We had just come around the first turn when I saw someone walking toward us, then a dog, then another.

“Hi,” I said. “I see you have dogs.”

No answer.

“I have two cats with me,” I said. That’s what I usually say, hoping the desired response—to cross the street with the dogs—will be obvious.

“Oh,” she said. “Are you the cat guy?”

I confessed that I was. Two of my cats and I go for a stroll around most of our fairly large block just about every night when the weather is good, and folks have noticed. A man we often see on our rounds even asked me once, walking his tiny, yippy dog, if I had to take my cats for a walk for the same reason he had to take his dog. Uh, no. Another time, two kids passed us on bikes, and I heard one say to the other, “There’s that man who goes for walks with his cats.”

Anyway, I asked the dog walker whether she and the dogs would mind crossing the street, if it wasn’t too much trouble. She didn’t answer but acquiesced.

“Dogs freak them out,” I said. That’s almost invariably true. Every time but one, their reaction to encountering a dog has been to freeze or cringe or just flee. But one time, they attacked.

That evening, when I told the lady with the golden retriever that “I have two cats,” her response was “Oh, that’s all right, he likes cats.”

A dozen clever rejoinders leapt to mind, but time was running out. “It’s not him, it’s them,” I said. “Dogs freak them out.”

“OK,” she sighed and walked to the middle of the street then circled around behind us. The cats freaked out, all right. They were on the dog’s back in a heartbeat, fur standing straight up, tails like tree trunks, hissing and sinking their claws into him. The dog was yelping and trying to shake them off, and the cats kept pursuing him and jumping back on, and the woman was crying and shrieking, and they were running—and I was chasing them all. I finally managed to get between one cat and the dog, and the dog finally managed to toss the other one, and the woman and the dog kept on running until they were out of sight.

I stopped, panting. I gaped at those two sweet, playful, affectionate, rather shy girls that I had hand-raised from when they were two days old. They were grooming themselves quite placidly. “Incident? What incident? Could we please resume our walk now, please?”

I was furious and baffled. I couldn’t have been more surprised if they had burst into flames. I couldn’t imagine what had come over them. It seemed like demonic possession. And I wondered if we’d be able to take walks again. I was pretty sure the woman would never walk her dog on West Madison again, and I was right about that, at least. A friend of mine finally explained it: when the dog came around behind us, the cats perceived it as a threat. “They were defending you,” she said. I was so moved, I almost wept.

We did resume our walks but almost always after dark. On the evening we met the woman with two dogs, we had almost made it to the little road that leads to the driveway be-hind our row of houses when she came toward us again, having obviously circumnavigated the block. “You’re not making much progress,” she said.

“They don’t go too fast when it’s this warm,” I said. “They rest a lot.” In fact, they were doing just that as I spoke.

When the woman and the dogs started up their driveway, just a house away from where the cats had plopped on the sidewalk, one of my felines stood up and started walking toward them. I got in front of her. The woman and her dogs made a wide arc en route to their door. Maybe she’d heard the story.

There’d been at least one witness. A few weeks after The Incident, the kitties and I were passing the place where it had occurred when a car pulled up to the curb and a man and woman got out.

“Are these the attack cats?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, a little warily.

He laughed. “I never saw anything like it,” he said.

“You saw it?”

“From my living room window. If I’d had a minicam, we could have split the ten thousand dollars!”