When Birk was four, we met Ariel the Christmas cat.
It was a bitter cold December night in Dexter, Michigan. The wind whipped through the trees and the sky was inky black. These are the nights where I am sure that Christmas lights throw some heat, if not for the fingers, for the soul.
An orange tabby cat arrived on the front porch of my parent's home. It meowed and meowed--cold and hungry at the front door.
In the country, there is a particular kindness to strays. We don't dial the pound, we feed and water and take them in. Many times strays became part of our family. Our best little dog ever arrived on that very same doorstep, and shmoozed her way in.
My mom is super allergic to cats, so there was no way this fluffy tabby was coming into the house. My kids did get to experience the country, farm life in that we found an old box, some old blankets and some food and made a comfy cubby for that freezing cold cat on that freezing cold night.
Birk, at age four, was particularly excited by this little creature. My husband, was not particularly excited, and in fact, thought we were all crazy.
Each night, the cat came back. The girls dubbed it, Ariel. My husband moaned and groaned, but my family, did what we always did with strays, and became attached.
A few nights before Christmas, it was especially cold. I was taking out my contacts when I heard the front door slam...followed by a scream.
I'm a mom of three, and at that time in my life, screaming was normal and crying was background noise. When Birk arrived at the bathroom door, gushing blood from her forehead, I was shocked.
The best we could tell from her sobs, she had hit her head on the door. Being no dumb bunny myself, I tried to make sure Ariel's teeth were not involved. Hysterical Birk insisted it was the door. We were travelling, and grandma and grandpa were not equipped with a first aid kit. I slapped hand sanitizer on that open wound in an act of desperation, and poor Birk howled herself to sleep.
The next morning, Birk woke up with a forehead the size of a watermelon. As parents, we knew right then, being hit in the head by the door was lower on the totem pole of options--being bit by a rabid cat moved to the number one position.
Flash forward to the local emergency room. Birk wavered slightly on her story, and now she was saying the cat scratched her. However, when you are in the ER with a possibility of a wild cat bite and rabies and the thought that your baby could possibly die--that had Christmas fun written all over it.
Meanwhile, my husband is not talking to me. My redneck, raised in a barn upbringing was not only not impressing him, it was to blame for this disaster.
Before we started rabies treatment, we had to try to catch and test Ariel. We arrived home, took off our boots, and heard a knock at the door: a six foot tall Michigan State Trooper was asking to come in and get a police report from us.
Nothing says Christmas like a State Trooper in your living room. We gave him the info, and super husband went out to trap himself a Chritmas cat.
Of course, luck would have it that Ariel was missing in action. She hadn't lived on the streets that long without developing some smarts. However, my husband tracked her, bagged her in a cat kennel and handed her over to Animal Control.
Meanwhile, our stress mounted. Tension was thick and we were terrified that Birk could be sick or worse...
Now, it's not like they tested that cat straight away, apparently the only sure fire way to test for rabies is to kill the animal, I'm still not sure I understand that. The secondary test? Five days of observation.
After sweating it out for those long days, turns out Ariel was not rabid and was not a girl--she was a he.
My family quickly reverted back to the people we are and discussed adoption and giving Ariel a permanent home.
I can't tell you how relieved you are when you find out your four year doesn't have rabies.
Ariel turned out to have aggression issues and was deemed un-adoptable. We still haven't ever really told our kids about Ariel's sad fate.
Birk turned out to be fine--and we never did get a staight story about what really happened that night. For Christmas, Santa brought her a shirt that simply said, "I make things up."
*NOTE: Typos, awkward language, and anything weird brought to you by the one finger hunt and peck typing method on my iPhone.