23: Our Striped Spot

23: Our Striped Spot

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

Our Striped Spot

She clawed her way into my heart and wouldn’t let go.

~Missy Altijd

My striped cat Spot was small in stature but large in spirit. I tried to keep her an indoor cat, but she was insistent. I eventually made peace with the fact that Spot was an indoor/outdoor cat. I worried about her constantly when she was outside, but there was no arguing with Spot.

Spot and I first lived in a beautiful part of Los Angeles called Topanga Canyon. Topanga has miles of wide-open spaces and rolling hills where dogs, coyotes, rattlesnakes and all sorts of wild animals roam — so Spot fit right in.

I loved Topanga but I was scared of the pack of dogs that ran through the canyon. These dogs were domesticated, but on occasion they acted unpredictably. I froze when they’d surround me at the mailbox. Usually they were friendly, but sometimes one of the dogs would snarl and then the others would too.

One afternoon, Spot and I were sitting on our porch and the dogs ran into the driveway. I heard Spot hiss and saw the fur on her back stand up. I tried to grab her, but Spot charged down the stairs directly toward the dogs.

A few months earlier, these dogs had killed our neighbor’s cat, Sweet Pea, so I was terrified. I yelled for Spot to stop, but she increased her speed. I should have run after her, but I was so afraid that instead I covered my eyes and held my breath. I heard a yelp, and when I peaked through my fingers, I saw the dogs running away — and Spot strutting down our driveway.

Spot wasn’t always heroic, though. Sometimes she was downright ornery. Veterinarians in particular had a hard time with Spot, but that’s partly because they underestimated her. Spot had always been good with her first vet because he too had “temperamental children” as he described Spot. He knew how to soothe Spot and she never gave him trouble.

One day when I brought Spot in for routine shots her regular doctor wasn’t there. I told the receptionist that maybe we should come back because Spot was a handful, but she insisted that the new vet was also good with difficult animals.

When the new vet walked in, I told her Spot’s history, but she assured me not to worry. I tried again. The woman looked at me like I was insane.

“Look, I handle Rottweilers, Dobermans and Pit Bulls on a daily basis so this isn’t going to be a problem. I’m just going to start by taking Spot’s temperature,” she replied.

“You’re going to take her temperature?” I exclaimed. “You definitely do not want to take Spot’s temperature. Let’s just do the shots.”

After the vet insisted that she would go ahead, I turned my back and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t watch.”

The next thing I heard was a low, deep growl and an angry hiss. When I turned around, Spot’s eyes were dilated and she was staring down the vet, who now had blood dripping from the tip of her nose to her upper lip.

We had to find a new vet.

The only time the strength of my will matched Spot’s was when she and I were living in a South Bay condo. The condo had wall-to-wall white carpet that was expensive to shampoo so my roommate and I only deep cleaned the carpet once a year. I remember coming home one day after the carpet had been cleaned and admiring how great it looked.

Not wanting to track any dirt into the condo, I left my shoes at the door, said hello to Spot and got in the shower. When I got out of the shower I saw a gray cat sitting outside the bathroom door. I was momentarily confused. Spot was the only cat living in our condo, but Spot wasn’t gray, she had stripes.

Then I saw little gray footprints all over the freshly cleaned white carpet and realized that Spot had gotten in the fireplace, rolled around in the ashes, and then walked all over the wet carpet, leaving gray, sooty paw prints from one end of the condo to the next.

I grabbed Spot by the scruff and said, “You’re getting a bath, young lady, and I don’t want to hear a peep out of you.”

Spot knew I was serious because she allowed me to put her in the bathtub and scrub her from head to tail without struggling. Once I dried her off, she went under the bed and watched me clean the soot off the carpet one paw print at a time. It took me three hours.

Years later Spot and I met Tom. Tom was handsome and sweet — he brought me flowers and Spot toys so we both adored him! Eventually, Tom and I got married and the three of us became a family.

Tom loves cats and to my amazement, he did the impossible and tamed Spot. As she’d curl up against his chest to go to sleep, we’d joke that she’d gone from being “The Topanga Terror” to becoming “The South Bay Softie.” She let Tom brush her and would sit with him for hours in his music studio as he wrote songs. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Tom won Spot’s respect — and Spot stole Tom’s heart. Spot remained “my baby” but she became Tom’s best friend.

At the age of fourteen, Spot’s kidneys failed. On the dreadful day that we had to put Spot to sleep, I held her gently and whispered, “Mommy loves you” as the vet administered the lethal injection. Tom bit his lip as Spot faded away and sighed, “She was my best friend.” Holding Spot’s body, I sobbed while I watched Tom crumble; he shook and cried uncontrollably. It was hard to believe that my ornery little terror had ended up being such a softie that she had become Tom’s devoted companion.

~Rebecca Hill

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