cat-versus-dog Digital PsychologyI recently watched a documentary on animal psychology, which presented an entertaining collection of testimonials by biologists, zoologists, vets and other animal experts.

One of the scientists told a story about his family dog which jumped in front of a moving car to save his brother, who was trapped in pot hole in the road. No doubt, animal martyr stories must top the list as the flashiest examples of pet heroism, and as persuasive anecdotes that support claims that animal have brains and feelings too. After watching this documentary, I realized they forgot to interview one important witness of animal heroism: myself. It’s now time for me to come forward, and tell my story, of the cat who saved my life.

They say persistence is the key to success; and that flattery will get you everywhere. And nobody knows this more than cats, which are gifted at getting their way through persistence and affection. I was about seven or eight when Kittenball entered my life, as a free-spirited cat, who would visit from time to time. Nobody knew if Kittenball had an owner, or was stray, but he somehow persuaded us to offer up food, water or milk; and even visit our home on occasion. Kittenball would disappear for a week, and then return for a visit; and at other times, he would visit us each day. Eventually, through persistence and affection, our family finally adopted Kittenball.

Although cute, as a stray and independently minded cat, Kittenball, had a killer instinct. Even after moving into our home, Kittenball would frequently disappear for days on end, and then return home, scared and cut up. Kittenball loved hunting, and the side of our veranda was littered with carcasses of rodents and birds. When my Grandfather first met Kittenball, I remember him saying something like “What a nice cat”, then reach out to pet him, and before my Grandfather knew what was about to strike him, Kittenball wedged his claws into my Grandfathers arm. Despite Kittenball’s killer instinct, he was a faithful and loyal cat.

My next door neighbour, Jimmy, had a vicious dog—half Doberman, half German Sheppard, and half psychopath. When taken for walks, this was the sort of dog that’s constantly being reigned in by it’s owners, while trying to attack anything that moves, especially small children. In my childhood, this beast was roughly half my height, and the most terrifying dog I had encountered. It scared the hell out of me.

One morning, when I was about eight years old, my mother sent me on a mission to return some milk jugs in the corner store and buy ice cream for me and my sister. It was a sunny morning; and when I ventured out, Kittenball was in our front lawn eating grass. As usual, my neighbours’ dog, was barking viciously at me, but for the first time, it got loose. While it raced towards me, I froze. I went into freeze-frame mode and watched the beast run towards me as time slowed down. I thought if I ran, I may provoke it, and be hunted down. But if I stood still, perhaps it wouldn’t attack, but if it wanted to, I’d have no chance. I froze, like a deer trapped in car lights, watching it’s own demise unfold, as the car speeds towards the final death blow.

When the dog was about ten meters from me, Kittenball started hissing, and took a defensive position to my front right. The dog continued running. At about two meters, Kittenball lunged into the air; landing on the dog’s back, with his claws stuck just behind the top of its neck. The dog started jumping about—freaking out—but Kittenball held fast, being thrust about like a bronco rider. Eventually the dog backed off, my life was saved, Kittenball stood strong. Soon after, my neighbour realized what happened and took control of their beast. I was shaken, but alive.

A few months after risking his life to save me, Kittenball vanished. Every day, after school, I’d take different routes home to try and find him. Even my friends were enlisted in the manhunt. But Kittenball had vanished. Although I didn’t know what really happened, as a contemplative child, I remember considering a number of possible theories. The most realistic was that he was hit by a car, somehow got lost, or found a better home. But my most idealistic theory was that Kittenball was like the dog hero of a Canadian TV show, the Littlest Hobo. It was one of those shows, where the dog hero would bark, and the characters would say things such as “What’s that? Bob’s drowning? We’d better save him!” However, the Littlest Hobo would always move on, and save a different person each episode. And so I reasoned, that since Kittenball saved my life, his mission was complete, and he must have moved on to save the next child in need.