I was standing at the side of my house when--whoosh!--something furry and in an awful hurry crashed into my leg. I was terrified. My first thought was that it was Gary Condit running from the authorities. It turned out to be a large brown and white cat darting from under my front porch, as if fired from some cat cannon.
I am a dog person, not a cat person. I don't want to go into a whole boring song and dance about the differences between cats and dogs. But I can assure you I would never put a dog in a blender, OK?
I bring this up because in the instant it took me to ascertain it was a cat--not a raccoon or Dick Cheney after a power surge--there came my faithful, loving dog Maggie, tearing after the hideous fur ball like Wile E. Coyote.
Between my yard and my neighbor's there's a chain-link fence, about 4 feet tall, that the cat headed for. I've seen cats jump 7 feet straight up, like Harrier jets, onto the limb of a tree. So a 4-foot fence should have been easy to clear. Except the cat was too fat. It smashed into the top of the fence and slid back down--like a bad sand shot.
In sports, we call this a "momentum shift." It now looked like Maggie had won a free meal, including wine, tax and tip. But Maggie, dripping adrenaline, leaped for the cat and soared a foot past her target. Maggie was so discombobulated she slipped and rolled over on her back. That split second was all the cat needed. It took off like Marc Rich.
Now the chase was on, from backyard to frontyard, through bushes, around trees. This is what a Brittany like Maggie was bred for: stalking and capturing another animal. Most of her life is spent padding around the block with a fat, bald, middle-aged man. Now she was in her element. She was going to catch this cat, shake it until dead, then roll around in its juices, perfuming herself in the glorious scent of the kill.
(And let me suggest this is not exactly Chanel No. 5. Sometimes I've taken a big whiff of Maggie after she caught a bird, and my knees buckled. She smelled like a dumpster after the Labor Day weekend.)
She always brings in her gore-encrusted offerings and lays them on the porch. Like this was going to impress me, like now we should hang out and bond, have a couple of beers.
So I watched in horror as Maggie sped around the yard searching for the cat. I listened as Maggie howled--it was between a cry and a yodel, an eerily humanlike sound. It reminded me of Fran Drescher in "The Nanny." I wondered where the cat was; I hadn't seen it at all. Then I glanced up at the deck in the backyard, and the cat was there lying perfectly still--on the top railing above the gas grill in a spot that was impossible for Maggie to see.
Maggie flew around the yard, sniffing wildly. But she never spied the cat. I looked away for fear Maggie would see me looking at the cat and follow my eyes. I didn't want to rat out the cat. I didn't want to be a stoolie. (Yeah, like Maggie is Lt. Columbo. I think I've seen too many dopey movies where the animals talk to Eddie Murphy and Jeff Goldblum.)
I knew I had to do something quickly. Only two things could happen: Either: 1) Maggie would catch the cat and kill it; or 2) The cat would jump on Maggie's back and claw her eyes. But what could I do? I certainly couldn't pick up the cat and carry her to safety. The cat would have clawed my eyes out. Besides, I had on a new Polo shirt. You ever try getting bloodstains out of pique cotton? So thinking as fast as I could, I dashed into my house, opened the refrigerator and pulled out a handful of ham.
Maggie fell for the old pork and switch. She smelled the ham and came bounding over. I grabbed her collar and took her inside. What an idiot she is, hahaha.
She prowled around the house. But the scent was gone, and Maggie soon contented herself by curling up on the couch and drooling. Meanwhile, the cat was still up on the deck railing. It was 15 minutes before the cat felt safe enough to sprint toward the fence.
I'd been in on the whole horrifying drama. I was emotionally involved. But I also had an interest in this as a purely sporting proposition. This cat had disgraced itself on the first attempt to jump the fence. Now it had another crack. Clearly, if it couldn't clear the fence this time, it was that much closer to that great Chinese takeout in the sky. So I held my breath as it streaked toward the fence and ... crawled under on its belly.
That cat really has to lose weight.