48: Miracle in the Cornfield

48: Miracle in the Cornfield

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

Miracle in the Cornfield

Fun fact: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, forty-four percent of pet owners in the United States have more than one kind of pet, most commonly cats and dogs.

The last thing I needed was a cat. I was a twenty-eight-year-old single parent, with an eight-year-old son and a dog. But my son, Ryan, had been pleading with me for years to get a cat to go along with our dog Red. Ryan even had a name picked out for the cat — Zipper.

Every time Ryan brought up the topic of getting a cat, I would tell him that it wouldn’t be fair to Red to get a cat. Red wouldn’t like having a cat in the house. I wasn’t being very strategic, because I never had any other excuses!

Then one rainy night we were visiting friends who lived in the country in the middle of a cornfield. They had three dogs of their own, and I had brought Red with us. When I heard a strange noise at our friends’ front door I opened it to find a wet kitten looking up at me. Before I could stoop to pick it up, it scooted past me into the warmth of the house and right into the path of our friends’ three large, menacing dogs.

I was totally unprepared for what happened in the next few seconds. Without any hesitation, Red came to the kitten’s defence with an unprecedented display of aggression. He stood over the kitten and kept growling and baring his teeth until our friends managed to gather their dogs and lock them in a bedroom. Once Red was confident that the other dogs were no longer a threat, he calmly proceeded to lick the kitten and mother it like it was his own offspring.

Ryan was elated. “Look, Mum! It’s Zipper, and Red likes him!” he squealed as he jumped up and down with excitement. I watched my single excuse for not having a cat evaporate into thin air.

While part of me wanted to think of Red as a traitor, it was hard not to be touched by his tender display of affection for this lost kitten. It was also not possible to ignore the look of sheer bliss on the kitten’s face as Red licked the rain off its fur with his warm tongue.

I’ll always remember the drive home the next day. Normally, Ryan would be seatbelted in the back, and Red would ride shotgun beside me on the passenger seat. We were barely out of the driveway when Red jumped into the backseat to take up his position beside Ryan, who was cradling his newly beloved Zipper. So that’s how Zipper became part of our family for the next seventeen years.

We never did find out how Zipper ended up at a house in the middle of a cornfield on the only night we ever stayed there, but it was clear from the start that Ryan, Red and Zipper were meant to be together.

The dog and cat were instant best friends, and Zipper learned as much about how to be a dog as he was able to from Red. He learned to beg, never jumped up on the kitchen counters or table, and even tagged along on Red’s evening walks. I was important to Zipper only because I had the ability to open cat-food tins and change the litter box.

Ryan was Zipper’s special person. He trusted that Ryan would never drop him no matter how awkwardly he was being toted around the house. He slept on Ryan’s bed while he was at school and again during the night. And while he would never lie on his back for anyone else, he was at his most contented when he was in that position on Ryan’s lap having his tummy rubbed.

In 1994, Ryan, Red, Zipper and I all moved into a new house that my future husband, Dave, and I had bought in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Although Dave was allergic to cats, he assured Ryan that Zipper was welcome in our new home. However, watching Dave live in a constant state of allergic reaction was not easy, and by the end of our second week of living together, Ryan admitted that he was ready to find Zipper a new home. Considering how much he loved his cat, I was touched that he’d come to this decision on his own.

I thought Dave would have been hugely relieved when Ryan told him about his plans for Zipper, but Dave, with red eyes and a drippy nose, said that Zipper was part of our family, and he would eventually get used to him. While he never became totally immune to the cat, Dave did become less reactive to Zipper over time, and they developed their own special relationship. And when Ryan moved out of the house four years later, Dave became Zipper’s new special person.

As Red aged, Zipper took to sleeping beside him during the day and often acted as his hearing aid. When Red died in 1999, Zipper was beyond distraught. He would sit on our stairs and yowl inconsolably as if his wanting Red so badly would bring him back to life. After a few weeks, Zipper got on with his life by simply attaching himself more closely to Dave, who would patiently pat him with his foot and share his food with him.

Oddly enough, sometimes the best things that come into our lives are the ones we think we want the least. I hadn’t wanted a cat, but I wouldn’t trade my seventeen years with Zipper for anything. I am eternally grateful that he found his way to us at our friends’ house in the middle of a cornfield on that rainy night.

~Laura Snell

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