78: Twinkie to the Rescue

78: Twinkie to the Rescue

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Twinkie to the Rescue

It is difficult to obtain the friendship of a cat. It is a philosophical animal… one that does not place its affections thoughtlessly.

~Theophile Gautier

Although I was born in Oregon, my family spent five of my formative years in New York City where my father attended university. And every summer my folks, my older brother, John, and I packed up the car to return to Medford so that Dad could lumberjack with his brother, Sharkey.

During one of those summers, at Uncle Sharkey’s Quarter Horse ranch, a half-grown barn kitten wound her way into our hearts and our easterly-traveling station wagon.

Twinkie was an aptly labeled tuxedo cat, sporting a brilliant black coat with white whiskers and markings under her chin and chest, punctuated with four white feet. Her personality and love of life matched her beauty.

She quickly took to the car, collar and leash and, long before the advent of seatbelts, lay between John and me as we slept in the back of the vehicle. My parents took turns driving, often through the night, and to this day I have warm memories of watching the stars out the window as Twinkie snuggled alongside and the aroma of thermos coffee filled the air.

Twinkie evolved into an apartment cat, and we shook our heads while she sat on the slightly ajar window, perusing the goings-on twenty-one stories below. And she was a daily source of laughter with her newly assumed role as a proficient clotheshorse gymnast.

Eventually my dad finished his education during a year in Berkeley, California, where my younger brother, David, was born. Then Dad was offered a position at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and we once again packed up, but this time we were permanently Canada-bound. We lived in a series of different homes before we bought and settled in one within the beautiful Dunbar area. A large backyard served the young family, which included Twinkie.

I’d always been an animal lover and I assumed that each animal I encountered must reciprocate my feelings. So when I discovered that our neighbors regularly fed a feral cat, I was hurt that he wouldn’t let me anywhere near him. The raggedy tom had all the hallmarks of a fighter with cauliflower ears and visible scars on his face and tail. But to a young girl, the marks simply made him more endearing. It meant he needed me.

One warm summer’s day, the perfect opportunity presented itself. The tom was in our yard, pointing towards the neighbor’s house, relieving himself. I knew that if I could just touch him, he’d realize that I was a friend and the bond would be instantaneous.

I tiptoed up behind, reached out, and stroked his back. If I’d not already understood the term, “All hell broke loose,” I soon did! In one motion, the tom whirled and leapt onto my shorts-clad legs, digging in each claw, piercing and excavating shards of skin as he raked his back paws up and down, over and over. My small voice emitted a true primal scream.

And then, seemingly from out of the blue, charged my black and white knight in shining armour. Twinkie hit that tom with her own claws outstretched. Amidst the dreadful caterwauling that only two felines in battle can wail, the tom released his hold and made a beeline for the fence, with Twinkie an inch from his tail.

She stopped at the property line and trotted back to me, knowing that I was somewhat in shock. She waited until Mom, having heard the commotion, shepherded me into the house to address my wounds.

A couple of years later, Twinkie developed a tumour in her jaw. There was no treatment and she was in pain with every movement. It’s always difficult to have an animal euthanized. But when that animal is not only a family member and friend but a personal hero as well, the pain is multilayered.

As for the tom, he and I agreed to disagree and allow each other distance. Having since worked with feral cats, I completely understand his actions and reactions. No doubt, Twinkie was empathetic with his position, but she was not going to tolerate him hurting her girl.

More than forty-five years have passed, as have other much-cherished cats. Each has brought his or her own brand of love and joy. But no other has surmounted a challenge that put her life at risk, to protect me. In that, Twinkie, our endearing superstar cat, stands alone.

~Diane C. Nicholson

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