Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Witnessing a kitten drown

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Behind our apartment building is another apartment building and a public school (School 17), with some shacks behind the other apartment building. Next to the shacks is the imposing Triumph building, an apartment complex and hotel with a swimming pool inside.

In order to get to Kabanbai Batyr Street, with buses to Artyom and other places, we cut through a large vacant lot behind the school.

Sunday as we were walking there, we heard a loud meowing. We stopped and saw a kitten on top of a sewer/manhole covering. There are lots of these in Astana, and, unlike those in the US, many of them are not secure. Oftentimes the covering is not there, and when winter comes you have to be careful! And even when the covering is on, it might not be securely on. Although, on this side of town, we've had few problems; two years ago, there were more uncovered and poorly-covered manholes.

There are lots of stray cats and dogs in Astana, looking rather pathetic, and we worry about them when winter comes. I used to carry a small bag of cat food around with me, just in case. (We are BIG cat lovers.)

So we went towards this kitten, and it got scared and ran off the manhole covering and started looking into a hole in the ground. Then it started to fall in. For whatever reason I told Sophia not to touch it, I would get it, but by the time I came up to it, it had fallen in.

The hole led to the sewer below, and the kitten was in the water. It had stopped meowing, at the time I thought this meant was okay; looking back, I realize that it was either too terrified to meow, or too busy trying not to drown to bother with trying to meow.

I opened the manhole covering (it was heavy) and we looked inside. The kitten had grabbed onto a stick and was paddling around. A ladder led to the water below.

We debated what to do. It was too far down to reach in and grab it. And it didn't think to grab onto the ladder that led to safety.

I debated climbing down. How safe was the ladder? How safe was the water? What was that strange valve-like thing that I'd most likely bump into while climbing down? Could the kitten find safety without us?

Then, we didn't see it, but we heard it -- a few loud, plaintive, gurgling meows. (We could hear the bubbles of water....) The most awful, horrifying, and pitiful sound I have ever heard.


We looked in, we couldn't see it, we put the covering back, we started to walk to the bus stop, Sophia burst into tears, we returned home.

We'd witnessed a kitten drown.

And probably could have done something about it.

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