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Stormy, the Garden Cat

May 18, 2009

I have learned that when Clare senses something is amiss, I need to pay attention to her. While house hunting in Winston-Salem, we visited one picturesque abode. We got no further than the front door when Clare said, “Yuck! The previous family had cats! Many cats!”

Several years ago we were sitting quietly in our den when Clare smelled something burning. I sniffed and detected nothing. Clare insisted that I look around the house with her. Reluctantly I left my chair to join the search. I could not smell anything burning.

But there was! And it was my fault!

I had come home from work, pulled off my necktie, and flung it toward a chair in our bedroom. One end of the silk tie had flipped over a lampshade, and was touching the hot light blub. The end of the tie was smoldering, just before bursting into flames. Clare’s keen olfactory awareness saved us from a more serious problem.

Clare often wears two pair of glasses. Her prescription lenses are perched on her nose and a pair of reading glasses is at the ready on top of her head. But her unaided eyesight is amazing. She can spot a dead bug on our basement floor at thirty paces. She can see a stain on my shirt and identify the source before I am even aware of the problem. She carries a laundry stick in her purse, just to keep me presentable.

My wife’s hearing is equally as sensitive. Last spring during a booming thunderstorm, Clare thought she heard a baby crying. I, of course, heard nothing. But I have learned to pay attention when Clare senses something strange. As I listened I heard only rumbling thunder, whistling wind, and pounding rain.

“I hear something that sounds like a baby crying,” Clare insisted. I listened more closely, and I heard what she had heard.

I went out into the storm to investigate. Sure enough, Clare was right! It was a baby crying – a baby kitten.

I reported my find. “Don’t bring that cat into this house!” she instructed.

I heeded her warning. I have never regarded myself as a cat person. Dogs are more to my liking. At the same time, I felt compelled to provide some comfort for the black and white foundling. The little kitten had obviously become separated from her mother during the storm. I could not be sure how old the kitten was. She was so small I could hold her in the palm of one hand.

Placing an old towel in a garden basket, I made a bed for the tiny trembling stray. Cold, wet, hungry, and frightened, she continued to cry. She even tried to nurse my little finger. That didn’t work.

I called a good friend, a retired veterinarian, who gave me sound guidance. At a local pet store, I purchased a formula substitute for mother’s milk. The little orphan lapped it up and promptly fell asleep in the crook of my arm. I had become the unexpected caretaker of a kitten.

Our daughter named the cat. “She was delivered to your porch by a thunderstorm. You have to name her Stormy.” So, Stormy she is.

My veterinarian friend advised me on immunizations and on the proper time to have her spayed. Those health issues were taken care of by the good folks at our local animal shelter.

My responsibilities are relatively few. I make sure Stormy has her regular ration of food, that her water bowl is freshly filled each day, and that she has a routine tick and flea treatment. I also take a little time to scratch her ears. When I sit down on a favorite bench in the yard near the tree of life, Stormy still enjoys climbing into my lap for a snooze. I, who am not really a cat person, enjoy that, too.

Stormy has made herself at home in our garden. She quickly found the patch of catnip and enjoys a daily tumble in the fragrant foliage. She has her favorite lookout posts and napping places. She has climbed most of the trees in our garden and knows how to descend as well as ascend each one.

Early in our relationship, Stormy and I reached an agreement. She is free to stalk and capture any varmint that crosses the estate. However, she is under strict orders to leave the birds alone.

So far, Stormy has done pretty well with that contract. We have been gifted with a variety of artifacts at our front door. These have included an assortment of deceased moles, voles, mice, and chipmunks, and at least three gray squirrel tails. I don’t know what she did with the other end of the squirrels. Perhaps there are three tailless squirrels bounding through our tree branches.

Late one night, I heard the sounds of a major catfight. Actually Stormy had cornered a possum. She wasn’t quite sure what to do with the critter, so I ran it off with a shovel.

As far as I can tell the bird casualties have been limited to one starling. I reminded Stormy of our bargain, but, honestly, I wasn’t a bit upset by the demise of the pesky starling. She is a discerning cat.

Every garden needs a cat. Stormy has been a welcome addition to ours.

 Kirk H. Neely
© May 2009
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