Tuesday, 14 April 2009

In praise of Wilbur

Someone told me that for their first twenty weeks, kittens are pliable, unprejudiced beasts, that if one intends for them one day to cohabit with salamanders, beagles, small humans, etc, one should introduce them in their malleable youth to salamanders, beagles, small humans, etc. Likewise, if one doesn't want one's cat to demand a lifetime's supply of foie gras and smoked trout, one should acclimatise the gustatorially unworldly kitten to the delights of Iams Growth Formula, a nutritious blend of vitamins, slaughterhouse byproduct, and volcanic rubble. Which reminds me: oh domesticated obligate carnivores, how you confuse my animal rightsbianism!

As I am very, very, very fond of dogs, and occasionally fantasise about a future wherein I work from home on a souped-up steampunk laptop while puppies frolic about my ankles (in this future I have a sprawling garden, and some clever vegan has invented a delicious, nutritious dogfood made entirely from chickpeas and sorrel), I thought it would be a good thing to introduce my pliable young kittens to a sensible specimen of dogliness. And as I was Eastering in Bright, where dwells Wilbur the Wonderdog, the dearest dog who is, I thought it would be a good thing to begin Harriet's and Beatrice's dog appreciation lessons.

I was optimistic about Harriet's and Beatrice's dog appreciation lessons. So optimistic that I expected to be showing you photos of H and B curled up beneath Wilbur's velveteen ears. Optimistic, despite the ill omen of the V-Line website, which prohibits the carriage of non-human animals on all V-Line trains and omnibuses, except where the animal is enslaved as a human prosthesis.

While it turns out - one Budget rental car later - that Harriet and Beatrice are excellent motorists (not only did they not wee on, claw, or otherwise defile the Budget rental car, they slept through the better part of two three-hour journeys, occasionally looking out the window and casting their collective feline eye over bucolic prospects and pastures brown), that is the extent of their pliability. As for curling up under the ear of the world's loveliest dog, pliable is exactly what they were not.

On Thursday night, my kittens learnt how to hiss, and growl, and spit, and do menacing things. Wilbur understood, and politely reversed to a distance of three metres, then sat down, facing away from the kittens, none-too-easy. We put the kittens into a comfy room of their own for the night, in which room they planned Operation Intimidate Wilbur, a series of coordinated manoeuvres including hissing, long-range stalking, sniggering behind their paws, and speaking cat. Wilbur, I am proud to say, bore with all this like the paragon of doghood he is, standing back to let kittens pass, leaving the room on request, sleeping with one eye open for four days. His only consolation was in the unguarded dishes of Iams Growth Formula someone had left on the bathroom floor.

Wilbur, in less molested times.

By yesterday, Harriet was slinking up to Wilbur and sniffing his paws. Wilbur was diplomatically not noticing. He walked me down the driveway to the hire-car yesterday afternoon, making very sure that all my luggage was packed. Baleful ain't the half of it.


JahTeh said...

My first cat was a very large grey beast who altenated between vile natured and very vile natured. The dog was a chihauhau, snappy and possesive. For six months, it was Main street at high noon with guns drawn until winter, when a truce was negotiated in front of the space heater.

eyrie said...

You are now discovering one of my favourite things about cats (in my more perverse moods): the purity with which they hate. I didn't know what hatred really was until I saw my cat hating.

That said, L met the family dog when she was a kitten, significantly older than your kittens, and she will permit him to kiss her on the head, within reason. The fun of cats for dogs lies chiefly in disciplining them when they get too big for their boots.

You have reminded me not to remind K of the woman she met while working as a vet who decided to feed her dog only carrots (a diet she herself was observing). K cannot think about it without impassioned swearing.

Anonymous said...

Eyrie, you remind me of an ancient aunt many eons ago who was a vegetarian. She grew large quantities of rhubarb and fed it to her cats. She could not understand why her cats then raided the neighbour's hen house!

TimT said...

May the wrathful paw of the Great Sky Beagle strike down Carrot Woman with Great Vengeance and Furious Anger.

Our wonderfully cranky family Fox Terrier, Bella, turned into an absolute quivering coward when around cats. My brothers and I were a little ashamed of her when she would get chased by the neighbour's cats right round the block (but laughed at her as well). And then there was the fearsome fight she contested with Nan's old cat Whitey, underneath the dinner table. (I say fight, but it was more a dialogue of barking and hissing. She probably got a few cuffs around the muzzle as well.) What a great dog.

Jayne said...

One cat we have loathed canines, would take them on and leave them begging for mercy...then met the puppy we brought home and has swooned over her ever since!

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

I vote for swooning over puppies. Doyou hear that, Aitch and Bea? Swooning over puppies.

Ampersand Duck said...

Jahteh is absolutely correct. Take the kitties to Wilbur when it is cold, and the heater will overcome ALL boundaries. Bugger love, All You Need is Heat.