Ah, pets. What would we do without them?
I have two cats, Alpha and Beta. Alpha's getting up in years, so she moves slow and is non-obtrusive. Beta is in the prime of life. She's an ugly shorthaird rescue cat who lurks in my bedroom, waits for any sign of life from me in the morning, and leaps on me to be petted.
If you've ever had a cat, chances are you've experienced something like this.
EXHIBIT A: BETA
Saturday morning, I stirred just a little to get more comfortable just as morning gilded the skies. Beta pounced. Woke me from a justly deserved sleep-in. Woke Mr. Johnson too.
I said to Mr. Johnson, "I am so sick of this cat. We never asked for her, she just moved in. I am so tired of her waking me up every morning."
And with that, I shoved Beta off the bed rather more brusquely than usual.
Undaunted, she came leaping right back, demanding her massage. (She never tips.)
I said to Mr. Johnson, "If this cat just disappeared, I think I could live with it."
Later in the day, my daughter The Spare got into one of her rough-up-the-cat moods. To me, this was the only reason we adopted Beta. Alpha was getting too delicate for rough-up-the-cat.
Spare asked if she could rough up the cat. I said, "Go ahead, she's been waking me up. It's so annoying."
(For the record, rough-up-the-cat is not a violent, sadistic sport, but rather an over-enthusiastic teenaged "kissy kissy.")
So I heard all this kissy-kissy coming from the bedroom. And some "booga booga booga." And some "sweet lil' kitty kitty kitty." And I thought, "Beta has it coming to her."
That was Saturday. On Sunday morning, I woke up, and Beta did not pester me. I went downstairs for a cup of tea, and only Alpha greeted me. A quick check of the cat food indicated that Beta hadn't been chowing overnight. It was in the low 20s outside.
On the pretext of getting the newspaper, I went outside. If Beta had been out all night, just that much activity would have rousted her. No Beta.
An hour passed. Alpha hates Beta, but Alpha gets a little anxious when Beta's not around. I was starting to get anxious too. No Beta on a Sunday morning? Where could she be?
By and by I heard footsteps on the second floor. It was the Spare, headed straight for Facebook. I climbed the stairs and said to her, "Have you seen Beta?" And the Spare answered, "She's in my bedroom, sacked out in the clothes."
Sure enough, there was Beta, half asleep in that mess of girly stuff that every teenage room sports to the plimsol line.
I leaned down and examined her. Could the rough-up-the-cat have gone too far? Her eyes were half shut. She didn't purr when I petted her. Only after prodding did she get up and go downstairs. She ate. Then she disappeared again. A few hours later, I found her sunning herself on the back porch.
I gave her a massage. She purred. She was fine.
If you ask me what is most wacky about our species, I would say it's the relationship we have with our pets. We are not the only species that keeps pets. Race horses often perform better if they have a cat or goat in their stalls. Mother cats will raise baby rats. Dogs will parent ducklings. But we as humans stand alone in our consideration of pets as sacred.
One morning I'm heaping derision on my cat. The next morning I'm seeking her, anxious for her safety.
Convince me that I'm the only person who acts this way, and I'll give you my house.
Tomorrow we will explore the dark side of this pet paradox. It ain't always pretty, folks.