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.
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.