The Doc and I are empty nesters. Almost. When I met my wife, she was pre-doc, and for a while we had only cats, then we had children and cats, then the children left and we have only cats again. Maybe the only permanent things in our lives are the cats, uh… and each other. The people come and go and the cats are with us in perpetuity.
This wouldn’t be so bad, but the cats are always weird. When I met the Doc, she had a cat named HP. Supposedly, this stood for Honey Pie, but from the way this cat acted, it was usually more along the lines of Horney Pot followed by Hugely Pregnant. And it didn’t help matters that the cat was insane. The Doc had found the cat in a cage in the Psychology Department of our university and the poor thing was liberated and smuggled to safety inside the roomy pockets of an army surplus field jacket.
Unfortunately, it was soon apparent that the cat had been rescued after the experiments had been concluded. This was a wild-eyed escape artist that seemingly could walk through walls. Once, she pulled the screen off the kitchen vent and made her way into the neighboring apartment. When the neighbors woke up, they promptly threw her out the front door. And she just as promptly got pregnant.
While the Doc was in medical school, we rented a three bedroom house where the pets greatly outnumbered us. Besides a large collection of cats, (mostly the descendants of HP), we had a growing collection of tortoises that had been rescued crossing the highway. These critters were about the size of a hard hat, and just about as lively. Occasionally, we would bring one in from outside and let it terrorize the cats, who would refuse to get within a foot of the tortoise.
Once, for about a week, we had a rabbit. Driving to work one day, I saw a large, fat rabbit hopping along the sidewalk. Since I knew it was someone’s pet, and I knew it would get run over, I stopped the car to rescue it. Why not--if we never found the owner, it would make great stew. I had to chase that rabbit, finally catching it just before it tried to disappear under someone’s garage door that had been left open about 5 inches. I took the bunny home and let it loose in the house. As far as the cats were concerned, it was just an ugly cat with long ears. I can’t say the rabbit made any friends, but there were no fights, either. Eventually, I asked enough neighbors to discover the rabbit’s home. Remember that garage door? That’s where the rabbit lived--I had rabbitnapped him just inches away from his own home. His owner let him run free and the bunny always returned.
Shortly after Thanksgiving one year, one of the cats figured out how to overpower the magnets on the refrigerator door, in order to steal the remains of the duck we had cooked for the holidays. Evidently, the remains of that bird were used in a soccer tournament as the cats played all over that house. By the time we got home, the hard wood floors were pretty evenly coated with duck grease. The Doc and I cleaned, scrubbed, and eventually buffed what was left of the duck into a shine on those hardwood floors. It took a whole weekend, but eventually, we had a beautiful shine on that floor that no paste wax had ever given us.
About a week later, the Doc and I were in bed about midnight, reading, when we heard a strange noise in the hall outside our bedroom.
Thump! There was definitely a footstep in the hall leading to our bedroom. We looked at each other wide-eyed and Karen reached for the phone on the nightstand. Though the door was slightly ajar, nothing could be seen in the dark hallway.
Thump! Whoever it was out there was getting closer. I reached over to my nightstand and took out a gun. This was obviously a home invasion, and I was ready to defend us.
THUMP! This was impossible, the hall wasn’t that long! Someone was playing with us, but the sound of the footsteps was still getting closer. I held the gun in both hands, doing the best Weaver grip I could manage while sitting up in bed.
THUMP! Finally, the door slowly--terribly slowly--opened up… and opened up… to finally reveal that damn tortoise we had forgotten to put back outside. Every time that tortoise took a step, his feet splayed out in all four directions, slamming the bottom of his shell into the floor. That duck fat floor was not only shiny, but a little slippery.