“Today’s temperature will only hit 98 degrees, a welcome relief from the intense heat, thanks to a cool front moving through the North Texas area,” chirped the radio announcer when the alarm clicked on at 5:00 a.m. Yikes, what’s not to love about Texas in the summer time? Finally, I thought, a relief from eighteen days of one-hundred-plus-degree temperatures. We’re all going to roast this season.
For some reason, I hop out of bed, awake and energized, a rarity these days in the early morning hours. My husband dresses and heads to the gym, while I add cream and sugar to a cup of morning coffee, the first of several.
“Waaaaa,” cries my ten-month old baby Benjamin, so I walk in the nursery to check on him. He’s sound asleep on his tummy—little butt in the air. Now that he can roll and safely sleep in any position he chooses, he loves to sleep on his tummy. I just want to give his little bum a pat, but I dare not disturb him. The house is quiet, and I want to savor a few more moments before the day fully begins.
I walk into our home office to check email and to grade a couple of students’ assignments for the online course I’m instructing.
“Waaaaa,” I hear again on the baby monitor, so I return to the nursery, only to find the same scene—a content and sleeping baby. I wonder if he is dreaming and crying out in his sleep.
My husband returns from the gym, and we chat about the day ahead and what we might eat for dinner that evening. I mention our baby’s strange cries, and he says that he, too, heard one and checked on Ben earlier, only to find him peacefully dozing. ”Strange,” we comment, and I mention that the cry sort of sounded like a cat. “Weird, huh?” I remark, dismissing the thought and heading towards the kitchen for a refill of my morning caffeine jolt.
Ben soon awakes and drinks his morning bottle; he immediately slides from my arms towards the floor to begin playing with his toys. Neatly piled on the ottoman, he can’t wait to scatter them across the room. No more snuggling after a bottle these days—Ben is crawling at lightening speed and pulling up on everything. He is a very busy boy. Walking can only be days or a couple of weeks away.
“Waaaaa,” the cry beckons again. Okay, now the baby is awake, so what the heck? This time the cry sounds like it’s coming from outside, so I walk outside with the baby and look around. I see nothing unusual in the yard and hear only the hum of our neighbors’ air conditioners. I conclude the sounds must be coming from outside the house. Since we have a dog, I’m not too concerned. Oh well—if it’s a cat, I hope it gets home before the heat sets in.
I place Ben in his crib to take a moment for myself in the guest bathroom—too much coffee, and I have to pee like crazy. I sit down, and holy crap! Pardon the bad pun, but a cat pokes its head out from behind the toilet and cries out the same cry I’ve heard several times that morning.
Now imagine the scene. Go ahead—use your imagination. I jump up and cry out, “How did you get in here?!” I holler a few other things as well that I’m unwilling to commit to print. It takes me a moment to compose myself, and then I run out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind me, leaving the strange cat behind. The cat starts crying louder, and now the dog perks up, walks over, and sniffs at the door. I see the baby curiously looking at me from his crib, where he is now standing up and mouthing the crib rail, seeking relief for his aching gums.
My heart is thumping in my chest, and I’m puzzled—how did the cat get in the house? Why did it come in? Is it hot or thirsty? I call my husband, who surmises it came in through the doggy door in the middle of the night. But what about the dog, I wonder? So much for a watchdog! Our vicious (ha!) little King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who sleeps in the main hallway snoozed through the whole thing—until now. Now she is fully alert—and interested.
Okay, calmer now (me, not the dog), I slip back into the bathroom with a bowl of water (I know, mistake number one), and I study the cat, a male. He’s pretty cute, I must admit; a grey and white mix with blue eyes. I’m not typically a cat person. He’s rubbing against my legs, so glad to see me return. I see a rhinestone collar, so I assume someone cares for him. I see the red heart tag with engraved phone number. Confident I know just what to do, I pick up the cat and walk out of the bathroom to grab my cell phone and call the number.
Mistake number two, only this one is bigger than mistake number one. The gentle fur ball in my arms spies our little dog and turns into a frenzy of hissing and sharp claws. ”Hey, careful!” I shout. I’m getting clawed to death and the dog is now jumping at my knees. Quick thinking, I toss the crazed cat back inside the bathroom, and slam the door, our dog Maggie close behind him. Clearly clueless, I didn’t expect a rumble. The dog proceeds to scratch the door to pieces, bark furiously, and stick her nose under the door, only to receive defensive swats from the frightened cat. The cat now begins to cry louder. I look in the nursery and see little Ben give me a smile and a happy laugh—glad to provide the morning’s entertainment.
I slip back into the bathroom and call the number on the tag, never mind that it’s 7:00 in the morning. I immediately recognize the voice on the voicemail—my neighbor who lives behind me. She has two small children, so I know she must be awake. She calls me right back, explaining apologetically that their cat is a night cat; he runs the neighborhood and returns home about 6:30 each morning. We have a hearty laugh about the whole situation, and I wonder if the cat will return the next night. Damn, I shouldn’t have given him water. What if he returns and Maggie catches him? It doesn’t look promising for the dog, given the cat’s claws.
I rescue the cat from the bathroom and release the him in the back driveway. He makes his way home, turning back several times to look at me and Benjamin standing in the garage, waving bye-bye. The dog is going crazy at the back door. She really wants that cat.
The next night, I have trouble sleeping and move to our couch. Hubby is snoring, and it seems easier to move than keep bothering him. Besides, I’ve twice nudged him to change positions to no avail.
Snoozing on the couch, I drift between sleep and consciousness, wondering if I’ll hear the little doggy door flap quietly. I do not hear the doggy door open or the pitter-patter of little paws, but I dream about that cat. I dream he returns to our home for another early morning visit, and he brings more cats than I can count into our home. I can’t toss the cats out the front door quickly enough without several more taking their place. I’m completely freaking out.
I awake, startled. Whew, thankfully, it was only a dream. I groggily unfold myself from the sofa, seeking a cup of coffee from the pot my husband just brewed. I reach for the refrigerator moments later in need of my coffee creamer, and I swear I see that cat’s reflection in the refrigerator door … with Maggie close behind.