Reigning Cats and Dogs

  Jerome Shea       June 8, 2009      Weekend Wonk

Chuppie gave us a scare this week. He disappeared for a couple of days and reappeared much the worse for wear. More on Chup in a bit, but that’s what got me thinking about our pets.

And we’ve had a slew of them over the years. I will have to skip over all the guinea pigs, the tarantula (ugh), Dan’s horned toad, the parakeets (“What made you think I’d want parakeets, Dad?” said our daughter. I was crushed. Still am.) Anyway, they are all Sasa now. We do still have inside and outside fish. I just made the goldfish pond presentable again for the summer, got the pump and fountain running, bought some water hyacinths. The goldfish—not fancies, just the kind you win at the carnival—did fine as usual under the ice all winter.

Dogs, of course, are the All American pets, and we have had two over the years. Hilda was a little pug-nosed black and white mop of a dog and I’m not sure that the kids are old enough to remember her. She may have been dognapped out of the driveway—I’m sure that’s what happened—even before they were born. Wherever you ended up, Hilda, I hope you had a good life. The one the kids grew up with was Moxie the Wonderdog, the most non-descript short-haired little tan dog that you can imagine, a true generic mutt. About 15 pounds, tops, she was never completely housebroken and certainly not leash-broken. She would come back from a walk gagging and rasping but ever so happy. She used to travel cross country with us on summer vacations. She was run over once and survived a long recuperation, trotting around nonchalantly with metal rods sticking out through her back. She survived coronavirus, which is only slightly less lethal than parvovirus. She would have given her life for us. In a way, I guess she did. She gave us close to two generous decades before we realized it a kindness to have her put down.

And cats. Diana and I have had cats ever since we were married. In fact, our first cat, Gratuitous Good, had a litter on our wedding night and it was all downhill, or uphill depending on your perspective, from there. Again, I will skip over Hortense, Hercule (we were Agatha Christie fans), Woodie, Hermione, and the rest, felines of bygone days. Some were taken by marauding dog packs when we lived in Albuquerque’s South Valley, some were betrayed by their own bodies (Hermione died on the way to the vet; we think Dan, a toddler, was none the wiser at the time), some lucky ones died peacefully of old age. Today we have three: Lamborghini, Cobweb, and Chuppie. Lamborghini and Cobweb we got from the pound to help our daughter survive her teen years. A short time later Chup showed up.

Lamborghini is mostly Siamese and has the characteristics of the breed: aloof, mincing, reclusive. Except when she is purring up a storm and slinking around the mattress when you are trying to sleep, she is a cat that specializes in being not there. I called her Lambo for a long time, but Borghi is the name that stuck. When I see Borghi sidling through the house like a shadow, I think “catty.” Can’t help it.

There is this wonderful cartoon showing a blissfully happy, supine dog with a genie floating over him. The genie is saying, “Now this is your third wish. Are you SURE you just want another belly rub?” That’s Cobbie. She will drop and roll right in front of you, with begging in her eyes. We think she is mostly Maine coon, a long-haired lump of mottled tan and gray, and fat enough to hire out as a doorstop. And talk? Lordy, she yammers on all the livelong day!

And then there’s the Chupster. Shortly after we got Borghi and Cobbie, this scrawny yellow/orange piece of work simply showed up at the back door one summer evening, ripped the screen open, and sauntered in. He lit a cigarette, sized the place up, and decided that we were his lucky new owners (or “staff,” as they say about cats). He is what my mother would have called a skinnamarink. I doubt he weighs over seven pounds sopping wet (a condition I emphatically don’t recommend). To see Cobbie cowering in front of Chup is to imagine a jockey intimidating a sumo wrestler, and yet it never fails. He has a cauliflower ear and a broken-off fang. He bites. He catches, kills, and eats things. He jumps up on the kitchen counter to supervise breakfast and dinner.

Well, he went AWOL a couple of days ago. We expected the worst, but he turned up at the back door, moving very slowly and gingerly and just wanting to be left alone. So we left him alone and hoped for the best for a couple of anxious days. Then this morning around three I was shot bolt awake by the most god-awful strangulated yowling this side of The Exorcist and something got barfed up onto our bedroom floor. You do not want to know what it was, and if I never hear that chthonic yowl again it will be too soon.

When we got to the kitchen for breakfast, there was Chup on the counter in fine fettle and full truculence (“Hey, what’re you lookin’ at?” ). So Chup’s back. I guess that’s a good thing.

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