Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We are the weirdest herd I've ever seen

Sid from “Ice Age”: 'I don’t know about you guys, but we are the weirdest herd I have ever seen.'

We have, undoubtedly, the weirdest herd on our block. While our neighbors go out walking their cute little shih tzu puppies, we walk our big galoot of a dog. Followed by Todd, who ambles after her, followed by the cats.

No kidding. The cats think that they are part of the parade, although they try to be aloof. They keep a safe distance away, lest anyone think that they are trying to be ‘with’ us.

Cars slow down when they approach our little procession, unsure of how to drive through. One cat will sit in the middle of the road and stare, while the other one takes a dive to the side of the road that the dog, baby, and I are NOT on…all I can do is shrug and smile!

Sparta, the youngest cat, will even follow us when we take a walk around the big block. He always keeps his distance, with this “Oh! Are you taking a walk right now, too? What a coincidence!” look on his face.

When the family is in the back yard, the animals are never far away. We throw the ball for Lady, and Sparta has to run alongside her, batting at her as she runs. When she tires and goes to lay in the shade, he lies in wait for Boo, the older cat. (Who, incidentally, is not amused by his kittenish behavior!) It will be peaceful and relaxing, suddenly shattered by the sound of a catfight breaking out as Sparta attacks Boo.

I used to work from home, and it was me, Toddy as a baby, and the ‘herd’. While Todd slept in his carseat, I worked at the computer…with Lady at my feet and the cats sleeping across the desk or looking out the window. If I went to the bathroom, everyone had to come with me…which can be a bit disconcerting if you are working on something important in there! More than once, I told them, “In some cultures, this is considered a PRIVATE room!”

I can’t cook in the kitchen without supervision, and Lady’s favorite spot to lay is on the rug in front of the sink. Not really convenient for me! She claims it so often that Todd calls it “Lady’s bed”.

When they are not following us around, the cats are often found at either side of the driveway, just waiting for someone to come home, like fluffy gargoyles amid the shrubs. One day, I pulled in and was listening to a discussion on the radio. I sat in the car to hear the end of the conversation, and apparently, this was unacceptable to Boo. She perched herself on the windshield and stared in at me, trying to figure out why in the world I was not getting out of the car. Sparta just climbs in as soon as the door is opened, to inspect the interior of the car. We suspect that someday, we’ll get a call from someone who inadvertently took him home!

We have our little routines. I usually get up about 7AM, in time to see the big boys off to school. The animals know that is when they get their daily ration of wet food – a major event in our house. If I’m not up by 7:30 or so, they lay outside my bedroom door and listen for signs of life. If they hear me move around…or an alarm go off…there is whining, meowing, scratching, and then a THUMP as Lady tries to head-butt the door open.

If they don’t hear me in a reasonable period of time, Lady bumps open Todd’s door (which has a hair-trigger latch), and they invade his room. Lady makes enough noise opening the door, followed by Sparta kneading Todd with his claws – and the subsequent screaming by Todd – that wakes me up as I hear it over the baby monitor. And I get up. Mission accomplished!

They have us trained well, I must say. The cats demand food at irregular intervals, which leaves Tux screaming, “But I JUST fed you!” When I remind him for the hundredth time today that his cats are hungry. Lady loves this, because she’s a glutton and hovers over the cats, encouraging them to eat sparingly so that there is something left for her to eat. (Not that she doesn’t get her own food, she’s well fed, I assure you!) If you don’t feed Sparta at his insistence, he will simply tear into a bag of cat food and feed himself. And the dog, who follows behind him and stuffs her head into the bag.

We actually got Sparta for Todd, when he was a baby. Boo is not a cuddly kitty, especially with children. She very rarely graces Tux or me with her lovin’, but we are not to love her unless she initiates it. So Hubby decided that we needed a sweet kitty for Toddy to grow up with.

He didn’t take into account the fact that Sparta is a wild cat mix, with ocelot in his blood. He was the sweetest little face, fluffy ball of fur that you ever saw. And then he would scratch you.

We worried about Lady or Todd hurting him, he was so tiny. We were always yelling, “Lady, no kitty!” Until we realized that he was actively seeking her out and tearing into her nose. Then we started to yell, “Sparta! No doggy!” Toddy would grab two handfuls of kitty, mindless of what parts he was grabbing. We needn’t have worried; Sparta inflicted at least as much injury on Todd as Todd did to him.

Two years later, they are best of buds. One of their games at Christmas time involved Sparta crawling up the Christmas tree and peeking out from among the branches. He would bat at Todd (or anyone else) who ventured near the tree.

“Mom!” Sparta is in the tree laughing at me!” Toddy told me.

“How do you know that he’s laughing at you?” I asked.

Todd looked at me like I was stupid. “His mouf is open!”

All clear the way when the herd goes by—for your own protection and sanity!

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