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Walkin'

We have another houseguest this week.
Gretel comes to us via Wal-Mart, where a mechanic in the auto services department found her hiding in the engine compartment of a customer’s car. When the owners of the vehicle returned they were given a bill for an oil change, which they were expecting, and Gretel, which they weren’t.
Getting a kitten was not on their to-do list for the car owners so they took her to the animal clinic where Sabra works. Gretel, not much more than a puff of hair, was clearly in poor condition. That night, the vet performed an emergency amputation of her tail, and the staff pitched in to nurse her back to health. About this time, Max, the long-time mascot of the clinic passed, and Gretel was adopted to take her place. She soon grew into the job of laying in her bed on the receptionist’s counter and keeping a disinterested– she is a cat after all– eye on the other animals who come and go throughout the day.
Then this past weekend, the furnace malfunctioned at the clinic and sent smoke throughout the building. The North Liberty Volunteer Fire Department was called and the response was swift, as the firehouse is about 100 feet away. The source of the smoke was quickly uncovered and put out, but the building was left without heat for a couple of days. It was decided that Gretel would be better off away from the office until the problem could be fixed permanently, and Sabra offered our home.
We– the other animals in the house and I– have gone through this before. Buzz, our aged hound dog, is years past entertaining new houseguests and retreats to a spot on our bed. Our cats– Meow and Conan, more often referred to as #$%^ cat and *&%^ cat– stay out of sight as is their habit. Pearl, our brain-challenged labradoodle, enjoys new company for two reasons, both having to do with food. A computer scientist coined the acronym GIGO, for garbage in, garbage out. For Pearl, the acronym should be FIFO, for food in, food out. As for me, I’m generally okay with providing temporary shelter, but get a little, well, jealous at the amount of effort Sabra goes through to make furry visitors comfy.
During this last visit, for example, she decided that Gretel needed a cage to feel secure with our pets. How she came to this conclusion I’m not sure, as Gretel lives in a veterinary clinic. But I live by another acronym, HWHL for happy wife, happy life, so I didn’t question her logic. When nothing turned up, she decided to confiscate Pearl’s kennel from our bedroom and move it to the living room.
The kennel is a wire cage about two feet wide, four long and three high. It’s just big enough for Pearl to get into, turn around and lie down. To the uninitiated, it may seem cruel to make a dog Pearl’s size stay in such a small space but it really isn’t. It’s her little cave and she goes there willingly to think, um ponder, um ruminate. . . well, she just goes there. We used to lock Pearl in if she was to be home alone as she had an annoying habit of chewing objects like my glasses or the TV remote while we were gone. But she hasn’t been a bad girl for a long time, so now she pretty much has free rein of the house while we’re gone. She opts to stay in her kennel out of habit now, not because of lock and key.
Sabra warned me that Pearl might have some angst caused by the vanishing of her cave’s walls, and admonished me to act as if nothing had changed. Pearl, fortunately, was too busy not thinking, not pondering and not ruminating to notice.
Gretel’s new digs were quickly furnished with her bed and bowl from the clinic plus a few toys and a small pan of kitty litter. Sabra, however, sensed that our new houseguest was less than perfectly content so she crawled into the kennel with her to perform some on-site feng shui.
It was then that I walked into the living room.
Oh, that lock was so close. . .