Animal Kingdom

October 13, 2008

You may or may not know this, but George and I live in a gentrified ghetto. The area’s last hurrah probably passed around the time of the Truman administration, and now it’s mostly illegal Polish and Colombian immigrants. And us. The area is pretty cheap, and relatively safe. So we tolerate.

Another thing you may or may not know, I’m not a girlie girl. I can work power tools, assemble Ikea furniture, paint, spackle, change the oil and brakes on my car, fix a flat tire, and go to the movies by myself. The second I see a big bug in my house, however, I scream bloody murder. It’s not fear, per se, just a debilitating disgust. I also can’t kill anything.

A few months ago a roach attacked me in the bathroom. George will say I am exaggerating, but I swear to you, the fucker chased me out. We called the super, who said she’ll have an exterminator come by. I politely declined-I’m quite leery of the chemicals they use. So we got some roach motels which seemed to curb the problem. The “water bugs” moved on to someone else’s bathroom.

We were pest-free for a few months, until one late sunday night. We were watching a movie when I thought I heard some chirping coming from under the floor (we’re on the ground floor, hardwood floor, no basement). Naturally, I was freaked, but George again cited my paranoia, and said it must have been from the movie. Lo and behold, another movie was abruptly interrupted several days later, when a cute little mouse casually sashayed from one end of the living room to the other. My paranoia was quickly forgotten when George found his buddy in the trash a few hours later. Noises were heard in the middle of the night, and mouse poop would magically appear in random spots all over the kitchen every morning. Gross, right? I got tired of bleaching the counter every day. One night I got up to get a glass of water, and found a little bastard on a cookie sheet on top of the oven, apparently enjoying the view-or scouting for leftovers. He ran and hid somewhere. I think I woke up the neighbors with my girlie shrieks. George named him Misho and set up “detection devices” to warn us of any approaching critters. I took a trip to Home Depot to look for traps that don’t kill.

We brainstormed, and decided to borrow a cat from someone to psych the mice out. We needed an indoor kitty that was relatively active, and none of the cats available seemed a good fit. So a few weeks passed while we tried to figure something out.

I was late for work one morning, and was in somewhat of a frantic rush. I had to stop by my sister’s house before work, as well, so I was focused. As I was getting into the car, I thought I heard something meowing, but figured it was just my tired imagination, or child (the parking is next to a daycare). Imagine my surprise when, half an hour and 30 miles on the Turnpike later, after I cut the engine in my sister’s driveway, I heard the same meowing coming from somewhere in the car. I lost it. Really. I ran into the house half in tears, my sister trying to decode what I was trying to tell her.

She came out with me and after careful examination determined it was coming from under the hood. We decided that she would be the one to open it because she’d recently had a tetanus shot. I had no idea what it was, or if it was alive or not. I sat on the side, my butt cheeks clenched in anticipation. My sister opened the hood, and inside, on top of the suspension, behind the battery, was a tiny orange kitten. Before either of us could figure out whether it was ok or not, the thing sprang up, crawled up the windshield, jumped off the car, and ran into the neighbors’ bushy back yard.

After bribing the tiny thing with chicken sausage and chasing him across three back yards, we caught it. It was so small, it fit in my palm. He had motor oil all over him, he was missing fur in some spots, he was filthy and shell shocked.  He seemed okay, ate a whole chicken sausage, and went to sleep on my sister’s couch on the porch.

I called George and tried to tell him what had happened, but I was so excited I cut the call by accident. After a short conversation a little later I decided to take him home. We weren’t sure if we were going to keep him, but after the first night figured it was just what we’ve been looking for. Two months later, and no mice, no bugs. His name is either Darwin, Malinski, Otto, Artie, or Rufus, depending on what day it is. Usually though, he’s just Kitty. He’s getting bigger by the day, loves to play in the middle of the night, and has the softest fur ever.

And that is how two dog people ended up with a cat.

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