44: One of the Family

44: One of the Family

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

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One of the Family

The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.

~George Santayana

Our family fell in love with the tiny ginger kitten the minute we saw him. His pointy ears and short legs earned him the name Yoda, after the Star Wars character. Sheba, our young German Shepherd, and Candy, our elderly Maltese Poodle, soon adopted the young cat as part of the family pack. Wherever the dogs were, there was Yoda. Call the dogs, and Yoda came too.

He had grown into a beautiful ginger tom when my husband Rob and I were moving from our home in Krugersdorp, South Africa to Grabouw, a small town 900 miles away. Because we were towing a travel trailer, we planned for it to take three days. For several weeks before we left, we held regular training sessions in the back yard. The two dogs had to learn to go to the bathroom on command, since we couldn’t stop at every tree along the way, and Yoda had to learn to walk on a leash, so we could take him out of the trailer in the evenings. His small head slid out of every collar we tried, so we put him in a body harness, which he initially detested, but grew to accept.

Our plans were simple. The dogs were to travel with us in the car, and Yoda would be in the trailer, inside a comfortable carpeted wooden crate with wire-netting sides. Lastly, our other pet, a canary named Pedro, would be in his cage. The vet gave us sedatives for the dogs and cat just in case.

The night before our departure, we locked the animals in the otherwise empty house while we slept in the trailer. We planned to leave at seven o’clock the next morning. In the rush to get on the road, we inadvertently let Yoda escape from the house and spent the next four hours searching for him. When he eventually strolled out of a thick bush at the end of the yard, we scolded him, cuddled him, and gave him the sedative from the vet. After securing him in his cat box, we closed the door of the trailer.

I had intended to sit with him until he went to sleep, but we were now four hours behind schedule. We opened the car door, and the dogs jumped in happily, and we eased the car and heavily laden trailer into the street.

After twenty minutes we arrived at the neighboring small town of Randfontein. We drove slowly through the main street, and we noticed people turning to stare at the trailer hitched to the back of our car.

“What’s wrong?” I said in alarm.

“I don’t know, but I can’t stop here.” Rob braked at the only set of traffic lights, and then we heard it, the sound of a baby screaming.

“Oh no. That’s Yoda,” I said. “Why isn’t he asleep?”

Sheba sat erect on the back seat, ears twitching. Her normally beautiful brown eyes glared at us. Candy lay in her favorite spot on the ledge underneath the back window. Her doleful eyes stared out at the trailer. Each time I turned to look back, she looked at me with tear-rimmed eyes.

As soon as it was safe to stop, Rob pulled over the rig, and I rushed to the trailer.

“Yoda, it’s okay,” I said. But it wasn’t okay. Yoda lay on his side, clawing wildly at the wire netting, tearing at the wire with his teeth, blood leaking from his gums.

I lifted the frantic animal from the confines of his box and Rob snapped on his leash. I cradled the cat on my shoulder, trying to soothe him. He nestled into my neck, crying like a newborn infant.

“What can we do?” My tears soaked into his ginger fur. “We can’t leave the door open. He’ll tear up the van. Besides, we can’t let him near Pedro.” I glanced across to where our yellow canary sat in his cage, merrily chirping as he swung to and fro on his swing. At least the bird was enjoying the trip.

“Let’s try him in the car,” Rob said. “Once he calms down, maybe the sedative will take effect. Then we can move him back here.” As we put him onto the back seat, both dogs gave him a rousing welcome. Sheba washed his face while Candy sniffed him all over, checking for injury. Yoda meowed and grumbled, obviously complaining of the way we had treated him.

As soon as the car moved, Candy jumped back onto the window ledge and went straight to sleep. Sheba sprawled on the seat, sighed, and closed her eyes. Yoda found a cool spot under the driver’s seat, yawned, and allowed the medication to do its job. Within moments, all three were asleep.

Each time we stopped for a break, the two dogs leaped to their feet and Yoda scrambled from his hidey-hole. We received many strange looks as we walked all three on their leashes across the grass, the excited German Shepherd, the sedate Maltese, and the triumphant Yoda. He had fought a fierce fight and won. As a member of the family, he belonged in the car with the rest of us.

Three days later, we pulled up outside the new house. The couple who came to meet us stared in amazement at the back window. Three heads crammed out of the small space, taking their first look at their new home. Inside the trailer, Pedro trilled his song of joy. Yoda and family had arrived, ready to start their new life — together.

~Shirley M. Corder

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