The best part of the story: It’s true.
A year ago this time, I opened the back door to let the cats in for the night. Sitting on a chair next to the door was a visitor named Tripod. He’s a big tabby with three legs who roams the neighborhood and gets fed by neighbors. They’re the ones who named him.
Tripod loves people. Other cats, not so much. Other male cats, not at all. This night, the three male cats were hesitant to come into the house with Tripod glaring at them.
What to do?
I devised an ingenious plan. I petted Tripod on the head with my right hand, distracting him while I opened the door with my left hand to let the cats in. It went well until the last cat hissed as he reached the door. Tripod stopped purring and snapped, just as I moved my hand toward his head in a petting motion. His teeth sunk into my right thumb.
Maybe not such an ingenious plan.
I got the last cat in the house, cleaned the bite and went to bed. In the morning, the thumb was red and slightly swollen — signs of an infection (see the photo). I went to the doctor who gave me an antibiotic and advised me to stay away from the three-legged cat.
Later that night, I looked at my right arm and saw a 1-inch-wide red streak climbing up my forearm and biceps. It was the color of a sunburn and very ominous looking.
When you were young, did your mother caution you about certain calamities? Did she tell you about the signs of the Apocalypse and how to handle them? Seeing a red streak on your arm was on my mother’s Apocalypse list. Solution: Go straight to the hospital. Don’t mess around.
The emergency room check-in person took my personal information, typed it into the computer and asked me why I was there.
“I got bit by a three-legged cat and now I have this red streak running up my arm,” I said, showing my arm and telling my story for the first of many times that night.
A cat bite? Well, OK.
They took me back to a treatment room. The doctor came in and told me that this was indeed a serious situation — if the infection spread to my organs, it could be touch-and-go. At that moment, I imagined my tombstone with the inscription “Killed By A 3-Legged Cat.”
I was admitted and put on a heavy-duty IV antibiotic. I stayed in the hospital until the red streak disappeared, which took a day and a half. While I was there, friends texted me encouragement and also made fun of me, which was expected and appreciated. One compared me to Old Yeller.
Wait, didn’t Old Yeller …
Every nurse and doctor who visited me in Room #468 read the chart and asked what the heck had happened. Naturally, I embellished the story a bit with each retelling. It’s the only fun I had.
Finally, the red streak was gone and I was allowed to leave. All that was left was a small scar where Tripod’s teeth had dug in.
I wish I could say that’s the end of the story, but it’s not. There’s a sequel.
And it’s also true. Unfortunately.
One month later, I went on the back porch to call the cats and found Tripod in the same chair next to the door. What to do? I came up with another inspired and brilliant plan. This time, I would pick up Tripod in my right arm and pet him, turn him away from the door and open it with my other arm, letting the cats enter the house unobserved and commotion-free.
The plan was indeed inspired. Brilliant? Well, not so much. Actually, it went well until the last cat stopped at the door and hissed. Tripod hissed back and took a nip just as I moved my left hand toward him, within range of his mouth.
Yep. He bit the other thumb.
It was a smaller bite, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Not after what happened the last time I got bit. I went to the emergency room to get an antibiotic right away, determined not to let the germs get a toehold. A different attendant checked me in. I told him he should already have all of my information in the system because I had been there a few weeks earlier.
“Oh yes, I see you were treated for … a bite from a three-legged cat?” the attendant said. “And what are you here for this time?”
Well … umm …
When I told him I’d been bitten by the same cat — different thumb — he gave me a look of disbelief and amusement. A nurse took me back to a waiting room and closed the curtain. A few minutes later, the curtain was pulled open. And yes, the same ER doctor was on call.
“I read the chart and thought it was you,” the doctor said. He paused and looked at me and fought back a grin.
I laughed, he laughed. I gave him permission to tell my story to the rest of the ER staff. They cleaned the bite and started me on an antibiotic. This time, I avoided an infection.
Fast-forward to a year later.
Tripod visits from time to time. I’ll pet him if no other cats are around. We’ve made our peace.
I’ve had trouble living down my tale of two cat bites. Friends won’t let me forget — that‘s what friends are for, right? Best friends not only support you when you’re going through tough times but find ways to make you laugh about them as well? The hospital that I’d visited has been closed and consolidated with a new one. Apparently, it couldn’t stay open without my frequent bite-related visits.
I suppose there are lessons to be learned from all of this. We writers like to hear other people’s stories and find meaning in them. Ours, not so much.
What lessons can be taken from a story about two bites from a three-legged cat?