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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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In-dog-cent Exposure

The missus and I had a couple over for dinner tonight. They’re a nice enough husband and wife, we get along well, there are no dramas or finger pointing or hair pulling when we get together. There’s just one thing:

They’re cat people.

Me, I’m not cat people. I don’t mind most cats — or most cat people, for that matter. I’m just not a particular fan of the feline milieu.

(It doesn’t help especially that I’m also mildly allergic to cats, so once their milieu gets snurfed up my honker, I tend to water and sniffle and puff up in uncomfortable places. This makes it rather challenging to spend a lot of ‘quality time’ with citizens of the cat world.

To be clear, I don’t blame the cats for this. It’s simple biology; exposure to antigens later in life, rather than early, can often lead to allergic reactions. Maybe if my mother had fed me more suburban takeout Chinese food when I was younger, I wouldn’t have this particular issue.

Don’t overthink that one. As a cat fan or a General Tso’s orderer, you’re probably not going to like it.)

Now, these folks are not craaaaazy cat people. They have two cats, which seems to me a relatively sane number to wrangle. I tend to view cat ownership in much the same way as child rearing — I certainly don’t want to be responsible for feeding or clothing or declawing one of the things, and I’d greatly prefer that they didn’t hork up hairballs or baby teeth or half-digested Cheerios anywhere on my person. But if somebody really wants to take on that responsibility, for some odd reason, I’m not prepared to judge them. So long as it’s just one. Or two, so they can keep each other — and their hairballs — company.

Three is pushing it. Four is bordering on cuckoo. I could understand, maybe, back in the old days when life was so much more uncertain. In feudal times or amid cholera outbreaks, sure — you had to squeeze out six or fourteen kids, just to have a fighting chance of one living long enough to swim upstream and spawn themselves. Or whatever the hell it is children do when they grow up.

Same with cats, I guess. If the grim kitty reaper is knocking on the litter box every other day because we haven’t invented rabies vaccines yet or saber-toothed marmosets are carrying your Mr. Fluffers back to their lair, then fine. You’re allowed to keep a dozen cats on hand. But ten of them are strictly replacements. Don’t even give them names or show them the scratching post until the old ones are toast, and they’re next on the scything block.

Anyway, this couple is in no current danger of overcatting. They just have the two, with no immediate plans that I know of to go on some adoption shelter shopping binge and gorge themselves on tabbies and minxii. If I ever visit their place and they’re naked in the bathtub soaking in cat, then we’ll revisit the status. Rather quickly, and preferably on camera. But until then — they’re good.

Still, they are cat people, and fairly exclusive ones at that. So they’re pretty unfamiliar with the behavior of your average household dog. Or worse, our household dog.

“I don’t know what sort of dog ‘business’ you do, but I can tell you that ninety percent of the really important stuff is delivered out of one of the rear exits.”

(Let’s just pause here to note that we have exactly the one dog. Just to be clear. We’re not craaaaazy dog people, either. If you ever find us doing backstrokes in an indoor pool filled with poodles, then we’ll talk. But I don’t plan on keeping that much kibble in the house. There’s got to be some sort of horsemeat-per-square-foot-of-living-space quota that we shouldn’t go over. And my threshold’s pretty damned low.

So just the one dog. Now you’re caught up.)

To her credit, “Princess Paws” (we call her ‘Susie’, for short) was on her best behavior throughout the evening. Where ‘best behavior’ mostly involves slumping awkwardly on the floor and snoring, or lapping water all over the kitchen floor — and walls, and fridge, and stove, and ceiling — with the ostensible purpose of drinking some portion of it.

(Hey, I never said it was the best behavior. Just her best behavior. So far as I’ve ever seen.)

After we finished eating, we adjourned to the living room for a sit. The dog schalumphed in, and plopped in the middle of the floor with her “business end” facing our guests.

(And no, that’s not the nose. I don’t know what sort of dog ‘business’ you do, but I can tell you that ninety percent of the really important stuff is delivered out of one of the rear exits. Toxic waste, mostly. The occasional shoestring or unfortunate blade of grass. Nothing good. But all business.)

She then proceeded to slowly roll, ever so gently, onto her back, with her paws gently lolling in the air. It’s the international canine sign for “HEY, SPARKY — RUB MAH BELLY!

I’m not sure that’s what it actually means in dog-speak. But that’s what happens every time she does this, and she hasn’t stopped rolling on her back for twelve years, so we seem to be understanding each other. Maybe it originally meant “Feed me peeled grapes while I sun myself on the veranda, plebe“. But we’re not doing that — and we don’t even have a veranda — so presumably she got over her disappointment quickly and moved on. To upside-down stomach massage.

Now, I didn’t particularly expect the cat-couple to do anything about this. Maybe cats have the same behavior, and maybe they don’t. Cats are conniving little bitches, so maybe they splay themselves out like that to draw you in close for a good scratching. Or so one of their accomplices can lift your wallet. I wouldn’t put anything past those felonious felines. So I figured our guests would be wary, and maybe ignore the dog altogether.

Instead, the woman scrunched up her forehead, made a little clucking noise and exclaimed:

Well, what a little slut!

That threw me off. Now it was my turn to react, but I couldn’t quite figure out how. At first consideration, I rejected the idea on its face. Little slut? Little slut?

(Well, yeah, to be fair, fine — little slut. But that was then. Not now. And I don’t even know where that mousepad is any more, since the move. Point of order!)

Look, I’ve seen dogs going at it. And at no point that I’m aware of does any canine find itself, in the middle of the nasty-making, lying face-up on the carpet and wiggling its little paws in the air. I’m not saying it’s not possible. I’m just saying I haven’t seen it. Also, it’s called “doggy-style” for a reason. And it doesn’t look like that.

(Or so I’m told. My wife won’t let me unscramble the giggity channels to confirm. But I’ve seen stick figure drawings, and I’m pretty positive on this one.)

I thought maybe I’d misheard — ‘little nut?‘ ‘Little butt,’ maybe, if she was jealous of the mutt’s svelte ass? But the prim look of distaste told me I had it right. ‘Little slut‘ it was, at least as far as Kitty McJudgenheim there was concerned.

I didn’t want to make a scene or upset our guests — or the dog — so I slipped into the floor, gave the puppy’s tummy a nice rub and replied, “Yep. She’s a real stinkin’ whore, all right.

I’m gonna pay for that one later, I have a feeling. Whether for being salty in front of company or badmouthing our pooch, or both, I can’t say. But I’m sure the missus will have something to say about my shocking and inappropriate behavior. Again.

My only hope is to catch her in bed reading, right before she goes to sleep. If I time it just right, I can go in and try to rub her stomach, and maybe soothe her right to sleep. She can’t possibly be mad at me then. It’s the perfect plan.

Or would be, if I’d ever had her declawed. I’m guessing I won’t get within ten feet before the talons come out, and I’m in a world of slice and swipe and pain. Because did I mention that before we got the dog, my wife was a cat person?

Yeah. That’s right. And those people are craaaaaazy.

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