Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Like Cats and Dogs

I have officially given in and decided to let Canela go outside. A combination of guilt and exhaustion led to this decision. I was guilty over the baby making my cat feel left out and guilty about keeping a cat jailed indoors when she has so desperately wanted out for years. She's really old now, so I figured what the hell. For the past few weeks she'd been escaping every time someone opened the door anyway. One time I didn't realize she'd gotten out, walked past the front door and saw her looking inside. I understood then that she knew to come home and I figured we could try it. She's had her shots and she wants to hunt. I watched her the first few times and she has never left our yard as if she magically knows exactly where our property lines are drawn. Everyone is much happier now and as a show of appreciation, kitty has brought us dead lizards, one of which was regurgitated on the door mat.
In other feline news...

My sister went on vacation last week and left her two grey cats at my parents' house. One is friendly and the other we have never seen. In fact, none of us believe that the other cats exists. We think my sister is lying and that she only has one cat, though she swears the other one drives her crazy. The other night my mom told me that the friendly cat meowed all night long and bothered her and that she became convinced its angst was caused by the death of the shy cat who must have been so traumatized that it went under the bed and starved itself. 

"Did you smell anything?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Do you think you should go look and see if it'd dead?"

"No, your sister's coming home tonight anyway."

"So you're going to let her come home and possibly discover a dead cat?"

"She'd have to find out somehow," my Mom said.

"True but..."

"She doesn't even really like that cat."

The cat was alive and well or so says my sister anyway since we still haven't seen hide nor hair of it.

All last week my parents' dog Big Joe entertained us by aggravating the friendly cat, whose name is tragically Puss. Puss isn't used to dogs, hates dogs and wants to kill dogs. Big Joe just wants love but Puss isn't having it, so all week we watched Puss, who has a really ridiculous looking lion cut, beat the hell out of a 130 pound Doberman who stands there, takes it and cries. It was surreal I tell you. That lion cut is a shame. It takes a very special cat, which I might add I've never met, to really rock the lion cut. If you have a lion cut, you have to own it. You have to really own that lion cut and I've only seen cats look sheepish and embarrassed with their faux manes, pom pom tails and Ugg boot feet. It's pitiful.

One night last week we were all sitting in my parents' living room after dinner when the new housekeeper came in the room and said she was done for the evening.

"Oh and today I clean your pussy," she said to my mother.

There was an awkward moment of long, stunned silence.

"Umm you did what?"

"Your box. I clean your box."

And that was not much better.

Frustrated she tried to explain, half in English and half in Hungarian that she had cleaned Puss's litter box.

Bless her heart. And as soon as the poor thing was out the door I laughed until I almost peed my pants because I am just that immature.

But back to the whole issue of cats and dogs. It may sound strange that a 130 pound Doberman would cry over being smacked by a ten pound cat with a stupid looking lion cut, but Big Joe is very sensitive. He loves cats and is used to Canela who also loves him back very much, so he didn't understand when Puss rejected him with such hissing and venom.

You may be surprised to hear of Canela's friendship with Big Joe. Most cats are like Puss and choose fight or flight when confronted with barking, slobbering lugs of canine foolishness. Not Canela, because she was raised with a large dog - another Doberman, this one a killer, who revered and respected her, even lived in awe of her kitty mystery and magic. It was this cat who gave Canela her Alpha-cat status and made her the bad-ass she is (though I don't think even she could get away with a lion cut).

Rewind. Winter of 2001. I'm working at the strip club and living in my parents' house after the epic break-up of 2000. I didn't want a cat, but I found a parking lot stray irresistible. You can read the story of how I came to find and keep Canela here. If you haven't read that, read it and then come back here.

Ok, you back?

I've got this sick kitten who's all personality. I can tell this one's going to be a people cat. You know how you can just tell which pets are going to be the special ones? I knew that with Canela. I knew I had to keep her. We'd gotten over a couple hurdles already - me not wanting a cat, her being sick and now we had one more problem to solve before Canela could be my cat.

It was a big problem. It weighed more than I did. It was black, hulking and mean. Its brain was too big for its skull. IT had finally just gotten used to me being in the house. For the first couple months that I moved back into my parents' house, I couldn't even get up to pee in the middle of the night without IT cornering me, hackles raised and teeth bared. It's a miracle that I didn't pee right on the floor from fright.

The IT I'm referring to was my parents' Doberman Moishe. If you're Jewish you'll find that name amusing. Moishe is dead now; Big Joe was his replacement and the two dogs could not be more different, although they look exactly alike. Moishe was fierce, where Big Joe is a softy cuddler. Moishe was mean if he didn't know you and had bitten so many people that the city sent a representative from Animal Control to our house to evaluate him. Guess what happened? He bit her too.

Something was wrong with this dog. There are many theories and we don't know what his deal was for certain. It could be that he was just being a Doberman and protecting his house and his people a little too vigilantly. He mellowed out considerably towards the end of his life and when he died young, at eight years old and of cancer and kidney failure, we were all very sad, but this tale takes place when he was young and wanted a chunk out of everyone he didn't know.

