>> Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In my last post I mentioned that I was planning on talking about Houdini's latest exploits. I told you earlier about how Houdini came to live with us, but I think I neglected to tell you why I chose to give him the name "Houdini" in this blog. Of course, Houdini is not his real name, but, like Houdini's real name, I have chosen it because it represents a very persistent part of this cat's personality.

Houdini likes to do magic tricks involving hiding and escaping. I believe I mentioned, briefly, that he used to hide for days on end when he first came to live with us, but I don't think I ever mentioned the "escaping" part of his routine.

Recently we haven't had as much problem with this (but we will now that I said that), but in the recent past we have had tremendous problems with Houdini's attempts to return to the outdoors. Over the winter and spring, Houdini would sit by the front door when I had it open, and keep checking, and checking, and checking, to be sure it was completely latched. He and Girl Cat would stand up on their hind legs to sniff longingly or curiously (depending on the cat) at the outdoor breeze. Then, while Girl Cat was content to stare and sniff (she once had a bad experience outside), Houdini has conveniently forgotten how hard it was to worm his way inside this house and decided he wanted back outside.

So, for the longest time, every day Houdini would find a way to get outside. Most often he would sneak his way out between someone's legs when they were coming or going, usually with groceries. Sometimes he would convince Toddler to open the door for him. Sometimes ... sometimes he just mysteriously de-materialized inside the house and re-materialized outside like his namesake. Our first clue that he was gone in those cases would be one of us spotting Houdini on the back step nosing into the outdoor cats' food.

For a cat that moved mountains to move inside, he's awfully eager to get back outside. I've taken to having to bring the groceries in very carefully. First, I have to toss Toddler inside, with the instruction, "Go get Houdini." Houdini takes a few steps backwards from the door in self defense. Then, I stack the soda packs just inside the door in an effort to block access to the screen so I can open it without having to guard the entire threshold. Then, I stack all of the remainder of the grocery bags in the threshold, starting at the point where Houdini is trying to make an end run around the boxes of soda. I try hard to leave myself at least six inches past the screen door to try to give myself a chance to actually step inside the door without falling. Last, I throw myself through the doorway, jump the pile of groceries, push Houdini out of the way, and pull the screen door tightly closed, all in one motion.

When people come to visit, my mantra after the words, "Come in!" is "Shut the door tightly, please."

Sometimes, though, I don't get it all right. Houdini escapes, right betwen my legs, alongside my legs, or sometimes over them if I'm lying on a heap on top of the groceries. On some of those days, I ask myself whether I really want to go chase him down. I mentioned that once, briefly, in an earlier post. Unless Houdini makes his escape immediately while I am coming in from the outside, chances are I don't have shoes on. With my luck, it's cold outside, or Toddler is screaming, and I know that I have mere minutes before Houdini is off into the woods where the foxes, deer and coyotes live (coyotes probably killing an earlier outdoor cat of ours). One day I caught him because he stopped to scratch his back against the sidewalk. Once I caught him because he was flabbergasted to find out that a dog moved in next door since he last lived outside, and it is biiiiigggg, loud, and not too fond of cats. Other times I've had to make a mad dash to the fence gate because he scaled it and kept on going, and once I had to drag him out from under a bush. Once I almost had to give him up for gone before he finally stopped, and I perservered only because I didn't want to explain to DH why his darling cat was missing.

For a brief period of time, Houdini thought he had a brilliant new plan. He would follow me out to the deep freeze in the garage and try to sneak out that way. Guess what, Houdini, there is no way out that way. Woops! After one or two circuits around the garage to conclude that there was no other open doorway, Houdini would return inside and try to make the best of things. We thought he had learned his lesson, but apparently we overestimated his intellect and/or underestimated his stubborness. Twice in the past two weeks Houdini has apparently snuck out unnoticed into the garage after one of us and failed to return inside before we shut the door --leaving Houdini out in the garage over night. Boy was he sorry the first time, but apparently not sorry enough to refrain from doing it again the next time. We'll have to see if he has learned his lesson yet.

But, now you know how Houdini got his name. In the end, I don't think he wants to run away, but he misses eating fresh grass, beating up the other outdoor cats (so he recalls), and coming and going as he pleases. We are hoping to get to a level of trust where he can come and go as he pleases, but I'm not so sure DH is ready for that kind of committment, even if Houdini is. We will see. Until DH is ready, though, I have the unenviable job of "rescuing" Houdini from the outside and bringing him back in, thankfully still purring.


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