“Dad? Can we get a kitty?” asked the five-year-old, Hudson.
“YEAH! A KITTY!” Harding, our two ½-year-old thundered.
I don’t know what kind of parent you are, but I’m a pushover.
“Nope,” I said. One likes to pretend one is capable of resistance, but we all know where this story is heading. I looked at The Colonel and could see that we were smack-dab in the middle of a ‘family meeting.’
I was enjoying the first real stretch since I was drumming on The Road where I wasn’t festooned with cats. In olden times when The Colonel pinned me to the mat and announced we were moving in together, she came complete with three of the blighters.
I do like cats, but enough’s enough.
Several months earlier the last of the three from the ‘arrangement’, our 35 lb orange tabby, Simba, caught diabetes somewhere and handed in his food dish. Hudson understood and took it rather well, but the next week we got the news that The Colonel’s dad had diabetes, so we had some fancy explaining to explain that grandpa’s going to be fine because they have medicine that kitties don’t have. (ahem)
Now, to be clear, I loved Simba, but I also love not having to rummage through a litter box, or not vacuuming rooms three times a week that nobody uses but the cat. I love not stepping in the water dish in sock feet, or not collecting oranges all over the main floor that he’d shoveled out of the fruit bowl.
And I sure as hell don’t miss hoarse feline impersonations of Ye Towne Crier at 3:00 A.M. declaring that “ALL’S WELL!!!”
“It sounds like a rash idea,” I said pouring a flagon of my scientifically prepared Twinning’s Earl Grey. “I travel as much as ever, and I enjoy no pet hair or litter box, and let’s face it, Harding can be a little….’proactive’”.
I looked over to see him attempting to suplex his older brother. He actually did it once.
What’s a Ragdoll?!
I’ll spare the gory details of the next few minutes, but suffice to say, I got vetoed.
“Hudson and I want to get a Ragdoll,” she said.
She began a speech that had an uncomfortable flavor of prophecy to it, but the gist was that a Ragdoll is a big, fluffy, Siamese-y looking thing that goes limp when it’s picked up. We’ll see how long that lasts with Harding.
“Leo has one.” She said.
“Leo? Web guy Leo?” I asked, a little fogged. Leo had been doing some consulting for us in an attempt to fix The Gong Show that was our website.
“Leo’s wife emailed us pictures of their cat, and the breeder they got him from. The breeder didn’t have any more, but referred an excellent breeder in Regina, (my hometown). The Regina breeder has two that’ll be ready in a month, and she’ll fly one out to us.” The Colonel said with a horrifying nonchalance.
I stirred a trembling packet of Splenda into my tea. Did you catch the word ‘breeder’? We seemed to have left the realm of the affordable.
“How much?” I asked.
Modesty forbids me to get into specifics. However, when she said the price, she had to wait for my reply, as I was taking a sip when she said it, and I shot hot tea out of both nostrils.
“How can a cat possibly cost THAT much!? That’s more than my first car was worth!” I said, blinking away tears, and it wasn’t just the 2nd-degree burns in my sinus cavities.
“It’s a show cat.” She said, haughtily.
“Are you planning to show it?” I asked.
“No, but you pay for the pedigree” she sniffed.
“Are you planning to breed it?”
“No, we have to get him fixed.” She looked at me like I was a simpleton.
“Wait: we pay for pedigree, but we’re never going to breed him?”
Am I the only one seeing the flaw here?
The Colonel looked at me with her jaw set in that sideways manner of hers that always reminds me of boxers slamming their gloves together as the ring announcer introduces them.
A Philosophical Divide
Of course, people get attached to their pets, and I do too, but it boggles me how much cold hard cash people are willing to spend for the privilege.
With apologies to animal lovers everywhere: I just don’t get it.
I grew up on farms in small town Saskatchewan, and the attitude towards cats was similar to light bulbs, batteries, and Bic pens: disposable, if you get me. You always took good care of them (the cats, not the pens), you fed them, took them to the vet and so on, but there’s an understanding that things only go so far. If the dollars start flying out the door, you make excuses to the younger members of the family and a few days later; another cat steps right in.
