SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Part two of my two part column about the pets that have somehow come to wander my home. Am I a bundle of excitement, or what?
Kittens. Why is having a black kitten an issue? Because cats are incapable of getting out of the way. It’s 2 a.m., you’re on a bathroom run -- maybe literally -- and don’t turn on the lights because your eyes are adjusted to the dark -- except human eyes don’t adjust that well. You don’t see that black lump, which is too dumb to lay in a nice, untraveled corner. Nope -- she’s right smack in the middle of the hallway, and she sees you coming. When you’re trying to find her for a bath, she’s off in a flash; but when you’re not looking for her, she doesn’t make a friggin’ move until your foot makes contact.
Then comes the screeching, and the flying through the air, and the running off to pout -- and the kitten doesn’t handle it very well, either.
Kittens are the worst possible pets, except for elephants. They use the carpet in the corner for a litter box, knock over stuff they shouldn’t be able to reach, chew through wires, and walk across your keyboard just whee yslkie fotlln ehy waldlr tlsdg.
But they have a secret weapon: They’re cute.
Outrageously, sickeningly, impossible to really hate them unless you’re a serial killer, cute. They knock your plate of food to the floor when you turn away for five seconds, and when you find them chewing on your aloe plant a moment later all you can say is “Awwww … so cute …”
It’s mind control.
Cats. This is a different category from kittens, because when they’re grown up they’re no longer cute -- they’re scary. I’m continually trying to remind my kids that kittens grow up to be cats. Someday the kitten will be a cat, and we’ll have two cats, and then the fur will fly.
Right now they’re playing well together, or trying to kill each other, or something. It’s hard to say for sure. At first Chopper, who’s named after motorcycles (seriously!) kept staring at the kitten, wondering when we were going to peel the fur off so he could eat. Then the mind control kicked in on him, too, and now he tolerates the kitten even better than he tolerates the humans.
I don’t have to tell a cat owner that there’s no such thing as a cat owner. Chopper is simply permitting us to live with him, as long as we continue to feed and water, and otherwise serve him as needed. While a kitten will beg you to pet it, Chopper will walk up and demand that you pet him, while giving you a look to remind you that it’s a privilege, not a right.
The good part about “owning” a cat is that they’re fairly low maintenance, once you get them to agree to use a litter box. If you’re really good with the food, water and box changing, they might even agree to pretend they love you.
The bad part about having a cat in the house is that they keep giving you this Look; like they’re considering the idea that one night they’ll get tired of you and kill you in your sleep.
Dogs? Dogs are the opposite, of course. A dog would never kill you in your sleep. In fact, a dog would race into a burning house to drag his owners out. He would curl himself around a lost child, risking his own death to keep that child warm in a blizzard. He would track criminals without a thought to his own danger, go into shaky debris to find trapped earthquake victims, and come running, tail wagging, to whatever knife wielding, hungry maniac calls him with a friendly voice.
Dogs are stupid.
But it’s stupid in a good way: likable stupid, much as TV viewers come to like an idiot character on a TV show. Ever see Joey, from “Friends”? The man’s stupid. But we love him, and I love dogs. They wear their hearts on their sleeves; when they love you, they love you unconditionally, and when you’re unhappy, they’re unhappy too. They’re not emotionless (fish), they won’t bite you without reason (hamsters), and they don’t think they’re better than you and will someday control the world (cats). Take care of their basic needs and scratch behind their ears every now and then, and they’re deliriously happy. There’s something to be said for that.
Our dog is Chelsea, and in dog years Chelsea’s as old as the hamster. She can’t run after the ball anymore; she can barely get up and down the front steps. She’s a chocolate lab, which means helping her get up and down the front steps will someday be a major project. She sleeps a lot, and pants so loudly and constantly that I keep feeling like I’m on the business end of an obscene phone call.
At her age, Chelsea doesn't even care if a strange kitten shows up, as long as somebody's petting her.
So what’s the upside? Man, that dog loves us. Unconditionally. We should be so lucky as to have that capability; in fact, maybe humans are too smart. Just think how much better this world would be if all we really cared about was food, water, and having a friend to sniff our butts when we’re down. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.
Now that I think about, allergies are a small price to pay for the pet kind of love.
Chopper and Gigi may be forced to play pool with strange kittens, but they don't have to like it.