Archive for the 'Animals' Category


the saddest thing in the world

At first it’s alarming and briefly terrifying. And then it’s just heartbreaking.

I’m getting ready for work, rummaging in the closet, talking softly to myself — wallet, keys, phone — thinking of the first things I have to do when I get to the office. I am totally lost in my own head, totally alone.

I back up with my jacket in my hand. I am about to close the door, and manoeuvre an arm up my sleeve, and—

rrrrrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaoooooorrrrgh!  Continue reading ‘the saddest thing in the world’


Scat cat, or every creep that creepeth

When a situation is hard to control, we say “it’s like herding cats,” because cats are bloody hard to control—especially mine. Humans, by comparison—pet owners, especially—are much easier.

However, I can happily report that I have managed a coup of animal behavior control that might make a student of Burrhus Frederic Skinner jealous.

The New Yorker published a remarkable profile of Michele Bachmann in August that delves a bit into (among a great many other things) her devotion to a political conservative Christian principle called Dominionism. It’s based on Genesis 1:26.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Somehow it applies to the notion among some politically active conservative Christians that their ultimate goal is to gain control over every secular civil institution in the country through political action to create (they would say “restore”) a theocratic government run exclusively by Christians.

Makes sense as a metaphor: Control the animals, control the earth, control the system. And there are a lot of politicians who seem to creep about upon the earth. Though I know fundamentalist Christians hate metaphor. To them it’s either the plain truth, or it’s not in the Bible.

But to turn back to the original text, in which god is telling Adam and Eve to make use of animals—not, I might add, to annihilate Barack Obama—this may be one area where Bachmann and I overlap in our beliefs. And it’s specifically in regards to my cat.

Continue reading ‘Scat cat, or every creep that creepeth’


A Mister and Mister Mystery

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny

Alternative lifestyle bunnies are also available as Mr. & Mr. Bunny or Mrs. & Mrs. Bunny.

The Easter Bunny came early to our house this year. A couple of weeks ago FedEx delivered a mysterious package to our house. In the box was an inviting bundle of mylar bubble wrap, shredded paper, packing tape and a card in a sealed envelope. I set aside the card (You only open the card first if someone is looking!) and dug through the packaging to find a melted ice pack and a plastic bag containing two chocolate bunnies.

The bunnies had bright little blue eyes and wore green chocolate overalls. They came packed with some jelly beans and a few foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.

I opened the card — “Happy Easter, Jeff and Eric!” — but there was no sender. Luckily my mom solved the case for me later that day when she left me a voice mail to ask if I received them.

Before I returned her call, I looked up the website of the chocolatier she ordered them from, Gayle’s Chocolates. I didn’t see a pair of bunnies in green overalls, but I did find a similar item: Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, a boy bunny in green, and a girl bunny in a rather silly looking pink and purple cape. Secretly I was glad, because the boy bunny was much cuter than the girl bunny. (But then again, of course I would say that.)

And then I spotted the disclaimer: “Alternative lifestyle bunnies are also available as Mr & Mr Bunny or Mrs & Mrs Bunny.”
Continue reading ‘A Mister and Mister Mystery’


The Sole of Wit

As we settle into the on-ramp to middle age, my husband and I find ourselves utterly captivated by the lamest of intellectual parries and thrusts. One of our favorites is the synonym game. “Eat,” one of us will say. “Devour,” the other will say. “Chew,” comes the reply, followed by “masticate,” “digest,” and so on and so forth.

Last night, inspired by a piscine pun a friend of ours wrote as a Facebook status update, Jeff asked me to name species of fish.

“Uh… trout?” I said. “Pike. Flounder. Why?”

He showed me the picture on our friend Marc’s Facebook wall, a folk-art plate with a fish skeleton painted on it, accompanied by the words “Tuna Half Men. Sole Train.”

Ah. I was beginning to understand.

“I’ve already got ‘Carp 54, Where Are You?'” Jeff said. I need another one.

I gave it a long, hard think. Before long I had one. Perfect.

“Who’s the Bass?” I said.

And we were off.

Continue reading ‘The Sole of Wit’


Here, kitty, kitty…

Thursday afternoon, on my way to the post office, I passed the fenced-in front grounds of a Catholic school in my neighborhood. The school day was over, so I was surprised to hear a woman’s voice inside the fence over the sound of my headphones.

She held the leashes of two dogs with one hand and her phone with the other. The dogs seemed agitated and restless, but she ignored them, carrying on as if she were talking to a girlfriend about her date last weekend or a sale at the Acme.

Ten paces further I saw a group of people clustered around a tree, each of them looking upward. None of them was wearing a coat, despite the snow and the cold. Glancing upward myself, I saw a cat, totally exposed in the leafless upper branches.

Two teenage girls were calling up to the cat, who seemed to be in no mood to come down. They held something up to it. It was white. It looked like a snowball, but I assumed it must be something else. Surely they were trying to coax it down with with something that would actually attract it.

“She’s scared. She senses the dogs nearby,” someone said.

No kidding. The dogs are as plain as day, and no more than 30 feet away. I guess it’s good that the woman is holding her dogs back, I thought, but as long as they’re there, whining and yipping, that cat is going to stay put. Doesn’t anyone watch cartoons?

Continue reading ‘Here, kitty, kitty…’


Cat and Mouse

Our cat discovered a mouse the other day. This in itself does not bother me. The benefit of having a house cat is to keep the mice away.

What is somewhat bothersome, however, is for Jeff to come home one day to catch her in the act of taunting a half-paralyzed rodent, batting it across the floor like a shuffleboard disc. The human intrusion distracted the cat just long enough for her prey to crawl under the refrigerator to die in peace.

