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Kirby: The fight for life

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Apr 01 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 01 2014 01:01 am

One of the worst fights I got into as a police officer happened on an otherwise pleasant spring night. Thirty years later, I still bear the faint scars.

It was a quiet graveyard watch. About 4 a.m., I pulled into an alley to catch up on some reports. The last thing I remember before the fight started was leaning my head back and wishing it was time for shift change.

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Suddenly an enormous werewolf sprang through the window and attacked me.

The ensuing slobbering and howling probably woke people in a six-block radius. The beast itself remained silent, going straight for my face and throat. The monster scratched and bit while I punched and cursed.

Abruptly the beast returned from whence it came, leaving me bloody and gasping but alive. When I dared peer out the window, an equally addled stray cat hissed and ran away.

Great. I had just fought hysterically for my life with a #%&@ cat looking for a place to sleep. It jumped into the window and landed on my chest after I had nodded off.

I suffered scratches to my arms, a ding on my head from the shotgun rack, and bloody knuckles from punching what I thought was the werewolf’s head but in fact was the radar unit.

Although I spotted my assailant several times after that, it was in no mood to make peace. It had developed an understandable aversion to police cars and fled whenever I rolled through the alley.

The scratches from the fight eventually healed and I got over it. Frankly, I had to admire an animal that gave as good as it got when trapped.

Bad as that incident turned out, it wasn’t my worst moment with cats as a cop. I never really got over the next one.

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One day a guy came into the police station, put a box on the front counter, and left without a word. Inside the box were six new kittens.

Because animal control wasn’t available, the box hung around the station until my shift came on duty that night. By then the kittens were hungry and getting on everyone’s nerves.

The watch commander ordered me to take the box down to the animal shelter and euthanize the contents. He gave me a hypodermic and a bottle of death juice.

I didn’t know about this. I wasn’t adverse to killing animals if there was a legitimate need. I’d already shot cows hit by trains, traffic-injured deer, and dogs chasing wildlife. Once, I shot a goat that tried to ... well, never mind. It was horrible.

But a box of kittens was something else. For starters, it wasn’t a threat. This was new and defenseless life. Their only crime was to be born and unwanted.

When we got to the animal shelter, I did what I had been legally ordered to do. I injected the kittens and held them as they struggled against the drug and went limp. Cute to dead took about 15 seconds.

I never did that again. I’m a fairly cold-hearted guy, but I didn’t see any point in killing animals who were locked up and no longer a threat or a problem.

On Sunday, Best Friends Animal Society announced a new effort to make Utah’s animal shelters "no kill" facilities within the next five years.

It’s 30 years too late for me and the box of kittens, but it’s definitely about time that we all realize our animal problem is more of a people problem.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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