We found kitty helpless and alone under a construction trailer at the Dimmitt Woods Senior Housing site on a sunny Saturday afternoon last April. Yvonne suggested we take the kitty home – “Just until it is old enough to be adopted by a nice older person who can give it a good home,” she assured me. That was nine months ago and, as you may already have guessed, Yvonne is the nice older person who adopted kitty and gave it (her) a good home.
Here is what puzzles me. How can a precious little kitten, adopted at two and a half weeks old and bottle fed with tender loving care, grow up to be a man eating wildcat? Forgive me for being gauche, but I’m certain there would be nothing left of the two of us except a couple of bone-picked carcasses if kitty was large enough to slay and devour us.
To be fair, Kitty (a little orange tabby that we just kept calling kitty) was as sweet as could be for the first few months. She liked being cuddled and would gently nibble our fingers and bat toys around with her little paws. But this all changed one Saturday morning in early November.
Yvonne was squeezing some fresh orange juice when I, still in my PJs and barefooted, came into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. From under the table kitty leaped on one of my feet, sunk her teeth into my big toe, buried all 18 claws into my skin, and held on like a lion that had just brought down a wildebeest.
My natural impulse was to kick my foot in the air to dislodge kitty, which I foolishly did. I screamed a few choice expletives as kitty’s claws shredded my foot before she flew through the air and landed on top of the refrigerator, where she sat with tail twitching furiously and growling like the MGM lion.
“Ouch!” I screamed again, as I looked down at the row of claw marks that lined my foot. “That dang (no, that is not what I said) cat of yours has turned into an Orange Devil.”
I looked up at kitty, still perched on top of the refrigerator.
“That’s it, from now on I’m calling you Odie,” I said to her.
Odie (short for Orange Devil, as you may have guessed) didn’t seem to like my attitude or her new name. From atop the refrigerator she crouched, squinted, and then let out a loud ya-owww as she leapt at me like a flying squirrel with razorblade claws. I tried to duck but Odie landed on my head and clung to it the same way she had my foot a minute earlier. Between her growling and my screaming we sounded like a couple of wild Tomcats fighting in a back alley.
This time I froze, not wanting the Orange Devil’s claws to rip my face off if I jerked her loose.
“Can you please get this monster off my head?” I implored.
Yvonne spoke softly as she gingerly removed Odie’s claws from my scalp one paw at a time, “C’mon kitty, Mommy’s here. I won’t let him hurt you.”
You don’t want to hear the words that were going through my head at that moment.
The episode passed and Odie and I managed to tolerate each other for the next few weeks, each standing our ground anytime the other was near. Then in early December the day of reckoning arrived.
Odie likes to climb trees, especially the large maple in our front yard. She seldom climbs higher than the bird feeder and has always been able to get down on her own, but on this particular day Odie had climbed higher than ever before, probably in pursuit of a squirrel. Yvonne spotted her first, and with a tone of panic in her voice called to me, “George, Kitty is in the top of the tree. Can you please get her down?” Boy, did that plea for help sound familiar.
I’m of the opinion that if a cat can climb a tree it should be able to get down by itself. But I love my wife so despite the spirit of vengeance I was still harboring against Odie I agreed to see what I could do. I retrieved my 24-foot ladder and fully extended it between the limbs of the tree, but when I climbed to the top of the ladder I discovered that Odie was still about five feet beyond my reach.
It was time for Plan B. This plan was risky but I wasn’t about to embarrass myself by letting Yvonne call the fire department. I backed my Ford Explorer under the tree, laid a large moving pad on the luggage rack and positioned the feet of the ladder on the pad. I then maneuvered the ladder between the tree limbs so that it extended to the very top branches of the maple tree.
As I started up the ladder Yvonne threatened to call 911, but I convinced her I could easily grab hold of a limb and climb down if the ladder slipped. Rather than call 911 she resorted to prayer, which was all right with me.
With my backpack secured over my left shoulder, I ascended the ladder and jerked it around in the top of the tree until I was within an arms-length of Odie. I slipped the backpack off my shoulder and held it out towards Odie. “You rotten varmint, get in this backpack,” I said with an air of disdain.
Yvonne shouted up at me, “What did you say?’
I shouted back, “I said, ‘I’ll stretch my arm out to get this cat back.’”
Odie’s eyes were bulging like giant agate marbles and for a moment I almost felt sorry for her. I lowered my voice so Yvonne couldn’t hear me and said. “Yeah, you Orange Devil, who’s in charge now?”
With that I reached out and grabbed her by the nape of the neck and threw her in the backpack, zipping it shut all in one quick motion.
“I’ve got her,” I shouted down to Yvonne.
Odie was growling and thrashing around in the backpack like a rabid badger that had just been bagged, but by the time I reached the ground the rustle and howling in the backpack had fallen silent, which caused me to actually be concerned for Odie’s well-being.
When we were safely in the house I unzipped the backpack just enough for Odie to slip her head out. Surprisingly, she appeared calm, even serene. We waited a few minutes then I unzipped the backpack the rest of the way. Yvonne lifted Odie out and held her close. Then, quite unexpectedly, Odie leaped from Yvonne’s arms to mine and began purring softly and licking my hand. That was all it took for my vengefulness to fade away.
That was a little over one month ago. Odie (I now say her name with warm affection) has become my buddy, and I guess you could say I’ve become hers. I don’t know how long this will last, but I’m going to enjoy it as long as it does.
(Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this story.)
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife live in Jackson Township with Odie and their dog, Lily.