I found this photo on my camera recently, and I know what the boys thought when they took it. They thought, “Awww, isn’t that sweet, Henry is sharing his perch with Olive, and he’s patting her on the shoulder! He’s giving her a widdle hug! Awww.” You know how boys are.
And they are totally wrong.
Henry is saying, “Kid, it’s bad enough that you came here and robbed me of all peace and quiet. You eat all the white bread (see picture), get in my personal space, and generally piss me off. Now be still or I’m gonna smack you.” And he has his claws poised to sink into her neck.
But the thing is, Henry is a pushover. Well, at 17 pounds “pushover” may not be exactly the right term. Shove over? Anyway, he’ll never sink his claws into her scrawny little neck or rip out a satisfyingly healthy hank of her fur, or bite her perky little ear off, or even raise his voice to her. He’s the grouchiest old bastard but he’s essentially soft inside. Henry is like an igloo filled with Eskimos. Crusty on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. (I think I saw that in a Far Side cartoon once.)
Olive can be annoying. You cannot neglect to shut the pantry door, ever: she can drag herself up four shelves high where she stalks, kills, and devours white bread in all it’s forms and leaves the guts everywhere. She is forever pouncing on Henry just as he settles into a nap, and she demands to be picked up in order to watch what’s happening on the stove when you’re cooking. Sweeping is a favorite activity; she pounces on your pile of filth and scatters it in every direction. She waits until two am to locate and bat along the hardwoods the ping pong ball you forgot to put away, and she is particularly fond of launching herself without warning to attack sock feet. Sometimes we humans don’t know whether we want to hug her or smack her, either.
But we adore her the same way we adore crusty old Henry. Because sometimes love just feels that way.