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  • Ursula Werner

Laying Low

Momma Alpha is my person. Long, long ago, when she and the white-haired woman picked me up from my first nest, and we all left in the fast-moving box, I was scared, but Momma Alpha held me really tight, and that was very good. I even fell asleep for a little while, all snug and comfy on her lap. But then they stopped the fast-moving box, and the white-haired woman opened the sliding piece of glass next to her, and she reached for a paper bag that someone else handed to her, and ohboybohboybohboy! Even now, I remember the smells coming from that bag. So yummy!

I crawled all over Momma Alpha, trying to get to that bag, because I knew there was meat in there, I just knew it. She laughed, but she wouldn’t let me at the bag. Instead, she felt around the bottom of the moving box, where there was a big pile of stuff. I was still scrabbling around her shoulders and chest. Ohboy! Yummyyummyyummyyummy. And Momma Alpha said to the other woman, “Oh my God. I think I forgot to bring any kibble.”

And then Momma Alpha looked at me and held me up while my legs were flying all around, and I was paddling the air, trying so hard to get at that bag, which the other woman had just opened. Ohboyohboyohboyohboy!! It was like a giant meat cloud exploded around us and we were covered in beef essence and then . . . Then Momma Alpha gave me her hamburger.

“I can’t let him be hungry all the way home,” she said, smiling at me. I was schnarfing the burger as if there was no tomorrow, but in between gulps, I licked her face, because I loved her now. Also, her face was kind of salty, and it was a good taste with the meat.

So yes, Momma Alpha is my person. I love her and she loves me. She also seems to love Indiana, and I’ve learned how to be okay with that. I don’t like it, but I’m okay with it. In the beginning, I was very respectful. Momma Alpha brought me into the house and held me while she introduced me to Indiana, and damn if that pile of fluff didn’t try to bite my head off right away. That bugger’s got some nasty sharp little teeth in her miniature maw.

But then I got bigger and realized I could just sit on Indiana if I wanted to. Like if I plopped down on her fuzzy midsection, she’d be pinned to the floor. And I’d be sitting on enough of her long neck to keep that tiny snapping Alien jaw away from me. (Have you seen that movie? So scary! I had to hide under the blanket Momma Alpha keeps on the sofa when they watched it in the living room.)

Once I got big, Indiana started hiding under furniture when she sensed I wanted to play. But it’s a snap to get her out from anywhere, she’s got so much fur. All I gotta do is clamp onto any part of her – a pillowy haunch, a downy paw, that crazy curly scruff around her neck – and out she comes. Easy as pie. I try not to drag her around the floor for too long, even though it’s really fun. But she gets pissed off, so I control myself. Sometimes. Control is hard for me.

Anyway, when Momma Alpha got sick last week, I knew my job. Hold the perimeter around the upstairs nest. Stay with Momma Alpha and keep her safe. Lick her from time to time to show her she’s not alone. Lie down next to her, or better yet, right on top of her, to keep her warm. Even though Momma Alpha was already pretty warm, it never hurts to snuggle up.

In the past, when Momma Alpha was sick, she stayed in the nest for one, maybe two days at most. This time was much longer. It got to be a real problem with the squirrels. Those squirrels are sneaky, always pushing the envelope, looking for an advantage. When we don’t patrol the backyard boundary regularly enough, which can happen when Momma Alpha goes down, there will always be one squirrel who gets cheeky. It’ll leap from the fence to the birdfeeder and start eating seeds that are meant for the birds, you idiot! Or maybe it’ll drop to the patio and run over to the pond for a drink of water that nobody gave you permission to drink, you mangy rodent! These are the things I have to yell from my perch in the upstairs nest, where I can see out the window into the backyard.

Because you can’t let squirrels overstep. Oh no. If they think they’re in control, they’ll just start tittering trash at you from their treetop perches, and nobody wants that kind of disrespect. Indiana is pretty good at maintaining order on the ground when I’m with Momma Alpha. We would trade positions, just to keep ourselves sharp and on the ball, but Indiana can’t make it up the stairs. She says her legs are too short. I think that’s a cop-out, but I don’t push it, because I’m happy to have Momma Alpha to myself.

Actually, I don’t totally have Momma Alpha to myself, because Oliver checks in occasionally to see if I’m still on duty. Unlike Indiana, Oliver can go up the stairs, and he’ll prowl his way up, one paw at a time, and peek his fuzzy black head above the top step. You haven’t met Oliver yet, so I’ll let him introduce himself when he wants to. All I’ll say at this point is that he can be a lot like a squirrel, trying to horn in where he doesn’t belong. If I stare at him long enough, he eventually goes away.

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