Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Training a Fighter

“Jackson has become a real tiger,” I announced over a late dinner.
“Uh…huh,” Mr. Wonderful said buttering his bread.
“I’ve been working him for weeks.”
“Hmmm,” he said putting his knife down.
“Jackson can fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
“Our old cat is not Muhammad Ali.”
“How do you know?”

Ever since Jackson had whimped out with the opossum last summer, I had taken it upon myself to help our domestic feline get in touch with his inner tiger.  I was convinced that under Jackson’s fur-and-fat fa├žade lay a natural-born killer… a killer of anything beside his daily dose of kibble.  And all I had to do was awaken it. 

I started with the ribbon and the stick.  This was a very high-tech training device that consisted of tying a red Christmas wrapping ribbon to a thin, old tree branch on one end and to a mouse-shaped, catnip toy on the other.  Every day after work I’d swish the stick around the kitchen floor and Jackson would chase it trying to grab the catnip.  With his clawed paws he was excellent at catching the toy.  Although once he had it in his mouth he couldn’t hold onto it.  I looked closer at Jackson’s pie hole and discovered he had just four teeth: two on top and two on the bottom.  FOUR teeth!  It was a wonder he could even chew kibble.

Evidently a small number of teeth in an adult cat’s mouth was a sign that it had been separated from its mama too soon as a kitten and never received the appropriate calcium to grow the rest of its chompers.  So Jackson was… an orphan.  And as everyone knows, orphans made the best fighters.  It was his destiny!  Besides who needed teeth when he had claws like ninja daggers?

Through the ribbon and the stick, he had developed quick paws.  I continued his training.  

I told Jackson to be a good fighter, he needed independent exercise.  He abandoned the ribbon and the stick and graduated to real bugs.  When a fly flew inside Jackson followed it throughout the house.  When it flew above his head, out of his reach, Jackson waited below.  Hours later when the fly eventually landed on the floor Jackson pounced, popped the bug in his mouth and chewed it like he was eating taffy. 

He had developed patience and was better than a can of Raid.  I continued his training. 

The cat was committed to becoming a fighter.  He stayed awake longer—now sleeping just 29 hours a day—which gave him time to hone his skills.  In our neighborhood lived several feral cats and one evening a feral feline jumped the fence into our yard and peered inside through the glass French doors.  Jackson lurched toward the unwanted visitor, slammed his head into the glass and tumbled to the floor in a heap, while the unhurt feral cat looked on with amusement.  What our feline lacked in brains he more than made up for in commitment. 

He had developed strength—or at least was too dense to feel pain.  I stroked Jackson in my arms and set him on the wood floor.  He had successfully completed his training.  I deemed him ready to fight.

“Your story is entertaining,” Mr. Wonderful said pushing away his dinner plate.  “But if this cat sees another opossum, I’ll be you $20 bucks he’ll roll over and play dead again.”
“Deal,” I said shaking Mr. Wonderful’s hand as our tiger cat lifted his leg and licked his butt.
Then out of the darkness and through the glass I saw an opossum wobbling toward our open house door! 

“It’s back!” Mr. Wonderful yelled.  Jackson leapt to the door and barricaded his body in the open doorway.  His sudden appearance and massive fighting-tiger size shocked the opossum, who turned on a dime and scurried back into the darkness.  Fast.

At the door Jackson sat guarding his home and us.  My heart beat with pride.  He was my prize fighter! 

“He’s no Cassius Clay,” my husband said watching our tiger.  “But you can teach an old cat new tricks.”