Jefferson Weaver • Adventures of a ditch kitten
Wookie came to us in a terrible state.
A friend of mine – kind of an animal hero really, named Lynne Thompson – was heading home when she and her daughter saw a car where it didn’t need to be. A woman was carrying a plastic bag toward a water-filled ditch.
They spun around, but the woman was gone. Miss Lynne went to see what had been thrown in the ditch.
It was a bag of almost newborn kittens.
Muddy, tired, and rightfully frantic, she met me at our gate a few hours later. We’re used to such things at our house, and Miss Rhonda was waiting.
After a plea on social media, begging folks not to do such horrible things, Miss Lynne found a fourth kitten the next day – in her mailbox. Same age and color. They had aspirated both water and dirt.
Three of the babies died, but the fourth became Wookie the Ditch Kitten.
Wookie was so named because she is furry and never stops talking.
There were a lot of worrisome moments, but finally Wookie’s eyes opened, and she began behaving like a normal kitten. At our house that means she is constantly attempting suicide.
Normally, we keep the door and windows open at night much of the year. Security isn’t an issue – between the geese and the goats, a ne’er-do-well would be begging to be bitten by the dogs if he made it to the house. At the very least, he’d be calling 911 on himself.
Yet we have not been able to enjoy all the cool nights of early autumn because Wookie has discovered the outdoors.
At five weeks old, she enjoys going outside to use the sandbox Jack the Dog has so thoughtfully dug for her. He dug it for his own relaxation, but Jack is a fairly easygoing fellow, so he found another place to dig a hole where he can while away the days and I can break my ankle at night.
Wookie is a good girl for having basically housetrained herself, but it’s what comes afterward that is the issue. She has to fall down the steps, since she hasn’t learned the physics of jumping. Then she toddles across the yard, does what cats do in the sand, covers it up – and heads for the fence.
Our fence is designed to keep dogs in and goats out. Hence, a six-ounce kitten measuring three by five inches can easily slide right through. Missus and I frequently have to scramble to keep Wookie from getting out.
But just as small things can get out, small things can get in.
Through the years, we have a had a number of our rescue animals that just don’t want to leave. Possums are among the worst. One would waddle through the door and onto the couch beside Rhonda on a regular basis, demanding grapes – a couple months after said Didelphius Virginius had been properly transitioned then released into the wild. Years ago, after a particularly busy year, we had one who would come in the dog door, find the place where its cage had been kept, relieve itself, and go back outside. Others would find their way back home and be waiting patiently for supper with the cats. The cats weren’t amused.
Enter the Mystery Possum.
We had finally settled in the other night – it’s harder than you might think when the coyotes start singing and everything on the farm gets nervous -- and I was grateful for even a short season of MacBeth’s yarn that knits the raveled sleeve of the day’s care. Toni was snoring softly beside me, in that way old dogs have. Happy Jack was asleep beside Rhonda’s feet. Wookie was nestled in the hollow of my shoulder. We began closing the door at night until Wookie was fast asleep, then carefully opening it back to enjoy every bit of the temperate nights with a lower mosquito count. All was peaceful, relaxing and as silent as the night ever is in the country.
Suddenly we were all awakened by a horrifying shriek.
Rhonda kicked into mother-mode, and snatched the kitten from the jaws of a yearling possum not much larger than Wookie. The possum was unceremoniously tossed to one side, Wookie was safely wrapped in Rhonda’s arms, and we began a possum hunt at 2 a.m.
Wookie had apparently gotten down in the middle of the night to go take care of kitten business, and along the way run into a possum guilty of first degree burglary, having entered an occupied home after midnight with criminal intent.
We never did find the possum that night, oddly enough. Rhonda even went so far as to set a box trap in the bedroom. We heard the suspect rattling the can of pancake syrup-soaked cat food, but the critter wisely never showed itself again for more than a few seconds. When we finally did catch and evict the suspect, he fled for his life. Apparently he didn’t believe stories that circulate throughout the possum community, and fled in fear of its life.
Toni never woke up, but that is her privilege as a nearly-15 year old grandma dog. Wookie was none the worse for wear, but Happy Jack the dog, all 75 pounds of vicious coonhound cross, the one who would defend his mother to the death against bears, hogs and dragons – is phobic about possums. He fled for the living room, where he was found curled into a tight ball in a chair.
We don’t think this particular critter was one of our graduates, since the age was wrong. It was too young or too old to have been one of our recent rescues, but I suppose it’s possible that one of our previous residents spun such a tale of life at the Weaver household that a young’un set out on its own Odyssean quest for truth, cat food and leftovers.
Either way, we reluctantly began shutting the door at night – in part to keep Wookie in, and in part to keep other things out.
We keep the door closed all night now; the coyotes and deer hounds have everything stirred up, so wild things are ranging farther afield to find something to eat. Grapes are too danged expensive this time of year to be feeding to the freeloading possums