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The Story Of The Bengal & His Pet German Shepherd
The Cat Adopted The Dog & Were Friends Forever
Keeping a Bengal breeding program is not an easy task. You don't just have a couple of cats around and let them do their thing and end up with lots of lovely bouncing baby Bengals that you can turn around and sell for a small fortune. It would be nice if it were that easy, but it never is.
A Bengal program where you have your own stud and queens is a logistics nightmare. First of all, you have to keep the stud in his own completely separate enclosure as far away from the queens and kittens as possible. It's also a good idea to have it far away from your own living quarters since the studs will spray their enclosure and it stinks to high heaven.
I had built a solid chain link "wall" across a large outdoor alcove at the ranch we were renting in the desert and fitted it with the obligatory "airlock door:" A double door with a space to stand in between. You first open the outside door, step into the airlock and then close the outside door behind you. Then and only then, do you open the inside door. Why? Because Bengal studs who are smelling a queen in heat will outrun a cheetah and if you only had a single door, they'd be bolting out of there as soon as you opened it up an inch.
That's what made it so difficult to understand what happened that fateful night. I was kept awake half the night by the screeching howling of cats mating. It was not an unusual occurrence since there were lots of stray cats in that corner of the desert and they liked to hang out beyond the double-fences by our cats having all sorts of feline conversations. I didn't think much of it, until the next morning I found our own pet cat Sylvia, a stray cat we had found many years earlier, sleeping contentedly next to our Bengal stud, who had this very sly smile on his face.
We never did figure out how Sylvia got through the maximum security enclosure but we figure she climbed to the top of the chain-link wall and pushed in the very top of the fence just enough to squeeze in there. She was really motivated!
Regardless, the deed was done and soon Sylvia delivered six absolutely gorgeous half-Bengal hybrids. They weren't Bengals at all, naturally, as they could not be registered as anything but moggies. But they were still adorable.
However, Sylvia preferred to do darn near everything in the middle of the night, and giving birth was no exception. When we got up in the morning we found these beautiful little kittens in a horrible situation. This was Sylvia's first litter and she didn't know how to be a mom! She had left the umbilical cords attached instead of biting them off and the kittens were all tangled up in them! We immediately tried to separate them, but the cords had dried into a glue and some of the kittens were choking from the cords around their necks.
In a sheer panic, we scooped up the box where Sylvia had chosen to nest and rushed her and all the tangled kittens to the vet. We sat in the waiting room as the vet and his assistant spent almost an hour working on the kittens. When the elderly good-hearted vet emerged, he had a tear in his eye. He had to sacrifice five of the six kittens. Only one survived.
When you lose Bengal kittens, it's a terrible shock. A profound loss. Bengals aren't cats. They're members of the family. Even though these were nothing more than alley-cat/Bengal half-breeds, the loss was just as profound. We took Sylvia and the one last surviving kitten home, and named him Mally.
Mally grew to be a healthy marbled strangecat. He really looked like a Bengal, although if you looked closely there were plenty of signs of his alley-cat heritage. But for some strange reason, maybe because of the loss he suffered of his siblings, or just because that's the way it turned out, he was the most affectionate kitten I'd ever known. He would run up your pants leg to sleep on your lap, and if you put him down, he'd just run back up. He wanted to be cuddled 24/7 by people. We loved Mally's affection, but with both my wife and I keeping fulltime jobs as well as breeding Bengals, there unfortunately wasn't a lot of time that we could contribute to satisfying Mally's endless desire for cuddles.
When Mally was 9 weeks old he showed he was his mother's son and managed to escape out the back door. We looked for him everywhere and couldn't believe where we found him. Cuddled up in the doghouse almost smothered by the German Shepherd Jacko!
The dog had come with the ranch. He had always lived there and the landlord had asked us to keep him there as he had no room in the city apartment where he lived. We loved Jacko and took great care of him as he was a loving dog, very playful, and an excellent guard. That's very important when you have a small ranch in the middle of nowhere.
Well now Mally had found Jacko, and for some reason Jacko decided to be Mally's endless source of cuddles. From that moment on they were never more than a few feet apart. Everywhere Jacko went, Mally followed. But most of the time it was Jacko following Mally around and around and around and around the scrubbrush. Mally would eat Jacko's dog food and Jacko would eat Mally's cat food. They were a very strange pairing indeed.
One day, Jacko must have been watching through the double-fence and saw one of our Bengal queens carry a kitten with her mouth around the scruff of his neck and the kitten dangling as they do. Well, that was that. From then on, Jacko decided that he was going to carry the now fully-grown Mally around by the neck! Now everywhere they went Jacko would carry a dangling Mally, then put him down, they would play and chase, and then Jacko would pick him up by the neck and carry him to the next place they wanted to be!
Mally never complained and seemed to love it, even though he was way too heavy a cat to be carried by the scruff all the time and started forming a bit of a scar there. But he didn't care. It must have been too much fun!
As the vagaries of human experiences are bound to be, we soon decided to move out of the ranch to a place of our own. We made all the arrangements and had even bigger and better Bengal enclosures built there before we moved our cats. Everything went off flawlessly, the kitties were very happy in their new, bigger and more luxurious digs, and we went to make the last run with the moving truck from the old rented ranch to our new one.
We met the landlord there, and since he hadn't been able to rent the ranch right away to another family, he was going to take Jacko home with him. We had previously explained that Jacko and Mally were an inseparable pair and he had already agreed to take the cat too.
We loaded up the last of the furniture and now it was time to get Jacko and Mally into the landlord's car. Jacko just sat there with an incredibly sad look on his face and wouldn't budge. Mally was nowhere to be found.
We looked everywhere for Mally. We must have scoured every square foot of that acreage. He had completely disappeared. By now it was getting dark and we had no choice but to hoist up the protesting Jacko and plunk him in the car. Both the landlord and I returned to the ranch every single day for weeks looking for Mally, leaving his favorite dog food out for him, etc. He was never seen again.
We never found out what happened to Mally. But somehow, he knew that his happy days at the ranch playing with his pet German Shepherd were over. Mally was an incarnation of love. He was a Bengal/Moggie halfbreed who lived to cuddle and purr. His conception was against all the odds. His survival among his cord-choked siblings was against all the odds. His adoption of his pet dog was against all the odds. Maybe Mally never really existed at all. Maybe he was just a physical feline embodiment of the essence of life itself: To give and receive love. Which is truly the only thing that really matters.