22: Pookie’s Flaming Tail

22: Pookie’s Flaming Tail

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

Pookie’s Flaming Tail

Fun fact: A human can learn to read his cat’s moods by checking out the position of his tail.

When my beloved cockatiel, Angel, died during a visit to my grandparents, my grandmother, June, felt so terrible about it that she took me to the animal shelter to get me a cat. Knowing nothing about cats, I based my decision on looks alone — and was instantly attracted to a cream-and-white ragamuffin with big, golden eyes and a tail that looked like it belonged on a raccoon.

On her cage was the name “Taffy” and a note that said: “Doesn’t like other cats.” When my grandma saw me staring longingly into the cage, she said, “This cat might not be very friendly. What about this pretty gray one?” Not a chance. I was smitten with the ragamuffin. Taffy was coming home with me — and being renamed “Pookie.”

Pookie was a sweetheart, but the most outstanding thing about her was her exotic tail. She’d sway it slowly and hypnotically as if saying, “Look at me, I’m Princess Pookie!”

One Thanksgiving, Pookie got a little carried away with her beautiful tail. The family had just gotten up from eating dinner, and Pookie jumped on the table to sniff out the leftovers. The room was buzzing with conversation and music, but everyone turned to look at gorgeous Miss Pookie standing on the dining table, mesmerizingly waving her fluffy, lush tail back and forth like a magic wand. Suddenly, with all eyes on her, she brushed against a centerpiece candle, and her tail went up in flames.

“The cat’s on fire!” my nephew Timmy yelled. The whole tail was blazing like something in a circus act, yet Pookie didn’t realize it — and just stood there looking proud while everyone gasped, screamed and pointed.

Instinctively, I grabbed a nearby glass of water and threw it — incredibly landing right on Pookie’s flaming tail and completely extinguishing the fire. She hadn’t been burned, but her tail fur was completely singed. From her perspective, Mommy just threw water at her for eating turkey, and she scrambled out of there for dear life. This was absolutely hysterical to witness, and we all laughed until we cried.

Pookie lived more than twenty years and was usually seen lying on my husband Mike’s lap, with her front legs crossed in front of her, happily swishing her tail. The very feature that drew me to her at the shelter is also the thing that has made her a special cat in the hearts of the family forever. At Pookie’s “fire show,” my nephew Timmy was just a little boy. Now at age sixteen, whenever he asks how my cats are doing, he always says, “Hey, remember Pookie’s tail catching on fire?” Then everyone laughs and fondly remembers our beautiful princess.

~Deborah Sturgill

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