Last year, my Mother’s Day began with a bloody cat and ended with a home invasion.
The kids were out of town with their Dad and his significant other, and I didn’t expect them until after lunch. When I woke, the cat, Midnight, had been gone for three days. Now she was sitting, strangely still, on the ledge outside the bathroom window. Coaxed down, she revealed the damage from fending off a tomcat’s advances: three deep bites around her tail.
As is my typical pattern for Hallmark Card days, I’d decided to spend Mother’s Day alone instead of taking up friends on kind invitations. Why give up a perfectly good opportunity for a little self-pity? Thanks to Midnight, I now had something to do: spend four hundred dollars and an afternoon sitting at the emergency pet clinic. Good thing I’d turned down those brunch offers.
Somehow I got her into the dog’s crate. The smell of Gus, a terrier of indeterminate origin, totally freaked her out. Gus and Midnight are like China and Taiwan—as long as Midnight knows her place, it’s all good, but if she gets uppity, Gus hauls out the aircraft carrier that is his convulsive bark; she stops trying to stare him down and gets the hell off the deck for fear he might break through the glass door to eat her alive.
By the time I got her home, laden with medications costing me a king’s ransom (yet having been provided by the vet tech with little or no notion of how to actually get them into the cat) the kids were arriving. I received some wilted carnations and a lot of questions about logistics for the night. Opening the refrigerator door, I suggested that for starters we lock the dog in the bathroom and the cat, still in the crate, in my son’s bedroom. We decamped to the deck, eating grilled cheese, which can, incidentally, pair quite nicely with Sauvignon Blanc, trying vainly to ignore muffled yowls and barks. We eventually gave up, distracted by the situation inside.
After several missed attempts to administer the meds, I called my neighbors, Susan and Jay. They’ve restored a house and are the sort of people who will take almost anything on, and they gamely accepted this challenge The cat expressed her gratitude by doing her best to viciously scratch and bite them. When they took their leave, the kids and I watched a little Desperate Housewives and determined our strategy for the night. The dog would sleep with my daughter, and the cat, still bleeding quite a bit, would stay in the crate. We’d hope that the doors of our matchbox-sized, 1927 rental house would do a better job than usual of staying closed and keeping noise out. My then nine year-old son, a thrashing sleeper known in the family as Sir Kicks a Lot, would be in with me.
Around 2 a.m. I awoke to a bony knee in my kidney area and the unmistakable sound of a dog’s nails clicking on the hardwood in the hallway. Oh my goodness, I thought (okay, maybe not in so many words) Gus is out.
I rolled over and blinked. Twice. There was a Saint Bernard standing beside my bed. He was wagging his tail. As I looked over at my son, I realized a train could roll through the house without waking him. No witness there. “C’mon, buddy,” I said, strangely calm in my half-awake state, and walked the noble beast out to the kitchen, where the wind had blown the back door open. In the chaos, I’d neglected to lock it. Buddy exited compliantly, and I went back to bed and was soon asleep again, only briefly considering who else might have walked in.
On the way to the office a few hours later, I made some calls.
“So, you had, like, a conversation with this dog?” said my friend Tammy.
“That doesn’t happen every day,” said the man I was dating. “Of course I believe you.”
“Exactly how much of the cat’s pain medication did you take?” Jay wondered.
My only solace was my twenty-something colleague in Chicago. “He walked into your bedroom uninvited? He didn’t even buy you a drink? Well, that’s a bit cheeky.”
After a day in the real world, I wondered if any of it had happened. I called my regular vet and he assured me Midnight would be on the mend after she’d boarded at his clinic for a week. As for the noctural visit, the kids had by now decided that I’d dreamed the entire incident.
Time for Gus’ walk, and by now it was nearly dark. Around the corner, there was a man holding the collar of a large brown and white dog. I recognized my Saint Bernard immediately, even though he was a she, and in fact a border collie. Jumping up and down, I watched the man, who had a glass of wine in his other hand, grow amused and hopeful. “Sir! Is that your dog?” It was not. But did I know who she belonged to? I ran home to get the other leash.
After parading Buddy--her real name, it turned out, accounting at least in part for her obedience--past my neighbors' house (Susan and Jay weren't home but at least now Judy next door could vouch for me) and in front of the kids, I was stopped by a woman driving around looking for said canine. The dog had jumped their fence several times since they’d adopted her a week before, and were pleased to find her on the front step early that morning. They lived two doors down. I might have been derelict in home safety, but at least I wasn’t hallicinating.
This Mother’s Day, we are happily in a roomier house. The cat and dog came with us, and though they still have their stand-offs, now they both spend their nights inside, more or less amicably, in different rooms in our bigger, quieter space. And, yes, I always lock my doors.