Monday, January 4, 2010

Sibling Rivalry



The cat (Merriwether) and the dog (Moose) had been dancing around each other for weeks. Although initially openly hostile, Merriwether stopped hissing at the sight of Moose after a week or so (at least in front of me) and there had been no further (known) incidences of attacks by hissing.

The dog, seemingly perpetually hungry, was still trying to eat the cat’s food, usually around 2:00 a.m. when the noise of the plastic bowl nudging across the kitchen floor can have maximum impact against the backdrop of the silent, sleeping house. No big deal, and remedied by putting the cat’s bowl up onto the counter. The cat, perhaps in retaliation, had begun messing with the dog’s water bowl (perhaps to spit in it, but that’s just my theory).

After being shunned for a few days upon our return from the Christmas road trip in which the dog was a first-class traveler while the cat was under partial house arrest in the custody of the neighbors, the cat resumed his demands for attention by rubbing against my legs and trying to topple me in the kitchen. The dog had taken to standing on his hind legs with his (generally grubby) front paws on my thighs, tongue flapping around his panting.

Always vocal, Merriwether’s incessant meowing continues – more than I care to hear, but no matter how I tell him, he won’t shut up. Maybe he just wants to be acknowledged (don’t we all?). Sometimes I meow back at him and we engage in often lengthy conversations of which I have absolutely no understanding. As I wonder what I’m saying to this chatty cat, I wonder what he’s thinking, especially when he suddenly turns tail and haughtily struts away. “Oh. My. Gosh. Did the giant just say that? I have officially had enough.”


The dog, meanwhile, continues to silently follow at my heels like, well, a dog. Or a very quiet image of a dog. No place is sacred. He’s figured out how to push open the bathroom and bedroom doors, so I generally have a four-legged pest (I mean ‘pet’) demanding attention no matter what I am doing. He cuddles into my personal space to lay his head on my arm when I am typing, making it exceedingly difficult to accomplish the crafting of words (in English anyway). He’s so cute and sweet (and I admit, I love the attention), that I suffer the loss of one arm to enjoy the pleasure of his snuggling, at least until said arm is numb. Sometimes he jams his head into my armpit, though I cannot figure out why he’d want to do that.

In recent days, instead of camping out under the coffee table or the dining room table, the formerly independent Merriwether now climbs onto the couch to occupy (monopolize?) my lap or share (invade?) the cushion already occupied by Moose. In the absence of hissing and presence of willing proximity, I thought perhaps a Christmas-miracle truce had been negotiated between the two. Fantasies of the pets napping in a pile or grooming each other or frolicking together in the yard began to slip back into my head. Ah yes, a suburban American dream—a man I love who actually ‘gets’ me, his adorable little boy playing with our dog and cat in a white brick house with chocolate brown shutters.

Well, maybe someday on the pet frolicking part.

Although things seem to have moved beyond open hostility, it’s early in the pet cohabitation and there are lingering moments of angst and tension, like the shared moments at the front door threshold where they eyeball each other suspiciously before the cat flicks his tail and struts in and the dog tucks his tail and cautiously slips out. The cat has taken to sitting on the kitchen floor glaring with apparent disdain as the dog eats his food in the noisy manner adopted by young males of many species (yes, even human). From his stake-out in the kitchen, Sir Cat can monitor living room activities and catapult himself into the action should it appear that Sir Dog may be the recipient of a kind word, cookie or pat on the head. There will be no favoritism tolerated.


Despite being alternately ignored, hissed at from near and afar, swiped at by a paw equipped with lethal cat claws that have caused pulls in my new jeans and my silk pajamas, and chased off the couch and from the kitchen, the dog has not uttered a peep. Not a yap or a howl or whimper of bark of any variety has escaped his mouth in the weeks since we brought him home. Even his yawns are absent sound. And when running with the lively and vociferous four-pack of dogs at Thea and Paul’s house during the week of Christmas, Moose remained silent. We examined his throat for a scar that might explain the monk-like silence, but found nothing conclusive. Moose is, quite possibly, the perfect dog – cute, cuddly, affectionate, good and gentle and patient with Junior, semi-obedient, occasionally lively, and perpetually silent.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, upon returning from a spontaneous post-lunch day trip to Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area (because it’s close, we had time and Wade had never been), Wade, who was headed up the walk in front of me, insisted he heard the dog barking from inside the house. Of course I didn’t believe him.

Monday morning, after taking the dog outside, feeding both critters and settling on the couch with my laptop and cup of coffee, I was joined, first by Moose, then by Merriwether, who chose to ignore the entire rest of the empty couch in favor of dragging himself onto the cushion where Moose was curled up, turning his back to him, and sticking his butt in Moose’s face. Butt snub aside, it seemed so domestic. So sweet. So tranquil. My pet fantasies were taking form – two peaceful pets on the couch with me. Sure, Merriwether was still crusted with blood on his head from the latest mysterious weekend outdoor altercation, but other than that, all was lovely and well.

I turned my head away for a second, spacing out, pondering a sentence I was writing, when suddenly I heard a nasty, now familiar feline hiss, immediately followed by (nay, overlapped by) an unfamiliar and surprising bark, right before the cat shot off the couch and into the kitchen. The dog, who had suddenly, miraculously spoken, looked at me like he expected to be reprimanded. He wasn’t. I had already seen enough of the cat’s antagonizing to know he likely deserved whatever he had just gotten from Moose, who I congratulated  for standing up to the cat. I haven’t heard a sound from him since. Moose, that is. Merriwether is still meowing up a storm.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, Tammy. The way you describe those two, makes me feel like I already know them. You've got talent, sista!

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