Dumb Andrew

This is the second in an informal series, The Vermont Animal Diaries, about the pets Kendra and I tended when we lived for a year in Vermont. Part One, Fat Stella, is here.

The gender breakdown of the animals left in our care was two female cats (Stella and Bala), one male dog (Oscar) and one male cat (Andrew). The first several weeks we spent living with these domesticates, I puzzled over their social structure and pecking order. Their individual relationships at first seemed tenuous and fragile, difficult to map, mainly because no obvious leader emerged, no supreme chief, ruling from atop their clan.

Stella was by far the smartest, and she clearly ruled the cat food bowl. But Bala was a mean old lady, with sharp claws and a short temper. Oscar, a terrier, had the strength, size, and speed advantage over all the others, and his raw energy made him the most wildly unpredictable. But we used a baby gate to confine him to the first floor—so the cats could have some peace away from him—which disqualified him as Supreme Chancellor. Unlike all the others, Andrew’s position, no matter where he was in the house, was clear: the absolute bottom.

Dumb Andrew

Oscar frequently attempted to assert himself over the others in typical canine fashion: the classic sneak-attack “dry hump” assault. While the other cats would thrash free as quickly as possible, clawing and biting and climbing beyond his reach, Andrew instead adopted an air of almost casual indifference. Apparently he had long ago decided that just “waiting it out” was a perfectly viable strategy. I made the mistake early on of thinking this approach was just a nonchalant, Oh well, better to live to fight another day. Later I started to figure Andrew maybe just kind of leaned that way—if you catch my meaning. However, after several months of living with him, I arrived at the clear conclusion that, rather than a brain, Andrew instead had some tiny bits of gravel rattling around inside an otherwise empty skull.

Kendra and I would be sitting studying, reading, or watching television on the couch together, when all of a sudden we’d be interrupted by a loud clack-clack-clack-clack! Startled, we’d look up and glance around, and here would come Andrew, walking stiffly across the wood floor, robot-like, apparently oblivious that he had his claws fully extended. Clack-clack-clack-clack!

“Andrew! Put your claws in!”

He’d stop, stare back at us blankly for a moment, glance down, appear genuinely surprised, draw his claws in, return his empty gaze forward, and proceed. Pat-pat-pat-pat. Eventually we got so used to it that we’d call him out from anywhere in the house. You could hear him upstairs strolling with his claws out, call to him, and he’d stop.

I don’t know whether from some injury he suffered in the Great Cat Wars, perhaps crossing some drunken gato in a border town barfight, or even the undesired side effect of a tongue extension à la Gene Simmons, but Andrew’s tongue seemed to be devoid of feeling. Frequently, we’d find him sitting, cat-normal in all other ways—except that his tongue would be dangling from his mouth. He wasn’t panting or anything. He just genuinely had no clue it was out. Have you ever heard that phrase, “Too dumb to come in out of the rain”? Andrew was too dumb to keep his tongue in his mouth.

“Andrew! Put your tongue in!”

He’d turn, regard you for a second, then suck it back in. Andrew was without a doubt the dumbest cat I have ever known in my life.

And every time I think back and remember him, I smile.

What’s the dumbest animal you’ve ever known? What did that animal do that made them, you know, “special”? Was their uniqueness the result of some unfortunate tragedy, or merely misfortunate DNA? If you could pick your perfect pet (any animal), what would it be and why?

3 Responses to “Dumb Andrew”

  1. Bea October 18, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    Those were some great days in Vermont!! Glad you two had that special time…the Masters degree is sort of a side benefit! Ha

    • Brannon October 18, 2010 at 9:14 am #

      I certainly learned more about life in that year than I did about writing.

  2. Cooper Strange October 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    One Sunday night, as the family was cruising home from church in our sporty brown Vanagon on a lonely country road, a deer ran into the road. He entered the road a very healthy distance ahead of us, regardless of our speed.

    Then he did what only deer know to do, that God-given instinct buried as deep in their pebble brains as can be, given a pebble brain (more Darwinian evidence that cats and deer must have common ancestors): instead of running across the road several second ahead of our passing, he took a righty-tighty in our lane, as if outrunning us was the proper and logical action.

    Dad slowed as the deer grew closer. He did, as we all learned from the University of Texas tower shooting spree of 1966, run in a zig-zag pattern. The only problem was our Vanagon was slightly more blunt of a projectile than a bullet.

    Given the deer’s insistence in not only staying on the road, but zig-zagging enough to keep us from driving around him, Dad slowed almost to a full stop. To give you an idea of the lack of force in the impact, a one-inch chip was taken out of our van’s plastic grill and only the deer’s back two legs were broken. No tossing of animals, no force throwing the van passenger’s head into their chests around the seat belts. The deer was quite alive, just maimed in the knees.

    We did not just leave him to the vultures. And my three-piece-suited father had no knowledge of what a deer tag even meant. And we certainly were not carrying so much as a screwdriver in the trunk to do the deed. Let’s just say my animal-friendly sensitivities could not then handle the truth of that helpful trucker’s sledgehammer until many years later.

    Brannon, why can’t you write my comments, so I don’t have to? My fingers are tired…and I must have something in my eye.

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