Bernie Uncle Ernie

The tiny yellow kitten I got conned into taking home while shopping at Big Lots has doubled, then tripled in size over this past month. While he’s still just a small fellow, within four weeks he’s morphed from a shy, scared outcast to commander and- chief over all who dwells in our petcentric home.

When I pulled into my driveway that Friday afternoon following my unexpected acquisition at the Millington retailer, I carried the cardboard box he was snoozing in straight to the dining room and placed it in a spot I knew my husband wouldn’t miss. I had attended a graduation ceremony at the Naval Base earlier that day so Michael was a bit surprised to see my shopping bags and a mysterious box with its upper flaps up and bits of packing tape streaming from its beat-up sides.

"What’s that," he asked hesitantly, almost anticipating that whatever its contents he was probably not going to approve. "Have a look," I told him casually as I headed for the kitchen to put away the bags of canned cat food.Oh no! I heard him exclaim from the dining room. By the time I’d returned Michael had the cat in the palm of his hand and was stroking his little body. I told him the story of how I’d gone into the store to buy some cat food and how an employee led me to the breakroom to show me the kitten she’d rescued that morning from behind the store’s dumpster.

Michael listened and soon his frown smoothed as he held the kitten close to his face and rubbed its furry bottom on his chin. "I guess we’ll be keeping him, huh?" I didn’t wait for an answer as I headed to the bedroom to change into some shorts and sneakers. A short while later Michael and the kitten were bonding in the sunroom. The kitten was out of the box and timidly checking out his surroundings.

Slowly and cautiously the other three cats appeared to take stock of the new arrival. What they saw did not impress them. There was some spitting and hissing, bushed up tails and dirty looks as Mali, Bummer and Spot each weighed in with their opinions. If the expressions on their faces could have been translated into English, they would have read something like this: What the hell is going on here? What is this creature and who let him in? How soon will he be leaving—it won’t be soon enough!

Later the dogs got their turn to meet the kitty we were referring to as Little Big Lots, a placeholder name until we could come up with a better one. Mooch leaned in to nuzzle and was immediately spurned as the kitten drew back in fear. Mojo tried his luck but was met with a tiny flying, slapping paw. But really, who could blame him? Both dogs are gigantic—each with heads twice the size of the kitten’s body.

"It’s just going to take time," Michael said. And of course, he’s right. But we’d forgotten how chaotic kittens are and how they can turn daily life inside out. Two humans, two dogs and three cats are now running on his busy schedule. Every day is a joyous adventure as Little Big Lots, now called Bernie Uncle Ernie, discovers new hiding places, the wonders of catnip, and the endless fun of chasing the tails of the older cats. He’s not yet very large, but he is indisputably in charge.

Contact Deborah Camp at Deborah. for comments or suggestions.

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