Beaufort News

1 wrong turn and you can be a pet owner

About a year ago, my wife and I were returning home from seeing "The A-Team" at the Highway 21 Drive-In. And, yes, ladies, obviously I know how to show a woman a good time.

We decided to drive home the back way, something we rarely do. As a result, we accidentally took a right when we should've taken a left. As we were searching in the dark to find our bearings and right our course, we both noticed -- sitting literally in the middle of the road -- a small kitten.

I'm married to someone who holds animals in higher regard than most humans, so not stopping to check on the kitten was not an option. But even if she had not been in the car with me, I would've stopped, because, come on -- who could leave a month-old kitten in the middle of the road?

I find in times like these, when we are called on to be compassionate, you get a mixture of both concern and dread. The concern is self-explanatory. The dread is knowing that -- living in a town with a kill shelter, especially -- just by stopping you are potentially committing yourself to taking in this animal, nursing it to health, getting it shots and letting it live with you until you find it a home. One wrong turn and you're in a monthslong relationship. It would be more convenient not to care.

Of course, "convenient" isn't easy to live with. So we cornered the kitten in the bushes and eventually got it in a cat carrier -- after it bit my wife, in the process -- and back to our home. We called her Hannah, after "Hannibal," the lead character in "The A-Team" (B.A. Baracus was too hard to feminize) and by the time we got her to our house, she was purring and licking our fingers.

It's a year later, and we did find Hannah a home ... ours. Despite my protests, I was sort of hooked that first night. She is the spunkiest, most unique cat I've ever been around.

The point is not to urge you to adopt a cat -- although, if you would, that would be great; the local shelter would appreciate it -- but to remind you that you never know what is around the corner.

This past weekend, as my wife and I were running errands, we stumbled across another animal. This time a big turtle was in the middle of the road, bleeding from the head, struggling to make its way across as cars whizzed by. No one stopped but us. The turtle had to be euthanized at the emergency clinic, but it was a more humane way to die than the wheel of an SUV or dinner for some buzzard.

Wildlife is one of the things I love about Beaufort. Having lived in bigger cities, I appreciate that we share the Lowcountry with wild and woolly creatures that often make cameos in our daily lives. It's a reminder we're not alone in this crazy world.

But if we want to be atop the evolutionary chain, we have a responsibility to be the better species.

People will literally clog up a four-lane road to help a dog make it safely across, yet those same people don't even put their cellphones down long enough to decelerate when a squirrel or bird or snake is doing the same thing. Once, while we were leaving Hunting Island State Park, an SUV hit a deer right in front of us, killing it instantly. The car didn't stop, double back or slow down. I don't get it.

I can't live with that on my karma. I hope most of us can't. But if you can, the good news: You're just one wrong turn away from being a better person.