Having bitten the Animal Control lady, Moishe got a bad reputation. Her conclusion was that he was a dangerous dog and that in order for us to avoid his execution, he had to wear a shock collar which would essentially taze him and render him temporarily immobile. We also had to send him to a trainer and my parents had to be trained as well, in how to use the shock collar's remote control. If Moishe bit one more person, he would have to be put down and there would be nothing we could do about it.

Moishe hated cats more than he hated strangers. My new kitten, nothing more than a teeny scrap of striped fluff back then, was the equivalent of about half a mozzarella stick to this dog. He could eat her so fast that he'd barely taste kitten on his huge, pink belt of a tongue, and he wanted her. He knew I had a kitten locked in my bedroom and would growl at the door just trying to get in to kill her.

"You can't keep the kitten unless we can ensure her safety around Moishe," my mom said.

I agreed. It would be awful to rescue a kitten only to have the dog rip it to shreds. I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself for not letting the cocktail waitress take her if that happened.

"You also can't keep a cat locked in your bedroom for its whole life. That's not right. If she's going to live here she needs to be able to roam freely around the house."

I sighed. It was true. If we couldn't get Moishe to accept her then she had to go and I was so attached by then that I couldn't let that happen.

We held the kitten on the bed and brought Moishe into the room. My father could barely hold him back and Canela, not having good sense, wasn't scared at all. He lunged and barked and she fuzzed her teeny body up and spit right back. It didn't go well.

It continued to not go well. Every time we introduced these two the same thing happened. Moishe wanted the kitten dead and in his maw.

"We have to use the shock collar," my mother said, "It's our last resort."

I protested. It was mean. It was scary. It seemed like animal abuse.

"Either we use the shock collar and see if it works or you have to get rid of the kitten because what's more cruel? Shocking the dog or letting a dog maul a kitten?"

I gave in. We'd shock the dog.

My Mother - B.F. Skinner.

Same scenario. We brought Moishe into the bedroom. I held kitty on the bed. Kitty fuzzed and hissed, Moishe lunged. My mother pressed the button on the remote and the dog dropped.

"Oh my God I can't watch," I cried.

Baby kitty loved it. She jumped out of my arms because she, again not having good sense, thought she could beat up a Doberman. Moishe went for her again and this time Canela managed a swipe to his nose before I could grab her. We shocked him again. Moishe whimpered and stopped right in his tracks.

The dog held very still. Kitty approached. They smelled one another and he curled his lip in a growl. Kitty growled back and hissed some more. Moishe exercised some control, but he couldn't maintain it long and went for her again. Again he was shocked.

Three times it took and after the third electric shock something came over Moishe. It was instantly obvious that he had changed his mind. Suddenly he began to lick the kitten and wag his tail. He whined and whimpered and soaked her coat with slobber while she, strangely enough sensed his submission and purred and played with him. I've never seen anything like it.

For the rest of his life Moishe regarded Canela with a sense of fear, awe and adoration. He would have protected her with his life. Never have a cat and dog loved each other more. They became inseparable, sleeping curled up together and grooming one another. No one believed it.

"How on earth did you get them to love one another?" people would ask.

Moishe wasn't that smart. Classical conditioning isn't something to laugh at. The connection between cat and pain was indelible in his doggy brain, but the connection he made was that Canela was the one shocking him. He believed that Canela was electric, like an eel, but a kitty and that she was stronger and more powerful than him and that if he dared mess with her, she'd electrocute him again. This was a creature he wanted on his side, he figured. Maybe he wasn't so dumb after all.

They remained lifelong friends, even after I'd moved out. I'd take Canela to visit her best friend and they never forgot one another. They actually seemed happy to see each other after a long absence. When Moishe died and Big Joe came, Canela acted with the same affection she held for his predecessor, although he doesn't know about her magical powers. Not unless Bombaclaat told him.


Living in Muddy Waters said...

Your cat named Puss made me think of the name of the cat my theater partner owns (the 6'5" Brother Boy). His name is Kitty Pussy.

Kitty Pussy...just the name for a very tall southern flamboyantly gay gentleman, don't you think?

JDogg said...

I miss Moishe, and Joe is just the big push-over you describe.

Anonymous said...

Your mother: B.F. Skinner. Awesome.

Speaking of cats bringing home the bacon, our cats brought us not one, but two ten inch long rabbits today. Ugh. They couldn't be satisfied with small rodents, they just had to upgrade to bunnies.


Breton Wench said...

Your cat called Puss brought back memories of my mothers beautiful sleek black queen, who was for her entire life called 'Black Cat'......

Anonymous said...

Now that's the writing I remember! Just tell the story in your own comment out the side of your mouth way.
This story reminds me of a cat lovers' joke:
Dog says, "You feed me and care for me. You must be god."
Cat says, "You feed me and care for me: I must be god."

rosie-b said...

I just love that both the dog and the cat thought that she was some kind of taser-kitty. Too funny :)

English said...

1) I love the blog's makeover.

2) Your writing is always good, but these latest posts have that laugh-out-loud razor wit edge that I remember from your country club days. Man, did I love those country club days. I laughed until I cried...

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