Trudy came into our lives when Ben and Liz were in kindergarten and first grade and dear Trigger was 10 and down in her haunches.
To the kids’ dad, she was named after the Charlie Daniels Band, but to me, she was named after my paternal grandmother, Ethel Gertrude Grigsby Cartwright (or, “Lovingly, Trudie,” as she signed photos in her youth).
(I’d been over CDB since the devil went down to Georgia and the band went to redneck rock. But “Trudy” still holds up, actually.)
This is a story about the Trudy with a Y, though – our little black and white bundle of feist who came to us as a precious adoption puppy.
The kids had never experienced a puppy, really, since Trigger had been their Katie-Nana when they were tiny.
Oh, my gosh, Trudy was a cute puppy. She grew into a spotted lightning bolt who could catch anything – birds, squirrels, cats – and climb fences like a monkey. Chasing her down before she could get to the leaky sewer spot (don’t ask) became a regular chore for the kids.
They usually couldn’t catch her in time. Trudy’s youth involved lots of baths.
We lived in Park Hill at the intersection of Idlewild, Avondale, Garland and G Street, and Trudy was my running partner, so she got plenty of exercise. She also played outfield when the kids played baseball in the back yard, although sometimes she played keep away instead of dropping the ball.
Once she made it all the way to Lake No. 1 with me chasing her – she did a beautiful flying dive off a dock going after a duck and came out in need of surgery for the front leg she’d split open on an underwater tree stump.
That never slowed her down a bit. Neither did the electric wire we tried; it just became a plaything for Ben and his friends, who got quite a jolt out of tricking unsuspecting boys into, um, taking a whiz on it was the phrase they used, I think.
The black cat who used to walk the top of our fence to torment Trudy didn’t heed my repeated warnings that T-dog could climb the fence and it was just a matter of time. The black cat’s luck ran out one bright sunny day; he was either on No. 8 already or didn’t have nine lives.
Warning: You might want to stop reading here. I still feel terrible about what happened.
Trudy’d just had enough. The kids and I happened to see her go over the fence and on the warpath. I yelled, “Stay here,” and took off running.
Ben and Liz took off running after me. Naughty kids! Mind your mother!
We ran downhill and for blocks. The cat slipped through the space between chain-link fence and gate on lower Idlewild with ‘Trude hot on his tale. I’d seen characters do it plenty of times on cop shows, but I was still a bit surprised I could actually vault the fence.
I still didn’t make it in time. By the time I reached the back of the back yard, Trudy had the cat in her mouth (she was a small 45-or-so-pounder but powerful) and was giving it a shake.
“DROP IT!!!” I roared. She did immediately and stepped back. I reached down to scoop the cat up, thinking we’d hurry to the vet.
The cat raised his upper body, hissed at me, bit down as hard as he could on the heel of my thumb – and died. I had to dislodge his toothy grip from my hand. It was grim and I was sick and in shock.
And in a state of panic. Whose cat was it? Had Trudy killed somebody’s beloved? That would make it even worse. We were reasonably sure he was one of the feral cats who lived in the woods and that’s where he’d been headed when she caught him. But still …
We ran home. I got my little red Honda Civic SI and sped back down to get the cat. After a consultation with my wise, much older next-door neighbor, Mary Ann, I decided to bury the cat. Mary Ann offered the soft earth under a large evergreen in her backyard.
A day or two later I was at a routine check up at my GP’s office. I was about to leave when he grabbed my hand and asked what on earth the strange puncture wounds were.
“Oh, nothing, no big deal.” I tried to brush it off. He persisted.
“A cat bit me,” I finally admitted. Dr. R’s antenna went up even higher.
“Whose cat?” Cagily I told him I wasn’t sure. That was certainly true.
“Well, you’ll have to find it,” he said. “You’ve got to know if its had its shots. Cats get rabies.”
“It doesn’t have rabies,” I told him, adding that I couldn’t find the cat.
“Why?” Dr. R persisted. “You can canvas the neighborhood. This is important.”
I told him we thought it was a feral cat that lived in the woods. He got even more alarmed and stressed that we’d have to find and catch the cat and have him tested.
I assured him that that wouldn’t be possible. When he finally drug it out of me that the cat had died as it bit me, he flipped.
“Died?!?! That could be rabies!”
I told him, no, I absolutely knew the cause of death was not rabies, still trying not to incriminate Trudy. He was so worked up that I finally admitted the whole story. Dr. R insisted the cat be dug up and taken to the health department for testing. I assured him that would not be happening, nor would I take the rabies shots he was threatening me with.
My then-husband, though highly P.O.-ed about it, rose to the occasion and dug up the cat. He knew someone to call and the cat was tested. He was, of course, rabies-negative.
He’d just been caught by the Trudinator.