One lovely sunny evening I returned home from work at a reasonable time and thought it would be nice to relax out on the balcony, which truth be told doesn’t get all that much use but is nicely situated overlooking a big common green space.
I swapped sensible work shoes for flip-flops, used my super American fridge to crack some ice into a glass at the touch of a button and poured some orange juice over the frozen water, picked up my book and phone and tootled out to the balcony for a chance to unwind in the fresh air.
The cats soon came out to join me and, happy in my presence, jumped across the balcony to stalk pigeons (Jasper) and happily chew the cud (Buttons) (this isn’t a metaphor, they actually like to eat grass). I thought before I settled into my book, I’d give my mum a quick ring and catch up on the news from Angleterre. Idly chatting away I didn’t realise there was a problem until Jasper came bolting across the balcony and streaked into the living room.
It was then I spotted the two pitbull-terrier type dogs. Sadly Buttons wasn’t as quick on the uptake as her brother so didn’t spot the canines until they were charging towards her. Terrified, she tried to launch herself back across our balcony wall, but in her panic didn’t quite make the jump and bounced off the wall. With no time to try again she went haring off in the other directions trying to outrun the dogs.
I started shouting obscenities whilst still on the phone, before quickly hanging up and hurling the device down. Buttons was zigzagging back and forth across the grass with the wall to her back, she was outnumbered with nowhere to go. The dogs’ owner was trying to call them to heel but they were clearly having too much fun chasing my kitty. I quickly bounded over the balcony, which I’m sure would be a much harder feat if I wasn’t in cat-parental protection role, and ran into the fray.
Buttons isn’t the brightest spark in the box, or perhaps didn’t trust me enough to provide adequate protection from what she probably assumed were the beasts of hell, so didn’t run to the safety of me. But my entry into the chaotic scene afforded her enough of a distraction to squeeze through a narrow gap into the shelter of one of the underground caves. Not an actual cave, in case you think I live in a remote mountain wilderness, but a communal storage area for bikes and whatnot.
The dog-owner had got one dog under control at this point and had just about rounded up the second. Relieved that Buttons had made it to safety my next concern was to go and rescue her from her hiding place. Getting back over the balcony into the flat was a lot harder than the other direction, as there’s a bigger drop on the garden side of the balcony and I was no longer operating on adrenaline. Bear in mind I’m wearing flip-flops and now trying to scale a vertical wall, which although not massive is too high to simply swing a leg-up. It’s mid-climb with feet up, bum sticking out and desperately trying to use my feeble arm muscles to help pull me up, that the dog-owner tries to talk to me.
This is not the best way to try and meet the neighbours but I manage to huff out ‘it’s okay, she’s okay’ in response to her apologies, but then promptly ignore her as I continue to try to swing myself up, and I’m still preoccupied with the cat now stuck in the cave.
She seemed mortified, I seemed rude, this was unlikely to be the beginnings of a beautiful friendship. The situation wasn’t her fault, the dogs were off the lead in a communal space and I don’t think they actually wanted to kill Buttons, they probably could have done her some damage if they tried, they probably just thought it was a hell of a lot of fun to chase her, sadly my little cat wasn’t to know that and I lacked the language skills or immediate concern to try to communicate this to the dog lady.
Finally back in the flat, I darted out to the cave, accessed from the other side of our building, and managed to locate the cat. However, she’d firmly wedged herself into a small gap between a pipe and I couldn’t reach her or coax her out so that I could easily rescue her. After fifteen minutes or so, she calmed down enough to consider her next move, carefully checked the way she’d come in, to ensure the dogs had gone, and darted back out of the cave, over the balcony and into the flat.
I feared she’d be traumatised for days, but she seemed to recover fairly quickly. In fifteen minutes she was happily eating snacks again but she didn’t cross the balcony again that evening and followed me around the flat a bit more closely than usual. She must still have been sending out sad vibes though as her brother even came across to nicely lick her on the head (normally he chases her around the flat and pulls out her hair, which he started doing again about an hour after the incident).
I thought now would be a good time to call my mum back, thinking she might be slightly anxious to know what was going on after the alarming way I’d terminated our previous call. But I made the call from inside the flat as the balcony hadn’t proved to be the relaxing spot I’d had in mind.