The Chickenloaf Papers: Stories from the Kitten Room
2001 :: january :: february :: march :: april :: after april
Baby Nini

valentine in a snowstorm

monday, march 12, 2001

It's a snow day.
It's a full moon.
It's a snow day.

~ Lisa Loeb, "Snow Day"

Here is how Nini came to us:

It is the winter of 1994. Nine feet of snow has sifted down since late October, and a recent blizzard has dumped 3 1/2 feet of snow inside 12 hours, burying our trucks up to the windows. We walk to the birdfeeders between walls of snow. Gleaming weissachs along the roadsides tower eight feet high.

Valentine's Day. We are home from work, stamping snow off our boots. The phone answering machine relays a message from Nissan Pathfinder, a willowy little incarnation of St. Francis in size-5 duck boots. Pathfinder generally cruises with several large, hairy dogs lounging on the truck seat.

She has rescued a small kitten!

That morning Pathfinder had headed off to work down the narrow dirt lane that leads through the woods where she lives with her husband and collection of animals, past the brambly homesteads clustered in the clearings near Route 192. Not far from a collapsing barn surrounded with rusted haybalers, a small gray-and-white kitten perched halfway up a snowbank. There are plenty of cats at that farm, so it wasn't unusual.

But eight or so hours later, the kitten is still clinging to the snowbank.

Pathfinder stops the truck. She opens the door and calls to the half frozen kitten. No need to call twice! The smart little waif recognizes her big chance! Mewing happily, she scrambles down the snowbank and right into the cab full of big hairy dogs!

"She doesn't look very good right now," Pathfinder warns, leading the way up to one of the guest rooms in the big old farmhouse. "But she's smart, and she uses her litterbox!"

Tottering between food and water dishes is a tiny wreck of a kitten. She is dirty and skinny except for a bloated belly. She has a double eye infection and a bad cold, or worse.

Pathfinder says, "Her name is Valentina."

Underneath the grime, Valentina's white fur is marked with peculiar and beautiful gray baroque swirls. She ambles among us and inquires,


"We'll take her."

Purring, Valentina stretches out flat on her stomach. Her hind legs extend froglike out in back, a perfect imitation of one of the dogs in the house.

Image: Baby Nini

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