Last night while I was prepping dinner, I heard the most god-awful ruckus of dogs outside.
Wild barking is not all that unusual around here. People frequently walk their dogs through the courtyard, and if the dogs aren’t trained — which is true 99.99% of the time — they sometimes have hissy fits when they see each other. I’ve learned to tune it out.
But this went on for some time, and it was a more frantic ruckus than usual. I finally went onto the veranda to see what was happening, and found two dogs running around the garden area of the building across from us, yelling their heads off. I couldn’t figure out what they were so excited about until I noticed a black shape in the very top of the pomegranate shrub. A cat.
That was enough to send me out the door and down the stairs. I walked across the courtyard and played alpha dog, scaring the dogs in the garden. They scattered, which is when I realized that there were five of them. It was a stray pack, and hell, if I’d known that I would have brought a defensive weapon with me. Dog packs are a real problem around here, and my wife and I have both been attacked on different occasions. She still has two scars from her run-in. Fortunately, I’m very good at intimidating the crap out of dogs when necessary, so I made sure they were well out of our complex before going back to check on the cat.
She was a small black cat with a red collar, and she was terrified for very good reason. I’ve no doubt those dogs would have killed her if they’d caught her. I tried to talk her down, and she took a couple of steps, but the branch bent down under her and that was as far as she’d go. Scanning the shrub, I realized that she might not be able to get down. It’s not a tree, with a good trunk to climb and regular branches. Actually I’m not even sure how she got up other than the magic of adrenaline.
I headed back to our flat and fetched our stepladder. At the last second I got smart and put on my thickest sweatshirt. Then I went back down and set up the ladder.
When I reached out to touch the cat, her entire body was trembling. She was panicked. I soothed her, wrapped my hands around her, and pulled her off.
If you’ve ever taken a cat out of a tree, you know that it requires three hands — two to hold the cat and one to detach its claws from the branch. It was a good thing this cat was small and I could hold her one-handed, because the death grip she had on that branch was almost more than I could manage. But I finally got her out, at which point she flipped around in my hands and launched onto my chest, digging in with every available claw as she clung to safety.
I was very glad I’d worn that sweatshirt.
So there I was, standing on the ladder with a terrified cat dug into my chest and shoulder, when what should come through our courtyard but…
…the entire population of a mountain bike club. Twenty kids on bikes, roaring through. Except they didn’t just go through, because one of them got a flat tire right at the head of the stairs to the street, not ten meters from me and the cat. He and a couple of his friends stopped to fix the flat, but the other eighteen or so riders couldn’t stand being still, so they rode continual circuits — down the steps, get off the bike and run it back up the steps, get back on, ride around the guy with the flat and go back down the steps.
The cat was freaked. There was no way I could climb off that ladder and set her down with the bike circus going on right next to us. So I stood on the damn ladder for ten minutes, with the cat suctioned to me and absolutely unwilling to move, until the kid finally fixed his flat and the whole gang whizzed down the stairs for good.
Ah, peace and quiet. I carefully backed down the ladder and crouched down. The cat jumped off my shoulder and onto the garden wall, where she stood with her tail bushed out for several seconds. Then she realized she was safe, and sat down calmly. I wished her well, packed up the ladder and left.
There are holes in my sweatshirt. Did I mention I was glad I wore it?