You would think that a cat like me, who has wisdom and intelligence would have been more alert as to what the dog Ashley, our house dog was planning. I blame it on my advancing age. After all, I am no longer that young handsome stud who prowled the streets of Hamden. I am still handsome but I am no longer a stud, if you know what I mean.
It was Sidney who raised the alarm but I did not heed his meows of concern. "Oh, will you keep quiet?" I hissed at my house mate. "I can't spend all of my time looking after our silly dog's comings and goings!"
Sidney shook with anger. "Henri, you are top cat in this household and are duty bound to watch over and protect us from the actions of Ashley and her questionable pals! You are duty bound!"
I nodded. "It is true that I am top cat in this house but saying that I am responsible for the safety of all who abide here is false. I have many things to attend to and Ashley, the dog is low on the list!"
At that moment Helen, another of my house mates thumped up the stairs (she is a bit overweight..) from the basement. She pushed the door open and stood before me, a look of concern and frustration on her face. "You should listen to Sidney!" she demanded. "He is a dimwit at times but he does notice things and I, myself have seen Ashley barking through the gate at Samantha, our neighbor's dog. I think those two are planning something. When Ashley really wants something, she will go after it with a great deal of energy. And I have noticed when I've had to go to the litter pan at night that she and our brat cat Stella have been having discussions in the computer room, out of our ear reach."
I sighed. "I don't know about those two," I meowed. "They always seem to be plotting something or other. I think they are bored and they just like to annoy our persons. They seem to get a lot of pleasure from that and our persons never really get angry at their antics."
"Henri, we must still be alert!" cautioned Helen. "By the way, while I was in the basement, Raymond Hazelwitz tapped on the window and I let him in. "He wants to play a hand of three handed pinochle. Are you into it?"
"Yup!" I purred enthusiastically. "Anything to get my mind off of Ashley and her antics. Sometimes she just gets to me. I'll end up with indigestion and heart burn just thinking about it." So I went into the basement and Raymond Hazelwitz greeted me at the bottom of the sraircase. At his side, stood another rat. I nodded at the stranger and tapped his head in greeting, with my paw.
"Hi Pussycat!" exclaimed Raymond. "I'd like to introduce you to my mate, Brendas's fouth cousin, thrice romoved, Milton! He is studying law at the University of Rodent Arts and Sciences in Albany. Just came by to show him the town."
"It's very nice to meet you Milton. My name is Henri, Henri of Twin Brook if you don't mind," I growled. "What brings you to Hamden, may I ask?"
Milton displayed a toothy smile. "Just thought I would pay a visit to my cousin Brenda and check out the location. I'll be graduating at the end of the semester in May."
"So you're going to be a lawyer like Raymond here?" I asked.
The rat shook his head. "Actually, I am getting my degree in Criminal Justice. I find that field to be much more interesting."
"It's hard to believe that crime exists among rodents." I meowed.
"You've got to kidding!" chattered Milton. "Crime is a major problem with rats and sqirrels, especially among the youth in the suburbs. They have very little or no recreational facilities and many of them can't get jobs. They just have too much time on their paws!"
"I had no idea," I replied. "By the way, Raymond, Helen and Sidney both think that Ashley might be planning something in the way of a doggie get together. Lots of late night converstions between the mutt and brat cat Stella."
Raymond gave me a sharp look. "Henri!" he chattered, "you have got to get those animals under control! You must be dilegent in monitoring their actions, day and night. If you don't do this, all of you cats could be sentenced to a life in a shelter! Now that we have settled that issue, let's play a hand or two of poker!"
Helen hissed at the rat. "You're a great help, Raymond! I thought you would have a few suggestions about what we can do about Ashley!"
Raymond shook his head. "All I can say is that if someone or something if causing trouble, get rid of that which is causing the trouble. If the new baby is allergic to the cat, get rid of the baby. You get the meaning of what I am saying."
"You mean we should get rid of the dog, Ashley or maybe get rid of our persons?" I inquired.
Again Raymond shook his head. "Your persons will never get rid of Ashley. For some reason or other, that type of human will never rid themselves of the most flea ridden, scruffiest, most disreputable of animals. To do so will plung their feeble brains into a cavern of deep depression. Enough said! Let's play cards!"
So we played cards until the wee small hours of early morning. Before Raymond and his mate's cousin left for home, Milton called me aside. "Henri." he began, "Raymond was informed by the ethics board of the Rodent Barrister's Association, that he could not represent, legally, any dog or cat. Ashley would have to find a dog lawyer if she should be hauled into court."
I thanked him kindly for the information. I had hoped that Ashley would never require legal counsel. But life happens!
