Four legs bad: The animals are out to get us


Charlie poses for his portrait. (John Kelly/TWP)
John Kelly
Columnist July 8, 2012

I’m afraid that the thing we’ve all feared for so long may have begun: Cats and dogs have started cooperating.

Oh, that’s not what you’ve been worried about? You’ve been worried about the euro or cybersecurity or Stephen Strasburg’s pitch count? Well those things pale in comparison to what will happen when the natural order is perverted, when the circle of life is ruptured, the food chain torn asunder.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

My concern springs from an unusual series of events involving Charlie, my black Labrador retriever. Oh, he’s a good dog, the occasional warmhearted subject of this column. But how much do we really know about him?

The other day Charlie didn’t hurry back inside after being let out in the morning. This was odd because we don’t feed him until after he’s had his pee. He’s usually eager for breakfast but something had distracted him.

Upon investigation it turned out to be the shattered remains of some animal, possibly a baby bird. My Lovely Wife shooed Charlie away, bagged the bits and thought nothing more of it.

The next day Charlie again dawdled outside in the same area of the back yard. This time we found the feather-covered wing — just the wing — of a fully grown songbird. The day after that, there was a long, curving mammal bone atop a rough midden of tinier bones. It looked like something from “The Blair Witch Project.” We’ve also come upon the distinctive blue shards of robin eggs.

Who or what has been creating these macabre tableaux, all in the same place? I think it must be a neighborhood cat, and I bet I know why: It’s the first salvo in the eventual enslavement of humankind.

While I may think that the main differences between Charlie and me are my bigger brain capacity and relative lack of fur, I’m sure what Charlie notices is that I can eat whatever I like, whenever I like. He, on the other hand, is entirely dependent upon me for food.

This makes Charlie what you call “food motivated.” We feed him exactly as much as the vet tells us to, and yet Charlie is always snuffling around for a forgotten potato chip or a blueberry that has rolled under the dishwasher. People remark on how friendly he is, but I suspect it’s the faux friendliness of the jonesing junkie. Charlie thinks that by wagging his tail and rubbing up against you, by offering his big head for a scritch behind the ears, he might be able to cadge a fix. Charlie honestly believes that every person he meets has a meatball in his or her pocket.

I think a cat is leaving these offerings as a way to ingratiate itself with Charlie, to earn his trust and then enlist him in a cause about which I shudder to think. It’s possible that similar operations are going on all over our area, as cats — and I’m pretty sure it would be cats leading the insurrection — try to knit together a ragtag animal army and foment an uprising.

Now, I don’t think Charlie would consciously decide to harm me. If the cat were to flat-out say to Charlie, “Now is the time to rise up against our bipedal overlords,” I don’t think he would respond. But every revolution needs its useful idiots, and they don’t come much more idiotic than Charlie. He may come to expect handouts — pawouts? — from the cat. They may become friends. Whatever critical faculties Charlie possesses may be dulled by the regular provision of bones and bird eggs, until one day the cat says something like, “It might get a little noisy tonight. You should just stay in your dog bed.”

Don’t believe me? Well then you probably haven’t seen that documentary “Planet of the Apes.”

Send a Kid to Camp

The memories we make as youngsters, when our brains are soft and pliant, are some of the strongest that we have. Right now, thanks to generous Post readers, at-risk kids from the D.C. area are making memories at Camp Moss Hollow.

That’s the camp I raise money for each summer. Please consider making a donation. Any amount will help — and be gratefully appreciated. To give, simply go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

kellyj@washpost.com

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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