JoeJoe Kept Sniffing a Tree — Guess What He Found?
My gorgeous kelpie, JoeJoe, has been both a delight and a handful his whole life. He’s a working dog, meaning he wants to stay active and busy for many hours every day. Perfect for a cattle ranching, but since I have no sheep or cows, Joe has to find various creative ways to keep himself entertained. And busy. He loves to find squirrels, watch the deer, run underneath birds, bark at skunks, etc.
Recently, for about a week, while we were going on walks, Joe kept sniffing at a particular tree. He would even hurry ahead of the gang just to get up to this one exact specific tree. Mind you, there are hundreds of trees along the walking path we usually take, but Joe and Pixie both were eager beavers to get to THAT tree. Just that one. The gnarly half-tree. No other tree seem to be particularly important.
There didn’t appear to be anything special about that tree. I couldn’t find anything there.
And yet JoeJoe persisted. He was thoroughly convinced there was something special about that tree.
I wondered… and I let him keep sniffing, and yet for days, there remained no evidence of anything. Joe was in a great hurry to get there, and also, he was slow and resistant to leave — he wanted to stay right near that tree. Hmmmmm. I could see that he was highly convinced there was something extremely important by — near — or IN this tree.
Upon closer look, this ‘tree’ was a clump of trees, and vines, and the biggest of the tree trunks was an empty tree stump with other younger trees growing around it.
Well, not exactly a stump. At least not a normal size tree stump.
From the opening, this tree stump dropped down easily at least 4′, maybe 5’ into the ground. I peeked a few times, looking for something inside there — being highly cautious about snakes, or skunks, or armadillos, or rats, or some other wild country critter with sharp claws…. ! [ My imagination was going wild — there was surely a scary critter of some sort in there!! ] But none of the times I peeked-in did I see anything.
I will say, inside the tree stump was very dark, and and deep, and I’m not sure I could see all the way to the bottom. I wondered if I just didn’t — or couldn’t — see what JoeJoe was smelling. I certainly didn’t hear anything. Nothing jumped out at me. Nothing hissed or squawked. I didn’t have any clues at all.
What is it Joe? Why are you so interested here?
I didn’t know, but day after day, Joe ran to that tree, sniffing, and sniffing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Then one day last week, JoeJoe and Pixie were pushing extra hard, asking for a walk. I was in a bit of a grouchy mood that afternoon, and I didn’t really want to go on a walk, but they kept asking. Ugh. They were pestering me! Finally, I decided that grouch or no grouch, getting some exercise in the warm afternoon sun might be the perfect remedy for my sour mood.
As per usual, JoeJoe ran ahead, happy to go sniff his favorite tree. Pinky and Pixie were enjoying the walk, and then Pixie went running up to the tree as well.
As I sauntered up there closer to this tree, I could hear something this time.
What was that sound?
Did I hear that? What was that?
It was a teeny tiny sound, and yep…. there it was again. Meep! Meeeep!
It sounded like a kitten.
Okay, I could get my brave on to look inside that big tree stump to see if I could find a kitten.
And sure enough….
When I got over getting scared of leaning into that tree, I found a teeny tiny little baby kitten, dirty, alone, scared, abandoned, and crying. Crying and crying, and trying to climb up the tree, trying to get out, but oh, sooo tiny.
“OH poor little kitty!! Why are you so alone in the bottom of this giant tree stump??”
Oh, little kitty! Tiny, and dirty, and scared, and soooo alone in there.
I looked around — where was the momma cat? Were there any other kittens?
I looked and looked, and looked again — no sign of anything or anybody.
But… I had a problem. This weird but wonderful and very empty tree stump was far too deep for me to be able to reach baby kitty, and little baby kitten was crying, and trying, but also too scared to climb up to me.
Such a tiny little kitten — I wasn’t even convinced this little baby could climb all the way up the side of the tree.
Oh my goodness. How long had this little one been trapped inside this tree?
It’s teeny tiny little cries just didn’t stop. They got louder as we stepped back from the tree. I kept looking around for a momma cat, but no one showed up.
“Where’s your momma, baby cat? Where’s your momma?”
