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Tails

I wish this story involved two cats because I’d love an excuse to title this, “A Tail of Two Kitties,” but it’s not to be. There’s only one kitty involved in this little tale. Character two is a goat. Now that I think of it, if both were goats, this could be “A Tail of Two Kiddies.” Still, the characters are what they are … so we’ll settle for “Tails.”

Still with me?

As I type this post, the kitten in question is in her favorite spot. I can’t see her unless I move my laptop to one side and look down. That’s because her favorite spot in the world is the top of my feet.

She creeps up on me throughout the day and brushes a light hello across my ankles. I don’t have to look to know it’s her. The other two say hello with a bite or a love prick with those scary baby claws. Sometimes, if they really want my attention, they’ll set to climbing my bare leg. Coffee has nothing over kitten claws for opening your eyes first thing in the morning.

But this little gray tabby always greets me with a swish of her soft tail curled around the back of my legs, or maybe with a little grooming lick on a toe or two. I reach down and scratch her on that between-ear spot and she licks my hand in return. And then I go back to my typing and she goes back to her perching, content as can be to sit on the tops of my feet.

This kitten is a survivor. I wrote about her close brush with death several weeks back. In a nutshell, the mother cat moved all five kittens to a spot under the house. After Dave demolished the dog house (which stood in the way of his rescue) and dug a hole big enough to wriggle under, he pulled the kittens out and put them in a box to bring into the house. Two were nearly dead. It took me two hours of nurturing to return heat to those kittens’ limp, icy bodies. Though one died two weeks later, the little gray tabby rebounded. And today she’s a feisty, mischievous, fur-covered ball of “let’s have fun.”

I watch her chase, wrestle, pounce, swipe, leap and tumble all day long, but here and there she creeps back for a contented rest on my feet.

It occurred to me the other night what I was seeing. “Do you see this?” I asked Dave. “Do you realize what she’s doing?” I caught him studying Hebrews and preparing his message for church.

“No. What’s she doing?”

“I saved her … and now she sits at my feet.”

To some, she’s just a cat lounging in an odd place — but to me, now, she’s a picture of my relationship with God. He saved me. He rescued me from certain death. And in response, I should want, long, love to sit at His feet.

Now let me tell you about Buffy. When I wrote about her birth, I thought we’d end up calling her Nibbles but the kids thought she had the face of a buffalo, so they started calling her Buffy.

This little white goat is spring-loaded. Ever watch those cartoons where they show a lamb bounding through a pasture like a bouncing ball of fluff? Buffy has those beat all to pieces. She can jump like nobody’s business and actually prefers leaping to walking. We’ll sit and watch her jump right from a dead stand-still, for no other reason than that it pleases her to meet the clouds.

About five weeks ago, while leaving for a meeting at church, Dave heard crying coming from the pasture. He pulled the car over to investigate and found that Buffy had somehow wedged herself within the limbs of a multi-branched tree near the back of the pasture. We can only imagine that she leapt up there. When Dave found her, her head was twisted to one side and her left front leg was contorted up and behind her at a sickening angle. We don’t know how long she hung there but it was clear when he freed her that she’d gone into shock. He called me on his cell phone and had me meet him in the pasture.

Now, before I continue, I have to tell you about the electric fence. Because he has legs up to his ears and can step over the fence the way you’d cross a speed bump, my husband saw no reason to put a gate anywhere along the fence line. Because I’m 5’5″ and have normally proportioned legs and the electric fence comes to about 1/8 of an inch below that area where my legs meet the rest of my body, I see a big need for a gate. I despise electric fences. I have this fear that at some point, I’ll be trying to get over the fence and I’ll catch the top wire between my heel and my gardening clog and fall and get myself twisted up in those three hot wires and I’ll just lie there pulsating every three or four seconds until someone wonders, “Hey, has anyone seen Mom lately?”

All that being said, I quit going in the pasture. Then Dave told me about a little spot near the goat house where the fence goes over a pile of haphazardly stacked planks. “You can get over easier right here,” he advised.

I did that a handful of times until Dave thought to add, “By the way, a big snake lives under those planks, so keep an eye out.”

Keep an eye out? How about we just quit going over the fence instead. Now I had a new element to add to my vision: I could envision myself lying on the ground in that same pulsating, clog-wire tangled heap, only now a giant woman-devouring snake was slithering in and out of my limbs, wondering which part of me to consume first.

I abandoned the goats … until Dave’s phone call. And in that moment I learned something: when you mix love and adrenaline, you get yourself a motivator so powerful it will catapult you right over snake-dwelling planks and electric fences. My legs grew right up to my ears and with no effort at all, I found myself on the other side of fear.

I took the goat from Dave and settled us both on a pile of fresh hay in the goat barn. I held her against my chest and tried to calm her shaking. Her eyes were unseeing; her heart beat a staccato against my arm. She didn’t know I was there, I’m quite sure of that. She didn’t know anything at all except that she’d been stuck and now she was unstuck, but hurting all over her little body.
Dave had to leave. I called Tera up at the house and asked her to bring me a big towel. When she did, I wrapped Buffy and held her as tightly as I dared. We sat like that for an hour and a half, until I was shivering as hard as she was. When I couldn’t stand the cold any longer, I stood with her, retraced my steps to the fence, and hopped right back over. She didn’t move, didn’t blink, didn’t cry — not the entire walk up to the house. That worried me immensely. Once inside, I set her down on Larry’s green dog mat and tucked her in. She laid like that for another two hours — not noticing when I sat near her and stroked her head, not noticing when Dave came home and did the same, not noticing when we dragged her mat into our bedroom so she could be by us through the night.

She survived the shock, but she couldn’t stand. Not the next day and not the day after that. She couldn’t move much at all. Dave and I had to go out several times a day and lift her up so she could nurse from Whiney, her mother.

I took her to the vet. The first thing I was told was that it was amazing she lived through the shock. If Dave hadn’t found her when he did, and if I hadn’t warmed her, she wouldn’t have survived. Another four minutes and $75 later, I was told it would be $300 for an x-ray — and if that proved what the vet thought, which was that she had broken her leg up near the shoulder, it would be another $800 for surgery.

I left with instructions to give her six shots over three days. We didn’t have $1100 for x-rays and surgery for a goat. I told the vet that. She said she understood, but didn’t give me much hope for recovery otherwise. Instead she gave me an unconvincing, “Good luck.”

I prayed on the way home. Prayed again later when I returned her to the barn. “God, she can’t spend the rest of her days dragging a useless leg wherever she goes. Please fix this.”

It was all we had, but it was enough. I don’t attribute her healing to the six shots I gave her. It was God.

Right now, I can watch her balancing herself on the steep slope of a rusty, dusty, decaying stump while she strains to reach a must-have leaf of a huckleberry branch. A moment ago I watched her take a joy-filled leap straight in the air — and land herself on four good, solid legs, tail waggling with pure delight. She’s completely healed, and God is completely responsible.

But can I tell you the sad part of all this? I held her, warmed her, stroked her, worried over her, treated her, prayed for her … and now she runs when I come near the fence. She’s back to her independent goat ways, which include no tender thank you’s or signs of trust. She doesn’t need me anymore and I’ll bet if I went in the pasture and tried all day to coax her near me, I wouldn’t get within ten feet. And I have such a longing to touch her little face and scratch her between her horns and give her a loving pat.

One was saved and sits at my feet. One was saved and runs when she sees me. I love them both and I’d rescue them all over again … but only one remembers.

When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Rom 5:6 (TLB)

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2 Comments on "Tails"

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Amanda
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This is beautiful Shannon, and it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

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