My cat thinks she can dazzle me with her stubbornness, but she has no idea what she’s up against. If she wants to stay out overnight and get her internal organs punctured by an owl’s talons that’s fine, as long as it’s a clean kill and we don’t have to deal with the remains.
I only have a soft spot for the dog and the other cat, the sister, who hangs back in the mornings when I feed the first one, and waits for me to lift her and put her on the counter. She can get up there fine on her own; it’s become some new language between the two of us, a form of intimacy and ritual by the early morning laundry room light.
Then there’s Minnie, a Boston Terrier my mother-in-law adopted who’s with us now for most of September, while the mother is off in France. It’s the same breed as Dawn and her family had growing up, and coincidentally, this one has the same name as the original Minnie, from 30 years ago.
But like the tale of the Monkey’s Paw, you can’t fool with nature. This one may mimic the memory of the first Minnie, but this one’s flawed. Its brains are scrambled from seizures and it lost all its hair, so it’s constantly shivering, yapping, nervous, looking past you with its milky marble eyes.
She pulls at the leash and drools, snorts, gasps, chokes herself, and picks fights with dogs that could eat her, which is embarrassing. From the back of her, the hind legs are bare and pink like undercooked chicken.
Dawn wonders at my heartlessness, looks at me with hope and eternal patience, wondering how I can harbor such hate for this creature that cowers in bed with us below the sheets, while I’m counting backwards fighting insomnia and thoughts of work, and it pants hot, dirty dog breath and shakes, tries to extend itself into my region of the bed, but gets an elbow or a knee, or a quick shove off the edge.
The sun climbs over the roof and Minnie sits by the fire pit panting, that mouth that’s like a Jack o’lantern’s cut open too wide, panting, purple lips and a pink tongue, ears like a vampire bat’s, bald stomach like a pig-skin football.
The leaves fall in a nonsensical pattern like snowflakes to collect on the forest floor; moss hangs from the branches and catches the angle of the sun and the dew-drops amid the choking, drooling, snorting yank of the pig called Minnie, pulling at the leash, yapping.
Pets take on the characteristics of their owners, or perhaps their owners choose them because they already possess those characteristics, the way you choose a mate. There is something small and precious about them, waiting to be loved and cared for, by you. And like people, some you just can’t stand, and can’t explain why.