I'm probably not writing this post from the best of places. It's been a long, hard week. Parts of it, horrible. But other parts filled with those moments when you look at your children and admire their strength and bravery in the midst of things that are just plain hard.
I've questioned how much of this story to tell here. When we first moved back to Maryland and lived on my grandmother's farm, my uncle once said to me, "Life on a farm is tough." And indeed, we've learned that lesson many times over in our little family.
I'll start at the beginning and share briefly without digging into the details that I've had to rehash over and over this week.
On Friday morning, my girls were in the kitchen baking muffins for breakfast. We always leave the doors to our mudroom open during nice weather. The dog has her bed out there and we like her to be able to come and go–she's a good watch dog and always investigates anything that seems "off" around our house.
But this Friday morning, Ruby was inside, lounging in the kitchen, most likely taking advantage of the sloppy baking going on. When Mary heard something crying, she went to the kitchen door to discover a raccoon on the mudroom. She frantically came to find me and when I discovered it, I blasted through the door to yell at it and get it off our porch.
The worst part of all, was that the raccoon was killing our kittens, just about 8 weeks old. When I ran after it, it dropped the one in its mouth. The girls, coming out behind me, didn't realize the kitten was dead and begn to pet it to comfort it.
Throughout the course of the rest of the day, we'd find the mother cat, badly injured, and the rest of the kittens, dead….all except for one that we named Cora. Cora was loved on and spoiled for the rest of the weekend. Her mother nursed her some, napped with her occasionally, but was pretty badly hurt and not her mothering self. But Cora was scooped up by our family, loved on, spoiled. We brought her in to the kitchen where the girls set up a special corner for her, with food and water and a pillow to sleep on. It seemed like all the grief was poured out in love for Cora, even my own sadness and disgust for all that had happened. Loving on her made everything feel okay. We had Cora.
In the wee hours Sunday morning, I woke up with a thought that kept me from sleeping for the rest of the night. Though the raccoon on the mudroom was fluffy and healthy, it suddenly occured to me that the girls had touched the dead kitten that was covered in the saliva from the raccoon. Though they washed their hands, who knows in those minutes between if they touched their mouths, rubbed their eyes?
Then there was the mother cat. We eventually made the decision later in the weekend to put her down. But was she injured by the raccoon? For safety reasons, we had to assume that yes, she was, and for this reason, she'd now exposed Cora, the kitten we'd been loving on all weekend.
So with dread, I sent my pediatrician an email Sunday night, explaining the situation to her. She wrote me back right away–the girls, especially Mary and Elizabeth, who touched the dead kitten would have to be treated for rabies. And the rest of the family, would most likely have to be treated too, because of the interaction with Cora.
So I called her husband, who happens to be our vet. Yes, our veterinarian and our pediatrican are married. I wonder what their conversations were that night around the dinner table. The vet confirmed what I worried would be true, the whole family needed to be treated. We needed to go to the ER.
And worst of all, we had to face what needed to be done with Cora.
So Monday morning, I spent hours on the phone, with doctors, vets, the health department…telling my story over and over. Hearing recommendations, some that completely contradicted another. I got texts on my phone from other family vets while in the ER with more questions, more possible scenarios, more recommendations.
But rabies is something you can't take chances with. We all got treated. Though the chances our whole family was exposed to rabies is probably miniscule, who wants to flirt with the alternatives?
Treatment for rabies involves shots, lots of them. The first day of treatment Dan and I had 8 shots, the girls had anywhere from four down to two, for Birdy. Mary and Elizabeth especially are mortified of shots. Even that description seems like an understatement. It was horrible.
Yesterday we went back for round two. We'll go again, two more rounds to go.
In the meantime, I feel wiped out. I feel drained. I can't finish the story, the Cora part because my kids don't know how the story ended yet. But I think that part, hurt me the most. You know? She was that one bright spot.
But you know, my kids are amazing. Though they may buckle at times, and we've all had our moments, they are so strong and resilient. It's remarkable. They clench their teeth, they cry and ask if it could be some other way, but then they face the reality and handle it with bravery despite their fear.
So, thanks friends, for listening to this long story. Keep our little family in your thoughts, prayers.