How Many Cats Do You Have?
Its tough being a female in the Army, especially when your subordinates undermine you by calling you ‘Lieutenant Cat Lady’- and the name sticks.
Sergeant Gargantuan assured me, though, that the name was an endearing sign of respect, and I was quick to believe him.
I was issued the nickname after a lanky squad leader – who fell into the snarky misfit category – noticed that I wasn’t wearing any rank on my beret one morning when I walked up to the company’s building. He pointed it out to me politely, but with a smirk on his face.
I raised my hand to my beret and felt the smooth patch of cloth where my rank should have been. Remembering the sound of my cats batting around some metal object in the middle of the night, I suddenly realized what happened to the rank that was supposed to be pinned on the center of the flash.
Like a fool, I announced my findings out loud: “Oh, my cats must have pulled it off.”
The lanky squad leader saluted me and continued walking briskly on his way. The discussion seemed mundane at best, to me anyways. But apparently, I was wrong.
Before I even had the chance to sit down at my desk, Sergeant Gargantuan had already heard the rumor that was spreading like wildfire around the building- the new platoon leader owns nine cats.
In actuality, I owned two.
“It’s interesting how so many chicks want to dress up as ‘cat woman’ for Halloween, and yet no one seems to go to parties dressed up as ‘cat lady’,” Sergeant Gargantuan said as a greeting when I walked in the door. He raised two finger guns in the air, made a sputtering noise through pursed lips as he cocked his imaginary shotguns back, and screamed “Woo Wee!” when he fired them off. An idiosyncrasy that grew old after the first time, but after the 40th time Sergeant Gargantuan still found hilarious.
Shelter Cats Need Love Too
The nickname was further cemented into eternity when a couple of my soldiers caught me at 3 am playing with cats in the animal shelter on the military installation.
Every cage door was open.
Cats were running a muck.
And standing in the middle of the room, donned fully in police gear, was the culprit of the mess.
I tried my best to look as authoritative as possible while holding a kitten in each hand, but my soldiers fell to their knees in laughter as soon as they caught me.
Technically, I wasn’t breaking any rules. Checking the shelter during the middle was the night WAS one of my duties. Giving the cats some play time was just me going above and beyond the call of duty.
The shelter on base was one of law enforcement’s required nightly checks to make sure the building was secured and the animals were all in good shape. The requirement for the checks was put in place after the third incident in two months of a Pitbull killing another dog in its cage during the middle of the night. Truth be told, this was a result of novice police officers putting Pitbulls (a breed that’s not authorized on base) that they received calls about and had to pick up, in cages with other dogs (which is against shelter policy). So the checks were meant to clean up the mess that law enforcement created.
Despite the sad reasoning behind the inspection, I eagerly volunteered to conduct the check on every night shift I worked. Of course I would “check on” the animals in the shelter. Who wouldn’t? Only people with no souls who hate adorable, fluffy creatures.
I purposefully saved the shelter check until the witching hour when it was hardest to stay awake on shift.
The check was by far the best task I had ever been given in the Army, which was evident to my soldiers – a pudgy outcast and his brawny, plain-faced, eccentric female partner – who caught me gleefully playing with all the cats when they walked into the shelter.
Officer Pudgy and Officer Plain-face both played dumb when they walked through the door, saying they saw my patrol car parked outside and decided to do a courtesy stop to see if I “needed any backup.”
Cat Lady, Savior of Cats
It was only a couple of weeks after discovering me at the shelter that the same two soldiers showed up at my apartment on my day off.
When I answered the door, the first thing I saw was the patrol vehicle parked in the lot. The second thing was the snickering faces of Officer Pudgy and Officer Plain-face. They were on duty and unauthorized to be off post, yet there they were, standing at my door; and clawing up Officer Pudgy’s chest was a stray cat that looked like it just finished an alley fight with a grizzly bear.
Apparently believing that my home was a den for rescue felines, the soldiers pleaded with me to take the cat in because they had taken a liking to the furry guy during their shelter checks and were sure it would be put to sleep at the shelter.
It was the ugliest cat I had ever seen. And to this day I regret not taking that cat in.