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Monday, January 7, 2013

Barney Cat and the Big Mammal Nightmare


 
Barney
As I’ve explained in prior posts my cat Barney was abused by his prior owners starting from his kittenhood, and this abuse is evident today (he’s five years old, almost six) in many ways.  He won’t let a hand come towards his head from the front because he was apparently frequently slapped or beaten from this direction.  Most cats love to rub up against humans, but Barney, while very affectionate, never does this because he was likely kicked if he tried it.  In bed at night my other cat, Mama, is a heat whore like most cats, and picks the warmest part of my body to cuddle up against, but Barney sleeps in a corner of the bed, never touching me, afraid that the big mammal will punish him if he slips up and does so.  
I’m a teacher and I love Barney so I’ve worked patiently in the nearly three years we’ve been together to convince him that no matter what the other big mammals did to him in the past, I won’t treat him badly.  Now, if I go slowly, he will allow my hand to pet him from the front, and every once in awhile he’ll tentatively allow his head to brush lightly against my hand before scurrying away from the still-anticipated blow. 

In the bedroom he’s getting braver (especially on cold nights) about sleeping next to me and even touching, and recently he’s become curious what it would be like to go under the covers and really get warm.  I raise them up for him, he peers intently down into the dark recesses of the lower part of the bed, and sometimes he’ll cautiously venture to explore down there before panicking and scurrying back to open air. 

On Christmas Eve we had a breakthrough, Barney and I.  He went down under the covers, but when he became worried he’d be punished and bolted for the opening, I grabbed him and held him tight, with just his head showing, nestled next to my head, and the rest of his body held comfortably next to mine.  He struggled for just a few seconds and then succumbed to the pleasure of the touch and the realization that I’ve never hurt him intentionally. 

Also, he’s learned to love me.  I truly don’t think he’d ever before been loved by anyone, and though he’s an affectionate cat, even with total strangers, he had never loved anyone.  But last year I noticed him sitting near me, just gazing at me fondly, and purring.  It was a big moment. 

Once Barney had accepted that he was being held next to me under the warm covers and that I was petting him, he relaxed into the experience with gusto.  He began to purr loudly (right in my ear), and then as sleep enfolded him the purring would get softer and softer.  But right before he completely dozed off he would suddenly have a panic attack: “I’M TOUCHING THE BIG MAMMAL AND HE’LL PUNISH ME FOR DOING THAT!!!”and try to wriggle free from my grasp.  I was having none of it, holding Barney tight until the terror subsided, the loud purring resumed, then the soft purring, and finally the inevitable next panic attack. 

This cycle, of course, made sleeping damn near impossible (for either of us), but somehow we finally did conk out, head to head and happy. 

I had a vivid dream, much more vivid and lifelike than usual.  In this dream I was sitting up, fully dressed, leaning against the backboard of a bed in a hotel room.  The door to the room was on my right, and a large window to my left.  On the floor next to the window someone had torn up a magazine into many pieces and then arranged the pieces into some sort of pattern on the floor between the window and the bed.  As I looked down at this pattern, trying to see what it meant, I was startled to see there was a man sitting on the floor half concealed by the window’s curtain, his arms folded around his knees, staring intently at me.  He appeared to be in his 30s, scruffy---like a vagrant.
 
 

I asked him who he was, but instead of replying he rose slowly to his feet and showed me a small ax he was holding in his right hand.  Suddenly he turned and threw the ax into the wall to my right, near the farthest corner of the room.  The ax stuck there but he moved quickly to retrieve it.  While I protested and made conciliatory noises (“What’s wrong with you?  How can I help you?”) he held the ax out toward me so I could examine it and then casually tossed it---spinning around and around---onto the floor next to the door.  He gave me a look that seemed to say “I’ll give you a chance: see if you can get to the ax before I do.” 

 
I decided that the time for conciliation was over and that yelling for help was the wisest course.  I’m too old to be fighting over an ax with a crazy man half my age.  But when I yelled “Help!” it came out as a pitiful squeak, like some teenage girl in a bad horror movie.  That annoyed me.  One thing I do have is a big booming voice that can silence a large noisy room (very useful for a teacher), so I decided to bring out that voice.  As loud as I could (which is very loud indeed) I yelled

“HELP!”

 The next thing I saw was Barney flying from the bed, spread-eagle, screeching in terror. 
 
 

I’d yelled loudly enough that I’m amazed neighbors weren’t pounding on my door shortly thereafter, and I’d done it right in poor Barney’s ear.
I promptly hunted him down, picked him up and petted him good while reassuring him that it was an ax murderer that I was battling and not my beloved Barney.
He seems to have forgiven me because since our move to Florida last week (as our snowbirding adventure begins), Barney’s taken to sleeping under the covers with me, happy as cats get.
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Related Posts:
“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009
"Parakeets and Me," February 5, 2010
“Bears,” February 23, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"Milking Cows," June 8, 2010
"Teaching English to Cats," August 6, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"The Dogs In My Life," April 18, 2011
"My Parents and Dummy," May 13, 2011
"Two Cat Stories: Mama and Barney in the Wild," July 9, 2011

“Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011
"Stepping on Cats," February 8, 2012
“Snowbirding, My iPhone 5, and the Coming Crazy Cat Trip,” December 5, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

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