It was time to hang up the Christmas lights, and as I wove them through the fence and wisteria vine I saw Manitou peeking around the edge of the fence at me. He had a look on his face and a gleam in his eye that I recognized—I felt mischief brewing. Manitou loves throwing a little chaos into the mix when he has me all to himself outside.
I had just finished hanging the lights, so I thought I would play along. I made a playful jump toward him, and he responded by rising up to his full height and worked his claws deep into the fence. He was contemplating one of his favorite moves, which consists of his kicking in the after-burners, muscling and clawing his way to the top of the fence. It makes him taller than I am, and he can look down on me with a sense of smug satisfaction and superiority.
Watching him, I realized that I had not seen him think about doing this for almost a year. In December of last year he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. As his thyroid went into overdrive his metabolism went through the roof. Flesh melted from his body, taking with it all the muscle he had packed on. His fur became dull and lifeless looking, and Manitou became physically weak. If that wasn’t hard enough to witness, his physical weakness turned him from a strong, confident, mischief-loving feline into one who was no longer able to be active. He lost all his playfulness and spark, and stayed close to home because he knew he was unable to protect himself. Quite frequently I had to step outside and fend off one of the neighbor cats who saw their opportunity to get the upper paw with him.
Looking at him now, fur gleaming, muscles shifting, I felt a moment of deep gratitude that we had been able to get him the much needed radiation treatment (his only option, and thankfully one he agreed to undergo). Without that option there would have been no Manitou to celebrate Christmas with this year.
With all of that in mind, I cheered Manitou on as he charged the fence post with a meow that said he meant business. And he did not stop when he reached the top of the 6-foot fence—he continued all the way to the top of the wisteria arbor. He was now about 12 feet up, but I was not concerned. In the past he had made his way back down with no problem, but there was a surprise in store for us both this time.
Manitou is a cat who likes things just so. He has routines, and he will be damned if he will deviate from them without a great deal of grumbling. In the past, his preference for returning to ground level from the top of the arbor was to walk across the very top of the arbor to the opposite end. From there he would jump down to the lower level, leap across to the next section of fence, and from there it was an easy jump to the barbecue grill, and then the ground.
Well, the wisteria had grown in the year or more since he had last done this. The branches had gotten quite thick and they had woven together to create an impenetrable jungle. In the style of a determined and intrepid explorer Manitou tried hacking his way through. No go. Then he tried climbing over. That didn’t work either, and he started to complain. Loudly. He was completely and totally frustrated by his inability to get to where he wanted to go, and his plaintive wails could easily be heard down the street.
Standing below him, it dawned on me that we had a problem. How was he going to get down? As he considered the option of jumping straight down to the cement sidewalk from 12 feet up, and realized just how far down it was, his vocals doubled in volume. He was now caterwauling, and I was certain my neighbors would be out any moment thinking there was a cat in dire straits. I did not think the situation was as bad as he did, but clearly I needed to get involved since he was no longer a young cat. If he did decide to risk the jump he might break a leg.
As his wails increased in dramatic intensity I frantically assessed the situation. I tried persuading him to jump onto the top of the trash containers, but he felt it was still too far down. And the pitch of his cries went up another notch.
Next, I attempted to persuade him to jump into my outstretched arms. He made it clear that was not an option. By now he was rushing back and forth on the one side of the arbor, and his vocals were reaching new heights of emotional intensity. He wailed that he would never get down, that he would starve to death up there, that no one loved him…the litany of self-pity went on. I was starting to unravel just a little bit myself, partly because I hate to see him stressed, but also because I was concerned that he would work himself up to the conclusion that the only option was to try for the long jump.
It became clear that I needed to get up there and rescue him. Unfortunately, I didn’t own a ladder, so I racked my brain for other solutions. What if I used a chair?
I told Manitou that I was going into the house to get something to help him down. As I walked away he surprised me by sitting down. His howling also stopped. As I entered the house, the yard was silent, making me wonder—was I a wondrous animal communicator or was I being played like a violin…perhaps this was all a dramatic performance?
I returned to the back yard carrying the pine ladderback chair from the kitchen, complete with the cushion still on the seat.
Marching over to Manitou who peered hopefully down at me, I turned the chair so that the seat with its cushion was facing him, and raised it up toward him. He looked at it and started wailing again. Apparently it was too far to jump.
I raised the chair a little higher, still no go.
Finally, I raised the chair up over my head to the full extent of my reach. It must have been quite the sight. I imagined that we must look like we were engaged in some crazy variant of lion taming, and I was very glad that I was not standing on the street side of the fence.
As my arms trembled from the strain, Manitou lifted one front foot and cautiously extended it toward the seat of the chair. Leaning forward, he made the very small jump and landed squarely in the middle of the cushion. I had managed to get the chair close enough for his comfort level. As I lowered the chair he was able to step off onto the trash bin. Refusing any further assistance from me, he jumped the remaining four feet to the ground.
With another adventure successfully concluded, mastermind Manitou was on to his next mission. And did this heroic rescuer get any praise? Nope, it was dinnertime, and Manitou did not want us to be late.
I drank in the beauty of my newly hung Christmas lights, and as I watched Manitou march toward the house with his tail confidently held high, I reflected that he most likely believed he had started a new holiday tradition. I realized that I had better keep that chair handy.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing! May you be blessed with good things to eat and fun things to share as you make new memories with all of your family members—furry, feathered, finned, scaled or otherwise!
—Rose De Dan, Manitou and Night Sky
Learn how to connect more deeply with animals, restore balance to your life, increase intuitive skills, and help heal the Earth with live Reiki and shamanic teleclasses, available worldwide.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.