Years ago, when I signed on as senior feline house cat in this establishment, I took upon myself all the duties that came with that position. I supervise the cooking and distribution of food and tidbits. I watch closely when the laundry is put into washing machine, insisting that whites and lights go together and dark fabrics must be segregated from all other fabrics. I supervise the washing and cleaning of floors. My paws wipe the shelves in the living room to free them of dust.
So you can see, I am a very busy cat and that is why I missed the signs that Ashley, resident dog, had plotted with her friends to bring to this household, a night of infamy! It was not my fault! I shall let you be the judge.
Helen raised the first alarm. "Ashley was talking to Samantha this afternoon and they both were very excited!"
Sidney sensed that something might be apaw. "Stella was using the computer last night and was on the internet," he growled. "I think she was ordering stuff from a pet store!"
Again, I paid no heed to Sidney's concerns. Then, a few days later a truck arrived at the back door. Our persons were not at home. Ashley nudged the latch on the back gate and the delivery person brought in a tower of boxes and placed them on the deck. Within minutes, Samantha, that canine friend of Ashley's barked at the gate. She, Ashley and brat cat Stella, pushed the boxes through the kitchen door. Then they nudged them into the bedroom and shoved them under the bed. Immediately, I rushed toward the bedroom. Samantha and Ashley blocked my entrance. "You can't go in there, Henri," barked Ashley. "Samantha and I are working on a big surprise! There will tuna fish and catnip for every kitty in the neighborhood! We dogs want to show our great love and affection for our feline neighbors!"
What could I meow? A dog wants to shower us with tuna fish and catnip and I am to turn my back on that? Never trust a dog!! Ashley lied! Soon after our persons left that evening to attend a party on the far side of our town, a pack of dogs arrived at the back gate. Ashley let them in. They bounded across the deck, into the kitchen, through the hallway which led to the bedroom, yipping and yapping, their muddy paws leaving prints in their wake!
These are just a few of the mutts who showed up for the party!
Ashley dragged out boxes from under the bed and chewed them open, scattering the contents from one end of the room to the other. Dogs snarled and snapped over bits of raw hide and biscuits. They yelped with glee. They squealed with happiness. "These are my friends from the Dog Park!" she announced proudly.
Us cats cringed with fear. Stella hid in the hallway closet burying her head in a pile of bath towels. Helen, Tonya, Sidney and I bolted for the safety of the basement and cowered among the baskets of clean laundry. An eternity passed before the dogs and smell of excited dogs finally subsided. Then the horde of mutts ran out of the house as quickly and noisily as they had arrived. Silence filled the void. A blessed peace descended. Upstairs in the bedroom, chaos and confusion and dirt and mud and dog fur transformed a once reasonably clean and orderly room. I was appalled! I was frantic! How could we repair the damage and destruction before our persons came home? How? How? Helen grabbed me by the tail. Her eyes reflected the awful truth! "Henri," she growled. "Do something! Put out the meow that we are in deep trouble and need help!" She pushed me toward the back door. "Now, Henri! Do it now!"
I ran across the deck and unlatched the gate. Blood of urgency flowed through my veins! At the corner of Twin Brook, I raised by face toward the darkened skies, took deep breathes and cried out into the night! "Meeeeowrrrhhhhhhh!!!!Meowraoarrrowwwss! Roarrrrrmeowowwwww! Meoooowrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!! Meowwwwwwww! Mewwwwwwwww!" Thrice, I repeated the call of alarm! I waited! I watched! And then it happened! I could see them in the distance! Groups of cats, my friends and neighbors, rushed toward me, concern flashing from their eyes. Raymond Hazelwitz, hurried them on! My heart swelled with love and gratefulness!
Raymond stood before me, his small body casting a shadow in the light from the street lamp. "I can assume that the dog, Ashley has been involved in something dreadful?" I nodded. "Okay all you pussycats, let's go and see the damage!" There was a rush toward the gate and the back door. At least fifteen cats stared at the destruction and growled with awe and displeasure. Raymond's eyes blinked rapidly. "By all the rats in Hamden, I swear I have never seen such a mess!" he chattered. "You, Abbott, Penelope, Frank! Get the bucket from the basement. Fill it with water from the hose in the bathtub and add some biodegradable detergent. I will show you how to use the mop! You, Hillary, Sasha, Helen and Sidney! Strip the bed of all the blankets and sheets and haul them down to the washing machine! I will show you how to operate the washer and the dryer! And don't forget the fabric softener! You, Henri, Clarence, Carlyle and Rumsfeld! Gather up all the dog biscuits and bits of raw hide and put them in the trash! Move! We don't have much time before Henri's persons come home!"