When I was a teenager on dad’s farm, animals knew better than to get sick. They were terrified to get so much as the sniffles.
“What was that!?” Dad leapt.
“Nothing dad, the cat just cleared its throat…”
*Sigh* “Oh well, better get the shotgun…”
Oddly enough, The Colonel is from a farm too. I can’t tell you how many cats The Admiral (my mother in law) has had in the last decade…it’s almost as high of a turnover as staff at McDonald’s.
Far be it from me to dissuade someone from handing over the bullion for the sake of a beloved pet, it’s just that my personal threshold is biased towards the economical.
My Scottish ancestors would roll over in their peat bogs at the thought of spending large on a pet.
The Other Side of The Debate
A few years ago, The Colonel signed us up for a Halloween fundraiser that raised money for pets who need surgery. As minor notables in the community, we support several charities, and as parents of young boys, it’s become our de facto nights out (I wonder if we could deduct the babysitting?)
We decided that on this occasion we’d take Hudson and Harding, who were aged three years and six months respectively, and we’d make an evening out of it.
As this was a Halloween function, we were just about the only ones who didn’t dress up; even the pets were costumed, and elaborately.
Once we had been greeted by our hosts and checked our coats, we stepped into the main hall. It was nice to see that the charity didn’t blow their budget on extravagant decorations. That’s not to say that it wasn’t decorated, on the contrary, the space seemed to have enough decorations for a room twice the size. But everything was handmade, and while I’m not a connoisseur, I’d like to think that I recognize kindergarten crafts when I see them. The room was forested with construction paper chains, Bristol board cone witch’s hats, and tootsie pop and Kleenex ghosts.
Someone had gone to a lot of loving effort to decorate this place; one would think the organizers would’ve stopped them a lot sooner and save them some work.
Some attendees were streaming in now, and one could see that the homemade motif continued through the decorations into the costumes. Everyone seemed to have made their own. But where they really spared no effort was on the pets. It was very impressive.
But on closer inspection virtually all of these poor animals were either horribly scarred, or were missing some important pieces; an eye here, a leg there.
There wasn’t a complete animal in the bunch.
No disrespect intended, but it was kind of creepy, especially with them all dressed up. And why were so many dogs dressed as flowers?!
I mean, if the pooch is missing an appendage or two, why not dress him up as Frankendog, or The Terminator?
The Sinister Dinner Scene
We found our seats and discovered, to our dismay, that some madman in the kitchen had spread the love of animals to the menu, and we were to be served vegetarian fare.
Hudson asked why I was crying…
After “dinner” they had a pet costume pageant, and it was pretty grim.
Of course, these people love their pets, immensely, but watching these poor animals being dragged out of their death beds, getting stuffed into costumes they obviously hate, and being lifted onto a stage because they’re too old or crippled to get there unaided, to be paraded around begs the question “Are you doing this for the pet, or for you?”
Then Things got Twilight Zoney
Once the audience was suitably numbed by the macabre costume contest, they put on a PowerPoint presentation of sick animals, and their treatments.
Wait, was this supposed to be like a haunted house kind of thing?
“Poor Roofus got cancer of the thymus. He was such a trooper after the surgery, the chemo, the other drugs, the ointments, the doggy diapers, and the tofu and mung sprout diet, but unfortunately, he lost his brave struggle. He was only 18 years old.”
I’ll be perfectly frank: I’m listening to this and thinking, “If Roofus was 18 and needed surgery, chemo, other drugs, ointments, doggy diapers and a tofu and mung sprout diet, I’m afraid ol Roofus’d better have his affairs in order.”
Then Hudson started asking the tough questions…
“Dad! What’s wrong with that doggy?”
Our three-year-old was staring wide-eyed at a screen showing a spatchcocked dog on an operating table having something important scooped out of it.
“Um…I think he got turned inside out, son.”
“Can we teach kitty Simba to go inside out?”
“Not a bad idea, son.”