I tried several times, but I just couldn’t reach little kitten. Oh dear! Okay, we need a better plan. I told JoeJoe, (and Pinky, and Pixie) that we had to go back home and get something to help us reach his little friend. I thought too, maybe if momma cat was around, that would give her time to come back and fetch her little baby.
“Okay. I’m so sorry, little one, but we have to go away for now, little kitty, but we’ll be right back. Maybe your momma will come get you, but if she doesn’t, I’ll be right back to help you.”
Back down the path we walked…. All the way back. I had to think. What on earth did I have that would help reach a scared baby cat stuck in the bottom of a tree stump?
If I had a little butterfly net, that could have worked, but I don’t have one of those.
If I had a tall but skinny carpeted ladder with baby steps, that could have worked, but I didn’t have one of those.
If I had a strong pile of fabric mesh that I could drop into the tree, that could work, but I didn’t have any of that.
Problem-solving takes a lot of creativity sometimes!
And a little abandoned tiny cat who was frightened and crying on a warm sunny day deep inside a tree was definitely in need of a rescue. It was far too warm that day for such a tiny baby to not have water — a little one that upset was at risk of dehydration, or being found by any of the forest critters or hawks or coyotes who could make a quick snack of such a tiny babe.
Think, think, think.
I found some long pieces of fabric that I could drop into the tree. I found a hooded towel, that maybe kitty could crawl into and be lifted. I found a big fabric shoulder purse that could easily lift a little kitten if it crawled in there. I grabbed my thickest garden gloves for protection, and while I wasn’t particularly impressed with my tool kit, I decided to just go back and try my best.
My assumption was that in the time it took me to walk back, find my gear, and get back up to tiny baby cat, that any momma cat could have found it and rescued it herself.
Where oh where is momma cat? Is she hurt? Has she left this little one on purpose? Was this tiny baby the runt of the litter, left behind, so momma could focus on the other kittens? How did this teeny tiny kitten get stuck inside a tree? Did little cat get lost? Did the little kitten climb the tree and then fall in by accident? Did its momma even know where it was?
I just wasn’t getting any answers.
When I got back to the tree, sure enough, baby kitty was still there. Still crying. Still scared. Still upset. Still alone. Still in desperate need of some help.
Once again, I looked all around for momma cat, and once again, nothing.
“Momma cat, momma cat, where are you, momma cat?”
This poor little one just didn’t seem to have a momma, or … if it did, momma was gone. Long gone, and this little baby wasn’t going to survive by itself in this tree. Nope, it was too hot that day, and this baby was far too little. She could not survive being abandoned and alone. She had to have a momma cat. Where is that momma cat?! Why have you left your baby?!
Oh, poor little kitty! Momma trauma!!
“I’ll do my best to help you, little one, I really will. Let’s see if we can get you out of this tree.”
I tried the long shoulder purse first, since it could reach the deepest.
Nope, that didn’t work. That big bag thing just scared the little kitten, and it hissed at the purse, and little kitty scooted back, hiding deeper and deeper into the roots of the tree, pushing down to the furthest away point. So nope. Too big. The shoulder bag was just too scary for baby.
Okay. Next I tried the hooded towel, and it was just toooo short. It couldn’t reach all the way to the ground, so that didn’t work either.
Stumped by the stump.
Hmmmmm…. Now what ?! What do I do?
How do I reach this frightened kitten without scaring it so badly?
Think, Kathy! Think!
Then suddenly, I looked over into the tree stump and little kitty was trying its best to crawl up the inside of the empty trunk. OH! Good job, little one, good job!
Alas, poor little baby fell back down to the bottom. A few times. She would try, then she would fall. Wait a minute, maybe she will try again. OH…. OH gosh, ….
Kitty climbed even higher the next time, and she was almost close enough to reach — I put my gloved hand in there to get her, but OH! My hand, or that big glove, or reaching her direction, scared little baby, and down she dropped. Boom! On the bottom of the tree again. Poor little cat!
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.
“I’m so sorry little one. I’m here to help you, not hurt you. I understand you are scared, but I really am here to help you.”
“Try again, baby kitty, try again.”
I continued to coax the little kitten up the side of the inner stump, speaking softly to her, and and trying to reassure her.
“You can do it, little one, you can do it.”
