This week I’m house sitting for some friends on vacation. I don’t know what picture comes to mind when you hear the word house sitting, but in my neck of the woods (literally), it isn’t so much of a ‘come watch our house so that no one steals our stuff’ as it is ‘come watch our house so that our pets don’t die!’ This is a bigger calling… lives are on the line here. In particular: 6 cats, 5 dogs, 6 fish, 2 turtles, 4 horses, and 1 human. If anyone dies I have failed.
Now, here’s the issue: my dog, Graci likes loves to chase cats. This is something of cheap entertainment when I’m at the ranch and there is one cat scurrying away from my insane dog with 330 acres to spare. In an enclosed environment with 6 targets, it is a dramatically different story… add tile floors and you’ve got yourself a show.
It is also important to note that the last time my friends went out of town, a visiting dog savagely killed Chloe the kitty (may she rest in peace). In the legal world they call this precedent… and when I arrived, there was a note on the counter that said –and I quote– “Do not let dogs eat cats… that is a BIG no-no”… the stakes just went higher as the “you never said…” excuse flew out the window.
cat enter stage left, dog growls, I grab dog’s collar, hair raises on dog’s back, 2nd cat enter stage right, dog growls, I yell shoo! cats disregard, cuckoo clock goes off in kitchen, cats and dog both turn and stare, pause for effect, cats tilt heads to side, dog tilts head to side, cuckoo clock goes silent, cats and dog resume stand off, cats bolt across living room, dog lunges forward and is choked by own collar, cats high five, cats exit.
Soon after, Graci fell asleep… hallelujah. The cats immediately got into mischief… shredding shoelaces, karate kicking a bag of tortilla chips, and gnawing on the computer chord. Once I began shooing them, they began their rotation of destruction: shred, kick, chord, shred, kick, chord. As if to mock me, the moment I would shoo one away from a shoelace, it would spring to the counter, roundhouse kick the tostitos and proceed to the chord and *gnaw, gnaw, gnaw*. I, two steps behind, would shoo it away only to find another one already at the shoelace… shredding. This went on for an embarrassingly long time… meanwhile, Graci was out cold.
Earlier that evening, my friend, TJ shared some sage advice with me over the phone. He said that cats won’t respond to you if you don’t call them by name. That is ridiculous I replied. Utter foolishness. Absurd. Cats don’t respond to me because they are cats. To respond to a lower life form would be an insult to their esteem. He went on to say that second to using a cat’s name, a nice strong meow will often do the trick. I knew he was lying… and yet, I couldn’t help myself…
cats enter and begin rotation… shred, kick, chord, shred, kick, chord… I follow and shoo, cats ignore shooing, dog sleeps, I remember sage advice, I tilt head to side, cats continue rotation of destruction, I put my shoulders back, I puff up my chest, I stare at cat… I meow, cat stops shredding and stares, dog wakes up and stares, other cat stops in midair scissor kick and stares, I panic, time stands still, I meow again, dog rises to feet, cats tilt heads to side, dog tilts head to side, dog puts betrayed look on face as master speaks cat, dog tilts head further to side, I meow a third time, dog whimpers, cats cease rotation, cats realize their code has been cracked, cats stand down, cats exit.
That’s right TJ… it worked.