My daughter had her parenting cut out for her. Only two days after my grandsons Josh and Jarod, identical twins, were born, my daughter brought them home from the hospital. The babies weighed only about four pounds each, and my daughter had dressed them in Cabbage Patch nightgowns, the only clothes she could find to fit them.
For the next five days, we all pitched in. The household revolved around these two tiny creatures. They ate every two hours, and we spent virtually the entire day in some stage of feeding them: making bottles, emptying bottles, cleaning bottles, changing diapers, preparing more bottles. After the twins had sucked down the last of their 8:00 p.m. bottles and we had changed them and tucked them into bed, we would head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a much-needed break. What we needed was a full-time, paid staff. What we had was Smokey, the family cat.
Smokey had been fascinated with the twins since the day they came home. He spent more time at their side than we did, watching them curiously or napping near their beds. We watched him cautiously at first, making sure he didn't hurt the babies, but though he never left their side, he never got too close to them. He seemed a loyal caretaker.
One evening, though, we briefly doubted our trust. We were unwinding in the kitchen when Smokey let out a blood-curdling howl, like an animal killing its prey. We raced into the twins' room, and the sight that greeted us filled us with terror. Smokey was almost sitting on Josh, the smaller twin, butting the baby's little body with his head and literally rolling him around the crib. As we ran to save Josh from what we thought was serious injury or worse, Smokey suddenly lay down and started softly mewing, almost moaning. That's when we discovered that little Josh wasn't breathing.
I immediately started CPR while someone else called 911, and an ambulance raced Josh to the hospital. It turned out that both boys were highly allergic to milk. Their bodies had reached their limit in milk intake, and because Josh was smaller, he had gotten sick sooner. Mercifully, Josh had not been without oxygen for very long. Smokey had realized that Josh had stopped breathing and alerted us just in time. Josh would be fine. In fact, the doctor said Smokey had definitely saved Josh's life.
Over the following months, the family settled into an amiable routine. Then late one night, Smokey jumped into bed with my daughter and son-in-law and started to bite and scratch them. More annoyed than puzzled at the cat's strange behavior, they got up to shut him into the bathroom for the night. But Smokey dodged their grasp and darted upstairs to the twins' older brother John's room. When my daughter followed in the chase, she found John so ill that he couldn't move or call for help. "My chest," was all he could say. When he underwent emergency heart surgery, the doctors found that his aorta was almost totally blocked.
Smokey, the hero-cat, now holds a special place in our family. He may have been content to be your typical family pet when the house was half-empty, but as it filled up with children, he decided he better promote himself to a mothering position. When it comes to raising a houseful of kids, Smokey figures it doesn't hurt to have some extra help.