It was the summer of 1997 when I met her. I’ll never forget walking into that backyard. Jim was giving me the typical tour that you give new guests when they enter the
New Hampshire beach home for the first time. It was an adorable cottage that has been in their family for over 30 years. It was clear that he had a lot of passion and wonderful childhood memories in that home. Although there were plenty of beautiful things to look at in that backyard, I could not to seem take my eyes away from one of the most unusual things I had ever seen. There was a small dusty area near the gate that desperately needed a drink of water. In the center of the dirt sat a large rusty metal stake that was buried deep into the ground. A tattered rope was tied securely to the top. It looked like that rope had been there for several decades. My eyes followed the rope and at the very end, resting in the dirt, was the smallest collar I had ever seen. Who did this leash belong to? I panicked. Concerned for my life, I asked Jim the obvious. “Um? What is that?” He chuckled at my ridiculous fear. “What?” I questioned. I thought it was a legit question? The collar looked like one that would fit a chihuahua but the stake in the ground could have held a Saint Bernard captive. “And why does it obviously pace in the same circle everyday?” I noticed a worn path that this beast followed ritually. “What lives here?” I asked frantically as my eyes scanned the entire back yard for a critter off of its leash . Jim put his finger over his mouth to politely tell me to “shhh“. My comments may have offended his grandparents. [Then he confesses] “That is for Shayna.” “What is Shayna? A dog?” I ask. He giggles. “No…Shayna is their cat. She was a stray cat that they took in years ago.” I’m totally confused at this point. “Huh? A cat? They actually tie their cat to a huge stake in the ground? Seriously?” I never heard of such a thing. “Yup. That’s how she gets fresh air. They are afraid she will run away.” he answers matter of factly and walks into the cottage. I shook my head in disbelief and quickly follow him inside.
Jim greets his grandfather and explains to him how I need to meet Shayna. They both laughed in an evil way. This scared me. What was I about to see? “Of course you can meet her. It’s just about dinner time. She never misses a meal.” said Granddad with a mischievous smirk. Alright. I am officially freaked out. Granddad walks over to a cabinet and takes out a can of cat food and starts kissing the air and calling his beloved kitty. “Here Shayna..come here girl.” I look around cautiously. Nothing. Now Granddad grabs the food bowl and starts tapping the edge with a spoon like a dinner bell. He scoops out the cat food and plops it into the bowl. “Shayna..[kiss, kiss]…come on girl” Then..out of the corner of my eye I see a mangy ball of fur emerge from underneath the living room recliner. First she stretches and sharpens her claws on the carpet and then she pulls her body out . She creeps out staying low to the ground and continues to stretch with each step. She seemed to be approximately 100 years old and carried herself in a way that made everyone scramble to get out of her way. She surveyed the living room and seemed annoyed that visitors were in her space. I backed up and gave her plenty of room to get by. She stopped in front of me and stared right through me. I felt naked.
I leaned against the wall and didn’t move a muscle. I was a full grown adult and I will be the first to admit that I was petrified. It was clear that this was her house. Granddad had poor vision, short patience and was hard of hearing . He called Shayna again. This time he was slightly irritated that she wasn’t listening to his commands. “Sshaaaaayna!” She must have sensed his irritation because she picked up the pace and snuck up behind him to get her dinner. Not knowing that she was in the kitchen he spins slightly and steps on her tail “Meeeeeeooow” Shayna cried.
Jim and I were shocked . “Holy crap! My Granddad just stepped on her tail” Jim whispers to me. Before we could help her, Granddad had lifted his foot and she quickly whipped her tail out from under his slipper. Still unaware of her location he continued to call her [kiss kiss] “Shayna…here kitty kitty…dinner time. Come on girl” He is holding the bowl of food and Shayna continues to walk under his heels desperate to eat her dinner. Jim finally spoke up. “Granddad? She is IN the kitchen!” Unable to hear he asks “What Jimmy?” [now louder and more aggravated, Jim repeats himself] “The cat… is in the kitchen! Just put the food down.” “Oh?…You are kidding me? Shayna is here? Where is my girl?” He turns toward Jim and inadvertently steps on her tail again. “Mmmmmmmeeeeeooow! Hisssssssss” Shayna is pissed.
I cover my mouth in disbelief. I know I shouldn’t laugh but this whole scene is comical. Jim can’t watch the abuse any longer. “Whoa..Grandad! You are stepping on Shayna!” He finally put the cat food down and Shayna devoured it! Granddad walked over to his grandson so he could hear what he was trying to say. “What’s that Jimmy?” Jim answers calmly. I giggle. “I said…you were stepping on Shayna’s tail.” Confused he turns around and looks at Shayna who was happily eating her food. “Don’t be silly James. She is just hungry.” Jim and I giggle and Granddad bends down and pets his beloved Shayna gently on the head.
Every now and then she would glance up from her meal, look at her tail and give Granddad the evil eye. If she was human she probably would have flipped him the bird. When she finished her meal, she assummed her position underneath the old recliner for some peace and quiet. Let’s face it, she wasn’t very social. To be honest, she was creepy and mean. I am fairly certain that she hated all people. She needed her space and didn’t want to be bothered. She stayed underneath that recliner most of the day ,almost everyday, awaiting her next victim. You see, Shayna had a bad habit of scratching the hell out of sun kissed ankles at the beach house..
I quickly learned that the recliner at the cottage was not for guests. Do not walk close to it and for goodness sakes, whatever you do, don’t sit in it! It was reserved for Granddad and his girl Shayna. Shayna has been in cat heaven for years but she left a legacy behind. She taught me a valuable lesson. Some animals are just like people, they need their space. In time, nearly everybody will meet someone just like her. Oh…you know the kind of person I am talking about. They just walk through life angry, scratching ankles and hissing at people who accidentally step on their tail. Do yourself a favor if you ever come across one of these nasty cats…just walk around their recliner and save some skin.