Watching From the Shadows

Missy and I had been sitting on the couch when we heard the jingle.

“Shhh,” I said. “I think she reappeared.”

I set my tablet down, looked behind the furniture. Sure enough, a pair of small eyes gleamed back. After a long day of invisibility, Cupid had deigned to show herself again.

Well, sort of. You can’t rush a lady.

Cupid is the visiting cat of a visiting relative. A grand-and-tiny feline of 13, she’s also a new adoptee, greeting her changed environment with a mixture of curiosity and uncertainty. That especially includes our muscular English Labrador Blake, who has greeted the new arrival with a mix of enthusiasm (“Hey! New friends!”) and jealousy (“Hey! This is MY house!”). She in return has greeted him with a mixture of concealment (“I’m not here …”) and ferocity (“…. but my claws are, buddy, so don’t come any closer, OK?”).

Note to self: When a 95-pound dog tries to mix it up with a tiny puff of fur, don’t bet against the puff of fur.

This is familiar ground, though it’s been quite a while. When I was a kid, my sister Leslie introduced Twinkle Lumas Rochat to our home, named for the blaze of orange between her eyes that matched a mark on her mother, Starface. Twinkle remained in the house as an uncrowned queen for 17 years, learning the arcane secrets of paper bag, bits of ribbon, and Christmas tree tinsel.

And, of course, Max.

Max was the newer arrival, a bearded collie who loved the world. It was a match made in … well, somewhere. Like most beardies, Max had never heard of personal space; like most cats, Twinkle believed the entire house was hers.

On the first day Max came home, Twinkle disappeared into my sister Carey’s closet and refused to leave.

The script started out as Upstairs, Downstairs – as in, Max hadn’t yet mastered staircases, so upstairs and downstairs were the perfect places for Twinkle to hide. When he made the breakthrough, it became the biggest shock in Twinkle’s life and the start of a new episode, straight out of the old Road Runner show: one bark, one yowl, and two furry bodies streaking up or down the steps in hot pursuit. (Anvil not included.)

It took a long time, but things eventually reached a detente. And then some. It wasn’t uncommon for someone quietly entering a room to notice a certain pup and a certain kitty sleeping within paw’s length of each other. Once they realized they’d been seen, of course, official relations resumed, beginning with a high-speed chase, but we all knew the truth.

Each had made their peace, without compromising who they were. And they’d made something better doing it.

That’s not an easy thing to do for anybody, furry or not.

We live in a world of changes. Not all of those changes are comfortable. Some we welcome, some we fight, some we try to accommodate if we can.

But the one thing we can’t do is ignore them and pretend they’re not there. Oh, it’s tempting. And there can be a bit of helpful respite in pulling back to reassess, recover, and figure out what to do next. But as Twinkle discovered, hiding out only works for so long before the change finds you anyway. Then you have to figure out what to do next.

That doesn’t mean surrender. But it does mean understanding what’s happened, and then working out what the next step needs to be.

Meanwhile, we’ve got a guest to attend to.

Somewhere around here, anyway.

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