Friday, January 7, 2011

No Substitutions!

When I was a kid, my family and I went to church right by a McDonald's where we'd often go for lunch. This was the 70's and the kids burgers had those little minced onions, ketchup, and a dime sized pickle on them. Being a picky eater, I could not abide them, particularly the weird onion things. Anyway, my family would starve as we all waited for my made-to-order plain hamburger. Every now and then, my parents tried to scrape off the offending ingredients without me knowing and pretend it was my special burger. However, I always detected the remnants. Frankly, it's a surprise any of us survived my early years, particularly since now I'm pretty much an omnivore.

Most restaurants bend over backwards to make their demanding customers happy. Every now and then, even at fine restaurants, the menu states emphatically "No Substitutions." My guess is the chef is one of those clog-wearing temperamental types who you don't want to make angry or they'll bang the pots and pans around the kitchen, frightening the waitresses.

(Don't worry. I am getting to my point and it does have something to do with pets.)

Meet Dooley, the feline equivalent of the temperamental chef:

My friend's daughter (hi Hannah!) is house sitting for me while I'm away. She was raised in the country in a farm house with lots of cats, not unlike mine, so she is well equipped for the job.

Dooley has slept on the bed right next to me since day one. While he and I are fond of each other, he is not a fan of strangers. Generally, he stays in the basement and meows loudly in an attempt to interrupt conversations and drive them from his domain.

The first day Hannah was at my house, Dooley peaked at her from around corners and once came within a yard to stare at her menacingly. Hannah is staying in my room, so the first night she retired for the evening, Dooley jumped on the bed and laid down.

Then, he realized he was next to Substitute Lynne. He jumped off the bed and meowed at her. A lot. Hannah had to shut the door. If he had thumbs, no doubt he'd be bashing pots and pans together, frightening the other cats.

Most people don't like change. Most people are wary of strangers. Everyone hates an unknown being in their comfy, secure bed (or should).

Yet our bodies are always changing, so shouldn't we mentally make some changes too? It's the single digits of a new year. What nasty old mental habit can you toss out? Is it anger? Judgment? Being hard on yourself? (check, check, check) What one thing can you do today to welcome a stranger?

While I love Dooley and all his peculiarities, I'm not sure I'd want to hang out with him if he were a person. He just can't abide changes of any type and missed out on meeting some pretty great people. In time, he will likely trust Hannah (I hope), he probably won't get to know and enjoy her the way us people do.

What is the lesson here? Don't be a Dooley.

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