14 May 2009

The lizard chase

I was taking a bag of trash to the bin at the curb--Thursday is our pickup day--and I heard a wild scrabbling in the jasmine behind me, and turned to see my cat's rear half wiggling crazily while the front half was otherwise engaged inside the hedge. If you've ever had a cat, you know precisely what he was doing: catching.

Although Milton is very much an indoor cat, he will sometimes follow me out the front door, not so much to hunt, but to sun himself for a moment. Evidently, he'd followed me out the door. I shrieked his name, and he took off running in the front door, guilt and victory emanating from every hair.

His posture alone was enough to warn me that he had a prize in his mouth.

A couple of months ago, Milton tried to capture a lizard in the planter by the front door. I'm fairly wise to the ways of little hunters, and I chased him off, but not before he removed the tail while the lizard took its body elsewhere. Today, I was worried the lizard might not have been so lucky, unless Milton had managed to pick off a bird. The hummingbirds and goldfinches both like the camellia bush by the front door.

I went running in the door, and the daughter said, "He's in the living room."

I pounced upon the luxuriating little beast, noting with displeasure the flipping reptilian tail on the "antique" Heriz rug (the merchant who sold it to us insisted it was antique because it was made in the 1950s. Fortunately, this makes it more antique than me). I grabbed Milton, and as he tried to ooze back out of my hands, I saw the business end of the lizard. The cat had gotten the whole lizard enchilada this time, and brought it into the house. But first things first. The now yowling feline had to be locked up somewhere while I chased down his prey.

We have Southern alligator lizards around here, and the adults can grow quite large (and they hiss and carry on if you disturb them, which I have, accidentally), but this one was very young. Having grown up in the desert, I'm not especially put off by lizards and I've rescued any number from cats, including a Sonoran collared lizard that was about the same length of the cat from whom I was rescuing it. Some lizards are really aggressive, and at least one of our cats in Tucson was injured by a lizard that took exception to being roughed up.

Once I put Milton away, I had to go find the lizard. It didn't want to be in my house and I certainly didn't want it here.

Our Heriz rug is both highly colored and patterned, and while I could spot the silvery still-wriggling tail (which I noted bore the scar of the last bit that had been yanked off and concluded it probably was the same one Milton had tried to catch previously), a quiet and frightened lizard is a little less easy to find. I brought the flashlight out and started looking. Finally, I saw a tiny eye glinting from the edge of the rug underneath the sofa. I collected supplies to move it, and it resisted me for a bit, but finally I was able to get it back outdoors and into the planter from whence it came. It glared at me reproachfully. I'm not sure how badly damaged it was--I wanted it back outdoors with a minimum of stress and fuss--but when I next checked, it was gone.

The whole time I was relocating our reluctant reptilian guest, Milton was howling in the laundry room, throwing his furry bulk against the door. He seemed momentarily astonished when I opened the door to let him out, but the sped through the kitchen to the living room where he'd left his lizard bits. I followed him out there and when he found his trophy was gone, he hightailed it to the son's room, evidently worried that I'd be angry with him for bringing a live toy into the house. When it was clear that I wasn't, he turned his back on me in high cat dudgeon, contempt, fury and wounded cat dignity dripping from his quivering whiskers. Then he went to sit in the son's bedroom window, which overlooks the planter, gazing sadly at the place of his recent triumph.

Go listen to some music: "The Lizard Chase (Contradance no. 3, Beethoven)" from the album Baby Einstein: Baby Noah by The Baby Einstein Music Box Orchestra. Baby Einstein? Baby Noah? Sheesh, we sang folk songs and waltzed around the house to the Boston Pops.

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