March 22, 2014
Over the last year since the dog and cat came to live with me, we have developed an odd, but serviceable working relationship. They grew up together and were even friends; now, both are old and wary – the friendship tattered by their individual needs. The dog, crippled by hip dysplasia, lumbers around the house in a tottering gait or, for short distances, drags herself along by her front legs. The cat, though a year older, is still relatively lithe and limber. I am old, but neither (quite) so lumbering and disabled as the dog, nor as lithe and limber as the cat.
Early in the year that they have lived here with me, the dog, who is a large Boxer, made the mistake of lumbering into the cat and nearly squashing her. In retaliation, the cat hissed and spit and delivered a pretty good scratch to the dog’s nose. Since that time, they have developed a rather fragile dance of detente in which they avoid each other when they can. When they cannot, the dog raises up on her front legs and looks as big and bad as she can – to remind the cat, I suppose, that she survives only at the mercy of the dog. The cat hisses and rushes past the dog as fast as she can then, knowing she is faster and more lithe, sits down behind the dog – just out of reach – and grooms herself until the dog, deciding she is not a current threat, relaxes and goes back to sleep.
If that were the end of it, I would not be telling this tale, but as the dog has declined in her ability to get around, I have had to give her a good deal more attention than I do the cat. This doesn’t sit well with the cat, as she was my only charge for the few months before the dog came back.
The route from my living room to the back door is a narrow, carpeted hallway about thirty feet long. Since I have to accompany the dog to the back door (and since neither the dog nor I are exactly light on our feet,) the cat has taken to sprawling across the hallway in such a manner as to assure neither the dog nor I can get through without my stopping to shoo her out of the way. If this tactic is thwarted, she will wait until I prop open the back door for the dog, then sprint out ahead of her, lie down on the top step and roll around with joy until I pick her up and close her in the bathroom while the dog gets out the door.
The cat has also appropriated the dog’s water bowl. She ignores her own bowl of fresh water, to drink from the dog’s bowl and then lies down in front of it as if daring the dog to challenge her.
The dog, not above a little passive aggression of her own, will whine until I look up and realize the cat is misbehaving and get up to shoo her away.
And if I don’t attend to either of their needs in a timely enough fashion, they poop on my floor.
Nor am I above manipulating the situation. I lavish the cat with extra attention when she’s behaving appropriately (or at least not behaving like a cat) and encourage the dog to just go get her water. If the cat waits until the dog is out the back door, rather than charging ahead, I let her go out, too. I ignore their complaints against one another when I can, in order to steal more time for myself. And thus, I get my own needs met and kid myself that I am the master of my domain.
The truth is, we are all three old and set in our ways. We need what we need, want what we want and are not above manipulating the others to get it, though none of us gets our way all the time. And therein lays the danger of this delicate dance. We are all three old enough, unsteady enough and dependent on one another enough that one misstep could send us all crashing on top of each other in an orgy of broken bones or worse, with no one left to claim winner’s rights.
And, if this sad tale has reminded you of certain ongoing events between the Empire, the EU and the Russians in the news over the last few months, I will leave it to you, dear reader, to figure out who is the old woman, who is the disabled dog and who is the passive aggressive cat – because they are all old enough, fragile enough and dependent on each other enough that if they make that one misstep, we will all go crashing on top of one another and there will be no one left in the aftermath to claim winner’s rights from among those broken bones, either.