66: Franklin and Berniece

66: Franklin and Berniece

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

Franklin and Berniece

Cats are mysterious kind of folk — there is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.

~Sir Walter Scott

Berniece was a nondescript, faded gray-and-tan tortoiseshell cat with a squished face, puffy cheeks, and extra toes on her front paws. My husband had dragged her home, along with her brother, Franklin, at an estimated eight weeks old. They had been dumped on a road near our home.

Berniece was half the size of her brother and couldn’t jump very well. While Franklin swaggered through the house and yowled for attention, Berniece would meekly follow. She was a seeker of peace and quiet, demanding no special attention.

Berniece and Franklin were a fascinating study in cat communication. They were devoted to each other first and me second. Although selfish and demanding, Franklin was the perfect gentleman with Berniece. He always let her walk through the outside door first, and she was always first into the cat dish. He protected her from dogs, cars and strangers, and would warn her not to go out in the rain. Together, they cut a swath through the arguments that cats are sneaky, fickle, self-centered, narcissistic, mean and nasty.

I watched them make many minor decisions. Who would get my lap, and who would get the couch? Who got what Christmas package under the tree they’d already re-trimmed together? Who was going to mess up the card game today?

I particularly loved Berniece, and she was devoted to me in return. Berniece would leave the warmth of her bed each morning to watch me brush my teeth and dress, adoration on her face, then walk me to the door to see me off to work. As soon as the door shut behind me, she’d scamper back to bed, joining my husband and Franklin.

One morning, during the toothbrush ritual, Berniece went crazy, scrabbling under a two-inch space under the shower, flipping and diving. Then she disappeared from the room. I thought no more about it until I heard the thunder of cat paws on the wooden walkway above.

In a minute, Franklin raced into the bathroom, straight to the shower crack and dove in with his paws. Berniece soon followed and they embarked on a frantic, ultimately futile, attempt to get whatever had captured their attention.

I pondered that event for many days. Berniece realized she needed help, so she raced upstairs and woke her brother. She must have communicated her concern and given direction, as Franklin beat her to the bathroom and went directly to the spot. Amazing!

Berniece and I also had an evening routine. She’d curl in my lap, never without an invitation, for an evening of television, and then we’d retire upstairs to bed. After I’d plumped my pillows and was comfortable, Berniece would crawl onto the bed. I would lay my hand on her, and Berniece would settle down, purr, and sleep.

One night, Berniece would not settle down. Instead, she mewed insistently and pushed against my face repeatedly. Finally, I gave up and got up. Berniece ran frantically down the walkway and stopped at the door at the top of the outside stairs. I followed and she turned to me with a loud mew. I was shocked; I’d never heard such a sound from my polite, shy Berniece. I looked out and there was Franklin, trapped in the rain, bedraggled, and unhappy. Berniece had recognized the problem, knew I could solve it, and was persistent in her plan to rescue Franklin.

Another time she came to his aid, Franklin had returned from an outside adventure beaten up. He had a deep gash on his face, walked with a limp, and obviously felt sorry for himself. During his convalescence he looked to, and leaned on, his nurse Berniece to help him with daily chores, such as grooming. She was patient and kind.

And Berniece went the extra mile. One day while washing dishes, I heard the unmistakable sound of cats in the cat food bag. I marched toward the open laundry room door to send those cats packing, but stopped and watched instead. Franklin was sprawled in front of the cupboard, sore leg outstretched. The cupboard door was half open, and I saw the big bag of cat food. Inside there was a steady crunch, as Berniece was helping herself. Soon a gray paw appeared over the top of the bag, and Berniece winged a piece of cat food to Franklin. He snagged it with a paw and, without getting up, munched it down. This was repeated several times before I retrieved Berniece from her self-service and re-filled the cat dish!

Berniece and Franklin were an amazing pair of cats that always had me wondering what they would get their paws into next.

~Ginny A. Lee

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