Kage Baker did not care for most animals. She wasn’t allergic, nor was she mean or abusive- she just was not especially charmed by furry things.
However, neither did she ignore them. In fact, Kage evinced a very personal relationship with animals. The cool self-possession of cats struck her as deliberate arrogance, and canine devotion as unashamed obsequity. She disliked specific animals the exact same way she disliked specific people, and for similar reasons. They weren’t things, they weren’t inferior life forms – in a weird way, it was respect for them as fellow creatures. They were all individuals, and she just didn’t like them.
A few dogs impressed her with their nobility and reserve. She was on good terms with a friend’s queenly Great Dane, who shared her dislike of fuss and noise. There was a three-legged black cat in childhood, who had a saintly attitude toward his life-long disability; she liked him. She was moderately fond of one of my cats, too, who was a tremendously competent mouser – Kage was always favourably impressed with expertise.
Birds, she adored. She was an avid bird-watcher. And of course, there was Harry – our beloved parrot, our Once and Future King. When he died unexpectedly in his 20’s, she hunted for a breeder with a clutch of eggs laid after his death: she proclaimed the resultant nestling Harry Redux, the Dalai Parrot, and always maintained he was the reincarnation of the original Harry Prime. (He is with me now, softly singing the theme to Spongebob Squarepants as he grooms …) Four legs and fur, though, were not on her fave rave list.
I mention Kage’s antipathy to our four-legged friends because I ordinarily don’t share it. I like animals tremendously. I squeee over kittens and puppies; I happily share house space with my family’s dog and two cats. I am still the happy minion of the imperious Harry Redux. However … I sure sympathize with Kage this morning.
I now live on one edge of Griffith Park, near the Hollywood Hills. We grew up here. It’s an area rich in wildlife; non-Angelenos think of LA as home solely to rats, pigeons and tiny celebrity dogs, but in fact we have an enormous quantity of wild acreage, and the critters to fill it. Here in Atwater, the neighbors include possums, raccoons, occasional bobcats and pumas, deer, coyotes, skunks and squirrels. Did I mention raccoons? Especially raccoons.
Raccoons are not cute. They are large and fierce and fearless. They have all the respect for fences of the Mongol hordes, they are sneaky and competent thieves, and they have horrid little black-gloved hands. They’ll break into your house and eat your cat’s food and play soccer with the garbage and steal your underwear – they do, I’ve seen it all. And they will prowl around your house for hours at night, looking for a chance to commit all these evils, meanwhile driving your dog into an insomniac frenzy.
Dylan, the family corgi, is by nature a herd dog. That puts him on maximum alert at night, as he readies to protect the family cattle from marauding wolves. Unfortunately, we have no cattle. All that shows up to leer and gibber on the front porch are the horrible raccoons. That doesn’t stop Dylan, however, who with true Celtic pugnacity will sing his battle song courageously as long as one procyonoid invader is in sight. Dylan, although a dwarf, is also a baritone with a barrel chest, and dear God! Can he howl!
Last night, he started in at 2 AM and kept it up until 5. Sitting up with him and reassuring him that it was all right, hush hush good dog that’s enough they can’t get in SHUT UP YOU HAIRY LITTLE IDIOT – were as nothing to his obsessive territoriality. He barked, he howled, he bayed, he whined, he ran laps through the back yard and kitchen at supersonic speed. He did not, however, catch a single damned raccoon. He didn’t even discourage them. The last one sauntered off the front porch finally like a party guest who has eaten the last good canape, and I finally got to sleep.
At 6 AM, the cats – traumatized by a night spent hiding from raccoons – started crying for breakfast.
I am considering fish ….
Tomorrow: some predictions, some ranting, some more animals. Unless a meteor lands on the house.