February 27, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Pet tales

By |2023-11-23T03:43:47+01:00November 22nd, 2023|Rye Wyt|
When cats and dogs meet...
I

n a previous state in a previous life, Crumpet the dog and Zombie the cat prowled our domain. They’d each been with us, which is to say with me and my daughter, Rebecca, for just over a year.

Crumpet, a mixed-breed runt, we picked up from a shelter where they told us how great they were and how we should stay away from the cat shelter down the road. Apparently they were pet-adoption rivals that had Gaza Strip–like views about the virtues of dogs over cats and vice versa. Charlie, the guy who sold us on Crumpet, would have easily gone to war with Silvia, who handed over blue-eyed Zombie. Since Charlie was a retired Navy SEAL and Silvia had served on the ground in Iraq, I was glad to make it back home with the two shelter pets without starting a war. So was Rebecca, who wanted to know what a crumpet was and why I had a zombie fixation. Because she’d dared me to name our new lodgers, I’d just blurted out what was on my mind; crumpet because I was once in London not knowing what they were and zombie because I once obsessed over living-dead flicks and served as an effects “wizard” (that’s what they called me) for a zombie-heavy TV series I can’t name here (I’d have to kill you if I did because I signed a non-disclosure agreement . . . though killing you might not be such a bad idea if you promised to come back as a zombie).

Charlie, the guy who sold us on Crumpet, would have easily gone to war with Silvia, who handed over blue-eyed Zombie.

Long story short, London-memory Crumpet and undead-driven Zombie made life at home a lot more livable. Before that it was just Rebecca and me, a recipe for a weird but wonderful father-daughter, do-it-all life. Because Rebecca was a cat creature, I gave her agency over Zombie — lots of fun because I actually used the word “agency” to make her look it up. She did. Oh, yes, she did. And Zombie from time to time was called Agency, at least in my presence. She did this to vex me, which also sent her into look-up mode. So goes life between Dad and daughter.

In fairness, she was great with Zombie and was single-handedly responsible for brokering a cat-dog peace deal that I could never have managed. She did this without tanks or air attacks or causing death and destruction to civilians (and their pets). Her method? Diplomacy or else. . . . She locked Crumpet and Zombie in our small yard until they exhausted their mutual snarling and somehow came to terms with eating food from the same bowl. The food was a mix of cat and dog treats so they both got a fair share of fine dining. Rebecca’s yard work worked, and the two creatures eventually put aside their animosity and actually came to enjoy each other. These days, I feel like Rebecca should be deployed conflict ridden parts of the world to make warring humans eat from the same bowl. If two species can be coaxed into not baring their teeth at each other, why not (allegedly) enlightened souls from two different tribes?

A stout little brown thing Rebecca, not wanting to again let me loose on names, decided would be You, or Yoo.

I used this zany metaphor to explain events in the Middle East to Rebecca, who between Taylor Swift tracks got bursts of phone-filtered news. “Why do those people hate each other so much?” she asked. And I did my best with geopolitics 101, giving an explanation that more or less amounted to “It’s complicated.”

Where were Crumpet and Zombie when I needed them, a question Rebecca has also been asking a lot. The answer is that Crumpet was run over by a car (I hate this part), and Zombie became, um, a cat zombie or a wandering minstrel or a lost tribe of one. Translation: A month after Crumpet went north to heaven, Zombie simply took off, leaving Becca in tears. After which we soon picked up and came to California — with Rebecca half-hoping we’d acquire the Agency needed to find Zombie and that crumpets might grow on trees here. If only.

Bottom line, we’re pet-less and vexed. At least for now. Last Sunday we went gerbil shopping (thanks for pet mega-stores, California) but came away not with a gerbil, which Becca liked because they more or less fit in the palm of her hand, but . . . wait for it . . . a rabbit! A stout little brown thing Rebecca, not wanting to again let me loose on names, decided would be You, or Yoo. This happened just last week, so I still don’t have any rabbit tales up my sleeve. They’re sure to come later.

For now, I’m Rabbit Dad, mesmerized by You’s saucer-like eyes and toothy little mouth. You, who is a she (until the gender cops say otherwise), is, to me, a mix between a crumpet and a zombie while actually being something else entirely. I’m happy. R-Beca (her rap name) is happy. The drone that patrols our complex is happy. And so far no one’s fired a shot.

About the Author:

Joel Stein is the assumed named of a humor columnist who doubles as a senior marketing representative. He does have a not-so- assumed daughter named Rebecca.