Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eliza and the Banshee

Eliza, Jeremiah, and Noah were seven years old, rulers of the Minnesota house, when Laz wandered into our yard. Blood and dirt matted his long, light-gray fur. Mites infested his ears. Wounds, some healing, some still open, scarred his body, but his green eyes revealed a trusting, innocent vagabond.
            The vet gave him antibiotics and told me Laz was about a year old. I carefully washed him and gratefully welcomed this gaunt, but gorgeous, feline into our family. I was certain that the other three members of our family would too. Wrong!
            Cats are nothing if not territorial. Noah and Jeremiah mostly ignored Laz so long as he didn’t try to gobble their dry food. Eliza was a different story. She hated him on sight. Hissed. Caterwauled. Threatened him with sharp claws. I held her and explained that Laz needed a home. We had a good one to offer him.
            She ignored me. Turned her head away in a right snit, remained stubbornly jealous. I was her human. No one else’s. Two other cats might live there. After all, they always had. They offered no threat. But to add another? That was too much for Eliza.
            One day while making a sandwich, I hear the menacing yowl of an angry cat. Eliza has cornered Laz between two boxes on the side porch. He faces her, trying to squeeze into himself so as to give her less area to strike. An impossible task for Laz has Maine Coon in him. His bones are big, his body long and lean.
            “Eliza, leave Laz alone,” I order.
            Glowering at him, she yowls angrily. Hisses threat. The sounds alarm me. Laz looks terrified. He's cowering on the rice mat.
            “Leave Laz alone,” I command again.
            Eliza’s ears don’t even twitch. She crouches lower, stalks menacingly toward him. Once again I tell her to stop. She seems oblivious to my voice.
            Without warning, she leaps into the air and attacks. Fur flies. Laz shrinks before her. I yell as Eliza has never heard me yell. In fact, she’s never heard me yell at all. She pauses momentarily. Then goes at him again. Sharp claws gripping his back.
            “Leave Laz alone!” My voice reverberates around the porch.
            Abruptly, Eliza takes out running. Into the dining room, down the hall, up the steps into the first bedroom. Through the door to the second. Through the door to the third. Out of the third and down the steps.
            I race after her, wailing like a banshee, “Leave Laz alone!”
            She bounds down the steps. I follow, chasing her down the hall, through the dining room, into the kitchen. She turns. Scoots between my legs and back into the dining room. We start the circuit again. Up. Around. Down. Kitchen. I’m yelling at the top of my voice. She’s trying to get away from me.
            Half way up the steps for the third time, she stops. Sits back on her haunches. Turns and stares at me. I stumble to a stop by the bottom step and look up at her. She looks puzzled. Bemused. What the heck is happening?
            I’ve terrorized her. I’ve protected one cat but browbeat another. What kind of human am I?
            I sit on the step below her and take her in my arms. My tears fall on her long deep-gray fur. “Eliza, I’m so sorry. I love you,” I sob. “But you can’t do that to Laz. He’s a member of our family now. You’ve got to accept him.” She hears my voice and begins to purr.
            Ever afterwards, she left him alone. My wailing banshee act had scared her so, she never again threatened him. However, she never accepted him either. For all three of the cats, Laz was, and always would be, an outsider. Yet he never gave up trying to interest them in play nor did he ever let go of the peace that enveloped him when he failed in his attempts. 
            From Laz, the Outsider, I learned equanimity. 


  1. Oh, Dee. What a wonderful story you tell here. And how I wish I had some of Laz's equanimity these days.

  2. This was a wonderful story, on many levels. I, too, wish I had Laz's equanimity, or someone to teach it to me. Poor Eliza, and you, too. Makes me think about what humans do, in the name of protection sometimes, that hurts others in the process. Eliza forgave you, and you learned . . . it's a good story!

  3. Oh, I am so sad. I have a "queen bee" cat as well and we have not been able to introduce any new cats to the household without her flipping out. I love that you gave her love and affection and secured her place in your heart as you protected Laz. I'm sure that helped her accept him. They are strange and wondrous creatures, aren't they?

  4. Boy can I relate to this story. My three fight like enemies even though they're sisters, and they have chased off more than one "intruder" in their time. We don't have a mouser right now (the girls are too old and have retired) because I don't want to put any of us through that.

    I really love the way you tell a story.

  5. That's cats for you. Dogs just growl and tell each other who's the boss, the leader. Cats get aggressive much more quickly. They can also be so sneaky and underhand.

    But there you go, we accept each other, human and animal, for how we are and what we are, if we have any sense.

  6. lol I have three kitty's of varying ages. The youngest my daughter just recently found and brought home could not have had it's eyes open long it was so tiny. She was also starved and had apparently had quite a bit of human food as she is the biggest scavenger I've ever seen. However she is totally fearless. She attacks the dogs and they tolerate her and lick her, she attacks the other cats and they knock her down and she comes back. She is a snuggly little thing most times but man its like having another baby in the house. Secret.. I'm very allergic to cats and do not allow them to sleep with me but this baby has taken my heart and she sleeps cuddled tight under my chest with a paw in my hand. I'm a complete sucker.

  7. What a beautifully told story. Obviously, the midsection sped up hugely, with my adrenaline pumping along in time with yours, as we all raced around your house (whew! I felt quite worn out!), but the lovely ending made up for that surge in heart rate! Laz sounded like a very special soul and I'm so glad he chose you as his rescuer!

    I think dogs are much easier to socialise. We have five and have just recently introduced a sixth into the pack...little Noodle, our daughter's pup. She has been lapped up by our five and right now, all are asleep in a happy bundle on their beds in the kitchen. Bliss! They do scrap once or twice each day, but thankfully nothing too serious. Usually just one wanting the other ones chew treat. Our "problem" currently is as a result of our neutered 6 year old alpha-male having become obsessively amorous (besotted!) over our recently sterilised, 7 month old rescue pup. He cannot leave her alone! Gazes longingly at her, frequently presents his bottom end to her face for approval, attempts to mount her, but doesn't really have very much of a clue as to how it's done, lies next to her with his arm across her and licks her face and ears endlessly and whilst wagging his tail eagerly. She tolerates him to a point, then ignores him and finally lets him know when enough is enough!

  8. Whew! That was exhausting... emotionally and physically!