91: The Blankie

91: The Blankie

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

The Blankie

There is no such thing as “just a cat.”

~Robert A. Heinlein

“Do you know there’s a small black cat hanging by his teeth from the yellow blanket you’ve hung on your clothesline?” asked a neighbor. “The wind is blowing, but he’s still hanging on.”

“That’s George the Cat,” I said. “He will not leave his yellow blanket. He sleeps on it, runs to it when he’s frightened, claws and kneads his paws into it. The blanket was so dirty that I had to wash it, but he’s found it on the clothesline.”

“George the Cat?”

“Yes, George. He’s part of our family, now.”

Our son John, then in third grade, had come home from school with something clasped in his hands. Pleading, knowing we’d rejected the idea of a pet, he said, “The mother cat at a neighbor’s house had kittens. She had too many. They’re going to take some to the animal shelter. This one has to go, they say. I think he’s the smartest. Just look. I’ve named him ‘George.’ ”

The tiny black kitten, with a spot of white fur on his throat, was sucking on our son’s finger. He was really too young to leave his mother.

There was no way to say “No” to George. John warmed milk for him and put a yellow blanket in a box beside his bed. That night, the cat and the yellow blanket ended up on the bed, tangled with boy.

Because George had come into our family when he was so young, he didn’t always act like a normal cat. He played flag football with the boys. Reluctantly, he played dress-up with the girls. He pounced on my husband John for roughhouse games when son and daughter did. He helped me unload grocery sacks and claimed every cantaloupe for himself. He waited outside at exactly the time our kids would be returning from school. Eventually, he ventured to the edge of the nearby schoolyard, sat and waited for them.

When my son or daughter had mumps, colds or just felt down, George climbed into their beds and curled up, after he demanded I bring his yellow blanket. I thought he was a better restorer of health than any doctor or soup.

Our kids passed through grade-school years, and George learned along with them. He’d had no fear of dogs; in fact, he played with a Chihuahua. Then, a large dog chased and nearly killed George. He made it home to his yellow blanket, got underneath it, meowed out the story. The next day, George jumped onto a high wooden partition between our garage and house. He twitched his tail. The large dog saw that. The large dog ran toward the partition, ready to attack.

George jumped down and grabbed the dog’s nose. The dog ran, yelping. George did not let go. A while later he came home, strutting, a winner.

After that he didn’t fear any dogs, and when we moved to a new town where the neighborhood dogs ran free, George asserted his territorial rights. He leapt from some hidden place onto a lead dog’s nose, and the whole pack ran away, baying. George trained them to stay away and we didn’t have to worry about their messing up our lawn.

One spring day, George went out serenading some female cats as usual, but when he came home, he stretched out in front of the fireplace, limp. He lay there on his back, trying to run, and we knew it was time. We called our daughter and we all held George. Then we wrapped him in his yellow blanket and buried him in a sunny place. I still think about that special cat, with his own blankie, and the way he protected and cared for our children and our property.

~Shirley P. Gumert

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