“Dad, why does that doggy have a tube in his nose?”
“Uh…I think he’s doing tricks.”
Apparently, this gave The Boy the wrong idea.
The audience was full of very emotional middle-aged pet lovers who were quietly sobbing, dabbing tears, holding hands and offering comfort to each other…and our son was standing on his chair, cheering and applauding each new horror.
“YAYYY!!! More! More!”
The Colonel and I quietly tried to discourage him, but we were convulsing too hard with suppressed laughter. It was so damn cute, and, like a fart in church, disproportionately funny due to the circumstances.
As soon as it was over, and with absolutely no warning, I got called up to ‘say a few words.’ Oh oh…this was bad; in light of Hudson’s “appreciation” for their pet’s suffering we weren’t exactly feeling the love in the room. Four hundred furious eyes, desperate for meat, swiveled to our table.
Showing great presence of mind, I scooped up baby Harding and lugged him up on stage, to tremendous “oohs, and aahs” from the crowd.
And in what was the highlight of the evening, a withered old biddy down front, who looked like a Sergeant Major crossed with an ostrich, hollered to the person on her left “Oh Gawd…I hate ventriloquist acts!”
But I digress…
Meanwhile, back at Mortgage Manor
“There are hundreds of perfectly good cats that cost nothing at the Humane Society. Let’s get one of them” I said, feeling like Bob Barker.
“We don’t want just any cat, we want a Ragdoll,” The Colonel said evenly.
She had introduced the plural.
“YEAH!” yelled Harding.
“Well, let’s get a Ragdoll from the Humane Society,” I offered.
“We’ve already picked one out!” said Hudson.
“His name is Wrinkles!” said Hudson.
“We haven’t picked a name,” The Colonel said.
“I want to name him Wrinkles.”
“You can’t see any Wrinkles; it doesn’t make sense” said The Colonel.
“But Wrinkles is a good name!” insisted Hudson.
“It’ll sound dumb when you’re older,” said The Colonel.
Hudson crossed his arms, frowned, and muttered, “Fine. Then I won’t call him anything at all I’ll just call him ‘kitty.’”
“Look, I don’t want to be the poopy-pants here, but I just can’t see spending that kind of bread on a cat,” I said, pleading for sanity.
“Not a cat, daddy, a kitty!” said Harding.
The Colonel raised a superior eyebrow. “How much is your doll collection worth?”
“Barbie is a doll. GI Joe is an action figure.” I said, and the steel had entered my voice.
“Sure it is. How much have you sunk into your collection of action dolls?”
“ACTION FIGURES!” I said.
“ACTION FINGERS!” yelled Harding.
“It’s not the same thing at all!” I protested. “My GI Joe collection is a carefully planned series of acquisitions of vintage collectibles from the 60’s and 70’s and is worth at least three times what I’ve invested so far.”
Oops. That “so far” quip was going to cost me…
“How much?” she asked.
“I suspect that you’ve already got that figure in hand,” I said, dryly.
She produced a printout from her black cloak and thumbed through it to find the total.
Okay, so the total she gave was a fair bit more than I’d estimated, and she’d even included some stuff I thought I’d snuck in under the radar. Again, modesty forbids me to name the figure, and if you knew that number you’d shoot hot drink out your nose too, but the important point I’m clinging to is that my cherished collection was worth a multiple of what I’d sunk into it.
“So, if you’re concerned about the price we paid for the kitty you can always sell your…” she referred to her sheet, “boxed Man of Action with Kung-Foo grip and life-like hair” or your “Adventure Team Training Center” to cover it.”
I think I need to have a talk with Leo.
See?! He’s evil!
Look at what she’d have me give up! LOOKIT!
(click the image to play the video)
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Another day at the office
Doing portraits for celebs like Rick Harrison from TV's Pawn Stars is nice work if you can get it. Owen's also done portraits for celebrities such as:
- Supermodel Kathy Ireland
- Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller
- "Body by Jake" Steinfeld
- The late Joan Rivers
Yup, a real grind...