When I spent six months in Tucson, I became friends with a couple of dogs who obviously weren’t meant to be friendly. They were a pair of boxers with menacing barks but after a couple of weeks they stopped barking at me. They lived within a fenced yard with a sign that told passersby to beware of them and their personal style indicated that this was a fine idea. However they seemed to like being talked to and after a brief initiation period, they began to come as close to me as they could get, leaning against the substantial chain links of the fence.
I never touched them because of a chat I had one day with their owner. “I don’t want them to be friendly,” he told me, but he told me their names, Chacha and Chipilone. With this crucial piece of information, my brief encounters with the dogs became more intimate and they seemed to like the increased recognition.
I also picked up a bit of Spanish vocabulary that has no single word equivalent in English. The youngest dog was named Chipilone because he was like a child who demanded every scrap of his mother’s attention for himself--and sure enough, the youngest of the boxers jammed between the older dog and me as thoroughly as the fence would allow.
I now live in a household with two chipilones.
When I brought Mr. Fritz home to be a companion for Mulrooney. I’d been told that this tiny little cat was deferential to other felines and at first that seemed to be true. But as soon as he gained enough confidence to venture out from under the bed, he gradually began to take over, inserting himself between Mulrooney and me, Mulrooney and the food bowls, Mulrooney and the cat treats. He observed where Mulrooney liked to sleep at night and did his best to take that over too.
In spite of there being two of almost every cat essential in this very small apartment, Mr, Fritz wants it all. Annoyingly, Mulrooney has spent the last three weeks in a state of abdication, with all of his hostilities directed toward me. Any attention paid to Mr. Fritz, even the uttering of his name, depletes the supply of affection that Mulrooney knows is his.
Mr. Fritz seems more than willing to confirm this theory. He took over the fleece jacket that’s been Mulrooney’s security blanket for the past couple of years. He’s done his level best to monopolize the bed once I’m in it. He likes nothing better than to gobble his portion of Fancy Feast and then turn toward Mulrooney’s. The one thing he hasn’t assumed possession of is Mulrooney’s little cat cave and that’s been the saving grace of this situation, if there can be any at all.
Last night Mulrooney asserted his right to the bed and Mr. Fritz disputed this for a couple of fun-filled hours. It’s like living with the Jets and the Sharks in feline form and it’s eroding my nervous fiber.
I’ve been told to separate them. Put Mr. Fritz in the bathroom and close the door. This would work wonderfully well if I had more than one bathroom or if Mr. Fritz hadn’t rejected that plan from his first minutes in this apartment. Instead he and Mulrooney have chosen their own spaces, one under the bed, one in his cat cave. There are hours in the day when anybody walking into this place would swear that no cats lived here. There are hours when I wish that were true.
The part that bothers me most about this is the look in Mulrooney’s eyes. He’s a very expressive cat with an eloquent scowl when life doesn’t go in the way he wants it to. He’s not scowling now. He has the feline version of the thousand-mile stare, something I’ve never seen before, and I have an impressive number of scratches on both forearms.
Since the afternoon of February 28th, I’ve been hyperventilating, my life consumed by nonstop turf wars. For the first time ever I’ve considered asking my doctor for Xanax and when a friend bought me a couple of cocktails the other day, a life of heavy drinking began to seem like a fine idea indeed.
The truth is there’s a battle for dominance going on here and it’s not pretty. I have the flesh wounds to prove it.
They’ll work it out, I’ve been told--but will I survive the process?
Slowly I’m beginning to believe this place just isn’t big enough for all of us.