The Cape Buffalo is a notorious beast. It is responsible for the deaths of over two hundred people a year. It is often said to kill more humans than any other creature in Africa, including crocodiles and lions. This, along with its massive size, sharp horns, and unpredictably aggressive nature have made it a legend worldwide. Often called “The Widowmaker,” these beasts have rarely, if ever, been domesticated. But that did not stop the Cooper family from raising one of their own. After finding little “Cape” as a calf, they bring him into their home with open arms. This is an incredibly dangerous creature that now lives in their house, yet author Deborah Cooper and her family handle it with grace and charm.
Following in the tradition of Marley & Me, Cape and the Coopers is often hilarious, occasionally tragic, and always insightful. An amazing chronicle of a journey through the best and worst of family life, topped off with the constant shenanigans of a loveably atypical pet, this book is a brilliantly heartwarming addition to any bookshelf.
9 out of 10
The first time I saw Cape the buffalo I fell in love. He was nestled in a box on a street corner labeled “Free Kittens,” looking cute as could be. The scraggly man next to him was bottle feeding the six or seven kittens also in the box, but seemed to be all but ignoring the buffalo. The poor thing would bleat softly and try to get some of the milk in the bottle, but the man just slapped him away. I had to stop.
“Why aren’t you letting that buffalo have any milk?” I asked.
“No buffalos here,” the man said.
“Then what is that?”
“A hideous cat. Do you want it or not?”
“Hideous!” I said. “How can you say that? He’s adorable!”
I bent down to pet the little guy. I’ll never forget when he first looked into my eyes. It’s like he was peering into my soul.
“What type is he?” I asked the man.
“A Manx buffalo?”
“Manx cat. Very ugly breed. Super misshapen.”
I stood up, angry now. I planted my hands on my hips. “Look, I don’t know what you take me for, but I can clearly see that this is not a cat! Why do you insist that it’s not a buffalo?!”
The man sighed. He looked around furtively, and then said in a hushed tone, “All right, lady, here’s the deal. This is an African Cape Buffalo. I’m trying to get rid of it but nobody will take it because apparently they’re crazy dangerous or whatever. I sure as hell don’t want it, so I stole a few kittens from a neighbor, threw them together in this box and hoped no one would notice. But then you had to come along and question my business practices! So. Do you want it or not?”
I thought a moment. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to make a decision that would change my life forever.
“I’ll take him!” I said, and I haven’t looked back since.
Life Lessons From a Cape Buffalo.
The shock of having a new addition to the family quickly wore off for my husband David. After spending just a little time with Cape, David was just as in love as I was. My children, Theresa and Tommy were taken with him the moment they saw him. Oh, how they rolled around and played with him throughout the years! Just the thought brings such joy to a mother’s heart.
As Cape grew up alongside our children, they all became more rambunctious. Right about the time Tommy started Kindergarten, Cape’s horns started coming in. After that, we all had to be careful playing with Cape. The horns, coupled with his increasing size (just shy of a ton!) made roughhousing with him a little tricky. But still, Cape loved having fun!
Yes, I know that Cape Buffalos have never been successfully domesticated, due their unpredictable nature. But in our little Cape we found something special that made for truly magical moments.
One day, we were all in the kitchen making dinner as a family, and Cape ran in, eager to be a part of the activities. But he got going too fast, and charged headlong into the refrigerator. His horns stabbed deep into it and got stuck!
Cape struggled wildly, trying to dislodge himself from the fridge. He moaned and thrashed as he began to panic. David ran to help, but was thrown backwards. I grabbed the cattle prod and began zapping Cape in order to get him to calm down. It had the opposite effect, and Cape kicked out, catching Theresa in the skull and sending her to the ground unconscious. I had begun to load the tranq gun when Cape ripped the fridge door off, still stuck to his head. He shook his head around a few times and finally the door flew off his horns and crashed into the wall, where it stuck in the drywall.
Cape jumped around a bit and rapidly looked around the room, as if other appliances were going to jump at him. Sensing no danger, he calmed down, snorted a couple times, then huffed out of the room.
As time went on, Cape and I developed a very special rapport. Often, he would do something naughty that seemed completely random, but I could see the intentions behind the things he did. We could communicate, if you will. For instance, when Cape wrecked the living room during family game night, I knew it was because he was angry he didn’t have hands to roll dice with. And when he destroyed the dining room table during a meal and shattered my pelvis, I knew it was because he was trying to entice us to make lower calorie food choices.
When I think about the lessons Cape taught us, one incident sticks out in my mind in particular. One beautiful summer day, Tommy was sitting inside watching television.
“Tommy,” I said. “You don’t want to waste your life in front of that TV. Why don’t you go outside and play? It’s an absolutely magnificent day out there!”
“I don’t want to go outside, Mom,” he said. “It’s boring outside.”
Suddenly, with no provocation, Cape charged into the room and upended the couch Tommy was sitting on. Cape shattered the TV and flung it with his horn. It landed on top of Tommy (fracturing his spine, as we would later find out). Tommy tried to crawl away, but Cape set upon him, stampeding him a few times. Tommy’s screaming almost made me set down the video camera, but then Cape did something incredible. He clamped onto Tommy’s arm with his teeth and drug him all the way through the house, kicked down the front door, and pulled Tommy outside, depositing him in a heap on the lawn.
Cape looked up at me and I actually gasped. It was then that I realized what he was trying to tell me. Cape was encouraging Tommy to go outside and play! I couldn’t believe what a smart, beautiful buffalo our little Cape had turned out to be.
A few weeks later, when Tommy came home from the hospital, Cape was there to greet him. Tommy hesitated at first, but soon Cape’s infectious good nature got the better of him. Tommy struggled with his casts and back brace a little, but he pet Cape like never before. David and I stood behind them, beaming.
“Well Tommy,” I asked. “Did we learn anything here?”
“I sure did!” Tommy said, his eyes bright between bouts of pain. “I learned that you should always enjoy life to the fullest, because any moment could be your last! I’m never watching TV again!”
We all had a hearty laugh together as a family. Then Cape gored David and threw him across the room.
“I know, Cape,” I said, ruffling the fur on his head. “We love you too.”
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