On Sunday, Xena's condition took a turn for the worse. This was not, heaven forbid, a health matter, but an image issue that happens to her and us quite often. On the back page of mass circulation daily Maariv there was a photo of Poodi the dog, who rescued Ariel the baby from the sting of a yellow scorpion. One might pause over the details, but that would be superfluous, like an attempt to understand newspaper articles abroad that report on a dog, hamster or goldfish that dialed 911 or whatever the number is and rescued its owners from a fire, strangulation or stock-market fall. And Xena? If one could imagine a headline that would get her into the newspaper, no doubt it would tell of the first cat to have slaughtered the family that raised her before they managed to dial 911.
Our story began as a love story - chemistry between a kitten and a man of 29 who wanted to ease his cat-loving girlfriend's transition to living together and provided himself with a hairy, shedding creature. To tell the truth, maybe (as the song goes), here's where the dog lies buried (and please forgive me, Xena). Right from the start of the relationship, we tried to exploit the tiny ball of fur, but she refused to cooperate. She was supposed to make things easier for the girlfriend/wife, to amuse the kids, control pests and function as a decorative fossil on the sofa. At the height of our stupidity we called her Xena the Warrior Princess and expected a kind of Kofi Annan.
Like children, a husband and a wife, Xena is a victim of comparisons. To the neighbor's dog, to the mother-in-law's cat, to the friend's iguana. Every time one of the aforementioned animals allows someone to pet it, Xena loses another point. Studies, academic or less so, show a consensus on the importance of a pet to the family unit. They use words like harmony, tranquility, warmth and love. The words "for the most part" are not to be found there. If one day some study finds that cats understand human language, some of us will be quite embarrassed when it emerges that Xena was a witness to all the discussions about a replacement for her when the day comes and she is gathered unto her ancestors. Judging by her attitude toward Grandma Zahava, who is her biggest hater, it is possible that the research would be unnecessary, at least with respect to Xena.
In a world where everyone is dying for attention, Xena is an exceptional entity. Totally lacking in obsequiousness, she is not potential for the "Fisfusim" candid camera television show, and she is a terrible hostess. Our 4-year-old Alma's friends are afraid to visit our home, and our 7-year-old Omri's friends make a laughingstock of him at school because of their fear of a big cat. And our acquaintances, of whom in any case there are few, also take the fuming creature into account. Never mind the neighbor who has to fork out for psychological treatments for his dog, who barricades herself into every possible cranny when Xena escapes from our house.
To her credit, though, Xena has developed our instinct for survival. We have learned to identify the movement of her tail that precedes an attack, the drooling look at an exposed leg that has been abandoned to its fate and even the pricking of the ears that portends the start of the madness. Most importantly, she has made us critical consumers of academic research and media publications. This is enough for all of us to fight for this relationship with bared claws.
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