Sunday, June 15, 2008

the cat house

It's 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, and my hands are shaking. No, it's not from too much coffee, and I wish I'd just spent a leisurely hour or so reading the paper and sipping a cup or two of french roast. On the other hand, who wouldn't want to jump up from their newspaper and coffee to chase after two insane dogs hell bent on getting to their favorite destination?

It all started months ago, and without any warning whatsoever. Abbie and Cooper pulled one of their great escapes (I can't remember now whether we were walking them and they got away from us, or if they simply barged slipped out the door). Anyway, for some reason, instead of just running around the neighbors' yards in a merry game of "can't catch me", and ignoring the come! and here! commands, they took off together, running in a straight line down the street at top speed (which is roughly about 50 mph).

They seemed to be on a mission, and knew exactly where they were going. We, however, had no clue where they were headed, just that they were flying down the street like the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed. They were headed toward the busiest street in the neighborhood, merely two blocks from our house. Knowing this dynamic duo can cover two city blocks in just under 15 seconds, my heart leapt straight into my throat and threatened to choke me. I took off after them, my top speed being roughly 3 mph. Two of my neighbors (who are considerably fitter and faster than I am) saw them blow past and joined in the chase.

We found them in the backyard of a house about half a block from the busy street, hurriedly cleaning up the last of quite a few bowls of cat food set haphazardly around the unfenced backyard.

I was totally baffled how they could have possibly figured out that there was free food down the street in the backyard of a house we had walked by with them maybe twice, at most. It's just not on our regular route, mostly because there are always a few scraggly cats hanging out on the porch, and we're not keen on encouraging cat chasing, since we have three ourselves.

Since then, every time they've gotten loose lately within half mile of the cat house, they've made a beeline for the place. A few times, the homeowners have caught them, and I can tell you they don't find it amusing even the least little bit. In fact, they don't seem to have any sense of humor at all.

Several times the homeowners have angrily shouted suggested, "You need to control your dogs!", to which I have responded "Yes, you're right. I'm terribly sorry." It is our responsibility to control them, and we are working on it, but as several dog trainers have told us, if there's a reward at the end of this misbehavior, they'll continue to do it. I'm pretty sure that it's going to be a long time before this problem gets worked out. It's not as if we willfully let them loose to roam the neighborhood pooping on everyone's lawns and turning over garbage cans (which they have never done, thank god). We walk them twice a day, every day, always clean up after them, and never let them off leash deliberately.

I've recently learned that the homeowners are feeding feral cats, and belong to a feral cat coalition, whose intent is to capture, spay and neuter, then release them to keep the wild population down. Personally, I think this is a very worthwhile and humanitarian cause. I love animals and hate to see them suffer unnecessarily.

I mean, come on...since their yard isn't fenced they might consider feeding once a day and taking the bowls inside between feedings, which would also discourage other wild varmints attracted to cat food. One of their neighbors confided that they're also supporting a healthy population of raccoons along with the cats.

If the dang cat people would calm down, maybe we could work something out that would benefit both the wild cats and my wild dogs.

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