The Dog at the Park, the Cat Across the Street

I collect oddities. Inexplicables. Always have. Like the time I was taking the dog for a walk, crossing the freeway on an overpass, and looked down to see another woman walking a dog, who neatly picked up the dog’s leavings in a plastic bag, then walked over to an SUV and tucked the bag under the windshield wiper of the car and walked away. What was up with that? Hostility? A message? Was it her car? I’ll never know.

Or the storefront in downtown San Francisco which sported this sign:

Okay, then.  If not a store, what was it?  Opium den?  Corporate drop box?  Portal into another dimension?  That’d be cool.

Recently my collection has taken in two oddities. One sad, one…curious.

The sad one: across the street from our house is a little green: some trees, some ill-kept lawn, a fence that separates the grass from a hill of mostly overgrown foliage that rolls down to a road leading to the highway. Everyone walks her dog there; almost everyone picks up after his dog.  And sometimes animals–skunks, cats, squirrels–hide out there too. Particularly at night, this means Emily goes into Full Alert Hunting Dog mode when she should be in Bathroom-break mode.

So one morning I take Em out for her morning squeeze.  As we near the garbage can on the green, I see a towel.  Then, with a little shock, I realize that there’s a cat wrapped in the towel, a full sized, well-fed, stiff-as-a-board-and-very-dead cat, with a rigor-snarl on its face.  Interestingly, Emily showed no sign of interest in the dead cat.  When we got back to the house I called Animal Control to ask them to remove the corpse, but all day I wondered: what was the story there?  The cat clearly had not died in situ or of natural causes.  The cat was not neglected or a stray.  The cat had been carefully wrapped up–sign, as they say on Criminal Minds, of care or remorse.  But it had been left near the garbage can–a sign, I should think, that the cat was a problem, not a beloved friend.

The other curious thing I saw this week: a dog who has the oddest relationship with a tennis ball.  He’s one of two German short-haired pointers, both named Chase, brought to the dog park by a walker.  Most of the time this Chase runs around being, well, doglike.  And then, well, you can see his behavior here.  He lies on his back with his tennis ball held tenderly between his paws, adoring it. There’s no other term for it.  He stares meditatively at the ball for four or five minutes, may roll it down his paws and then back up again.  Eventually, his meditation done, he’ll drop it back into his mouth, roll over and get to his feet, and go off to be dog-like.  But what is up with this?  Is there are story there?

In fact, really, there are stories everywhere, just waiting for you, or me, or someone, to see them.


Madeleine E. Robins is sometimes inspired by the weirdest things.  She blogs here on the 7th and 21st of the month, or when the spirit moves her, and even more often than that at her blog, Running Air.  Visit her BVC bookshelf.


About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


The Dog at the Park, the Cat Across the Street — 9 Comments

  1. Where else would you put a deceased cat, after wrapping it in a towel? We can assume that the cat owner did not have a yard, to dig a grave in. So then what? To consult a vet or a cemetery is not the first impulse (although if you want to cremate or inter your pet that’s what you should do), and does cost money. To surf on the Internet for information is a possibility only open to the tech-friendly among us. If you were elderly, alone, and poor, living in an apartment, there are possibly not a lot of ideas that come to mind.

  2. Wonderful story of the dog and the tennis ball! A canine philosopher, appreciating its inner essence? Or just a deeply appreciative soul, grateful for the existence of the ball? Who knows? It’s fun to think about.

  3. Brenda–I don’t know what I’d do with a dead cat, but just leaving it out on the grass for small children and easily shocked LOLs (Little Old Ladies) to find strikes me as inconsiderate.

    The story I made up in my head is that this was the cat Emily was always seeing just behind the fence; that it was struck by a car; that the car owner was horrified, didn’t know what to do, took a towel from the car (I haven’t yet worked out the motivation for why he had a towel in his car, but stranger things have happened) and wrapped the cat in it and left it by the trash can. But that’s just my version of events.

  4. Hmm. Turn it around. You are driving in your neighborhood, and hit a cat who darts out in front of your car. It dies instantly. What to do? There is no collar, no indication of who the cat belongs to; it is obviously well fed and a pet. You can’t bear to just leave the animal in the road. The solution: the towel. (I have no towel in my car, and would have to resort to a cloth grocery bag. But there must be readers of Douglas Adams out there.)

  5. And you can instantly see what is missing from my scenario: the twist, that makes it a story. I think the place for the twist is in the character of the narrator. He/she was driving too fast, why? Something has just happened in his/her life…

  6. It would be nice if there was a sf or f twist; you know it’s a bummer trying to sell a non-genre short. My first resort is always aliens.

  7. The driver was an alien, of course. It wasn’t a car, it was a low-swooping flying saucer. Damn! my first contact with the natives, and I’ve killed it! How to indicate contrition and apology? The towel, which now has to be hanging on a fence post or dropped from a gym bag or something, comes into play, and then a quick retreat to Mt. Shasta or Nanda Parbat or wherever, to recover and regroup. Gloomy surfing of LOLCats by the BEMs reveals that felines are actually worshipped as dieties; negotiations with Ceiling Cat are going to be exceptionally difficult now. How to make amends? At this point a popup ad for Pounce Kitty Treats flickers up…