Monday, October 19, 2009

Pancakes and Temptation

We are not a dog family.  Don't misunderstand - we love dogs, really, we do.  My seventeen-year-old has been begging for a Chihuahua for years, and her thirteen-year-old sister has jumped on the bandwagon.  My two younger sons have been asking for a dog as well, although the idea of a little rat-like dog is not exactly what they have in mind; they would like something of the gargantuan variety, such as a St. Bernard.  I grew up with dogs, as did my wife.  For most of my youth I was the proud owner of Lad, the Wonder Dog (that's fodder for another blog post someday).  So why, you may ask, do we have two cats?

My wife asks that question daily, though her terminology is not always fit for print.

Dogs are, for lack of a better term, high-maintenance.  They insist on being let out regularly.  They need bathing, regular check-ups, and walks in the neighborhood.  They need to be trained and taught obedience.  They leave gifts all over the yard that need to be cleaned before they squish between toddler toes.  They require attention, praise and affection.  They get lonely.  Buying a dog is like a marriage.  You better be in it for the long haul. 

We are a low-maintenance family; what many hold dear we don't.  House plants come here to die.  We get around to cleaning when company's coming.  The lawn consists of clover and crab grass.  Our driveway has pot-holes deeper than artesian wells.  Our wardrobes would make a great "Fashion 911" episode.  Our important papers are carefully piled in a box.  Somewhere.  Hopefully.  We are constantly on the run. So...a dog just wouldn't work.  The yard would be knee-deep by the time we got to it.

And so we have cats. Cats are perfect for the low-maintenance family.  Honestly, the cats would be perfectly happy if we weren't home at all, as long as they had food.  Of our two original cats, Debbie and Waffles (adopted six years ago from a crazy cat lady who has since been committed to a psychiatric facility - true story), Debbie remains.  We lost Waffles this summer, after which Debbie was clearly grieving.  She lost her verve, her get-up-and-go.  She shuffled around looking like Eyore on depressants.  The vet said the only solution was another cat.  Like a brainless oaf I nodded vigorously and proceeded to the local shelter, impulsively adopting a little kitten playmate for our grieving Debbie; the children named her Pancakes.  She literally breaks the cuteness barrier.

Debbie hates her.

Of course, Debbie no longer shuffles slowly about; she is now vigorously stalking and hunting the new kitten, pouncing, hissing and swiping.  The kitten has laid claim to the affection of the children simply by virtue of her extreme adorableness, and Debbie is really ticked off about that.  Pancakes, though, just wants to be pals, and seems somewhat befuddled by all the fuss. 

Debbie likes to sit on the window sill with her tail hanging down, slowly waving back and forth as she keeps tabs on the local squirrel population.  Pancakes cannot resist the slow undulations of Debbie's tail.  It is like a siren song to her; she knows the instant she touches that tail Debbie will erupt in irritation, chase her, and attempt to dispatch her once and for all, but she cannot resist.  She is drawn irresistably closer, creeping slowly, until all at once she jumps and swipes at it with her tiny paws, and Debbie blows up on cue. 

As I observed the silly little kitten entranced by the tail of her brutish housemate I began to think of my own responses to temptations. I know they lead to nothing but trouble.  I am aware that the consequences can be detrimental.  And yet, like Pancakes, I find myself skulking around, looking in from the periphery, from what I perceive a safe distance, my senses fixed on what I know I should shun - and I pounce. Dumb.  I am just like that little animal, spending way too much time hovering around temptations that deserve none of my attention, that ultimately produce consequences that are detrimental.

It is clear to most that the closer we draw ourselves to God the more interested the Evil One becomes in drawing us off track.  Recognizing that can help us as we seek God's grace. Avoiding temptation, not entertaining it in my mind to draw me in, substituting prayer at that moment for sinful thoughts and inclinations, and begging for mercy; all these and more help in our struggle. Often, though, the very best mode of attack  is to name the temptation, face it head-on, confess it, ask God to give us the grace necessary to defeat it, which can only be done through His power.

In the scheme of things, we understand sin to be a part of our lives: a foreign, unwanted part, but there nonetheless.  Praise God for the sacrament of Reconciliation.  When Pancakes gets herself into too much trouble I scoop her up and hold her close, helping her to feel safe and loved.  Be grateful today that you and I have a Father just like that.

2 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    This is the best argument for cats as pets EVER! This dog person admits that without feeling like her teeth have just been yanked out of her head.

    It's a very funny bit of writing, too!

    PS -- I once house-sat for a family whose cat had just given birth to a litter of kittens. Since they hadn't named them by the time they left, it was the names I gave them during the month I lived there which stuck forever. I called the softest, fluffiest one Pancake. =)

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  2. This is a wonderful story! I love all of your reasons for not having a dog. We had a nine year old yellow lab a few years ago and he bit my then 5 year old son's lip off. I can't believe that he would still like to have a dog after that! For me, five kids are plenty to worry about without having pets in the mix, so God bless you for the pets you do have!

    I especially like your piece about reconciliation I don't know what on earth I would do without the embrace of God's forgiveness!

    You have a great blog-it seems like you and Michelle are a great match for each other-God did well in pairing you up! As the youngest of nine, I would have loved to have parents who could take their faith seriously while adding a bit of humor to it all. Thanks for writing this!

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