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HERDING CATS
January 6, 2006
 
Look, honey, I say, it's a little red straitjacket for What's-Her-Name, for when we put her flea medicine on. I was reading from a catalogue of pet supplies. For Your Pet's Special Needs, it said.

Just darling, said Q.

The cat in the picture, a serene Burmese, seemed perfectly content in the straitjacket. I can't see What's-Her-Name in that, can you?

No, Q said.

Getting it on her would be the thing. I still bear three long parallel stripes that cat gave me this past summer, when I tried to do her flea medicine by myself. It's a two-person job.

Well, What's-Her-Name doesn't need a straitjacket, he says. I'll just hold her and you put it on. Get it right down at the base of her fur, right on her skin. You put the medicine between their shoulder blades, where they can't reach to lick it off. He held the glowering cat by both pairs of legs and I applied the liquid. That's a good girl, he said when we were finished. Now you can go out. What's-Her-Name shot out the back door.

Wow, I said, she was so good! She hardly moved.

I hope she doesn't scrape it off out there, Q said.

Oh, she can't do that. It's up too high on her shoulders. I said this just as Q caught a glimpse of What's-Her-Name doing shoulder stands on the new concrete patio next door, flinging herself violently onto the rough surface over and over again, then rolling and writhing until she was almost perpendicular to the ground. Well, let's hope most of it had already soaked in.

Hey, here's the same flea medicine we just paid $46 for at the vet, I said. It's only $25 in this catalogue. The catalogue was full of fun things to buy your pets: pages and pages of coats and pajamas and ballerina outfits and diapers for your dog to wear, organic food and vitamins and shampoos for cats and dogs, special grooming brushes and combs and clippers for their claws, special gates that can verify your pet's identity by means of infrared light. Scratching posts and litter boxes of every shape and size -- even a little casket, lined in white satin and available in a choice of oak, white or metal finish, for when your pet goes to be with Jesus.

I'm not at all sure that What's-Her-Name will go to be with Jesus. If she does, we will know that the grace of God is even greater than we thought. I can see her on that day, standing still at the pearly gates avoiding eye contact with St. Peter as he implores her just to come in, for heaven's sake.

Like so many of us, though, What's-Her-Name is unlikely to do anything just for heaven's sake. And she doesn't like to be rushed.
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