I was worried about how long the kitten had been there, and how exhausted was it (he? she?), and how many times had she already tried to climb up to the top. Was she (he?) going to be able to do it again? Would she give up? Was she too tired? Would she curl up at the bottom and stop trying?
Little one kept crying, and crying. Oh such cries. How long had she been alone? How hungry was she? How scared she was!
Clearly, baby kitty did not want to be stranded alone anymore.
“Try again, baby kitty, try again.”
And eventually, little one found her brave again, and she climbed a little higher than before.
Could I be fast enough to reach in behind her and pull her up the rest of the way? I had to be gentle, but fast, and accurate, so little one didn’t get scared, get knocked down, or drop back down all those feet back to the dirt floor. She had dropped to the ground so many times already. I knew she was already exhausted.
Hmmmm…. would she climb high enough this time?
I stepped away for a second… looked around one more time for momma cat. I turned back to look into the tree, and sure enough, baby kitten was already high enough that I could actually reach her!
Well done, baby kitty!! Well done!
She had climbed, and climbed, again and again, and even though she had fallen so many times, she made it nearly to the top of the tree trunk. Such determination, strength, and resilience she had!! She did it. Brave little baby. She did it. She did it!! I was so proud of her already.
“Now… little kitten, I know this is scary, but let me pull you out the rest of the way, okay?”
I spoke gently to her, but I knew she was hanging in a very precarious wobbly spot — exhausted, terrified, desperate… I was quick, and yes!! I was able to get ahold of the little one this time! I got her!! I got her!!
Baby kitten was out of the tree, and she was safe!!
I snuggled her up in the hooded towel like a little baby burrito and held her close for safety and comfort. Talking kindly to her, and I let her know she was safe now. She was not trapped anymore and she was going to be okay.
Baby kitty was out of the tree!
And oooooh sooo tiny was she. First glance, I was thinking this little baby was a girl (to be determined later), but for now, baby girl kitten was rescued from the tree and safe from harm.
Snuggled warm, held secure, but not tight, I cuddled that sweet little kitten. I petted her soft little head, and whispered to her gently.
“Brave little kitty, you darling little one. You are not alone now. I will give you something good to drink, something tasty to eat, a better place to sleep. You can have shelter, food, water, warmth, protection — everything you need. I will take you to a place where you can be safe and okay, and learn to play.”
And here she is.
Little one, wrapped in her burrito towel and held close. Do you see how her little tiny face is as small as the thumb of my glove?
And do you know what? That little one weighed only 10.5 ounces! Not even a pound!! She was just barely starting to get her teeth, and she wobbled and tumbled over when she walked. Totally uncoordinated, and she fell over nothing, lol. Just learning, that’s all. There’s nothing at all wrong with this little baby — she’s just young. And tiny! She was maybe three weeks old, at the most, I was guessing.
And now, she’s okay. She really is.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
All week long, I’ve been tending to this little cat, getting her all kinds of little kitten things.
But also…. I have been thinking about all the dissociative kids out there who would relate to how scared and lonely and abandoned this little kitty felt. How many little traumatized kids are separated and lost from their mothers, or left to live alone in dirty unsafe conditions, not given proper food or nutrition, or left abandoned in a place where they could get hurt.
It crossed my mind, as we are near Mother’s Day, that some of the kids who read this blog would feel connected to this little cat, and who have had cries and cries and cries for help. And yet, there was no mother to be found.
My wish for you is that someone walked by your tree. That before you stopped reaching out for help, while you still had your voice, someone heard you. That someone, like JoeJoe, kept going back and checking on you. That someone found the courage and the creativity to help you out of a very dark and lonely place.
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Thank you for reading this story. There are so many more kitty stories to come — but those will have to wait for another day. For now, I want you to know that there can be hope for you too. Don’t give up, even if your mother and your family and your loved ones abandoned you and left you alone. There are others out there in the world who have the heart to care.
Use the strength and the resilience that little baby kitty showed you. It’s hard and painful, I understand. But keep reaching out to the kind people of the world. You can do it, just like little baby kitten did. Someone will see you. Someone will hear you.
Just keep reaching out.
I wish you the very very best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2023 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation