Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cats as Companions During War

Former New York Times Bagdad Bureau Chief John Burns writes about the way in which cats managed to ingratiate themselves into the lives of the journalists who cover the war, in "What Cats Know About War," published in today's "Week in Review" section.

The veteran war correspondent, who has covered conflicts in most of the bloodiest venues of the last 30 years, recently left his post in Iraq but recalls with fondness how the routine of caring for itinerant felines behind the walls of The Times' walled compound brought a measure of compassion and humanity into an otherwise danger-filled beat.

He tells of the bitter winter night when he rescued a tiny, scrappy kitten whom he subsequently named, "Scooter":

"Watching her, and the two litters of kittens she had over the following 18 months, offered we humans a new reaction to the cacophony of the war. The bloodiest suicide bombings, even miles away, have the sound and feel of the apocalypse, causing humans to freeze, no matter how often they experience it. Cats need to hear it only once. As they skitter to the safety of trees and bushes, they enter the blast and the tremor on the hard drive of their brains. On the next occasion, come the blast, they barely stir. "

But because of Burns' kindness and perseverence in negotiating their way out of Iraq when he left the country last summer, Scooter and her progeny are now out of danger, safely ensconced in England, and "liberation into a green and pleasant land where they would be full citizens, never again wanting for shelter, warmth and food. "

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