Why our new cat chose to stick around


Last Thursday morning, our 16-year-old son took one look out our front door and said, “Better get Mom.”wpid-wp-1413459917007.jpeg

He had the right idea.

Cute balls of fluff are her purview.

Stray animals glom onto her as if she were some sort of Pied Piper. In fact, if it was up to her our house would be so crowded with unwanted cats and dogs we’d be forced to use the garage as the master bedroom.

That’s why he just as well could have asked, “What did Mom bring home now?”

A half-an-hour earlier, my wife woke me concerned about what appeared to be a stray cat. It was preventing her from taking our dog Rodney for his morning swing around the neighborhood. The cat, no more than a kitten really, was tailing them, and my wife feared it might get hit by a car. She wanted me to somehow distract the cat long enough for her and Rodney to get on their way.

I rubbed my eyes and dutifully did what I always do in a crisis — I reached for a snack.

In this case, I settled for a small bowl filled with a handful of our cat Skitty’s food. I set it outside, figuring breakfast was what the kitten wanted and was, in fact, desperate for.

I sat on our front stoop as the sun came up that morning watching that cat gobble down Skitty’s food. It was a very young, little female Tuxedo, a cat whose coat is black on top, contrasted with a white belly, chest and feet. And it was incredibly friendly.

I figured I was looking at a new family member. Our daughter and I even started arguing about what to call her.

She wanted Artemis because she’s enthusiastic about the Greek gods thanks to the Percy Jackson series of books. She’s a fangirl.

But I’ve been a Star Trek fanboy longer than she’s been a fangirl of anything. I wanted to name her Spot because that’s what Data called his cat on ST: The Next Generation.

I’m going to pretend I won (I didn’t) and, for the sake of clarity, use Spot as the cat’s name.

Spot spent the day hanging out at our house, hoovering up food and drink as if he were a journalist. (As a general rule, journalists don’t turn down free food, perhaps because we’re often one step away from being strays ourselves.)

I kept Spot’s belly full that day. I even briefly reintroduced her to Rodney, who was predictably overenthusiastic. The two,however, seemed like they would eventually get along.

I wish I could say the same about our cat Skitty.

I had cautioned our daughter not to let Spot inside the house for fear of Skitty’s reaction. So of course, Spot somehow found a way in while I wasn’t looking. But at least our daughter had the presence of mind to quickly scoot Spot back outside before the cat fight escalated beyond Skitty’s maniacal hissing.

You’d think Skitty would feel some sympathy for a fellow feline down on its luck. After all, Skitty was looking at the vagabond life herself before being snatched by our daughter shortly after she was born beneath our neighbor’s ground-level deck.

She remained, however, steadfast in her meanness in the face of Spot’s amiable cuteness.

After his encounter with Skitty’s hostility and Rodney’s relentless inquisitiveness, I suspect Spot questioned the wisdom of sticking around our house. She disappeared that night and was gone for most of the next day.

My wife worried about that cat for a solid 24 hours, but she needn’t have. Spot was back in her arms Friday evening. And now she’s adopted our “Laundry Basket of Misfit Socks” as her refuge from Rodney and Skitty.wpid-wp-1413810642456.jpeg

I’m not sure because Spot’s not saying, but I think I know what brought her back. While she was gone, she must have stumbled upon an article The Journal newspaper published last week. It was about the stray cat problem in our region, the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. According to the article, feral cats are cramming into shelters around here at twice the rate of dogs.

Given the choice, Spot has apparently decided that putting up with us is a much better option.

Don’t look a stink bug in the mouth


The point is moot.

Last week, I posted online an open letter to October that prompted a brief exchange of opinions on whether to call a potential World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles the “Beltway” or “Parkway” series.

One reader (the only one, for all I know) suggested I should have called it the “Parkway” series.  She apparently took the view of those who say “Parkway” makes more sense because the Baltimore-Washington Parkway actually connects the two cities, while the two beltways don’t have much, if anything, to do with each other.

The debate over what to call such a series was fun while it lasted, but it hardly matters now. The Nationals have been knocked out of Major League Baseball’s postseason, leaving me to conclude once again that October is a capricious month.

While I still look forward to the cooler temperatures and the browns, reds, yellows and golds of autumn, October has left my 16-year-old son and me without a dog in the MLB hunt.

It has also brought the enemy back to the gates.

Stink bugs.

I found one hanging around my front door last week. And since then, a few have broken through my defenses and have attempted to set up camp inside my once tranquil home.

I like to think of myself as a mild-mannered sort of fellow, but stink bugs bring out The Terminator in me. They are to me what squirrels are to our dog Rodney, something to be mercilessly chased out of our back yard.

But since my bark is not quite as startling as Rodney’s and since my wife would likely object if I armed myself with a shotgun like Arnold Schwarzenegger does in the movies, I have to make do with a spray bottle filled with soapy water. A spray bottle may not have the same kick as a shotgun, but at least it’s not as messy.

Our exterminator (as opposed to Schwarzenegger’s Terminator) told me a few years ago that soapy water is about as good as anything else at getting rid of stink bugs. It’s supposed to clog up the bug’s pores and suffocate them.

Once doused, I generally toss their little stink bug carcasses outside or flush them down the toilet, but after what a friend recently suggested, discarding them so carelessly seems wasteful.

He said I should throw them in a frying pan and eat them as a snack as people do in other parts of the world. Apparently, they “taste like bubble gum.”

Bubble gum?

I didn’t need to know that.

But come to think of it, maybe harvesting stink bugs makes more sense than flushing them.

I’m told they are full of protein. I could even use them to add an unusual flavor to the pot of chili I’m thinking of whipping up this weekend. And better yet, I could save some money on snacks for our always hungry son.

He probably won’t notice, anyway. He’s still distracted by baseball’s postseason.