Yeah, I was up at 5:30 again this morning. The reason? One very small cat, who has been making it her personal mission in life to ensure that I never get a full night’s sleep again. Ever.
Stella’s M.O., which she’s followed every single morning for the past two months, is as follows:
- Push past the closed door. Closed doors are for losers.
- Find the bed in the dark, and identify a likely candidate—i.e., one who will not toss her off the bed on his side, where the dog lies in wait.
- Seek out any part of the target candidate that happens to be lying outside the covers. Ears, nose, scalp, fingers—if it’s not covered, it’s fair game.
- Purr loudly to convey your satisfaction, and proceed Wake-Up Ritual. This consists of rubbing up against the Target Candidate (that would be me), purring, and biting the aforementioned protruding and/or uncovered body parts.
- Repeat procedure until Target Candidate is well and truly awake. Ignore the fact that she is swearing at you. Purr some more. Humans like it when cats purr. Follow Target Candidate downstairs and mew pathetically so she feeds you, and not the dog, first. If she balks and insists on making coffee first, lie on your back and make strangling noises. Make it very clear that her actions are hurting you. Remember, you are a poor, innocent, tiny kitten. You have needs, which she is willfully ignoring…no, wait, I see a can coming out of the fridge…a spoon coming out of the drawer…
- Yes! Victory! Purr loudly while you scarf down your breakfast, and rejoice in your ability to control this entire household. Guilt is a wonderful thing.
All of this is to explain why I was up and out the door by 6:00 a.m. this morning. The “out the door” thing isn’t exactly Stella’s fault, though she definitely had a hand in the timing. No, it’s more of a tag-team thing. She threw the baton to Maydeleh, who starts her “happyhappyhappyfeedme” dance as soon as I stumble downstairs to feed the blasted cat.
And of course, once the dog has been fed, the next step is to get her outside ASAP. Her digestive system is a bit like a locomotive train: when food goes in at one end, it pushes everything ahead of it on the track, if you get my drift. All right, out the front door it is, then.
We follow the same route every morning, and neither of us ever really tires of it. We follow the road around to the path that along the river…
We’re at that odd betwixt and between time of year, when it hasn’t quite made up its mind to be autumn, but it’s not really summer either. Flowers are still abloom, leaves are still mostly green, but if you squint, you can see bits of red creeping into the foliage.
One of our neighbours has built a little dock on the riverbank, where they keep their boat during the summer. I’m pretty sure this is illegal, since it’s on parkland, but I’m no snitch.
The dog doesn’t seem all that impressed by the natural beauty that surrounds us.
She looks so intrepid, so steadfast, and pretty as all get-out, but I can tell you what passion beats beneath that furry chest: she’s just spotted one of our morning dog-walking friends, who often carries treats in his pocket, coming up from behind us. That’s why she’s looking past me, toward the approaching neighbour. Maydeleh is a notorious mooch. Don’t let that whole “noble Sheltie” thing fool you.
At this point, we start to walk a bit more quickly, as the dog is now in a rush to get home. Not because of any special loyalty or fidelity, mind you, but simply because she knows what’s waiting: her morning dog biscuit. Theoretically, these things are supposed to help clean her teeth, but judging from the stench she emits when she breathes in my direction, I’m not sure they really do much other than cater to her gluttonous nature. However, they are an ingestible substance, and that’s all she needs to know.
So there you have it. At least two of our three animals use their cuteness and innate animal charms to manipulate me and guide my actions for at least the first 45 minutes of each day. Sure, I brought them into the house in the first place, but it didn’t really occur to me that Mitchell and I would be empty nesters who nonetheless must waken early to feed a baby, and then tend to the toileting and recreational needs of another.