I had two primary pets growing up. Sparky the cat, a diminutive female long hair tortoise-shell who deigned to come home with us from my Grandmother’s farm. And Buffy the dog, a pure bread male cocker-spaniel with floppy ears and an unrelentingly generous and loving disposition.
Though Sparky’s tortoise-shell fur was long and rare and gorgeous, tortoise-shell fur is usually quite short, there wasn’t much actual cat in there. Nought but wiry sinew under all that lovely fluff but, like Yoda, her size was no reason to judge. She owned our neighbourhood and all the dogs in the area knew it. They would literally cross the street, even when on leash, to pass our house if she was out in the yard.
Buffy was a lovely sandy golden colour with wide, dark, excitable eyes and a perpetually half-laughing shape to his panting mouth. He never growled, barked, or bit anyone or anything. His only violent act was the absolute destruction of the thick plastic cone he’d been forced to wear after being neutered. The largest single piece left was about the size of a nickel. For 99.99% of his life he was nothing but goofishly lovable.
They had a somewhat sibling-esque relationship. Her Imperial Majesty tolerated her pitiably dim-witted housemate, instantly and ferociously coming to his defense should anyone other than her attempt to harm him, and he good naturedly stayed out of her way until he could swoop through and eat all the food out of her bowl.
The one activity they did share was caring for her kittens whenever she had a littler. She would nurse and rear, he would entertain and nurture. She had a somewhat aloof parenting style and he would patiently play with them for hours at a time, they always found the frenetic velocity of his stubby little tail highly captivating.
We never got Sparky fixed. We enjoyed having the kittens around. We were always able to find homes for them and she only ended up having about half a dozen litters in her nearly eighteen years of life. There were never any serious troubles but like all energetic families there were ‘incidents’ from time to time.
On one such occasion Sparky was in the upstairs spare room curled up in the box with her kittens contentedly feeding and resting. Buffy was in my room with me, lounging on the floor as I worked away at my desk. One of the kittens must have knocked a sibling out of position or some such transgression as a couple of reasonably loud squeaks sounded from the other room. Buffy’s ears perked up, as they were always on the alert for kitten related notifications. With his usual ‘doting uncle’ curiosity he hopped up and went to investigate.
My assumption of what happened is that Sparky just wasn’t in the mood to have him sticking his big snuffely nose into her affairs at that precise moment and likely took a swat at him to make that sentiment clear. What I do know is the legendary sharpness of her little claws sparked an unanticipated consequence as one of them got hooked in the fur and flesh just to the side of his eye.
I know this because of the sudden yelp followed by the scrambling and crashing as he bolted from the spare room with Sparky in tow being hauled along by her snagged claw. Startled and panicked he darted about spilling distraught kittens into the hallway, eventually dragging his hissing resistant passenger down the stairs to the main floor where he continued to dart about the kitchen.
Quickly scooping the mewling kittens back into the box in the spare room I followed the chaos parade down the stairs to find my parents trying to wrangle the yelping and hissing mass of panicked limbs and tails. Eventually mom sat on the cat, dad sat on the dog, and I gingerly reached in to pluck the trapped claw free relieved to see it hadn’t actually snagged his eye.
Buffy immediately began snorting, sneezing, shaking his head, and rubbing at his face with his paws with hind legs up and chest flat to the floor. Sparky took a moment to give herself a shake, smooth her own fur, then sat prim and poised watching as the dog continued to thrash and snort.
When Buffy finally regained himself, still sniffling and with his one eye squinting spastically, she stood and walked the few steps to stand directly in front of him. Glaring at him she waited a couple of beats as if to make sure she had his clear and undivided attention then delivered a resounding smack to the top of his snout.
Thankfully without any claws this time.
She then huffed one more disgruntled hiss at him before heading back to her still mewling kittens with her tail haughtily up in the air.
We wisely waited until she was fully up the stairs and out of sight to start laughing. She had a history of holding grudges over such things.