Cat and Dog Essay

Cat and Dog

Last year, among other things that befell us, our cat, Wyvern, died. Dragon, as we called her commonly, had been with us since before the children were born, and she was sorely missed. I missed the oddest things about Dragon, like not having anything to buy on the pet aisle. I kept seeing little cat sized shadows darting around the house before recalling that we didn't have a cat anymore.

The plan was to get the new dog and cat at the same time so they could grow up together and get along. This plan has been largely successful; they form a warm, friendly alliance and this is usually a good thing.

Eilonwy, our new cat, has her own way of doing everything. She likes marshmallows, homemade beer, iced tea, and cantaloupe. Although, probably not together. The first time she encountered burning candles she decided the thing to do was to put them out with her paw, which she did. You have to stop every so often to clean the wax off your paw, though. An innovative dog teaser, Eilonwy likes to drink from the dog's water dish. When the Tasha tries to drink too, the cat will shoulder her out, going so far as to stand in the bowl. When she notices the her feet are getting wet she calmly takes each foot out in rotation, shakes it off and then replaces it. Becoming, in the process, a sort of cat sprinkler. When she tires of this, she will crouch down, outside the bowl, and push it around with her head. The dog just looks at me and rolls her eyes. When you turn off the television Eilonwy will rush over to play with the static electricity on the front of the picture tube. If you spook Eilonwy, she will run around to the cover of a convenient piece of furniture to emerge on the other side, standing on her back legs with front paws outstretched, to return the favor. Sometimes she will jump out sideways in this pose.

One time Eilonwy was watching me work with Tasha on the concept of 'Sit' when she decided to get a piece of the action. She came over in front of me and looked interested. So I said "Eilonwy, sit" she did so I gave her one of the treats I use with the dog. Tasha went nuts. "That’s just sick". Our cat has explored every part of the house she can reach, extending to the boxed light fixture hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen, behind the books in the bookcases, but not, so far, to the tops of the built-in bookcases in the family room. When I was putting up the Christmas decorations in the family room, I was surprised to have a cat pass me on the way up the ladder. "This is great! Why didn't you get this out before?"

One of wyvern's favorite pastimes at Christmas was to curl up under the smaller of the two living room trees, but when young, she had managed to knock our live tree over, so we wondered how Eilonwy would react to Christmas decorations. She didn't interfere too much as we were setting up the trees but when we had finished with the lights, and ornaments on the trees and the snow blanket, lights and lighted village underneath the trees, she walked in, and curled up. "I like the shrine you made for me. It took you longer than I anticipated, but it is acceptable." She particularly likes the little apple decorations from the tree. They are likely to turn up anywhere in the house that a cat can get to. Eilonwy's favorite toy is a shoelace. Really it is two shoelaces tied together. She carries this around the house wherever she goes and sometimes will stand on it purring and kneading it for several minutes before falling asleep on top of it. For a while it had a large candy wrapper tied to one end that would turn like a propeller when pulled along at high speed, but this was eventually removed in the interest of decorum.

When Eilonwy is upset with us she has many ways of making her point, like shredding the paper towels or stealing and hiding the dishcloth. When I took her to the cat sitter when we were going on vacation the attendant put Eilonwy in a large multilevel cage called 'the condo' pointing out that "she could have the condo since there wern't very many cats scheduled that week" We found out afterwords that when they tried to transfer her to a smaller cage later in the week, she put up such a fuss that they put her back in the condo to restore the peace.

Tasha, which is short for 'Tasha the Destroyer', has already become an influential member of the family. She was the one who made the decision to refloor the kitchen. She even moved up the schedule by initiating the demolition phase. She most enjoys playing with the cat. As far as I can tell the object of the cat game is to place your mouth entirely around the cat's head and say "Awrowrowr", at least, I believe that is what is said. It is hard to be sure because of the difficulty of annunciating with a cat's head in your mouth.

Eilonwy would describe the game differently: "The idea is to stand up on a chair or some like-height object and alternately whack the dog in the face with your paws until it makes a squeaky noise. Great fun!" Tasha has a great sense of balance, so that if she jumps up on you and you push back ("off!") she will balance on her back feet and hop around on her back feet rather than go down on all fours.

When you give Tasha a new rawhide chewstick she performs a three stage ritual play, hide, eat. First she runs around with it tossing it in the air and jumping on it when it falls, then she use her nose to push it behind a piece of furniture. "I'll just save that for later" A few moments later she digs it out to eat. "It's a good thing I keep these on hand" Tasha is mostly an indoor dog. She doesn't like yellow jackets which she encountered camping or rain which discovered last month going out for a bathroom break:

"Tasha, get busy"
"But, it’s raining. On the ground; on the pond; on the roses; and on ME!"
"You are supposed to be a cattle dog. With this marvelous, two layer, impervious coat that protects you from the weather. Get busy"
"I, can't work under these conditions"
"You've been spending too much time with the cat"

Dogs shed an amazing amount of hair. I believe if you collected a week’s hair from Tasha, the resulting hairball would amount to an entire, additional dog. It's a piece of good luck that Tasha is the same color as the carpet, but at some point you must take action or the vinyl flooring will also look like the carpeting.

Dec 2002 update:

Since last year, Eilonwy's obsession with water has worsened. She now drinks exclusively from the bathroom tap and will jump into the sink anytime there's the slightest chance of someone turning the faucet on. This behavior can be disconcerting. In the middle of the night, washing up after a trip to the restroom (it's my custom to leave the lights out to avoid waking my wife) I reach for the sink and... Well, you've no idea how unsettling it is, under these circumstances, to unexpectedly encounter a sinkful of cat.

Her fascination with water extends beyond the sink, to compel her to come to join us in the shower. She stands between the curtains watching us. I'm not sure what provides the most entertainment: the sight of all that cascade of water or the spectacle of it falling all over something else. Eilonwy's even jumped into the bath with my daughter. But, I understand, her enthusiasm for water does not not extend very far into conditions that require actual swimming.

Once while outside, she cleverly eluded pursuit by jumping over a low wooden barrier, only to determine, belatedly, that the barrier served, in it's capacity as a pond wall, to help contain a great deal of cold, wet, smelly water. She then nearly discovered unaided flight, as in her attempts to exit the pond was distracted from falling. She fetched up, more wet and bedraggled then she intended, under the lemon tree. Everyone present at the time of the catastrophe, excluding, of course, herself, was held accountable for the whole miserable affair. The remarkable thing is that neither of these last two related events has -forgive me- dampened her enthusiasm for water.

As with people, you can never be sure whether persistance in the face of adversity stems from character or stupidity.

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