Every dog needs a purpose; profound, I know, but I cannot take credit for it. My primary purpose, of course, is to make Mike and Heather happy. Frankly, I seem to be doing pretty well at this (not to say there hasn’t been a rough patch or two). Right now I’m thinking of “purpose” in more of an everyday way. More like a part-time job, something to do when I’m not eating, sleeping, playing or misbehaving in some way.
I have therefore decided that my job will be to keep elephants and cats off our block, a canine Neighborhood Watch without guns. So far, keeping elephants away has not been a problem. It’s those darn cats that pose a bigger challenge. Like English ivy and Scotch broom, there’s no way to get rid of them. We can only hope to contain them. Like those invasive weeds, cats have no purpose. As far as I can tell, anyway.
I am particularly concerned with three cats that live on my block. Beau, the Bartons’ cat, lives on our side of the street, two doors down. With the house on either side of his usually vacant, Beau has been trying to expand his territory. Not so fast, my furry friend.
The other two cats, Mittens and the Coon Cat, live across the street and down the hill a little. Mittens belongs to Sandy, who is active in Seattle’s cat rescue community. Sandy’s nice enough to me when she sees me, but I still eye her suspiciously–perhaps with good reason. And the Coon Cat, if you can believe it, lives in the same house as April, a mixed-breed dog who I see often outside our house or in the park. April’s OK, but she’s a loner, too aloof to pay me much attention. (Maybe living with a cat AND a kid have made her that way.)
So here are my duties: Early every morning (usually in the dark), then again at mid-day and once more at night, I conduct on-site surveillance of every inch of sidewalk and parking strip on both sides of our block, making sure no cats have been treading illegally on our pedestrian thoroughfares. Every once in a while I actually spy one of these cats, and if I’m lucky enough to be off leash, I’ll go tearing after it, sometimes crossing the street without looking for cars, sometimes roaring into the tree-filled backyards on our side of the block. Often I bark and yelp loudly as I run, making quite a prolonged racket. I once chased Mittens down the sidewalk from in front of Claire’s house to in front of her own, and she wound up scaring the Coon Cat, who had been lying on the sidewalk minding his own business until Mittens ran him over. This propelled the two of them into a screeching cat ruckus that in turn startled their neighbor Trudi, who had been gardening nearby with her head down until the two shrieking cats got her attention.
Whenever something like this happens, Heather (in particular) is not pleased, and I get all the blame. Not the cats, me! She gives me one of those “Chloë Tully!!!!” yells, followed by an icy cold stare or two. Funny, I’m always a Tully when I’m in Heather’s dog house.
Anyway, cat control is a time-consuming job. I used to be able to rely on my friends the Macs (Bichons MacKenzie and MacDuff) to help me out in keeping the three cats at bay. But they moved to Florida last fall, and who’s going to help me now? Gracie, the elderly Basset hound? Give me a break. Grace is my special sweetheart, but she’s not cut out for this line of work. Her purpose obviously lies elsewhere; tracking, perhaps, or just resting.
No, this responsibility is all mine, and I take it seriously. Morning and night, I require whoever is walking with me to take me all the way down to the dark five corners intersection at the far end of our block (unless it’s raining hard, of course, when it’s OK to take care of business as quickly as possible and rush back inside). I must make absolutely sure no cats are out or even imminent.
In fact, I’m taking my cat control job SO seriously that several times recently, after Mike and I returned from an afternoon walk, I took off after cats while Mike was spreading out my drying towel on the floor inside the door to the house. After the first couple of times, you would really think Mike would have caught on to my plan. Sadly for Mike, you’d be wrong.
As it is, in my own humble opinion, my multiple daily patrols and occasional quick-strike offensives are having the desired effect. While raccoons still hang around our block in the early morning (I saw one today, in fact), I haven’t spied one of those three cats around for days. And no elephants, either, come to think of it. As far as I’m concerned, the system is working.