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November 17, 2016     Post 79
A Very Close Call

In the wake of the election and with the coming of winter's dark days and cold winds we're taking a break from Saving The Lake. Here's a true cat's tale from the log of the good ship “Ariel” that almost didn't have a happy ending.

We've all seen them- the ever increasing number of mute swans that have moved into the waterfront.They're big, powerful charismatic birds and they are VERY protective of their young. I found that out a few years ago during my days of solo sailing.

It happened on a Sunday afternoon among the Toronto Park Islands. I was anchored out with my 23 foot sail boat, and not then having a cat sitter back home, I had shanghaied Dusty, Miss Piggy and Twinkletoes for the cruise.

My cats were not enthusiastic sailors. They were either seasick when underway or bored when at anchor, and I spent copious amounts of time and energy trying to keep my reluctant crew on board the boat even as they tried to figure out how to go AWOL ashore. But that day I decided to alleviate the tedium of their floating prison by taking them ashore one by one for a nice walk in the park. I started with Twinkletoes, the bravest kitty, and as we set out in the dinghy I noticed a swan family was also enjoying a Sunday outing. And the male swan had seen us.

While his wife led the children off to safety in the reeds, he started towards us with a determined glint in his eye. The courage and valor of the mute swan are legendary and I'd heard these powerful birds could break a man's wrist with a blow of their wing. More than one canoe has capsized during a swan attach. Time to row back to the boat I decided.

The swan was closing in fast, and he was pushing a pretty good bow wave before him. Alarmed, I went all out on the oars in a sprint that might have done justice to an Olympic trial hopeful. But seeing that we were about the escape, the swan began half flying half running after us his huge feet slapping the water loudly. Just short of the boat, I realized we were doomed.

I grabbed an oar and stood up in the dinghy ready to battle to the death. At that, the swan backed down astern a foot or two hissing furiously, his wings raised. Terrified Twinkletoes decided it was time to bail. She made a jump for Ariel still about six feet away and missed. She went in with a plop.

I made a grab for her, but the frantic cat had swum off under Ariel's counter heading straight towards the furious swan that was cussing us as he sat just off the port quarter. "She's done for” I thought as I scrambled aboard. “He'll grab her and push her under for sure."

But to my utter amazement I saw a small black head coming around the bow of the boat with a big white bird in pursuit. Somehow Twink had gotten past the swan as she had paddled around the boat in about five seconds flat!

I reached down and grabbed the slippery soaked cat and threw her into the cockpit and then seized an oar from the dinghy to fend off the bird lest he try to follow her and board us. He didn't. He sat there a couple feet away hissing like a broken boiler, cussing us out using the most atrocious language I've ever heard a bird employ. I scrambled aboard, went below, locked the cabin door, and collapsed on the bunk, clutching my soaked traumatized crew member to my breast. Never again would I row a dinghy with a cat in it anywhere near a mute swan!

photo note- use a really Long telephoto when you take a picture of them on their nests!

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