The Canadian Prairies are a neat grid of roadways. Numbered streets, avenues, and roads meet at ninety degrees. It’s the ideal system if you’re an Engineer, you’re living on graph paper.
Europe is more inventive. When I arrive in Prague, I get lost. Not surprising. I eventually find my way, and I’m releived to look up and see I’m on the right street. I can see my hostel just up ahead.
A quick movement flashes on my right and something hits the sidewalk a few feet in front of me with a wet thud. It’s a cat. A soft, well cared for, pretty looking, white and brown cat. It fell from the building and it’s tragically injured. It doesn’t look bad, a little blood coming from it’s mouth, but there are clearly fatal wounds inside. The sound it made was enough for me to know, it won’t survive.
The only other witnesses are an old homeless man, sitting against the building, and the muzzled dog at his feet. A younger homeless man approaches, they speak in Czech. The young guy picks up the cat, and I hope he’ll put it out of its misery. Instead he cradles it while it weakly writhes and reaches out to scratch him. He moves the cat from the middle of the sidewalk, gently lays it to the side, and says good-bye to the man and his dog. I watch the scene, I want to do something, but I don’t know what. Trying to euthanize a cat with my bare hands upon arriving in a foreign land is not appealing.
I walk into the hostel, and ask the desk clerk about the Czech version of Animal Control. The first thing the foreign tourists has to say is that he’s concerned for the health of a cat he found in the street. I can’t blame him for his ambivalence.
He tells me that they only take Czech money, not Euros, and the cash machine is just outside, beside the wounded cat. So, I walk back out to do my banking and check on the cat. The vision of it’s feeble struggle is still fresh, and I resolve not to let it go on if I find it in that state. It’s dead when I arrive, thankfully.
The old guy is still there, watching me as I stand over the animal, prodding it’s lifeless body. I shrug, and say to myself, “It’s dead.” He pets his dog, and it surprises me when he responds in a thick accent, “I’m sorry.” Ya, I say, “Me too.”