Now that Bogie, our seven-month-old Lab pup, has made the transition from the shop to the house, the next step has been adjustment to and with Patches.
If you’ve been reading this dribble for long enough, you’ll recall that Patches is my tortoise shell calico. She’s been with me about nine years now, and came from a rough start. Her mother was killed when she was only a couple weeks old, and the litter split up to various homes. Patches never learned the instinctive play-fight behavior with her siblings, and has subsequently had trouble interacting with anyone except those persons – both of us – whom she is very close to. She tends to strike out in anxiety.
I always warn visitors of this. "Do not touch the cat," I say. "Under no conditions, ever, you have been warned, no matter how cute and purring she is, do not touch the cat!"
They rarely listen. Almost invariably they walk into the house and say, "Oh, what an adorable kitty!" reach down for her and she swats with extended claws, sometimes drawing blood. Then they look at me like I am to blame.
So you can imagine it was with some apprehension that, after Bogie had made the transition to house-dog, we introduced the two of them. Bogie stays in his kennel when we’re not home and at night, to keep him out of trouble, as well as preserve all our table and chair legs, but when we’re home we’ve been slowly extending the time he’s allowed to play around the house. He’s restricted to the kitchen, living room and my piddling room, where his kennel is. At first, everything was so cool and new and exciting he was so pumped up he was nearly uncontrollable. Over a few days, though, his surroundings became old-hat, and he was content to chew on one of his toys at my feet.
Then along came Patches. She doesn’t weigh five pounds soaking wet. He weighs nearly 50. Usually when feeling threatened, Patches escapes and hides somewhere. It’s her modus operandi.
Well, Bogie takes one look at the cat and rushes toward her in a gleeful, bounding rush of pure yellow Labrador joy.
Patches, stunned by this, arches her back and hisses…but holds her ground.
Bogie stops just short of her, tail helicoptering about 400 miles per hour. He drops forward on his front legs, behind in air, and I swear his tail was going in circles so fast his back end was levitating.
Patches had enough and like a streak of black, orange and brown lightning retreats up the stairs.
Bogie takes off after her like a rocket, and I yell, "Ah! Ah! Ah!" This is hard to spell. North of I-10, this is pronounced precisely as you see it, the proverbial "Ah-ha!" sound. But down here, it takes on the same sound as the –in at the end of "boudin". That sound is impossible to spell, too, because it certainly is not spelled "-in" but you get the idea. This is Bogie’s signal to stop whatever he’s doing and pay attention to me for further instruction. He obeys it roughly 80 percent of the time, and did so then, stopping at the first stair-step and going no farther.
Well, they’ve had chance meetings now and then ever since, and remarkably, Patches has grown braver and braver and suddenly it occurred to us that she is actually interacting with the pup. We were, suffice it to say, stunned.
She won’t flee anymore, but she’ll get in a defensive posture and watch him closely as he’s doing the puppy-play, behind-in-the-air, tail-spinning-out-of-control thing. Once, he got too enthusiastic and she swiped a machine-gun swat on his nose. It happened like rat-a-tat-tat! Bogie stepped back and shook his head about four times, not knowing exactly what had just happened, but sure it stung pretty good. We have learned that when Patches hisses, she’s feeling threatened or cornered, and intervene, but those times are getting fewer.
That didn’t phase him though, and now they’re kinda playing chase. I won’t let him tear through the house, he has to walk briskly at best. I slow him down by saying, "Ah! Ah! Ah!" But she’ll run him around the chair a few times, and it’s hilarious. It’s like in the cartoons. Somebody, upon hearing me describe it, said it’s like Garfield and Odie, but Bogie’s much smarter, so Patches is a bit more challenged than Garfield is!
We figure that in a few months they’ll be cuddling up together for naps. I promise you, if anyone would have told me Patches would have behaved like this, I’d have called them a dang liar.
We worry, though, about when we’re not home and Bogie is confined to his kennel. Does Patches go and perch just behind the kennel, out of reach, and taunt him? I wouldn’t put it past her. I can just hear her, if dogs and cats have a common language of some sort:
"Hey, yeller boy," she says. "How you like living in a cage when I got the run of the house?"
"Wanna play? Huh? Come on! Let’s play (slobber, slobber, slobber) we can play chase we can play tag we can play run-circles!"
"Ha! Me? Play with YOU? I am the queen here, and don’t forget it, peasant. I can walk on the kitchen cabinets, and they don’t know it. I can sleep on the top of the television, you think they got a clue? You? You knock over floor lamps and easy chairs with that tree-stump you call a tail. You’re a knave, yeller."
"Hey! Let’s play fetch! Let’s go roll in the mud, it smells good! Let’s chew on a bone! Let’s drag the bed out of the kennel and chew on it!"
"Simpleton," Patches replies. "House-dog."
"Got a treat?" Bogie asks, hopeful.
"Go chase the fridge, Einstein," Patches says and goes take a nap.
Bogie is, of course, very, very intelligent, as almost all Labs are, he’s just an exuberant puppy and kinda wowed by the feline co-habitant of the house.
The funny thing is, I was sitting on the foot of the bed the other day, and Bogie was asleep in his kennel after a long day of romping. Patches came up to me to jump in my lap, but she’s forbidden to get on the bed.
To stop her, I said, "Ah! Ah! Ah!" and she spun around, wide-eyed, looking left and right, tail straight up and bristled. It took me a few seconds to realize she was looking for Bogie, having now associated that sound with the pup chasing or harassing her.
"You ain’t as smart as you think you are, are you, old girl?" I say, laughing. Embarrassed, she pretends to study a speck on the floor as if, "I meant to do that."
Unfortunately, the 14-year-old black lab, Daisy, just won’t warm up to the pup. I think that she figures, at her age, she shouldn’t have to put up with that foolishness, all that jumping around and tail-helicoptering. Dangdest thing is, if we’d have guessed which one Bogie would have buddied-up with, Patches or Daisy, our money sure woulda been on Daisy, not the psychotic kitty.
My only fear is that one day, Suzie and I will come home and find the locks changed. We’ll peer through the windows and find the dog and cat on the sofa, watching the tube. Patches is working the remote, of course, because Bogie’s drinking my beer. George Orwell would be mortified.