Friday, December 31, 2010

Tales of the Bête Noire

Gentle felines, you may have noticed that I have been notably (notably I hope, at least) absent as of late. It began by design. I realized that the human holidays were coming up, and rather than force my human to forego the celebrations and buckle down to her training with renewed vigor, I opted to encourage her participation in the festivities. I have some very good reasons for this: first, although I do not like her mixing too much with other, poorly trained humans, nevertheless she is usually less fractious a subject after a few days of this sort of behavior because she is what they call "relaxed;" second, after a few days of this "relaxing" she is so tired of the company of other humans that she will avoid them for a while, which benefits me; and third, when she comes back from socializing with the other humans at their holiday meals, she generally brings back some dainties and gives them to me, such as a lovely bit of fish. My gift is thus a pretty good one: docile and focused subject, and a decent meal. When the train comes in, everybody rides, as they say. So yes, I had planned a nice break from work around December-ish. I found, however, that I had other problems on my paws.

You remember, I am sure, my previous mention of an antagonist present in my otherwise happy and contented household/research and training facility. I refer to my human's silly little dog. It is an awful, smelly, noisy creature, and I have advised her on many occasions to turn it out and be done with it. When I first hired my human, and entered the house to survey my domain for the very first time, I had no sooner laid eyes on the creature than I knew without even needing to ponder the subject that That Dog Had to Go. One of my first directives, in fact, was to advise my human to pack the animal off straight away. Did she listen? Of course not. At the time, however, I was in a weakened state, and less inclined to be forceful on the subject. And so now, I reap the results of my inaction.

I am not going to insult your intelligence by saying that this dog has grown on me. Emphatically, it has NOT. That would imply that I was fond of it, or something. No. Rather, I have settled down into a resigned tolerance of the creature. I have arranged the household to my liking, and this has minimized my contact with the dog. The dog scarfed up my food when it was placed on the floor upon my arrival, and so now I take my meals atop the breakfast table. I think this suits my dignity very well. The dog usually stinks--oh, how it stinks!--of, well, dog, and so I made it a point from the beginning to very deliberately pin it down every so often, in my human's line of sight, and attempt to give it a jolly good washing. The dog doesn't like this at all, of course, and creates a huge fuss and runs away, but my human is dimly able to piece together that the dog must therefore be in need of a bath, and so into the tub it goes. (This also works well as negative conditioning for the dog when it has annoyed me just a little bit too much. It is as clear as presenting it with a notarized letter that says, Keep it up, mutt, and it's bath time.) And so on. Every time living in proximity to a dog has presented me with a new challenge, in short, I have risen to meet it with feline grace. I have always felt, however, that these challenges were unnecessary. I have tried time and again to demonstrate to my human that life would be so much easier, so much more pleasant, if only she would use those thumbs of hers to grasp the doorknob, open the door, and toss the dog into the night. She has resisted. And thus, in the course of this continual process of adaptation-resistance-adaptation, a change in my own thinking has occurred. In fact, I have drawn a rather sobering conclusion: the dog is necessary to my work.

The dog is too stupid to be the Moriarty to my Holmes. I am too lovable myself to fear the dog as a rival. Besides which, the dog is a miserable looking, tiny, shaky little thing, and I am literally three times its size, so it poses no threat of physical harm to me whatsoever. At need, I can--and will--simply clobber the animal if it trespasses too far upon my good nature. But the dog is a natural foil against which my stellar qualities are shown in sharp relief, which can only benefit me in the good graces department. And so, this long and I admit apologetic exposition leads me to admit the real reason for my recent absence: over the holidays, the silly little creature hurt itself.

It was an innocuous event. The dog, attempting to imitate my fluid grace in leaping up onto the bed, tripped, fell, and hurt its back. It wasn't mortally wounded or paralyzed, just injured. My initial reaction was calm: pack it off to a rest home, so sad, life goes on. But then I saw that this had a marked negative effect upon my human. I have suspected that she was attached to the creature, but her distress at the animal's injury took me a bit by surprise. She gathered it up and whisked it off to the vet (well, better it than me) for a good dose of whatever physic they use in such cases. Inexplicably, my human then--wait for it--brought it back, and set it up in a pile of blankets.

I was disgusted at her sentimentality. Then, I began to pay attention. The house: quiet. My toys and wads of paper and catnip mice: untouched. My pillow: unwallowed-upon. At first, I enjoyed this turn of events. And then? It seemed that a little of the flavor went out of my tuna, as it were. My human was upset, the dog just lay there looking pathetic, and I found I didn't even have the heart to wallop it.

Training my human has taught me a great deal about myself. Namely, a good cat needs a life's work. I have my life's work. But a good cat cannot complete its life's work without the presence of an antagonist of some sort, because that antagonist serves as a vital scientific control.

Yes. There. I've said it, I can't take it back, and now you know everything: the dog is useful. In contrast to the dog, my human looks like a rocket scientist; by testing variables upon the human, I can compare her to what is in essence a tabula rasa (the dog--I know, it could equally apply to humans, but I am talking about the dog) and gauge my human's progress. Therefore, and it pains me to say this, the dog's recovery is necessary to my work.

And so that is how I have been occupied for several days. I have embarked upon a program of Being Nice To The Dog For A Change in the hopes that it will recover soon, and once again be of use to my work. I will not trouble you with the details. You would find them revolting. Let me just say this: the creature has gone unswatted for what seems like an eternity. I am almost pleased to report, however, that it appears to be feeling somewhat better, and therefore, I hope that my work can get back on schedule within the next few days.

And if you repeat ANY of this, I will deny it.

fig. 1: A distressing scene.


  1. WE wish you and your family a very Happy and Healthy New Year.

  2. What sacrifices we cats make for our families.

  3. Puss-Puss, the shame of admitting that burns, doesn't it? i have been in your position, friend. I know how bad it is. The human has a stupid Dogface too, although hers is much bigger. Thankfully, hers has retired (she was a working guide dog), but where i thought this would fill me with joy, all it's done is left me more work to do. Miserable humans take much more looking after than happy ones. As much as i think they are a waste of space, and more importantly, resources, they do seem to serve a purpose in the human world. Perhaps humans simply need to be reminded that although we're tough on them, it's all for a good cause so that they don't end up like the dogs. Perhaps that's all it is. Either way though, they are an annoyance that's better off not occurring. i mean, thid Dogface even whacks me with her tail! Unlike yours, mine is about three times the size of me, so you can imagine the shock it gives me when it whacks me, usually in the face. I've been reduced to hissing and cussing a fair few times, and that's simply not the lady at thing to doo. I only hope I can get my human over the current emotional hurdle of saying goodby and letting go. Then it remains simply to prevent her from going and getting another one. Wish me luck, dear friend, and don't be too kind to the dog. It'll come to expect such treatment if you're not careful.

  4. Puss-puss, my friend, I could really do with your thoughts on a training issue I've been having. Care to have a read of my latest musings and let me have your scientific opinion? I do value it, you know, as you approach your training with a seriousness I don't see all too often.

  5. Puss-Puss, it is in the deepest worry that I write to you, as you haven't been heard from in quite some time now. I can only imagine what has happened, and the idea fills me with dread. Has she decided that the stupid mutt is more important than you? Do you need me to help relocate you to a more sympathetic trainee? It can be arranged.

    Yours in concern