Fighting against DNA: Trout and Fenway work toward a detente
By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
There exists, between dog and cat, between Fenway and Trout, an uneasy detente broken by sporadic and unpredictable skirmishes. It was not supposed to be this way. We had hoped for common ground and a consensus that would allow each a level of, if not friendship, at least tolerance, one for the other. At times we find cause for optimism. Then, dashed hopes in a spat of cat and dog, both of which can run from a host of demons but cannot outrun bloodlines and inviolate DNA.
Fenway, the Boston terrier that at times I refer to as the Boston Terrible has suffered loss; his two old mates, Riika and Thor, gone now and the pack of three, comfortable in their hierarchy wrought over time now splintered; Fenway the lone dog standing. He is middle aged for a terrier. He is graying, his face and eyes frosted with white hairs and there is sadness to him at times, as if the sadness and the graying have descended in tandem.
Trout is the interloper, the new kid in the house, a two-year old black-and-white cat (a tuxedo) full of energy, mischief and the unquestionable standoffishness of cats mixed with undeniable affection. Trout can turn it on, turn it off; affectionate one minute, aloof and haughty the next. Such are cats. If one desires consistency in personality look other than a cat with their flighty mannerisms. Perhaps a goldfish or a reptile.
We said, “They’ll work it out.” For the most part, they have. For the most part the two of them, both black and white, looking like litter mates, for the most part they have worked it out. For the most part.
But they have their moments. They have times when detente is lost as calm and order are lost in a swirl of wind storm under a blue sky. Yes, they have their moments.
There was, most telling, the chair incident. Fenway’s chair, the one he favors in Sally’s office, the one he snuggles into and naps under an old blanket. He sleeps in comfort there; he sleeps in peace; he is content. Until Trout found it. Until Trout took it as her own. Until Trout settled in and curled up and napped. And Fenway was unaware that she was there.
Unaware that is until he jumped from floor to chair as is his norm, as is his habit, as is his claim to the chair and all that it entails. Jumped effortlessly from the hardwood and arched through the air like an NBA forward moving to the basket and came down hard and fast on the slumbering Trout who reacted in an instant with flashing claws and mighty hissing and a whip-like punch to Fen.
Fenway was off the chair as if it was electrified which, in a sense it was, charged with the alarmed cat who threw a few quick jabs like a featherweight boxer, tat-tat-tatting in rapid fire punches like sparks on a frayed wire.
And Fenway, poor Fenway, ran as if the gates of Hell had opened at his heels and were unleashing all manner of demons in a chase. He ran to the back door, cried for Sally to open it and then outside where the weak-willed Trout will not venture. There he found comfort in the gray chill of late winter. He stayed out for a long time, ears laid back, trembling with the cold and the fear.
When he came back inside he was unsettled, humiliated, embarrassed and hurt of feelings. We picked him up and assured him he was a good boy. It did scant good; he did not find comfort. He sulked and cowered for a day and another and only then did he come back to his normal self.
We were concerned. This is not what we anticipated. For one thing, we fully expected Fenway to be more aggressive. He is, after all a dog, no matter how little a Boston terrier actually looks like a dog. He should hold his own and then some in the company of the smallish cat. But he did not. He gave it up to Trout.
She began to stalk him at times, belly low to the floor, eyes focused like death rays, step by step moving in on him as if on prey. We broke that up when we saw it and Trout, as cats do, simply changed her personality as if lifting a veil and gave us that look: “Me? I was just strolling along. Where’s the problem?”
They continue to work it out but there is the simmering tension between the two of them. They mostly get along, consider each other with curiosity if not affection, nose to nose, feeling things out. Most of the time it seems to be working. But there is memory and there is lineage of cat and dog to contend with. Neither can escape the coiled DNA they carry.
I see them begin to escalate and yell at them across the room, “Social distance, dammit! Three feet apart, six feet, whatever!” And at that the moment is broken and they move apart and pretend not to care.
But I know that if they had doggie and kitty cell phones and were able to use them they’d be on Twitter or Facebook exchanging snarky comments to their faux friends who would urge them on to more nastiness. As the drumbeat of social media roils the world around us the last thing we need is for our pets to have that outlet. In this lacking they remain elevated above the social norms of humans and for that we are better.
Fenway seeks out a patch of sunlight where it shines on the living room floor. Trout moves along the edges of the room like smoke drifting on a breeze; silent and smooth. Fenway’s eyes follow her. She pretends not to watch him. Tension builds.
They are working it out. Slowly. Very slowly.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.