The players in order of appearance:

Spencer, large (really!) black cat, fled from DC

George, orange tabby, explorer, birder, banned from Audubon

Luigi, trained facilitator and personal coach

Dexter, blonde Lab, a.k.a. “The Dude”

Jade, snaggle-toothed MUTT pup, refugee Tennessee women’s correctional facility

Hazel, true MUTT pup, from El Paso (we think) youngest (ever) manager, cow division

Sugar, exotic short hair Persian, fashion elite, specializes decorative trim

Once upon a time, a misfit group of furry four-leggers, while watching over the shoulders of their work from home and/or distance-learning people, quietly made the Great Digital Transformation.  This is their tail.

We begin with Spencer, a sucker for a warm tush.  A detail essential to this story, as he found the keypad of the laptop the perfect location for a sit if the wood stove had not been properly and promptly serviced by his human.  Brother George, always most curious for Spencer, leapt to the forbidden dining room table, joining Spencer, stopping first to bat a pencil to the table’s edge. A cliffhanger moment: pause, then the pencil fell to the world of all lost pencils, never to return.

Spencer eyed George. George eyed Spencer. And it happened. The screen awoke.  Both looked for humans. None in sight. The clock slid at that exact moment: 3:00 A.M.

And so it was, that on this day, day 272 of quarantine, the first Zoom call deployed.

First, they pinged Luigi, trained facilitator, personal coach. For the most part, a cat hater, but with exceptions: Spencer was an escapee from DC.  “Who would not bring in a political refugee?” Luigi mused.  And George—a model of therapy and self-care to the point of not recognizing that he was, indeed, as the song goes, born in a barn.  Luigi also had a mild crush on another, Sugar, who sojourned in lake country, an exotic fashionista specializing in decorative trim and satiny ribbon removal. He promptly requested her to be dialed in.

Dexter, a point of view from the upper eastern region, and Hazel, first Gen Z pup in charge of her own herd and farmer’s market stand, were also dialed in to the call.

A clattering of hooves on hardwood interrupted the early morning meet-up.

“What the hell is that?” Luigi barked, sensitive of the hour and potential patrol of light- sleepers.

“The new kid,” Spencer reluctantly informed, casting a disgusted gaze in the direction of a whirling dervish now living in his home.

A leaping, passionately optimistic tail chaser, Jade, sprung from the Tennessee Women’s Correctional Facility as a pup, wound determinedly round herself, chomping at an ever fleeting tip of tail.

“Comic relief. Spawn of the pandemic. She’s more visual curiosity. The humans seem to like her, and she requires them to join regularly for fresh air,” Spencer intoned.  George sighed.

As night held, and the humans slept their restless pandemic dreams, the animals schemed.

Luigi:  First order of the agenda, “The Humans are not normal.” Ah, not surprising.  George, want to take that one?

George: Thank you Luigi.  We continue to observe the lonely wandering – more inside now that the weather chills.  Distant stares interrupted with bleats of loud music.  Then manic writing, given back to distant stares. And the constant sitting in front of Zoom. Or pacing the house, phone held at arms-length, Facetime-ing anyone.  Bedtime has no rhyme or reason anymore, and often, dinner is the same.

Group collective sigh, all talking excitedly about issues with dinnertime.

None have mastered the mute button.

Luigi, gravely with the news of dinnertimeSilenzioso, my friends.  George, per favore.

George: I discovered a reliable technique. I stare at her.  When she works, I sit on the desk, or wherever she has moved to work. She moves about often. Perfectly eye level, I stare into her eyes.  Eventually, she comes back, like a space ship returning from light years away, and forehead to forehead, I let her scratch my ears.  This seems to relax her.

Dexter: Right on little man!  I use balls!

Luigi: Mannaggia! No need to shout.  And now little Tennessee chases her tail. Again.

Dexter: Sorry dude. It’s just your humans are home.  Mine are all, like, gone. Mom, Dad, working like crazy. Little dudes all off to school…I thought they liked having school at home! And now I have all these balls…

Sugar: Ciao Luigi, If I may. [Sugar bats a toy bird, distractedly.]

Luigi: Si, è il mio nome preferito!  Sugar.  

Sugar: We must learn to open our own doors, literally, if we are to help our humans…if we are to keep our humans home.  This is what we hope, no? I follow the woman. Watch her carefully. When she writes, I see she is on to something, I stay still.  When not quite right, I groom myself – near her writing arm. And if that doesn’t stop her, I flick open a door. Walla! Effective distraction. I won’t take credit for her book, but editor, well yes.

Dexter: I like your style Sugar.  Alright, alright. [Dexter winks.]

Sugar:  If ‘McConaughey’ is done, I will continue.  Everything requires flourish now.  Be clever, be the entertainer. Little Jade has it right. Just, please do not visit here. [Sugar cleans long, sharp nails].

George & Spencer: Sigh.

Luigi: Ah, la signorina, Hazel.  We have not heard from you.

Hazel: Thank you sir.  I spend my days with the man. Up early, out to the cows. The cows don’t talk. They chew and stare at me with big round eyes. Sometimes I hide right underneath them.  I’ve got my humans to play games. Just take off into the woods and then surprise, ‘Here I am!’ way down on the road.  They seem to like that.

Luigi: Quite industrious, La Signorina!  Benfatto, everyone, benfatto!  You have done well in these challenging months. Watching them, guiding their work, play, and most importantly, reminding about food!  Let us always know our goals: keep them home and meals on time!  Until we meet again. Buona sera, my friends.

As morning light began to inch north of the horizon, the animals yawned, and headed for a warm slumber.  Just as their humans began to wake. And wander another day.

Donna Murphy

📸: Photo created by Cara Weigold

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