Pets' hierarchy firmly established at the Hill home
"Who's my boy? Who's my boy?"
He waddles over to my husband, John, tail wagging back and forth like my grandmother's church fan back in the 1970s. Rusty, our good ol' basic, Heinz variety brown dog, looks up at John with his large, soulful orbs. His eyes convey that John is the best human on the planet.
Kersplat. Twisting back and forth, rubbing the entire length of his body against Rusty, our all black cat, LJ. He is not satisfied with the situation.
"Um, gee whiz Dad, you're not looking at me. Look at my long, shiny black coat. Look at how I lovingly rub against Rusty's brown fur. I'm the pretty boy. I'm the one you should love best."
"Whatever, dork," Rusty chuffs at LJ, then quickly turns his adoration back to John.
"You know, Dad, I politely tolerate him because you want me to; however, I'll be glad to chase him away anytime you want. Just say the word, Dude, just say the word."
"Watch me, Dad. Look at me roll over and show you my belly. Just remember, I do not like it touched. I just like you to admire how far I can stretch it. See it? Can Rusty do that? Nooooo, he's too fat." LJ persists on flopping from one side to other while continuing to reveal his belly.
"I'm not fat. I'm husky, and you're still a dork." Rusty turns his head indifferently so as not to take in the prissy-belly-show performed by LJ.
"Dude, you're not a Husky. How many times I gotta tell you that? You're nothing. Your genetic pool is filled with short legged, fat-bellied, spotted-tongue misfits! You are delusional if you think you're a Husky. Remember, Dude, we've had this intervention conversation before with the other cat, Tippi, and me. Remember? We all sat down in one common circle. Tippi and I spelled out all the facts. Remember? We said, 'Your mama was probably a brown mutt.' We explained, 'Your dad was also a brown mutt.' We emphasized, 'Look at yourself, Dude. You do not look like a Husky; and, neither did your parents.'"
Rusty shakes his head. "You're just jealous because he likes me best. End of story. Besides, do you hear me at night? I am a ferocious beast who barks at the dark from the dangerous back porch. I am useful. You are not." Defiantly, Rusty ambles over to our daughter, Maddie. She begins petting him.
"Look, dude, even the kid likes me best. Watch how fast I can make my tail swish. Look at how it makes my belly shake. Notice the way she rubs my ears. Now watch me make her find that sweet spot on my hindquarters. Bingo! She found it! Can't talk now, dude." Rusty begins thumping his back right leg up and down in rhythm with the back-scratching Maddie is giving him. His head tilts back and his back arches once more.
"You are a classic example of denial," LJ sighs as walks away. First, though, he makes one more sweep from head to toe, brushing and swishing the length of his body against Rusty with dramatic flair. "Just remember, I'm the pretty boy. M.E."
Leaping from the window, a gray bolt zips by, belly swinging low to the ground.
"Good grief! You're both ridiculous. I am the queen around here. You two are chumps. I do what I want, when I want. I do not need human approval and affection to validate my worth. Royalty coming through, boys. Step aside, chumps, step aside." With the tilt of her chin, and a sniff of her nose, Tippi waddles swiftly past the two debating creatures in our family room.
Frump! Tippi leaps to the couch with the grace of a walrus on land. She hip-hops over to where I am sitting and begins to climb onto my legs. Her eyes look at me imploringly.
"Why do you keep them around? Really, things were just perfect before those two bozos arrived."
I pet Tippi in an attempt to assuage her frayed nerves.
"You're the girl, Tippi. You're the good girl," I whisper.
Flump! Black fur flies as LJ plops almost on top of Tippi.
"Is someone over here getting my share of attention?"
Immediately, Tippi bounds away.
"That is not a dignified animal," her departure seems to imply. "I refuse to lower my standards and sit beside him."
"Are you a tired boy? Are you a tired boy?" Maddie asks Rusty who has now flopped over on his side panting.
"Just give me a minute to recover. That leg-thumping is hard work." Rusty's ribs move up and down in his recuperation attempt.
LJ looks up at me. "I try to get him to train with me. You know, chase black dots on the wall that might prove to be bugs; run back and forth in bay window tracking birds walking on the driveway; or, my favorite, suddenly dashing through the house in attempt to help you rearrange every rug -- but, noooooo he's not interested in such displays of fitness and prowess."
I stroke LJ's back. He looks up and me with imploring eyes. "Hold me like a baby for exactly 35 seconds, no more, no less."
I indulge his request.
In the meantime, Rusty lifts his head from the carpet, ribs still working in revival. "Man, I gotta get in shape. But, first, I need a nap."
I watch as Rusty's head flop back to the floor.
I look over at Tippi, now situated in her cat bed in the bay window. She lifts her head in recognition of my glance. "I'm a noble lady, and he is not." Blinking her eyes at me with this truth, she majestically places her head on her front paws.
Thirty-five seconds later ...
"Outta here!" LJ dives for the middle of the floor. Lands with a thud. Splays out once more to reveal his belly. Then, relaxes on his side, facing Rusty.
Peace once again descends upon the Hill home.
May all of our pets allow us to coddle our imagination!
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.