January 13, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen

Pets are an amazing concept that Mankind has developed. Having a special relationship with a different species is unique to mankind. I don't think there is another species that will actively care for another critter. Every now and then there are newspaper stories about a hen raising a duck or perhaps a cat raising a hamster, but those things usually happen with some coaxing from humans. Humans seem to have a real need to relate to lower forms of life. We are just not happy eating almost anything that moves, we choose some critters to hold as dear as family.

Indeed, many people spoil their pets shamelessly. Pet stores are full of items that are solely for spoiling a cat or dog. My wife, Snow White, once dragged me to a dog bakery in Minneapolis that made all kinds of gourmet treats for dogs. Dog owners would come with the pet dog and buy Rover a treat while they had a cup of Espresso. Most of the dogs had custom jackets, since it was a cold Fall day. I couldn't believe how well groomed all the dogs were. No doubt this crowd took their pets to a doggy parlor at least once a week. Then there was that one exception to all those high fashion dogs - Snort the Wonder Dog from Hell. Our Shjih Tzu looks more like a discarded mop then a prize show dog. I felt like one of the Beverly Hillbillies holding on to my mutt. Snort did not think much of those gourmet all natural treats. A good steak bone was much more preferable to a brown rice bagel. However, in this upscale doggy bakery it was obvious it catered only to the vegetarian crowd.

The one thing I have missed in our household is having a cat. There is nothing like a big fat mellow cat sitting on your lap. Cats are so clean. Cats are so independent when they need to be. Cats are much harder to fool. Best of all, cats don't smell. For a long time I have wished we could have a cat.

The trouble with wishes are they sometimes come true. My wish sure did. Just before Thanksgiving, during the MEA break, we decided to take a small mini-vacation down to Chicago. The kidlets had never seen the Windy City and I thought it was time for them to experience the wonders and the ills of urban civilization. As far as the wonders go you can't beat the Museum of Science and Industry. I think I could stay there a week. All the trains, planes and machines are so fun to explore. The U-boat is to die for. Chicago must have been an incredible town at the beginning of the last century. They built so many wonderful museums. All those granite columns and Greek architecture would cost so much today that it is easy to see why nothing comparable has been built in my lifetime.

At the Super 8 we stayed at there was a cat, which hung out by the side entrance we used to get to our budget suite. It was mostly white with patches of black, brown and tan. Chicago was living up to its nickname and it was very cold and windy. We all felt sorry for the poor kitty and would bring back scraps from our meals. We could see that a few hotel patrons had left cans of cat food out for the poor critter.

Being soft Minnesotans we could not think of leaving this poor friendly cat to face the coming winter weather. So on the last night we stayed in Chicago we grabbed the cat and brought it in to stay in our room. The cat was so thankful. He purred constantly and would rub his face on us all the time. Oh, how it enjoyed having real cat food.

In the morning we packed out bags and carefully took the cat to our car. In honor of our trip to Chicago we named our new family member "Chicago." For the entire 500-mile drive the cat behaved wonderfully. It did not howl or make a nuisance of itself. We could not believe what a wonderful pet we had found for ourselves. Thank you Mayor Daily.

Then we got home to our beloved red house. We introduced our new pet to the old. Snort was not amused. She did not attack the new family member, but a few growls told kitty that she was Queen of the floor.

Now that our Chicago orphan had a house and home to keep it in comfort an amazing transformation took place. No more purring and rubbing. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Chicago decided to show his real personality and it is very much like the Windy City. Chicago doesn't like to be picked up. Chicago doesn't like petting. Chicago doesn't like any touching at all. If you try you usually get a quick bite. Sometimes she will try and claw you with both front paws. Luckily, for us his previous owners declawed him. Old habits die hard and Chicago loves to leap up and try and rip you apart. It usually ends with the cat falling to the floor with a new amazed look on his face that you have not been ripped a part.

It was easy to see why Chicago was an orphan. It is hard to love a cat that wants to eat you. We figure the cat must have been the pet of a Chicago gangster who taught the cat to play for keeps. Either that or the cat was a mascot to some Southside gang.

Our plan is to smother the cat in affection and attention. It has not taken Chicago long to figure out Snort's best racket - begging for table scraps. With the holiday season behind us the cat has been spoiled with Leg of Lamb, Shrimp, Prime Rib and Ham. He has, also, discovered that taking over the bed at night is easy to do. My wife ends up on the short end of the deal as she is too kind to push the cat to the side. I, being the Alpha Male, don't let no cat take any of my bed! Snort won't share her large bed, either.

The kidlets keep trying to pet the cat. Sometimes they will wear mittens to do it. The cat's teeth are not long enough to make it through polar fleece.

As to whether we can kill the cat with kindness remains to be seen. Chicago seems to have a strong sense of purpose. I do see a few signs of enjoying some attention, but it will take a lot of Minnesota nice to get this cat to lay down its arms. One thing Chicago better realize is that it is only nine more months until the next MEA break and we can always take him back to the Super 8.


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