So now we have a dead mouse somewhere under our fridge. This is not a terribly difficult problem to solve. But now I fear that our cat, starved for excitement in an environment not built for her, has re-awakened a carnivorous desire. She will remember those days spent outdoors in Minneapolis, before we moved her to this urban prison. And even though she may appear to be lying calmly on my lap, she will secretly always have one eye open and both ears tuned to the hunt.

There’ll be no living with her now.


Green Ham … and Eggs?

Glow-in-the-dark pigs    
Glow-in-the-dark pigs. What else is there to say?

I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I will not eat them with a mouse.
I will not eat them in a house.
I will not eat them here or there.
I will not eat them anywhere.
I do not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.


Now That’s Entertainment!

Maybe the cat has the right idea, perched on the radiator, watching the snowfall this morning through slitted eyes. She twitches just the tip of her tail from time to time as I might tap my finger. Not bored, but content. And maybe a bit expectant.

One can see the snow only against the buildings and cars and the skeletons of trees. Glancing skyward, it seems to disappear against the gray. But it’s there. Traffic is quiet; schools are closed: the world in slow-motion. I already hate the rain that will come later to beat it down and flush it away.

Actually, she might just be staring at the wall across the alley.

Still, I suppose the principle is the same.


Cat Swimming

This is absolutely delightful. I don’t know why, but hurling cats into a swimming pool to watch them swim is just gut-busting funny to me! Maybe it’s because it lets one be just a little sadistic — while also being completely harmless.

Makes me wonder about our cat…


Defending Territory

What is it about a dog that encourages people with no interest in each other under normal circumstances to interact with each other?

Since I have been dog-sitting these last few days for a traveling friend, I have earned all kinds of attention. Carrying a dog, puts one in an instant spotlight. I am not just the anonymous guy who wants to be left alone on his way around the block. I am A Guy with a Cute Little Dog. People come out of the woodwork to say hi — just not to me.

“You have a beautiful puppy,” a woman said on the sidewalk. Absent the dog, would she have thought to remark about the weather or stop to tell me my zipper is down? Hardly. The dog invites the niceties.

Even my surly neighbor, with her enormous, thuggish boyfriend, crouched down in the elevator on the dog’s first day in the building. “Hey, there,” she said allowing the dog to sniff her hand. When she asked me “What’s her name?” I counted the most words she had said to me in a year.

“Honey,” I said.

“Oh, how cute.”

“Yeah, she’s just visiting,” I said gamely but awkwardly, startled by the excitement I felt, hopeful we might speak more. Maybe she’s nicer than she seems, I thought.

But that was it for three floors.

Conversely, the harmless old guy on the subway had a lot to say as I held Honey on my lap in her stylish polka-dot carrier bag. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“A girl.”

“She looks tired.”

“Yeah, she’s had a busy day.”

Honey rides in style on the G train. Heh… “Honey on the G Train.” Sounds like the title of an urban porn film.

I realized for the first time the power of talking about yourself through your dog. I should try it more often. Honey’s not coming to work today. Honey doesn’t feel like doing the laundry. What I was really saying was that I was tired and didn’t want to talk. Don’t come closer to pet my dog, and don’t ask me questions about her. I am just minding her for a friend. Apart from her breed and her name, I don’t know much.

“I bet you she’s just going to go right to sleep when you get her home.”

“Hmmm.” With any luck, I thought, I will.

“How old is she?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“How old do you think she is?”

“I have no idea. Maybe three?”

He directly addressed Honey with various and sundry encouraging affectations, though I couldn’t properly hear him through the rasp in his voice and the din of the wheels on steel.

“May the wind be at your back and God hold you in the palm of his hand. That’s Irish wisdom,” he said to me after downing a tea-colored 50 mL bottle.

About as Irish as that whiskey, I thought.

Usually what I get is a “Mira! Perrito!” from small children as Honey races by on the sidewalk eager to sniff the next clump of weeds at the edge of a neighbor’s lawn.

I felt like a prick when a couple of parents clearly wanted me to stop with the dog, but I merely smiled and continued walking right past them even as they stopped so their stroller-bound child could see her. I just defer to the dog. She doesn’t want to stop, and neither do I. So I let her dictate the next move. Sorry, I’d totally stop, but my dog … well, you know how she can be.

It’s a strange feeling to interact with people while being invisible. A family with two small children was talking about the dog on the train the other day. The kids would wave and make funny faces at Honey while their ice cream cones dripped on the floor. Their parents said encouraging things to them en Español. And every time I looked up, the kids turned away, looking embarrassed, and the adults stopped talking. Turn away, and they burst into action. Look up, and silence.

My cat doesn’t care how big Honey is or what her carrier bag looks like. Her primary concern is the strange new intruder.

She outweighs the dog by at least 50%, and Honey is scared of her. She won’t walk past her. We keep them separated, but Mukau camps out at the doorway of the spare bedroom where we keep the dog, guaranteeing that she stays there.

They get along fine, as long as they stay out of each other’s way, but sometimes out of the clear blue Mukau just gets it into her head to mess with the dog. I was giving the cat some extra attention one day thinking she may be getting resentful of our houseguest, and in the middle of a hearty belly scratch, she leapt to her feet, darted across the floor, and started hissing and batting at poor Honey. It’s like, “Ooh, that’s good. Up a little bit. Up. Yeah, right there… Ohhh… Oh — wait a minute. Sorry, there’s um… this thing… that I, um… forgot to do. Be right back. Won’t take me a minute. Just gotta scratch this dog’s eyes out.”

the untallied hours