fearlessness gave way to pragmatism
Friday, January 12 2007
Today was another warm day, so I threw open the garage doors to harvest the air and cut some firewood while I was at it. I'd been doing this about twenty minutes when Gretchen went out to check the mail, followed by an electron cloud of dogs. Oliver, one of the poodles we're dog sitting, suddenly saw Clarence (our big tawny cat) and, because it was an unusual outdoor context, he charged after him. Clarence, who usual fearlessness gave way to pragmatism, escaped up a tree, climbing a bit higher than I could possibly reach with a ladder. At first he was hugging the tree and could have easily shimmied down backwards, but then he somehow managed to settle down onto a lateral branch from another tree passing a foot away. This branch was only about an inch thick but somehow it was able to support Clarence's weight. He couldn't balance on it perfectly, though, and kept one of his hind feet pressed against the trunk he'd climbed. I couldn't imagine how Clarence was going to be able to come down from where he was. If he ran down that inch-wide branch he'd have trouble balancing (and it was also very steep). And in order to grab the trunk he'd originally climbed he'd have to make some sort of crazy one-foot pivot on that same inch-wide branch.
By now we'd put Oliver away and were trying to coax Clarence down but he wasn't going anywhere. On occasions like this other people might be tempted to call the local hook and ladder company, but we elected to just let him be.
About fifteen minutes later I saw that Clarence had somehow made it down that inch-wide branch to the trunk it came from and I knew he'd be alright. He definitely seemed skittish when he finally came walking around the north side of the house.
When Oliver first arrived about a week ago, he'd been fascinated with all the cats, particularly Clarence (since he neither fled nor completely ignored Oliver). He'd follow Clarence around and even bark at him when Clarence would pretend to ignore him. But over time they gradually reached a detente and Clarence had even started being friendly towards Oliver, rubbing up against him as he walked past. Today's incident, though, was a complete setback to their relationship, which I found surprising. Normally with animals an altercation in a novel setting doesn't have any bearing on the relationship back in the normal setting. My theory is that their relationship had only been mildly poisoned by the altercation but that it had set up a feedback loop, with Clarence being noticeably more nervous and Oliver exploiting that new evident weakness.
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