C.W. Gusewelle is away this week. His regular column will return. In the meantime, here is one of his favorites.
The trophy cat, Teddy, is on a diet, and it’s a trial for everyone in the house. He did not choose this thorny path of self-improvement. Who ever does? He was forced to walk it.
“Do you know how much Teddy weighs?” our daughter asked.
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“Twenty-three pounds,” I replied. “The size of a supermarket frozen turkey, more or less.”
“Well, that was his last weigh-in — 23, right on the mark.”
“It’s 26 now.”
“Good. Only four more to go. I would like to be able to say I once owned a 30-pound cat.”
“He’s put on three more pounds in a year.”
“That’s not so much,” I said.
“Are you kidding? At that rate, in five years he’ll weigh more than the bird dog.”
“Teddy is big-boned,” my wife put in. “He carries it well.”
The truth is, he rarely carries it at all. Mostly he puts it in a chair and leaves it there. His legs have all but disappeared.
“The diet starts tomorrow,” our daughter declared flatly. “There’s special food for cats with a severe eating disorder like his.”
“It can’t be done,” we protested. “What about all the other cats?”
“We’ll figure out a way,” she said.
And we have, sort of. But it is incredibly complicated. They are used to eating, all of them, at bowls arranged on the kitchen counter. Now we have to segregate them. The trouble is that several of them have learned to open the kitchen door.
So when the others are eating, Teddy’s food bowl is on the floor in the outer hall and the door is secured with heavy rubber bands. Lest he sink into deep depression, it is necessary from time to time to carry his bowl back to the counter so he may take nourishment in the familiar place, and to put theirs on the floor outside.
Teddy is disgusted by his slimming ration, although it is the same in shape and texture as the regular food, differing only slightly in color.
The others, noticing the special treatment he is receiving, naturally have decided that his food is uncommonly desirable, and they miss no opportunity to poach at his bowl.
No matter which food is on the floor in the hall, it lies in the immediate trajectory of the bird dog, Rufus, on his careens between the back yard and the chair in the upstairs bedroom. And Rufus considers both brands superior to his own, although three of the cats would prefer to eat dog food if they were allowed.
The management of all this is like one of those thought problems that used to defeat me in grade school arithmetic. My wife or I spend a good deal of time closed up in the kitchen, shouting out into the house for the other to come take the rubber bands off the door.
But it seems to be paying off. He is down three pounds, to 23 again, and last night we noticed that Teddy’s legs had reappeared. We have begun to detect flatter places at the sides, although the impression he gives still is largely spherical.
And best of all, he is markedly more active. Yesterday he was upstairs several times.
I wouldn’t exactly say he frolics. His brow is furrowed. He moves with purpose. He knows that we’re operating at the very edge of our administrative competence and that sometime, somewhere, we’ll make a mistake with the bowls.