Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
My friend Hilary is in the process of replacing her trailer in Woody Creek with a modular home and, a month or so ago, took up quarters in my little miner’s shack for the duration. With winter setting in and the foundation still not poured, the “duration” might be longer than expected.
Hilary’s 11-year-old dachshund, Tucker, is tickled pink to have his choice of beds to sleep in and my dachshunds, Nicky and Fred, to cuddle and play with. For their first year Tucker hated them and wanted to kill them, but all has been forgiven and forgotten.
It is, apparently, less likely that Hilary’s 12-year-old cat, Eliot, is going to reach that level of detente with the puppies. When Hilary first brought Eliot into the house, Nick and Freddie screamed like banshees with Tucker, always up for a good melee, joining in.
Eliot is a tough old cat, used to roaming at night and fending for himself, so we thought a few good swats (hoping no eyes would be lost) would show who was in control. But Eliot was out of his element, did not know the lay of the house, had no safe places to either jump up on or hide under, so he contained himself to hissing, spitting and giving Nicky a couple of rakes to the ear, fazing him not a bit.
Freddie soon calmed down, wanting only to investigate the kitty ” smell him, take small tastes of fur and, finally, kissing his face, but Nick was and still is a dog possessed. Hilary’s early attempts at fraternization consisted of carrying Eliot into the living room to socialize, always ending in a hiss-spit fest with Nicky trembling, panting, barking and lunging, oblivious to scolding, spanks or sprays from the water bottle.
Tucker added to the fray by siding with Nick, once even lunging to try to bite Eliot in the face, as if to say “I’ve been wanting to do that for 11 years!”
An element of peace was restored when the attempt to get everyone to agree to be friends was abandoned and Eliot took up permanent quarters on Hilary’s bed, with Nick sitting sentinel at the closed door.
Nicky, a solid chunk of a dachshund, often oinks for assistance onto the couch or into my car but, with the enticement of the kitty (hiss-spit) on the bed, he has taken on the leaping abilities of an overweight gazelle. If the door is left ajar he charges the bed and propels himself onto it with a combination of determination, long toenails and adrenalin.
When Hilary tried to block his access with a bedside table piled with books and other impediments, Nicky just used that as a springboard, scrambling onto the bed leaving a wake of flying objects.
We’d be watching the election news, thinking that Eliot was safely locked in his room, when crash, bang, hiss, yowl, bark, spit, howl and we’d find the two of them on the bed in a standoff.
Nick has stopped his all-night vigils, but whenever anyone approaches the door to the kitty room he’s right there. If Hilary is using the computer, Nicky sits on her lap studying the four-foot distance to the bed like Evel Knievel contemplating a motorcycle leap across several school buses.
Eliot, on the other hand, seems remarkably calm, even content, as if he were vacationing in a 4-star hotel. He has his own private, covered bathroom (Nicky squeezed into it and got stuck) and enjoys meals in bed, a buffet set out on a towel. It’s a cat’s life.
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