Sunday, January 31, 2010

The day the dog stood still

Author's Note: The following was published in the Collin County Opinions section of the Jan. 31, 2010 edition of the Dallas Morning News.
In the classic movie comedy, “Ghostbusters,” the main characters explain, in terms of Biblical apocalyptic terms, the dangers of unleashing all their captured “material” upon New York City.
Mayor: What do you mean, “Biblical”?
Dr. Raymond Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes ...
Winston Zeddmore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!

For the past 10 months, the mass hysteria has finally played itself out at my Plano household. The human sacrifice has been various body parts (used as scratching polls) because our dog and cat have finally managed to live together. So to speak.
The dog, Seamus, was a rescue animal, liberated during the annual North Texas Irish Festival, but the cat, BeeGee, entered our home through the alley and then the garage, inching her way from stray to “stay.” And for a period of about 10 months, it was her castle to rule; we just lived in it at her whim. Then entered this four-legged creature which she treated like a mother-in-law or dead fish; after three days, he had outlived his welcome. It’s almost been a year and she remained perturbed that her kingdom had been invaded.
The dog is never hard to find; we just have to follow the trail of torn pillows, with stuffing strewn everywhere, chewed-up rawhide bones, and mangled slippers. It always leads to a prone animal snoozing on my wife’s bed … which is also half-eaten. Sad-eyed Seamus will glance up from the chewed wreckage of a former Cole Hahn moccasin; while my wife and I just stand there, shaking our heads. As once mentioned here before, the dog tries to eat everything (the latest example being a new plastic yo-yo when he failed to get it to “walk the cat”).
At first, the cat v. dog situation was not good; it more resembled Wrestlemania or NHRA drag racing. The dog would try to play and fetch the cat (in his mouth); the cat would reverse field and smack him against the snout with a solid Muhammed Ali-like left cross (who knew the cat was left-pawed like the rest of us in the household?). It’s better entertainment than any mixed martial arts pay-for-view showdown you can buy on cable TV.
Emergency air or ambulance sirens make no impression upon Seamus, but if just one of us is caught by him, rubbing or petting his affection competition, he launches into his best Lassie “Help, Timmy is in trouble again” barking at the top of his considerable lungs. I swear his black and white coat turns Celtic Kelly green in a pique of envy and jealousy. I thought that was reserved for jilted ex-girlfriends.
We didn’t know if this battle would become “Alien v. Predator” or “The Simpsons,” but like good animal Marines, we (and they) adapted. They’ve learned to “respect” one another’s food and territory, although the cat is still flashing her best M-G-M growl at times, the dust – and pillow stuffing – has settled for the time being.
I don’t know what the scene was like at your household on Christmas Day… but it might have been mine.
The spouse and I were in our living room, wishing we had cleaned the chimney to use our fireplace. We sat respectively in our easy chairs, watching “Law and Order” reruns, and marveling at the snow that covered our Texas-based lawn.
We simultaneously looked over to the dog and cat – just mere inches from each other, oblivious to one another, sleeping the night away. Their harmonious snoring mixed well with the smell of one of my sugar-free apple pies, baking in the oven.
My wife and I turned to each other and smile, satisfied that species d├ętente had been reached; that all shoes would remain safe.
For at least one more night.

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