Copper, the police dog, wagged his tail with all his might. In fact he wagged his whole body, so eager was he to become friends with the strange cat in the new home to which he had recently been brought. But the cat arched her back and spat at him.
Copper could not understand it at all. At his old home there had been a cat, a black one just like this one, and they had been the best of friends from his puppy-hood. They had eaten from the same dish, they had romped together and slept together ever since he could remember. But this strange cat, it seemed, hated him. She was afraid of him, too, for all her snarling.
Of course, Copper would have had to admit, he had chased cats, but only stray cats on the streets, never his own home cats. This black one, if she would just be friendly with him, would make it seem more like that old home he sometimes longed for.
Sable, this black cat, had no love for dogs, any dogs at all. She knew their rough ways! She knew how they loved to chase cats, for she had fled up a tree for refuge from them, times without number.
So, to get away from this dog who tried to be her friend, Sable chose an old hen’s nest, securely hidden in the darkest corner of the barn, to be a home for her family. There, one summer morning, two babies appeared, once all black liker herself and one all yellow-gold. Blind and helpless though they were, Sable thrilled with pride because of them.
She spent every moment possible with them, but sometimes she had to leave them while she hunted for food for herself. Often Jim and Marie, the children in the house, would set a pan of milk on the back porch for her, but that horrid dog was always here, rolling his lip and wagging his tail, his ears pricked forward in that friendly way of his. But she was not to be deceived by the likes of him! Not she!
So she hissed and spat at him until he would leave her alone to lap her milk and hurry back to her babies.
Now a new danger appeared on the farm in the form of a big gray tomcat that began to linger about the barn. Sable knew well enough what he was there for. He wanted to kill her babies, for here was a greater danger than any dog. She chased the big cat away whenever she saw him, but she knew that he would wait until sometime when he found them alone, and then she would have no babies.
At last the kittens opened heir eyes and gazed about in wonder at the new world they saw, a shadowy world that was the corner of the old barn. It was that same day, while Sable was away, that Jim and Marie found them and took them into the house to show their mother.
“See, Mother, Sable has some kittens! Aren’t they darlings?” Marie exclaimed.
“One apiece for us,” Said Jim “Mine’s the black one.”
“Oh, I want the gold one,” Marie said.
“They’re little beauties,” mother agreed.
“What to you plan to call them?”
A dozen names were suggested, but none seemed to fit.
“I want mine to be something like sunshine, but not really that,” said Marie thoughtfully.
“Let’s call them Dusk and Dawn,” said Jim at last.
“That’s fine!” agreed Marie. “Mine’s Dawn, because he’s all over gold like the sky in the early morning.”
“Mine’s Dusk, because he’s all over black and furry like when night first settles down and the first yellow stars come out. His eyes are the stars,” Jim said.
“Now that you’ve named them,” mother suggested, “and have decided to whom they shall belong, I think you had better put them back in the old nest. Poor Sable will be frantic if she returns and finds her babies gone.”
Sable had returned and she was frantic. She felt sure that the big gray cat had found her babies and had stolen them.
She cried piteously as she ran to meet Jim and Marie as they carried the kittens back to the nest.
“F-f-f-t, f-f-f-t, yeowl!” She sputtered as she chased poor Copper into the house.
Not until she had her kittens alone in the nest with her did she cease her anxious crying. She licked them all over eagerly again and again, purring affectionately until they both fell asleep.
She could not bear to leave them all the next day, but after it was dark she felt so faint that she knew she must have something to eat. Peering cautiously all about, she crept out of the barn and across to the granary, where she hoped to find a mouse among the bins of stored grain. She waited as patiently as she could at a hole where the mice often ran, anxiety gnawing at her heart for fear of the big gray cat.
She might well have worried, too, for out of the shadows of the barn the gray cat crept toward the nest where the babies slept. In another moment he would have had them, had not Sable in her fear, feeling that all was not well with her family, come rushing back just in time.
The big cat was so surprised by Sable’s furious attack that he found himself in a corner and so had to fight. A terrible noise arose, yowling and screaming and snarling. Mother and daddy and the children came rushing from the house, Copper ahead of them adding to the uproar with his furious barking. Daddy turned his flashlight on the fighting cats and it was plain to see that Sable was losing.
“Whose cat is that gray one?” cried daddy. “He’s after Sable’s kittens!”
“That’s a stray cat and he’s been catching my young chickens,” mother explained. “Run, Jim, and get a bucket of water to pour on them. Maybe that will stop them from fighting and drive that big gray one away.”
“No need to,” returned Jim. “Look at Copper!”
Copper had taken the situation into his own hands, or perhaps it should be said, into his own teeth, for he had the gray cat by the back and was shaking him as furiously as Sable would shake a mouse.
No one knew how it happened, least of all Copper, but just as they all felt sure that Copper was about to kill the big gray killer-cat, he managed to give the dog such a scratch across the nose that Copper’s hold was loosened for an instant.
In that small space of time the gray cat was free and gone like a shadow into the dark of the night.
“Oh, I’m glad he got away,” breathed Marie. “I would have been sorry to see Copper kill him.”
“I don’t expect that he’ll come around here again,” daddy said, laughing. “He’ll not forget for a long time that Copper lives here.”
Sable was not so glad, perhaps that the gray cat got away, but she was grateful to Copper for protecting her and her family from the stranger.
Any day you now may see Sable, Copper, Dusk, and Dawn eating together from the same dish or romping happily together under the trees, for the kittens are almost grown now. Sable has learned that there is at least one dog she can have for a friend, and Copper is never lonely or homesick any more.
by Mabel Earp Cason