Friday, May 4, 2007

Sally's rough life

We dropped a bomb on our cats when we brought Sally home.

The three of them had worked out very intricate plans and schedules before she arrived. Maggie ruled the bedroom, Rita -- the couch and Alice -- the outdoors. Whenever a human wandered into their given area they were the first to get attention. No one was allowed to sleep anywhere but their designated area -- unless the proprietor was already in the prime sleeping space. They had similar rules for food. Dry food was free game -- but the one can of wet food a night had strict rules. If it was beef, Rita got to eat first; if it was turkey, Alice (which fits if you've met Alice); and on fish or mixed grill nights Maggie got first bite.
Then, and only then, could the other two eat. And any human food given had to be divided evenly. Only if it was left on the floor for a certain length of time could it be poached. None of these rules were breakable and would result in a cat fight if tested. They could not have been clearer if one of the cats had typed them out, laminated them and hung them on the wall. Sally ruined all that.

Sally sleeps anywhere she wants -- usually taking up the most space her 44 pound body is able to. She will eat anything, even if someone else is already eating it. And if the cat food looks good she has no problem pretending it's actually just a very wussy looking dog on the label. She does not speak the cats' language -- and probably tear up the rules sheet if it were presented to her.

At first the cats dealt with Sally's disruption by pretending it wasn't happening. They would disappear whenever she was around -- and then revert to the aforementioned rules when she left the house. But, now, they are taking back their territory.

"Attica! Attica!"

It started, surprisingly, with Maggie. She was not about to cede what she considered as her bed. At firsst she would nose in on the opposite side of Sally, trying to steal my attention from the dog. Then she got bolder, actually stepping on Sally's head in order to push her nose under my head to get strokes. Alice was next to join the onslaught -- chasing Sally off the porch and pouncing on her as she lay in the grass chewing whatever treasure she had stolen in the house. Rita finalized the coup in a very simple way. She just won't get off the couch. If Sally is in the front part of the house, Rita is at her post. Only when Sally leaves, or is torturing Maggie in the bedroom does Rita get up to eat or stretch or use the cat box. Other than that Rita is a sentinel. And all three have banded together to save their cat food. Now they crowd around the bowl together, trading off turns quickly so not to allow Sally an entrance. She is stuck licking any crusty remains they may leave for her.

Sally has taken to the cats change in behavior with an increased wariness. She never looks directly at them any more -- she just stares out of them out of the corner of her eye. When one approaches -- especially Alice -- she stiffens and waits for him to pass, like she's hoping he won't see her if she's perfectly still. It's like she's confused a small cat with a T. Rex.

As if dealing with the cats isn't bad enough -- Ryan has begun firing Sally with regularity. It started last week when he realized that part of his new job was going to involve personnel issues. That made him think of the fact that as his career goes on he might actually have to fire someone. This idea petrified my gentle husband. At first I offered to be his hatchet man -- and do all his firings until he was comfortable with it -- or monkeybots ruled the world -- whichever came first. But, then we realized that would kind of be like having your Mom fight for you in fourth grade, so we came up with an alternate plan, practicing on Sally. So, over the past ten days Sally has been dismissed for a number of reasons: sleeping on the job, tardiness, bad attitude and butt sniffing. Each time she is rehired, only to have the axe fall again. The last time it happened she looked at Ryan and me as if to say "this really isn't as funny as you think it is" before laying back down and going to sleep.

I'm just glad we don't have kids yet. I think being constantly fired by your father might be seriously scarring. Of course, my father fired me once -- but that's a story for another day... Maybe Father's Day.