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Oops. My bad.

And that’s when I kicked her cat. Sorry, you just caught the end of that. Let me start again.

I was collecting for the Red Shield Appeal many years ago and was nearing the end of a long day. My feet were aching, my back was aching, my shoulders were aching, my soul was aching. There are only so many times you can get rejected in one day before you start to take it personally and react emotionally (“I know you’re in there, I saw the curtains move! Open the door or I’ll be back with a brass band tomorrow morning!”).

Approaching a house in my final street for the day, I saw a small wooden sign stuck in the garden on a spike. The sign said, ‘A cat lover lives here’. I immediately thought, “What, in the garden? Is she buried alive? Should I call the police? Should I start digging?”

Then I realised it was probably a reference to the house near the sign. And, sure enough, when the door opened after I’d rung the bell, a lady appeared with about six cats!

I gave her the usual spiel about why I was there, and she smiled and said, “Oh, wonderful, I have something for you. Do you mind just stepping in while I close the door? I don’t want to lose any of my precious darlings.” I assumed she was talking about the cats, not wandering children.

As a rule, I don’t enter houses when collecting for the Red Shield Appeal because you never know what surprises await you inside (and by surprises, I mean axe murderers, rabid dogs, Satanic cults and the smell of sauerkraut cooking or, alternately, Satanic murderers, sauerkraut cults and the smell of dogs cooking). However, she seemed safe enough, and I’d only be there a moment, so in I went.

Big mistake. Or, as Julia Roberts would say, “Big mistake. BIG mistake.” Within 30 seconds, I had two cats purring around my ankles, three more trotting towards me, and one was sitting atop a hallway dresser, staring at me in what I can only describe as an aggressive and demeaning manner that I found personally confronting.

I tolerated it for a minute before the lady of the house returned, gave me an envelope and said that she always supported The Salvation Army and had placed a sizeable donation in the envelope. She moved towards the door, and I made the mistake of doing three things at once: I turned to walk towards the door, I put the envelope in my donations bag, and I started to ask her if she wanted a receipt. And that’s when I kicked her cat.

I hadn’t even seen it creeping up behind me, and as I turned and began to walk, I kicked it right in the face. It meowed loudly and flew backwards half a metre, landing in a water dish next to the front door. The lady threw her arms up and cried, “Petal!” and bent over to pick up the soggy, groggy moggy.

I began to apologise, but as she cuddled and kissed the cat, she placed a gentle hand on my shoulder, pushing me out the door and then closed the door. I could hear her still talking to the cat, and I was standing all alone on her porch, so I just walked off.

As I passed the sign that said, ‘A cat lover lives here’, I thought to myself, “Not what I’ve heard; I’ve heard the cats here get kicked in the head.”

– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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