Happy birthday Grandma!! She's eighty-six years old today. She's my hero, mother to seven amazing kids (now my mom and aunts and uncles). She would sneak out of her home in WW2 England to meet my grandfather at the social dances for the military. He was a Dutch soldier. He passed away a few years ago now. They had one of those fairy tale relationships where he called her "doll" and she asked him twenty times a day if she could get him anything, tea? You're sure you don't want another cup of tea? She first moved to the Netherlands with him and had six children in a home converted from stables behind the mansion where my grandfather had been a child. One room had a stove to keep them warm through the Dutch winters. When the kids were still very young (my mom was eleven) they packed everything and moved to Oakland, CA. Dream chasers. And true heroes. I celebrate her today and everyday!
My grandmother is not my nature of nature story this week, though. This week is about a cat. Our cat, Petunia, was attacked on Tuesday. I was getting ready for school (Gio had left for work 30 minutes before) when I heard a ruckus by the front door. Our big German shephard was barking up a storm in the fenced backyard. I figured two dogs play-fought in the front stirring everyone up. I rushed to the front of the house where we have long windows on either side of the front door. Not two dogs. Our white cat swatting and spitting up a storm as a dog snapped and growled at her. All I could think was pit bull because it was a brindle and had the short fur of a pit bull, though it looked like a puppy or a smaller version, a mix.
There was no time for thinking. I'd open the door, she'd run inside and I'd slam it again in the dog's face. Yes, right. Opening the door gave Petunia a chance, not to run inside, but to jump past the dog's slight distraction and run for our birch trees. He was right on her tail and as she scrambled up the bark, he jumped and grabbed her and pulled her to the grass. We live right by the high school and a group of students were walking from their parked cars to the school. "Oh my god," a girl yelled. "He's going to kill that cat."
And Petunia fought away and up the tree again only for the dog to yank her back down and I was running by now in my slippers across the yard yelling and trying to sound intimadating and the dog had Petunia on the grass and I knew, knew in my gut this was it she didn't have another escape and the kids ran over our lawn and a couple of boys sprinted across the lawn from the street and the dog spooked and the boys took chase as the dog fled down the street.
Petunia got up slowly with a low growl rumbling in her chest and I picked her up and carried her into the house. She was lucky. A couple of tufts of fur missing, some abrasions, a puncture that we're keeping an eye on so it doesn't get an abscess. My focus was fixed on her so I never got to thank the students who helped.
It took hours to calm down my racing heart. More hours to question every second of the incident. Anika watched from her bedroom window. She didn't understand the dire consequences we had narrowly missed, but she was telling the story over and over through the day, that mean dog chased Petunia. Remember how that mean dog chased Petunia?
How would I forget? I got to thinking about choices and the role of the witness, the questions after trauma like, what if she had run in the house? What if the dog had followed her? What if the dog turned on me? What if? What if?
I am grateful that I didn't have to travel down those paths. Instead, that evening I walked the neighborhood with Anika and Ian to caution everyone about their little animals. Every time I thought maybe I exaggerated the danger, I remembered Petunia hiding in the garage with her eyes skittish and I knew it was no game to her. I did find the dog's owner, though when the frolicking puppyish dog came around the corner of his fenced yard, I couldn't reconcile it with the snarling menace in our front yard. "Maybe . . ." I said.
"That's the dog," Anika said.
The owner and I had a great coversation and yes his dog had run around the corner following a group of high schoolers and yes his dog loved to chase squirels in the backyard and yes, of course yes his dog would be on a leash from now on.
So the nature of nature. These animals raised in a human culture with plenty of food and affection and yet these instincts, these behaviors surface right in our front yards. Despite all of our explaining and training, moments of sheer wildness rise up in our pet's eyes.
Gets me thinking about the mysteries of nature and how thinking that we understand the psyche of animals is absolute arrogance on our part.
For now, I'm grateful all of the animals involved are okay.
Onto a lovely rainy Sunday morning.