Thursday, February 07, 2008

Come to grief. Last Monday I was walking home from work and on Rathdowne Street I saw the body of a fluffy black-and-white cat that had been hit by a car. It was lying on its side on the edge of the footpath as though it were stretching. I went up to the cat and was quite shocked to realise that I could not see a face where I expected one. It was not that the cat was particularly bloody or gory; I just looked at its head and I couldn't discern any facial features. It had obviously taken a hit to the head.

As I stood there, shocked and puzzled, looking at the cat, two people walked past in the opposite direction. One of them was holding her hand at the side of her face like a blinker, so she couldn't see the cat as she passed. I walked home feeling quite sad.

Then on Saturday night I passed the same spot again and noticed several shiny strips of tape wrapped around a tree. I went to investigate and found that the owners of the dead cat had left a memorial, similar to the ones you see by the sides of the road to commemorate human roadkill. There were flowers taped to the tree as well, and a wooden plaque nailed to a protruding root.

I felt sad to know the cat's name, and to realise how it must have been for his owners to discover him lying there with no face. I also felt a bit weird because of the anguished language used in the note. You never see these kinds of roadside shrines for animals. I mean, just up the road, on the corner of Lygon and Elgin Streets, there is one for a young man who died horribly last year when he was mown down by a speeding car. It almost seems disrespectful when the same kind of memorial is dedicated to an animal.

Ultimately, who am I to say how people should show their grief? But nonetheless whenever I pass the little shrine I feel very sad.

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