The house was a flurry of activity. Cats raced up and down the basement stairs with sheets, pillowcases and blankets. The laundry machines hummed! Two hours passed. Cats huffed and puffed their way upstairs carrying a burden of clean linens. Together, we were able to spread the bottom sheet on the bed, but soon after, we heard the anguish cries of a cat in distress. Rumsfeld had gotten trapped between the mattress and the linen! "I'm stuck! I'm stuck and I can't get out!" he shrieked! Quickly we pulled back on the elastic edge and after some moments, Clarence and I were able to release the frantic feline.
Using the mop did prove somewhat hazardous as well. Abbott and Frank got into a bit of a tussle over which cat would have to wring out the mop. More water was going onto the floor than into the pail and after one tug of war, two rather soggy cats swatted it out over the mop head. Clarence intervened and then it became a real cat fight! The pail of water upended spreading its contents over the floor of the hallway. Finally, Helen had had enough! She advanced upon the squabbling toms and smacked each of them in the back of the head. "Get downstairs and help fold up the linens so we can bring them to the bedroom without dropping them along the staircase! We need the top sheet, the pillowcases and the blankets. When you are finished with that, get towels from the closet and start wiping up the paw prints in the kitchen and bedroom. Then take the soiled towels downstairs and wash them! Get going before I send Raymond in here to nip at your butts! Tonya, get in here and help me wring out the mop!"
Oh yeah, they moved and they moved fast! The very thought of Raymond Hazelwitz's sharp, white fangs closing upon their tender tails drove them to frantic activity. The water was mopped up. The floor, chairs and table wiped clean of dog tracks. Eventually all was accomplished! Everything had been cleaned and polished. Exhausted cats limped toward the living room, the only room which the dogs had not invaded. Ashley stood on the other side of the barrier, whimpering softly. "They told me at the dog park, if I held a slumber party for them, they would come and clean up everything that got dirty, but instead they just made a mess of the place and then when they were finished with the biscuits and rawhides they just ran out of here! Not one of my friends offered to stay and help."
Clarence shook his head. "Ashley, that is the way of 'dog'. Dogs are irresponsible and untrustworthy as friends. One can only enjoy their company in very limited way. Since I am a cat, I don't worry about it. I have never liked dogs. I only tolerate you, Ashley, because you are a member of this household. I treasure the company of Helen, Henri, Stella, Tonya and Sidney and would not forfeit that even though I would have prefered to belt you in the chops everytime I have laid eyes on you!"
"Thank you very much, Clarence," replied Ashley. "I appreciate your kind thoughts. I must thank all of you kitties for coming to my aid. And I hope Henri won't tell our persons what happened here tonight."
I assured the dog that my lips were sealed. Never would our persons know of the events which had transpired on this disastrous night. Raymond approached me, a look of concern in his eyes. "Henri, you have got to keep that mutt under control or all you are going to end up in a shelter! And believe me, Henri. No one is going to come into the shelter and want to take any of you home with them. All you cats are old and over-the-hill! Heed my warning!"
I have to admit, Raymond had a point however indelicately it had been presented. We cats would have to watch the dog and her antics for the rest of our natural lives. Life in an animal shelter or life on the streets were not something any of us longed to experience again.
Stella was interrogated harshly by Helen and Tonya. She meowed pitifully. "I didn't know what those awful dogs were like! Ashley said they were her dearest friends and she loved them. So I thought I should help my dog-mother put on the party. It was a mistake. I know it was a mistake. It will never happen again."
Everything comes to an end whether good or bad. Helen found five tins of tuna in the cupboard and had Carlyle open them. He is one of the few cats who can operate a can opener. She then baked some tuna patties, and made a wonderful soup of chicken broth and catnip. We all retired to the basement and snacked on the goodies to replenish our strength. Old blankets were spread on the floor. We played a few hands of poker and then fell asleep. The basement window had been opened to permit quick and easy exit in case my persons should unexpectedly arrive.
Our persons arrived soon after the last cat and Raymond Hazelwitz had left. A big party had been promised to all felines who had donated their labors in cleaning up the dog caused mess. "Oh, Henri,we were glad to help. You and your house mates have provided us with many hours with get togethers of joy and happiness. Unfortunately, tonight was not one of them. Peace and rest descend upon you and may you sleep until dawn." Of course it was Frank who uttered those meows.
There were a few errors made in our rush to restore order and cleanliness to the house. Apparently the bed sheets were put on inside out. Who knew that cloth had a 'right side and a wrong side'? Pillowcases were stuffed and unfortunately large clumps of fur were pulled from the cat who did the stuffing. The next day broken pieces of dog biscuits and rawhide crunched under the naked feet of our male person when he got up in the morning. If our persons had suspicions, they addressed them only to Ashley. For that I was grateful.
By the way, in case there are any questions about what my chores had been on the evening of 'clean up'; I had been the events traffic controller, an exhausting job for any cat! I shall now take a much needed nap in order to extend my morning and mid-morning nap.
Photographs of rodents provided by The Dapper Rat! Many thandks to them!