When I was in elementary school, my parents finally succumbed to our (well, mostly my brother’s) relentless begging and agreed to get a cat. Someone at my dad’s office had a cat that had a litter of kittens, so he snagged the last (and cutest, obviously) one and brought it home in a cardboard box one rainy night.
She was black and white and just adorable and she had us all wrapped around her wee paw right off the bat. Oh, and she was also the smartest and funniest cat to ever grace this green earth. We really lucked out.
My sister and I were taking French lessons at the time, so we all thought that it would be appropriate to bestow upon the feline a dignified and worldly French name.
Or Bessie, since she was black and white like a cow.
For whatever reason, the allure of an exotic French name won out and she was dubbed “Chaton” which translates to “Kitten” in English. The French exchange student who stayed with us some time later made little to no attempt to hide his opinion of our name choice and made his stance known on his first day at the house when he said “You named your kitten “Kitten”?” Um yeah, Bruno, we did. What of it?
Over the years, “Chaton” got shortened to “Tony” but she never lost that dignified swagger that came along with the name. Tony was an indoor cat, though occasionally she would venture outside on a leash (more on that in a later post). She had a healthy fear of the outdoors but that didn’t keep her from making the occasional break for it. It was always kind of a panic situation – for everyone, Tony included – when she escaped.
One night when I was in high school, I was fast asleep in bed when suddenly I was awakened by a commotion outside. I could hear my mom’s panicked voice so I got out of bed and stumbled into the hallway at the same time that Tony came screaming up the stairs, yowling and bumping into walls. My dad was right behind her but she dodged him and ran underneath my parent’s bed. I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes when the smell hit me, and before a coherent thought could register, I was shoved unceremoniously into the bathroom, followed closely by Tony.
The door shut behind me and I realized that the smell was much stronger. MUCH stronger. I was starting to put the pieces together when I heard a voice calling from the hallway:
Mom: Tony got sprayed by a skunk! Right in the face!
Me: Oh no, that’s terrible!
Me: Why are we in here?
Mom: You need to wash her face!
Me: I’m sorry, what’s that now? Wash her face how?
I will interject here to say that at this point, Tony was obviously very uncomfortable and hiding in the corner of the bathroom. She had gotten sprayed right in the eyes and was (understandably) going a little crazy because of it.
Mom: Put her in the tub under the faucet!
Please excuse me while I interject once more. Cats hate water.
Me: Mom! I can’t put her under the faucet, she’ll kill me!
Mom [exasperated]: Wrap her in a towel and then put her under the faucet!
So that’s what I did. I swaddled Tony and tried to wash the stink off of her face. She was much calmer once it was out of her eyes, but that’s not to say that she enjoyed being bathed. And I’m not trying to one-up her, but going to high school smelling like a skunk isn’t my idea of a good time, either.
I remember it taking months for the really strong skunk smell to fade on Tony, and even after that it would come charging back whenever her head got wet. One drop of condensation from a glass and the smell was enough to make your eyes water. She didn’t let it slow her down, though.