67: The Boys Take a Vacation

67: The Boys Take a Vacation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

The Boys Take a Vacation

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.

~Elbert Hubbard

The smoke drove me to it. Southern Oregon summers are hot and parched, and when dry lightning arrives, one storm can produce over 1,000 strikes. Several will find their mark amid thirsty tinder, and our surrounding forests and wildlife suffer the ensuing fires. Though we weren’t in harm’s way, the wind fed us a choking supply of lingering particulates. The DEQ had declared our air hazardous for a couple of weeks when I’d had enough. I figured my boys felt the same. That’s when I decided.

My boys are two extra-large male cats. Oliver is an eighteen-pound tabby with expressive, almost human, green eyes. He loves his vittles and a window seat. Cassidy is a gunmetal gray shorthair who can hold his own with Ollie despite a lame hind leg. His disability doesn’t prevent him from galloping, leaping and sliding across the wood floor with exuberance. He flirts with me by slowly batting his eyes and purring. Cass wakes me from nightmares with one paw softly to my lips.

They had given me so much companionship; I wanted to repay them by taking them on a lark, a much needed change of pace.

“Do the boys want to go on a trip?” I asked them, not realizing it was the same tone of voice as “Do the boys want treats?” I took their eager faces for yes and began planning.

I wanted to travel far enough to escape the smoke, certainly, but with as little road time as possible since they weren’t used to the car. I decided Klamath Falls would be perfect, just a little over an hour away and with a nice inn, reasonably priced and pet-friendly. I naively made reservations for two nights.

“We’re going to have a weekend of solid fun, boys!”

Cat translation: So, where are the treats she keeps talking about?

I enjoyed bagging up their bowls and things, and smiled as I remembered packing my daughter Emily’s baby items so many years ago, a thought I wouldn’t share aloud.

Each stout fellow had his own carrier. I tossed a favored toy inside and, after loading everything else into the car, gently but firmly shoved each reluctant traveler inside his cozy conveyance. That’s when the duet began. Either they’d figured out how much fun we were going to have and those were exclamations of “Goody! Hooray, a change of pace!” or not. I spoke words of comfort.

“We’re going to have fun, boys. Just relax and enjoy the ride.”

After hoisting them into the back of my Civic coupe, no small feat, they continued in tandem. I offered up a prayer for help and drove away from our comfortable, smoke-shrouded home sweet home.

A particularly vicious string of yowls, punctuated with what came across as feline sailor talk, caused me to turn and look aghast at Oliver, who clenched the cage door with his teeth. I kept calm, turned the radio on low, and refrained from sticking my fingers through the bars to pat his head.

After about eight miles of pleas and threats from the back, they simmered down along with my blood pressure. There was only an occasional plaintive wail when Bob Dylan or Janis Joplin came on the radio. My boys weren’t fond of harmonicas, apparently. They enjoyed the operatic tenor on the classical station. That’s when I howled, but we compromised.

“Isn’t this fun, guys?” I smiled big, but they were merely resigned.

When we arrived at The Cimarron Inn, the friendly clerk said, “Oh yes, you have the cats.”

“Yes.” I smiled at the others checking in who smiled back. People traveled with their dogs all the time, treating them more like children. Dogs were some folks’ children! So, why not bring my cats? I would learn the answer.

At this point, I may have judged that publicly unloading the giant litter box was the worst of it. I carried our equipment into the comfortable and spacious room, setting the boys’ carriers on their very own queen-sized bed. When I was a kid, my first response would have been to test the springs with a good jumping session. Not these boys. Cassidy commenced hyper-exploration while Oliver made a beeline for the darkest corner behind the bed. I thought only mice or gerbils could flatten their bodies like that, not a sumo-cat. I could feel his furry head with my fingertips and he wasn’t coming out.

Cassidy seemed delighted to discover all the amenities of home. He kept making the circuit, visiting each station: food bowl, water, and litter box, if only to paw up dust. He seemed satisfied that the world was as it should be, but kept making sure.

I worried that Oliver crouched, psychotic and staring, behind the bed until I heard snoring from his cave.

I made myself at home on the bed, demonstrating what relaxation looked like. Cassidy would flit back to me, lie down briefly, and then take off on another tour of the accommodations.

I got up, grabbed my ham sandwich from the mini fridge, and waved it at the entrance to Oliver’s lair but he didn’t budge. I ignored him until curiosity won out. Out he stalked, low and slow, on high alert. Whenever anyone walked by the door, jingled their keys or sighed too heavily he ducked for cover.

Nighttime came, and I thought the mood had mellowed and we were all feeling darned cozy. I had my book, TV, and popcorn. I was set for a weekend of low-key fun with the boys. When both cats joined me on the bed, I breathed a sigh of relief, confident that my plan was a good one after all. Nope. Not as far as my two insomniacs were concerned.

Cassidy hopped off and on the bed about eighty-two times during the night with Oliver right behind — their heads jerking when a neighbor yawned or flushed. They finally fell asleep, at 6 a.m. I did not. Refreshed, cat-free people began slamming trunk lids and sliding van doors just outside, causing my head to jerk. Meanwhile, Ollie resumed his snoring. My neighbor must have thought that it was me. Would it have been any less humiliating to explain that it was, in fact, my cat?

So, I hauled myself out of bed not caring if I woke the sleeping giants. I headed for the free breakfast and many cups of coffee.

I could have kissed the desk clerk when he said calmly, “Of course you can cancel the second night. Just be checked out by noon.”

“No problem,” I said through watery eyes. “The cats didn’t have a very good time and I didn’t…” That was nutty cat lady talk right there. I stopped the flow.

I checked for other humans before hoisting the litter box outside and into the trunk. With the three of us situated, I pointed the Civic toward home.

I think I read Cassidy’s meows as, “Why did we do that, again?” I didn’t have a good answer so I turned the radio to the operatic channel and kept my mouth shut.

I was disappointed that it hadn’t been the cozy family trip I’d envisioned, but at least I learned something; cats don’t like vacations.

~Peggy Dover

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