a veterinarian or humane society who could take her and then be on our way. Unfortunately as with the pet supplies, there were no such facilities. We certainly didn’t want to have a kitten with us on this trip. There were still so many places to see. So many things to do. And we still had two weeks!
We quickly learned that most establishments in and around the national parks are not “pet-friendly” businesses. And when they do allow “pets,” they mean dogs, not cats. Fortunately, we always found one person who was willing to allow us this small breach in policy. By the time we arrived in an area large enough to have a vet or animal shelter, it was too late … we could not abandon her.
Finally, we decided to come home early. Though conflicted and disappointed, we knew we’d done, for us, the right thing. She is now a member of our family. Our middle cat (Percy) loves her. They play and wrestle , then snuggle and rest upon each other like old chums. Our older cat is relieved because Sage gives Percy someone else to harass! Truth be told, she is one of the best kittens we’ve ever had.
People ask us, “How could you do that? Spoil your vacation? Couldn’t you just drop her somewhere?” Choosing to keep her with us during the trip fit in with our values as much as wanting to finish the vacation fit in with our dreams. So, we’re going to take a short vacation in September to round out this lifetime trip. Our only hope is that we don’t find another animal that needs to be rescued!
Journaling prompts: Are there long-held dreams you have had to release for a value only you truly understood? How did it work for you? What were your regrets? Your gratitudes?