It was my daughter's fourth birthday, and the biggest excitement for her wasn't a party or even cake or presents, it was bringing a special treat for her preschool. I had aspirations to make special cookies, though I came to the sad realization that unless I was baking late into the night, homemade anything wasn't going to come to fruition.
This thought had dawned on me, thankfully, while I was standing in the bakery section of Sam's Club at approximately 5 p.m. the day before my daughter's birthday. So, she gladly picked out a tray of 30 cupcakes with cheery pink and yellow icing and decorated with little plastic ladybugs and flowers. Perfect. She was thrilled with her choice. I felt it was $11 well-spent.
I laid the tray of cupcakes carefully on the tippy-top of the mound of merchandise already in our cart and headed for the checkout. As we made our way through the parking lot to our van, I gripped the handle of the cart tightly, cringing at every bump we hit along our way. I watched in horror as the grapes slid off the top and fell onto the asphalt. While replacing most of the grapes back into their container, I stared at the cupcakes still balanced on the cart, summoning all my telekinetic skills to keep them from meeting the same fate as the grapes.
It worked, and I plucked the tray of precious cupcakes off the top of the cart, placed them safely on the floor of the van between the children's seats, and entered into a two-minute impromptu lecture to the children about how they should exit the car so as not to crush the cupcakes. I made sure I made good eye contact and got the appropriate feedback from both of them. If there had been a pen and paper handy and I hadn't had frozen food thawing in my still-full cart, I would have drafted a simple contract and had them both sign and date it.
We arrived home, the children exited the van and we held a little awards ceremony on the sidewalk in front of our house honoring the two little people who did not stomp on the cupcakes on their way out of the vehicle. They were pleased with themselves, and I with them. I triumphantly placed the huge, undamaged tray of cupcakes on the kitchen counter and heaved a sigh of relief that they were safe.
"Now, to unload the rest of the van," I said to myself, "Oh, wait, I need to put away the - Virgil!" Those were my innermost thoughts. What I believe I actually said was, "Aaaaagh - NO! - Vir - UGH - stupid - get OFF - IDIOT UUUUUUUGGGGH!"
The brain of a complex organism like a person or a cat is a soft, grayish structure protected by the bony skull. It has a wrinkly surface, called the cortex. The more wrinkles, called gyri and sulci, the more thought processes possible, usually translating into "smarter." Virgil's brain is perfectly smooth, I am positive.
And there he was, looking at me, bemused by my apoplectic fit, sitting squarely on the box of cupcakes. He stayed put, even as I approached him waving my arms wildly and spouting disjointed words. I felt like I was in a scene from "The Matrix", moving in super-slow-motion, as if through water or thick syrup, while he sat blithely in his awesome new spot and watched my approach. He's not smart enough to be afraid, even at a time like that. In fact, instead of jumping to get away from me, he hunkered down on top of the box, ensuring trauma to all the cupcakes.
I actually had to remove his roughly 15-pound body from the crushed box, as he had apparently found the best seat in the house. And there they were: 30 pink and yellow cupcakes with plastic ladybugs and flowers smashed deeply into their tops, icing squashed and smeared - an incredible, yet thankfully, due to modern wrapping technology, still edible - mess.
Unlike Walter, our dachshund, who is far too short to reach the cupcakes, but no doubt has dreams about eating 30 of them in one sitting, Virgil was never really interested in tasting them. He was fixated on the box - determined to claim it before his cat brother, Wyatt.
What would make Virgil do such a thing? Simple - he's a cat! Cat owners, try this: place an object like a piece of paper or, better, a box somewhere in your house where the cat has access. Look at your watch. And there you are. In the time it took you to look at your wrist, a cat has appeared and is now sitting on the object in question.
Anytime I am seeking an important paper in my home, I usually find it under a cat. Why do they do that? It's about two things. First, cats are notoriously curious. Stuff that enters their environment with new, strange and potentially interesting smells on it must be thoroughly investigated. In this regard, cats and dogs are similar.
The second phenomenon is particular of cats. If a new object can be sat upon, it will be. Boxes are potentially new perches, observation points or sleeping spots. The uses for such things must be studied immediately. It may be a bit about ownership and control, and a whole lot about annoying somebody.
Oh, those pathetic-looking cupcakes went to school the next day, and my daughter was still thrilled to dole them out to her friends and teachers. We offered up no explanation as to the condition of the box or the roughly-treated cupcake contents, and none was requested. As far as I was informed, all cupcakes were happily consumed. Apparently, it is not uncommon for treats to arrive at preschool in disarray. Whether it's, "The dog ate my homework," or "The cat sat on the cupcakes," most teachers have heard it all.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinarian Hospital.