Katherine Shabbat with Cleo. Photo by Amit Shabbat
Warm under the quilt on a winter’s afternoon, Beethoven on the CD player, I feel a moment of pure contentment. Simultaneously, from below, ominous growling, punctuated by sharp barks, shatters my complacency. Fearing an intruder, I make my way downstairs to discover a cat settled high up on a kitchen shelf and my dog, Cleo, in a fury at the feline’s insolence.
At the sight of me, the cat leaps from its perch onto the floor into Cleo’s jaws. I find myself in the middle of a life and death struggle, screaming at my dog and trying to part the two animals, the black cat and the white dog. The cat manages to break free and races towards the French windows with Cleo in hot pursuit. It escapes into the garden and up a tree. Cleo, defeated, lies down in the grass and falls asleep. However, there is no sleep for me.
The juxtaposition of these two events - the peaceful interlude and the violent confrontation - is so startling that I wonder what it could mean. Of course, not everyone would search for a meaning, but my mind works that way. I found two possibilities:
One should never be complacent. Any number of things can shatter one’s peace and wellbeing, in a moment, illness, the elements or an intruder.
I also saw the occurrence as a warning, as I often leave the French windows ajar so that Cleo can wander in and out. This is probably not advisable because safe as I feel, a human intruder could enter, not only a cat.
Later in the day I notice a ginger tabby scratching at the French windows as if eager to enter. Why would the neighborhood cats be clamoring to enter the house of a ferocious dog?
The next morning I am preparing to go upstairs to my studio with a second cup of coffee when I hear a flutter of wings and a bird flies into the kitchen. I am flabbergasted. What is going on? Heart pounding, I look around for Cleo, whose reactions to birds match only those towards cats. I dread to think how she will take this second invasion of her territory.
While I rush around, slightly hysterical, opening all the windows, Cleo sits on her haunches near the glass doors, alert but composed. She seems to be saying, "I’ll ignore this, I’ll pretend it’s not happening." I wait for the bird to leave but don’t see it fly out.
That same afternoon Cleo’s uproar, once again, disturbs my rest. Although she clashes occasionally with felines, this is unprecedented. I find Cleo terrorizing a cat that has dared climb on the pergola. Once it has made its getaway, I lure Cleo to her pallet with a biscuit and try to go back to sleep.
The next morning is Friday and my husband, Amit, is home from work. The minute he leaves the house on the morning walk with Cleo, the bird flies into the kitchen. Feeling beleaguered, I shout after him,” The bird is back, come and do something.”
Amit comes in and hands me Cleo’s leash. I indicate the little bird on the living room floor and leave him to take care of the matter, trying to distance myself from the strange occurrences in my house.
He described how he had released the feathered creature. He said it was in shock and obviously thirsty, having been trapped in the house for 24 hours. He had stepped up close to the bird and it had hopped onto his shoe. Lovingly, he had walked slowly with it on his shoe across the living room, out to the patio then onto the grass. He had then kicked his leg in the air and the bird had flown to freedom.
I, who claim to believe in miracles, tend to perceive these intrusions as something out of Edgar Allen Poe, whereas Amit, a diehard atheist, is accepting and says he is reminded of AA Milne.
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