Liebe Grosse Mietze Katze
(Big Sweet Pussy Cat)
by Ute Carson
Foliate Oak Literary Journal, December 2017

For my Grandchildren

When I was a child I was crazy about animals. I made no distinction between the live ones and my furry toys. I took my dolls' clothes off to adorn my animals. Animals were my playmates, to be driven around in my doll carriage. Later on they slumbered in my backpack at school. Creatures great and small from the animal world were also the best listeners to the stories I wove from early age on.

My grandmother believed that animals attacked only when they were hungry, threatened or when they smelled fear. She was fond of telling the story of Daniel in the lions' den, and why he was not devoured because he was secure in his beliefs and remained calm in the face of great danger.

It was a warm May Sunday morning when I was 4 years old that my grandmother treated me to my first visit to the Breslau Zoo. There was birdsong ln the air and monkeys scampering from tree branch to tree branch. I wore a sky-blue chiffon dress with a white bow in my braided blond hair. My mood was as chipper as my outfit. My grandmother hummed, as she was in the habit of doing when she was happy. I slipped my hand from hers and skipped along the pebbled paths, eager to meet as many animals as possible.

On a secluded sloping meadow with lush brush and a few stony cliffs, I spotted a large lion. I noticed his wild mane, tattered fur and his closed eyelids marked by dark brown lashes. He was stretched out along a chain-link fence, resting his heavy head on his tawny paws. In 1944 there were few barriers between the wild beasts and their visitors. I didn't need to cross a ditch or climb a fence. I easily reached through a gap in the fence and gently touched the lion's right ear which was flopped across his cheek. The ear felt so soft, like velvet. I cooed to him "Du liebe, grosse Mietze Katze." My grandmother stood behind me and watched. Only when a woman passing by screamed "Child, get your hand out of there" did my grandmother gently pull me back. The commotion must have roused the lion. He shook his head as if to swat away a fly and yawned. "May I touch him again, "I whispered. "Another time," my grandmother answered as we ambled on in buoyant spirits. "We have many more of your friends to greet."

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