Using tiny satellite tracking harnesses, the Cat Tracker Project has enrolled more than 500 cats in a program that will outfit them with Global Positioning System devices.
I was pretty excited to be chosen to test drive CatTrack, the state-of-the-art global positioning system for cats. It would mean an end–finally!–to stupid arguments with my housemate Okie, who is to feline intelligence what the Marianas Trench is to the Pacific Ocean; the lowest depth, the nadir, the perigee, the bottom of the bottom.
“I am not dumb. Just–directionally challenged.”
A few summers back Okie was gone from Memorial Day until late in August, and not because he has a summer house on the Cape. He was hopelessly lost, not “cheating” on our owners the way some cats do in order to get a second crack at the Purina Cat Chow every day. No, Okie returned several pounds lighter and even more confused than he was when he left, if that’s possible, the result of wandering dazed in the woods behind our house during the hottest months of the year. When the Nobel Prize Committee calls, he knows it ain’t for him.
But with GPS to guide us on our way, I’m hoping that my days of chasing after the Oak-man, trying to herd him home like a sheepdog, are over. God knows it’s only going to get worse; he’s 63 in cat years, and the grey matter he’s lost over the years in late-night fights with fisher cats–among other local predators–ain’t coming back.
Fisher cat–not a household pet.
While I’m thinking these thoughts I watch Okie amble up, all innocent barefoot cat with cheeks of grey. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, poor sap, so I’ve had to serve as his tour guide over hill and dale lo these seven years we’ve been living together.
“How they hangin’ Oak?” I call out.
“Nothin’ much,” he replies. He has a stock assortment of come-backs, which don’t always fit the greeting.
“You want to go chase chipmunks?” I ask.
“Sure,” he says. “Although–”
“I don’t want to get lost again.”
“I know buddy,” I say. “But not to worry, I’ve got GPS.”
His face clouds over. “I am so sorry to hear that. Is there anything you can do for it?”
“It’s not a disease you nutball, it stands for ‘global positioning system.’”
“Oh,” he says, and I can tell he’s not quite comprehending. “Do we even have a globe anymore? I mean, the kids moved out, and I thought mom gave a lot of that stuff away.”
“Not a globe, the globe–the one you’re standing on!”
He looked down at his feet, to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. “Yep–it’s right here,” he said.
“It had better be–I don’t know where else we’d put it,” I said, shaking my head. “C’mon, I’ll show you how it works. You punch it what you’re looking for . . .”
“And we see what comes up.”
A voice with a vaguely British accent came on–I guess the units were originally made for Range Rovers–and began to speak: “Proceed twenty steps to the stone fence, then turn RIGHT to enter the motorway.”
“Do we have a motorway?” Okie asked, clueless as usual.
“I think the nice English lady in the little box means our driveway.”
We low-tailed it down to the asphalt circle that connected our front walk to the street, then began to poke our noses into one of those “dry” New England stone fences Puritan women ordered their men to build to keep their minds off of sex.
“Well look what we have here,” I said with a note of feigned Kumbaya pacifism in my voice.
“It’s Chip and Dale!”
“REALLY?” Okie asked. “I love those guys!”
“No not really, you dubo–figuratively.” Unlike me, the Oakmeister does not peruse the many tomes on aesthetic philosophy that the elder male human in the house keeps as vestiges of his undergraduate days. “I’m not wasting my time chasing cartoon characters.”
We crept along, cat-like–actually, it wasn’t just cat-like, we were genuine flesh-and-blood cats–until we were positioned just outside a likely chipmunk cave.
“Now would you please proceed in a stealthy fashion?” I asked, and plaintively I might add.
“You want stealth, huh?”
“Okay,” he said. Duh.
We each took a position on the opposite sides of the crack through which we expected, any minute, a chipmunk to pop its head. I held my breath–I made Oakie hold his own. After what seemed like an hour, we saw a furry little head peak out to see if the coast was clear. I gave Oak a glance and for once, he seemed to “get it”–the whole predator/prey thing–right away. I silently mouthed “One . . . two . . . three”–when the silence was broken by . . .
“Arriving at–destination. Chipmunk hollow on RIGHT.”
The damn GPS! The chipmunk scurried back into the hole as if he’d been sucked by a vacuum cleaner.
“Damn it to hell!” I squealed.
“Better watch it–mom will hear you.”
“What’s she going to do–send me to Blessing of the Animals Day?”
Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”