At least the cat remains upright

July 13, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND


It's hard being a cat. You have to walk this fine line between disinterested dignity on one hand and, on the other, letting everyone know exactly what's on your mind.

Take the case of Colonel Sanders who, in the space of 30 seconds this week, went from being sound asleep on a file cabinet to being locked in a cage on his way to the vet.

Apparently this was a date the colonel had neglected to mark on his calendar, because he was caught entirely off-guard, which was kind of the point.


With the clean, ruthless efficiency of a hostage-taking, I had him in the truck before he was able to clear the cobwebs.

For an animal that regards himself in the same exclusive company as the Sacred Cat of Sekhmet, this was too much. What appeared to put him over the top was the fact that the dog named Jake Biscuit was taking such obscene, tail-wagging pleasure in seeing the cat laid low.

Jake, the dog with the brain made up of gossamer and Tinkertoys, is always two or three steps behind the cat, and is always falling into the colonel's traps - like falling asleep under a chair, unaware that there's a cat atop, lying in wait of the first snore to give him a good round bat in the chops, just on general principles.

But this is not a hard dog to fool. It's taken him five years to conclude that rabbits, as a breed, are faster than he is and to develop an alternative strategy. Two weeks ago, some ancient instinct in the dog took over, and when he spied a rabbit, Jake stretched himself out and raised his left paw in a classic "point."

So low are my expectations at this stage, that I heaped praise on him for successfully completing a basic maneuver that most normal dogs have successfully performed since they were pups.

If he'd stopped there, he'd have been fine. But he took the applause as reason to increase the performance, and raised a second paw in the air. This might - I doubt it, but it might - have worked, had he raised his fore port paw and the aft starboard paw. As it was, however, both ports, front and rear, went airborne.

It's funny how in the space of about three- quarters of a second, you can see a million things happening.

The first was the flash of illumination across the animal's face that "something's wrong." And then, "but what?"

Given the material she had to work with, it was about all we could have expected of the trainer to hammer "sit," "come" and "fetch" into his tiny little brain. There was simply no time left in the course to explain to him the fundamental laws of gravity and elemental physics.

The proposition that he would probably be OK if he would only return one of his two skyward paws to earth apparently never formed a blip on his mental radar screen.

As he felt his equilibrium slipping away, he did what he always does when he's in a tight place. He cast one fleeting, over-the-shoulder glance back at me in a silent, pathetic plea for assistance. Of course, there was nothing I could do but watch as he ingloriously toppled over on his side, like a bicyclist who has forgotten to loosen his toe straps.

So obviously, this is not an animal that the cat likes to see gain the upper hand. Colonel Sanders, of course, couldn't say anything in front of the dog for fear of showing his discomfort, but once we got in the truck, he let me have it with both barrels in a barrage of yowling cat-profanity that fogged the glass.

That lasted all the way to the vet, where he immediately composed himself. He would never break decorum by showing agitation in front of strangers. He yawned through his exam and accepted his shots with disinterest, never once showing weakness in the face of the enemy or letting on in any way that he was not entirely in control of the situation.

When they expertly brushed the knots out of his flowing, white fur, he extended regally to his full length, as if he considered this to be the deserved treatment of kings such as himself.

Kept it together perfectly. Until we got back in the truck, at which point he resumed his ear-splitting howls all the way home. Back home in front of the dog, he flipped the switch again, calm as ever, casually sniffing the perimeter just to make sure no one had switched houses in his absence.

It all left me a bit nonplused. You expect humans to be two-faced, but a cat? Well, there's nothing to be done, I suppose. With critters, you take what you get. At least there's some comfort in knowing that he has never once tipped over.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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