Sunday, December 18, 2011

Part IV of My Christmas Story

A couple of days went by with no sign of the young cat or the possum. Hopeful, I prayed they'd both found homes. For several nights, Bob and I enjoyed blissful sleep uninterrupted by midnight visitors.

After many months of drought, it had begun to rain in Texas. And it was raining with a vengeance. The water came down so hard, it ran off rather than soaking into the hard, parched ground. Rather than fight the traffic snarls created by the weather, one evening I stayed late at work to finish a project. It was nearly 9:00 PM when I pulled into my driveway. I got out of the car, opened the gate and followed the flagstone path to my patio where the mercury vapor light switched on as I approached.

There, huddled on my guest bathroom windowsill was the black-and-white kitten.

"Oh, baby, you really are homeless," I sighed, coming closer. She didn't budge. I reached out and plucked her off the sill.

She turned into a whirling dervish of fear and claws, spitting and slicing. I dropped her and backed up. She ran to the end of the patio, stopped, and turned to look at me.

I unlocked the back door, pushed Bob--who was screaming vitriol at her--out of the way with my foot and went into the house. In the kitchen, I filled two bowls with wet and dry food and carried them back outside. Since I'd already scared her, I just put the dishes down in a dry place and returned to my den where I could watch through the French door without further disturbing her.

By the time she'd cleaned the bowls, I'd found the right-sized box in the garage and filled it with an old pillow, a sheet and a couple of fluffy towels. I put the box outside the door in a corner where two walls met. I manually turned off the mercury vapor light to give her privacy and turned to deal with a very pissed-off Bob.

The next morning, it was clear the box had been slept in. I made the decision that the kitten would only get fed if she came and asked for food. There were two reasons for this strategy: (1) I didn't want to start the possum coming back for food, and (2) I needed to tame her before winter set in.

For about eight weeks, the young cat--whom I was now calling Dinah--and I did a dance. She would come to the French door and look in. Bob would alert me by spitting and hissing at her. I would fill a bowl with food and go outside to meet her. Progress was VERY slow. She did not come every day. Sometimes I wouldn't see her for three or four days. It was weeks before I could stand within three feet of her while she ate and two months before I could reach down and lightly rub her forehead. She would tolerate my touch for about five seconds and then run out of the yard.

As we entered November, I began having serious anxiety. Generally, freezing weather arrives in North Texas during the third week of November. And, this year, I would be going to Florida for a week during the holiday. I was concerned about what would happen to Dinah while I was away. I talked with a neighbor about putting food out for her while I was gone, but that didn't address the possibility of freezing weather.

I'd booked reservations for Bob at his feline boarding place months earlier. I toyed with the idea of boarding Dinah, too. That plan was fraught with problems: (1) She'd need shots before I could board her; (2) I'd have to catch her to put her in a carrier both for the trip to the vet and to the boarding place; and (3) I'd have to pay for a separate cage from Bob's which would double the cost.

I finally decided that worrying about her while I was away wasn't worth it. I would try to get her to the vet and to the boarding place. I'd either succeed or I wouldn't. At least I would know I tried.

My plan was that the next time Dinah showed up, I would put on heavy gloves and long sleeves and throw a blanket over her. I would carry her into my hall bathroom where, over a couple of days, I would try to calm her enough so I could get her in the carrier to go to the vet.

Of course, my plan went awry from the very first.

More later ...

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