by Barbara Mason
It was Christmas Eve and my younger son Matt was visiting for Christmas with his big, black lab, Poncho. Poncho, being a young energetic dog needed plenty of exercise,so, Matt would take him out in our back yard to play with him. Our yard hasn’t had a dog in residence in several years, and the wildlife as well as neighborhood pets have come to regard it as a safe place. A large enthusiastic dog suddenly entering the picture can be a source of astonishment to any animal residents or visitors.
On this particular day, as Matt played ball with Poncho, an unsuspecting cat had paid an unfortunate visit to our yard. To say the least this cat was caught by surprise by a big dog panting after a ball and barreling toward him full speed ahead. Alarmed, the cat took no chances but shinnied up the nearest tree which happened to be a very tall magnolia.
When told about this mishap I ventured out to take a look for myself at the frightened victim who was by then far, far up in the tree. I recognized him as the neighborhood prowler who had found my yard to be a virtual haven of bird and chipmunk delicacies. I once caught him carrying off a nice fat chipmunk in his mouth. Needless to say I didn’t conjure up much sympathy for the poor fellow but returned to the house and announced that I was pretty sure cats could back down out of trees.
We even looked it up on the internet. It was a consensus. Since no dead cats are ever found at the base of trees or cat skeletons are seen hanging from tree limbs the consensus was that cats can eventually untangle themselves from their tree dilemmas and return to solid ground. We did check on him from time to time while he continued to remain in his newly acquired refuge. He was a big fluffy, fat cat, and I was beginning to wonder if the internet was wrong. Could he really back his big behind down that tree?
Christmas morning came, and the cat was far from our minds. It wasn’t until the afternoon that I again remembered our feline visitor’s pickle. Feeling sure that the tree would be cat-free I wandered out to check. There he sat still clinging to the same limb. By then the tree was stained with cat urine and the poor guy was looking pretty pitiful. He had spent a very cold night clinging to a branch of the tree. The temperature was expected to fall even lower on Christmas night.
Just as I was looking over that Magnolia and imagining how I could possibly reach our friend (I’m no longer so good at tree climbing) Matt walked up. He could see the intent in my face, and he also wondered how I could clamber up that tree. We had no ladder that was tall enough so, an awkward climb was the only answer.
It wasn’t an easy decision. The cat-urine covered tree had only a few limbs near the bottom but not so many near the cat. It would be a tricky climb and a very unwise one at that. Regardless, up Matt went. While I remained safely on the ground sweet-talking the cat so that he wouldn’t be frightened and climb further up, Matt found his way up the tree. He got to the point that he could almost reach the cat but not quite. The poor thing mewed and reached out a paw. He was more than ready to accept help.
My son, the hero, twisted and turned and finally snaked his way high enough to grab hold of the cat. He tucked him under one arm and gingerly made his way down clinging to limbs and the frightened animal. Thank goodness the cat gave no fight but rode quietly down.
We tossed our frightened feline and his big fluffy bottom over the fence so that he would no longer be in danger from an excited dog. As he began to walk away from us–going home, I hope– he paused and turned and gazed at us as if to say “A big thank you to you both” and “Merry Christmas”.