I've learned a lot about rabies shots in the last week.
Four shots. That's what I needed. They told me it would be six.
They don't give them to you in the stomach anymore, but if you get bit by a feral animal and you're not sure if it has rabies or not, you'll need multiple shots of Rabies Immunoglobulin depending on your weight. These are in addition to the rabies vaccine, and one of them goes IN the wound itself. Ouch.
As I sat in the ER waiting room trying not to get freaked out by the thought of a bunch of shots at one time, I kept replaying the events of the day in my head. We had been taking care of a stray cat and her kittens in our backyard here in Lebanon, PA. The mother cat had been calm and gentle throughout the entire day. We had played with her kittens and given her food. My children were in the yard too.
After the kids had gone inside, I had reached down to pet her head. She leaned in to my caress then suddenly, from out of nowhere, lunged at me, chomping down on my leg.
It surprised and scared me at the same time. I ran inside and pulled up my pant leg to reveal a bleeding gash.
Commence the negative self-talk: You should have known better. What were you thinking. Why would you do that. You are so dumb for trusting a stray cat.
Thing is, I'm not dumb about cats. I grew up with them. I know all the signs of an agitated cat and how to be careful around ones that I don't know. I never assume that they want to be petted or held. This cat, however, was constantly trying to rub up against our legs and get into the house... it seemed like she was a housecat who found herself homeless with a litter of kittens. She was friendly and inviting and needed help.
Until she was vicious.
I sat there in the ER for four hours trying to make sense of it all. It didn't add up, plain and simple. I felt a little insane, like I couldn't trust my own idea of reality. But as the hours passed, the more I felt a sense of the familiar. I have met people exactly like that cat: friendly, inviting, and needing help until suddenly they are attacking you. I have felt the same feeling of disorientation, of what the hell just happened. And for whatever reason, I have always had a hard time letting them go. I have a soft spot for people needing help.
I don't know if they get triggered somehow, or if they don't know any other way to handle their pain than to lash out at the person extending a hand, but one thing is clear: In my own backyard, there will be no cats who bite you unexpectedly. No matter how much I love those kittens, if there is a cat who is potentially injecting a fatal disease into me or my children, that cat is not welcome here.
Boundaries are things that I have had to learn as an adult. I have stumbled my way through them because my tendency is to be "nice" (I hate that word just as much as it describes me). The flip side of the coin is that in trying not to be so "nice" I can come across as aggressive or offensive. It has taken years of my adult life to make headway in how to set good boundaries without being mean. I do not consider myself a master of this in any way. On the contrary, at times I can relate to having my own feral moments, lashing out at someone as the tension between nice and aggressive breaks. Like I said, it's been a process of slowly learning that skill.
HOWEVER, the need for good boundaries was never more clear than it was last Friday at 1am while I was getting four injections that would prevent me from dying from an unprovoked cat bite.
The cat had to go. No way no how was it going to stay. Not with my family around.
I decided to call the humane society the very next morning and make a plan about how we would get the kittens into a rescue program and what could be done about the mother cat.
Walking out of the ER and lying in bed that night I was still shaking inside, but finally felt a peace settle in... an understanding, really... about letting go of the people who had no place in my own backyard. You get to set the environment of your house. YOU get to decide what happens there.
Saying "no" to someone who attacks is not about your own lack of love but about their inability to process their own pain.
It seems like it would be obvious, but for me this is something that I have struggled to accept. Own what is mine, let go of what is untamed, wild, and toxic to your existence.
Since my wound is taking its time to heal, every time I look at it I let that truth sink in a little more.
Lord, let it be.