When I told the following story to my co-workers, they shook their heads and said, “This would only happen to you.”
When I told my husband the same story, he shook his head and said, “You know, you create these situations.”
I agreed with both statements, although I had to remind everyone that I do attract more than my share of odd people.
Take, for example, the random stranger who stopped me in the greeting card aisle at Target to ask how to get to Dunkin’ Donuts. Since the nearest Dunkin Donuts is on the other end of town, I had to wonder 1) why she was looking for the doughnut store in Target, 2) out of all of the people in Target why she chose to ask me, and 3) if I looked like I eat too many doughnuts. (For the record, I don’t. I may have my weaknesses, but craving doughnuts isn’t one of them.)
As I was giving directions, the woman took out her smartphone, presumably to take notes. Since most people use their smart phones to access maps so they don’t have to ask strangers for directions, I began to wonder if I was being recorded on a hidden camera somewhere.
I wasn’t. The woman happily left Target presumably in search of Dunkin Donuts.
But I digress. This story isn’t about doughnuts or how I have an innate ability to attract odd people. It’s about my crazy, obsessive love of animals and how I make really weird and not always rational decisions because of them.
And so it was on a frigid morning before dawn when my beloved German Shepherd, Rodney, insisted on going for a walk. He’d been cooped up because of an injury and was going stir crazy. So I layered up. (Winter cap with built in light for walking in the dark: check. Sweatshirt with hoodie: check. Hood to cover my face: check. Winter jacket with hood: check.)
Yes, I was bundled up and had four hats covering my head, but I was visible and I was prepared.
Or so I thought.
I hadn’t planned for Artemis, our tuxedo cat who thinks she’s a dog.
Her inability to understand her that she’s a feline and not a canine isn’t an issue as long as she’s in the house. But when she’s outside, she thinks she’s a dog.
That morning, while I was bundled up with no peripheral vision. Artemis got out of the house and tagged along as Rodney and I set out for a brisk jaunt through the neighborhood. Rodney stopped frequently, smelled often and did his business. Artemis dashed, hid, and pretended to stalk us. Everything was fine until, halfway through the walk, Artemis was no longer happy.
And she let us know.
She began to talk, and talk and talk.
If you aren’t fluent in cat language, you aren’t alone. Neither am I. I thought she was tired or cold and just wanted to be picked up and carried for the rest of the walk.
I was wrong.
What Artemis wanted was for Rodney and me to follow her through a shortcut that involved navigating the neighbors’ backyards rather than taking the long way home via the street.
Apparently, Artemis thought Rodney and I were idiots for opting to take a longer walk in frigid temperatures when we could trespass and get home more quickly.
And, because I love my cat and didn’t want to disappoint her, I followed.
With a cat leading the way, with a German Shepherd in tow, and a bright orange hat and light on my head, I decided to cut through the neighbors’ yards to get home.
That was a mistake.
At the same time I was navigating trees and branches, the city police were investigating a break-in at a house in my neighborhood.
To be more precise, they were investigating a break in at the same house whose yard Artemis decided we should take as a shortcut.
I can’t imagine the police really thought I was a burglar. What thief wears an orange hat with headlamp, has a large German Shepherd on a leash and takes directions from a cat?
But my neighbors’ house (the one whose yard we had been trampling) had an alarm system. And that alarm had recently gone off prompting the police to arrive. And when the did, they had to stop the only human suspect they had: me.
“Ma’am,” one of the officers asked, “Is this your house?”
I didn’t just say no. I gave him my own address as proof that I belonged in the neighborhood. What I couldn’t easily explain why I was tramping through the neighbor’s yard before dawn in frigid temperatures. Tying to justify trespassing because you are following your cat is always rather difficult.
So I didn’t try. Neither did I stop my trespassing,
Apparently, though, I was suspicious enough to warrant further investigation. The police officer turned on his extra powerful flashlight and shined it directly on Artemis.
“Ma’am?” he asked. “Is that your cat?”
“Um, yes,” I answered.
That seemed to satisfy him, and he starting shining back and forth across the trees.
I don’t know why he expressed interest in Artemis. Maybe he thought she was the cat burglar who had tripped the alarm. Maybe he was looking for a cat of his own to adopt. Or maybe, just maybe, he too is an animal lover and understood that love can sometimes make us behave in crazy and irrational ways.
Whatever his reasons, he let me and my animals go home with yet another story to tell.
Something tells me it’s not the last.