Theo is my redheaded stepchild dog. Although he’s incredibly photogenic, like the stereotype of most models he is just not all that bright. He’s the most annoying dog we have – possibly the most annoying dog in West Asheville, if not Buncombe County. OK, probably not Buncombe County. But he is annoying. His bark button gets stuck on ON; he growls when you wake him up and he has a whole host of other unlovely traits. He is needy and neurotic – my daughter said once that each of our dogs mimics one of us, thus Perdita, she said, staunch and stalwart and delightful, is my son and Django, who loves parties and food and never stops bouncing, is my daughter and. . and. . “Well?” I said and we both started laughing. I too am somewhat needy and neurotic but I swear I hardly ever lean on people and bark if they stop petting me. Hardly ever.

Theo has gotten even more annoying this past week or so and it’s all thanks to Okra, the cat. Okra, as we know, rules this household with a paw of iron. She is in charge and the dogs know it. When she decides she feels like dogfood, the dogs stand back sadly and let her have their entire bowl. Mostly, they do her bidding: she and Perdita even hunt voles and small creepy things together in the backyard.

Well, Okra has a new game. There is a dog door in the kitchen door which leads out onto the porch so that the dogs can let themselves in and out 24/7, which is a very useful thing and I recommend it. Our porch is high up off the ground and so almost nothing other than the animals who officially live here has come though it. Yet. Once there was a live mouse in the kitchen that I suspect Okra brought in a moment of frustration at our feeble hunting skills and one scary summer night there was a huge, live possum on the porch but it did not come though the door. It couldn’t, really, after we had piled most of the furniture in the house in front of it. You can pile furniture surprisingly quickly while screaming. There is a cover to the pet door but Okra can open it, of course, even though I got heavy duty velcro and rigged it so that it seemed like nothing could break through. She is patient, though, and dedicated – traits which have made her new game so much more fun.

Her new game is this: she sits by the dog door and waits. The minute Theo – it has to be Theo – pokes his long collie nose through, she bats him hard on it. Being Theo, he immediately assumes the worst, i.e., that this is the work of either demons or aliens or the Elder Gods and so now he won’t come through the dog door for love or money or even treats. He won’t follow the other dogs, who are completely unfazed by the occasional nose bop and he won’t listen to us pleading. No, he sits and barks until we either open the door for him, which he prefers, or get down on the floor and demonstrate that the dog door is currently completely safe. Mostly I open it with my foot while yelling vague threats and imprecations and eventually he hops through looking martyred and confused.

I have so far caught Okra in the act twice and, well, I couldn’t do anything but laugh. Yet again, my parenting and pet discipline skills are way too easily sidetracked by humor. Okra thinks it’s hysterically funny and the thing is, she’s right. If I could only get this on video you would think so too, but like most successful criminals, she is way too smart to let herself be caught on camera.

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