Copyright 1998 W. Bruce Cameron
Much to the delight of the squirrels in my neighborhood, I have hung a birdfeeder just outside my back window. This has immediately become a source of great concern to my dog and cat, both of whom race over to the window the moment a gray squirrel drops by for breakfast. I must say, watching their diverse approaches, I am struck by the truism that you can raise two pets the same way in the same house and still have them turn out totally different.
The cat stealthily climbs into a chair and tightens down like a coiled spring, only the tip of her tail flicking, the rest of her motionless, watching, watching.
The dog sits at the window and begins panting as if all the oxygen has left the room. Quaking with excitement, she can't help the high whine and small yips of consternation which characterize every heaving breath. After less than a minute of increasing agitation, she finally launches herself face-first into the glass, smacking the window with the sound of a baseball bat knocking one out of the park.
Initially, the squirrels reacted to this head-butt with a panic-stricken flight, racing to the tree tops to sit and scream rodent obscenities. This infuriated the cat, who would turn to the dog with a "that's NOT how you do it!" expression and rake her claws across the nose of my canine, who would look to me for justice. I ruled I do not have jurisdiction in this dispute.
After a time, however, the squirrels, (despite having a brain pan significantly smaller than my slobbering dog), realized that the glass barrier between them and their mortal enemies affords all the protection they need. Now, when the dog launches herself into the window, the squirrels pause only momentarily.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the glass, this is what my two squirrel-killing pets are thinking:
Another way in which the two differ is in their relationship to food. The dog's dinner consists of what appears to be compressed cardboard pellets, the ingredients listed on the bag making frequent use of the words "crude" and "by-products." As in: Crude Animal By-Products: 30% Crude Recycled Machine Parts By-Products: 15%. When I serve this inedible stuff to my dog, she swallows it so forcefully you can almost see it slamming into her intestines.
When I serve the cat's dinner, the look I get in return clearly communicates, "What? Lobster again? I had this last week! You're going to be in big trouble when your wife finds out about THIS!" To enforce her point, the cat will spend the rest of the day walking around the room with her nose in the air, pretending I don't exist. Only a feast of fresh squirrel would redeem me, and when it becomes apparent I'm not going to open the window, the cat curls into a sullen ball in the corner. The dog puts her head in my lap and begs forgiveness for anything she may have done wrong in her entire life.
At night, both pets choose to sleep in my room, the cat's eyes narrowing to slits if I dare to disturb her as I climb into bed. The dog drops into slumber with a sigh and begins twitching and moaning in her sleep, no doubt dreaming of throwing herself head-first into the window. The cat darts off the mattress to do some night hunting, but she'll be back, leaping silently through the air to land feet-first on my crotch.
It really irritates me that my wife refers to these painful assaults as "pin-point landings."
The cat was my low tech answer to the family of mice which discovered that our dryer vent led to a wonderful world of fluffy warm clothes. The first time our feline hunted down one of the little rodents, she proudly brought the squirming thing back to our bed, which resulted in a considerable amount of screaming and hysterical raving. My wife was unhappy as well.
Now that we have no mice, I consider the cat superfluous. The cat feels the same way about me. The dog, on the other hand, becomes inconsolable when I am out of sight for even a moment. If I am locked in another room, the dog will lie on the floor and put her nose to the crack under the door, inhaling so forcefully it is as if she believes she can snort me right out of the room. When I finally emerge, the dog acts like I've been gone for a month, licking me and running around in circles. The cat appears pretty disgusted at these antics.
For all their differences, though, the two pets are united in their loathing for the audacious squirrels in the birdfeeder. Though they have absolutely no chance of ever catching one, I think maybe sometime soon I'm going to open the window and let them try.
I'll let you know what happens.
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1998
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