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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lion Around

In a previous post, I've written about the many ways that dogs play with stuffed animals. (Plush with Joy.)  We always have quite a few of these plush toys around for Jasper, Lilah and Tucker to romp with, gnaw on, chase after, or discuss ownership.

Recently, I've noticed that there are some favorites. Tucker has been quite sweet on a certain Headless Horse, whose injury was the result of a particularly enthusiastic game of Tug. It doesn't matter that his toy is missing an essential part of it's anatomy. Actually, I imagine that it's more fun that way, because a gaping hole where the head ought to be creates great opportunities for stuffing removal. And that's almost as much fun as Tug.  Plus, once all the innards are out, the flat scraps of a once-huggable toy also provide great amusement. I think it might have something to do with the Flop Factor; holding an unstuffed animal in ones' mouth and shaking it very hard creates a very satisfying effect. We keep several of these barely recognizable pelts around until, after repeated Tug battles, they are reduced to unsafe bits of  furry cloth and are added to the recycling pile.

Tucker and the Headless Horse

Lilah's lion, however, doesn't seem to be headed ("be headed?" Snicker!) toward the same fate, even though there's a slight tear near the neck--the result of a misguided attempt at Tug by Tucker. A very sweet, even-tempered animal, Lilah is the nurturer, the one who always comes running when anyone--dog, cat, or human--seems injured or sick. Yet if Jasper or Tucker tries to take her lion, she can go from zero to ferocious faster than a ticked-off tiger--or at least sound that way. Her snarly growls and frozen stare are enough to make even the bravest of dogs reconsider just how much he wants to play with that particular toy at that particular moment. It's all a game to Lilah, but Jasper and Tucker let go and back away slowly.

Lilah, Lion

Why the lion? What is it about this particular plush that makes sweet Lilah disinclined to share?

It's got whiskers.

I don't know why whiskers are so attractive, but Lilah loves them.

Every morning, when the dogs come downstairs with me, she heads straight for the lion. The boys take a drink of water, look out the window to see what's barkable, sniff a cat toy or two--or a cat--and generally assess the area to see if anything has changed since they went to bed last night. Lilah ignores all that; she locates her lion and settles down for a good floss.

With one paw holding the inanimate creature steady, she nibbles those whiskers, closing her eyes, centered on the task. Her nose mushes up against the fake fur snout as she chews gently.

Lilah's little wrinkled nose is just so cute.

The morning routine ebbs and flows around her as the cats greet me, the dog beds are put back into position, and I prepare to take the pups out for their morning business. Lilah stays focused and undisturbed.

Bones? No. Stuffed lemur? Nope. Gotta have that lion.

It's not just a morning routine, though. Whenever we're in the family room, Lilah will gravitate toward the lion and enjoy a nibble or seven. She'll often fall asleep with the toy between her paws.

Lion in her arms

Lilah is ever so gentle with those little plastic bits, and after months of whisker flossing, they're still there--a little bent, a little thin in some places, but still there.

Maybe that's why she has such a brilliant smile.

Lilah smile

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stair Down

A herd of buffalo live in my house.

Or may it's a dozen third-grade boys.

Poltergeists with bowling balls?

What I have is kittens. Though at just over a year, they're technically cats. Whatever the label, they have a combined weight of perhaps a dozen pounds. Which means there is no way I can explain the amount of thumping, crashing and thundering that occurs when Elsa Clair and Calvin play their favorite game, Chase on the Stairs.

If you live in a multi-level house with feline roommates, you may be familiar with this game. There are as many variations as there are shades of cat.

The game often begins with Someone peering down from the top of the stairs at Someone Else. That's the fun part about stairs: the staring from on high.

Calvin and Elsa Clair: the stair down.

The stair stares continue. Tension builds. An ear flicks. A whisker twitches.

The Stair Stare

Then Someone pops...and the Chase is on. China rattles. The dogs wake up. I get up from my morning coffee to investigate, expecting to see hordes of cats pouring down the staircase. Instead, I'm greeted with two tiny faces attached to small kitten bodies that are sitting calmly on the bottom step. They peer at me. "Kittens? Running? Nope, haven't seen any."

Fun on the stairs.

There must be a law of physics that can account for the huge sound of two kittens racing up and down a staircase. I know that f = m x a (Force equals Mass times Acceleration, for those who don't remember the formula from science class), but maybe there's a scientist somewhere who is working madly in his cramped lab on the top floor of Victorian home developing m x a x (2+ S) = Ch (Mass times Acceleration times 2 Kittens on the Stairs = Chaos).

Each step in our main staircase has a lip on it (technically called decorative nosing; I looked it up), which makes it perfect for Sneaking. Elsa Clair, who is the tinier of the two kittens, hides just under the nosing (See? I found a way to use my new word). At the top, Calvin will know, just KNOW she's there, but will be unable to see her from his vantage point. He also knows that, even though his sister is small, she packs a pretty good left hook, more daunting because of it's sharp and pointy edges.

Elsa Clair Sneaking

Calvin will take up a post at the top. He'll suddenly remember he hasn't cleaned his forehead.  Elsa Clair is patient, patient. The tip of her tail curls slightly to the right. Then the left. Stops. Calvin finishes his forehead and moves onto an ear. He gets distracted by an imaginary bug and looks up at the ceiling. Finally, he reaches a tentative paw over the edge of the step, followed slowly by another. Front half of cat on the first step, back half still moored to the floor. It seems safe. A cautious descent begins. From below, a tiny black ear tip moves; before Calvin can react, Elsa Clair charges up the stairs.

And the chase begins again.

The Chase!

Even with only one cat, stairs are fun. Calvin likes to roll on his back and claw his way up stair by stair, upside down.

Calvin ready to roll and rock.

Elsa Clair loves to peer through the balusters (another new word) and swat at people as they walk by.

Cuteness with pointy edges.

Living with cats, one might begin to think that the sole purpose of stairs is to provide amusement for kittens.

But then again, isn't that the main purpose of nearly anything?