Monday, November 02, 2009

Erica Kane

Admittedly, Erica is a cat, but she’s nonetheless a full-fledged pack member, and with the exception of myself, has been one the longest. She’s not a cat-dog, the kind of cat that lives with dogs and then imitates their behavior. A neighbor of mine has a cat that goes out on walks with her and her two dogs every night. That’s a cat-dog.

Erica is, however, an honorary dog. She’s lived every minute of her life, since she was adopted as a sick and frail shelter kitten, when she was two months old, with a pile of dogs, as many as six at once, that collectively usually outweighed her by approximately 5,000 percent. Over the years, these dogs haven’t always been entirely “cat-friendly,” but in the fourteen years she's lived with me, I’ve never seen Erica have anything but the most passing issue with any of them. She has a calm serenity that can communicate loving-kindness to even the rowdiest dog.

We got Erica after the disappearance of our first cat, the jet black, long-haired, Mogwai. Mogwai was a dog-cat, and the dog part of this equation was either pit bull or Cerberus. He ruled the dogs through violence and intimidation, killed birds and mice in horrific numbers and manners, and disappeared about this time of year fourteen years ago. We were in semi-rural New Mexico, so whether it was coyote, hawk, or misdirected bobcat, it’s fairly certain that Mogwai had died by the same sword under which he had lived.

A few months later, we got Erica. Even though she was sick and frail, she still had a hypnotizing personality, so we named her after All My Children’s Erica Kane, which is my Erica’s legal name. Actually, it’s officially Erica Kane Martin Brent Cudahy Chandler Montgomery Montgomery Chandler Marick Marick Montgomery, but that is a bit of a mouthful, so she generally just goes by Erica.

Much like her namesake, Erica does not age. Once she was nursed to health as a kitten, she has never again been sick, and has never shown any indication of advancing age. If she were a dog, I’d be carrying her to her cat tower, instead of watching her bound to the top in a thoughtless jump.

Also like her namesake, Erica is very affectionate. My Erica, though, is always cautious, but open and friendly to dogs and humans alike. When she’s lived with other cats, she was always tolerant and diplomatic, if not overtly enthusiastic.

She’s a survivor, like her soap opera counterpart. She’s lived her entire life in the Southwest as an indoor-outdoor cat, sticking close to home to avoid danger, and keeping a wary eye out. It doesn’t hurt that she has guard dogs at her disposal, but I credit her survival to prudence, and, of course, some good luck. TV’s Erica Kane may not be known for her prudence, but staying alive in Pine Valley for forty years requires no small amount of luck, so in that sense, as well, our cat was well-named.

Erica is good-natured when she becomes the object in a game of “Look Out, Cat!!! ™” More often than not she wins, meaning the dogs don’t corner her, but when they do, her fiery eyes, and a quick display of her claws, disarms the pack immediately. She always walks away with her dignity intact. I guess that’s more than can be said about Susan Lucci’s character, but she's just a namesake. They're not the exact same being.

I couldn’t love my Erica Kane more if she were a dog, or a human, for that matter. She, Levi, and I go to sleep together every night, though they’re usually gone in the morning to more comfortable locations where my inconsiderate movements don’t disturb them. In the living room, Levi likes the leather couch, and Erica favors the center of the enormous dog bed. But as I go to sleep, Levi is pressed against my side, and Erica sleeps on my pillow. Every night I fall asleep with a cat on my head, and I hope I always do.

I communicate with Erica, but in a very different way than I communicate with dogs. In a sense, when I communicate with dogs, I’m reverting to my more primitive roots. We share a common language that goes back at least 15,000 years, and maybe as many as 150,000. Wikipedia gets it right when they say cats have “associated” with us for at least 9,500 years.  The domestication of the dog seems to have been a result of true communication between two species. But I believe the cat domesticated us. And since earliest times, we have worshiped her for this.

When I communicate with Erica it’s not as if she’s a goddess, but it’s a bit like she’s an alien, the good kind, like E.T. Our discourse takes place at a higher level than with dogs, if that makes sense. I’m honored that Erica loves me, because I know I earned and merit that love; I take love for granted with dogs. Most of them love everybody. But Erica Kane discriminates.

Cats can be included in a dog pack. More than the right dogs, the success of this integration depends on the right cat. For those who don’t know, dogs and cats do communicate, and they can love each other. When I see Rocky and Erica curled up together for a nap, and watch Levi quietly walk past them so as not to wake them, I can’t question that we are all basically the same. If I have a soul, dogs and cats certainly do. If none of us have souls, don’t doubt that we all have hearts and brains, and the only difference between people, dogs, and cats, is one of expression, not degree.

Finally, the very best thing my Erica Kane has in common with All My Children’s Erica Kane: To my knowledge, neither of them has ever used a litter box or had an accident in the house. If I’m wrong about one of them on this point, I’d be willing to lay bets that it’s la Lucci.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands
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Poetic Shutterbug said...

This is the first blog I visited and read today and have to say you made my day. La Lucci is my all time fave actress. I've been watching AMC since it's debut, decades ago. Both Erika's here look like divas to me and I will just bet that La Lucci is the one that's used a litter box - for something or other :D Thanks for making me laugh so hard.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Here is the link to a post about your new blog on my blog

BeadedTail said...

What a wonderful story of your Erica Kane! She sounds like a very special cat who knows she's a cat even with all the dogs! You described cats purrfectly!

Jaya said...

Dear DogMan:

You wrote, "But I believe the cat domesticated us." Actually, that is still a work in progress. It is not an easy task to domesticate the humans.

Also, about the 'alien' thing, here's the deal: SOME cats are aliens, while some cats are not. You can often spot the alien ones as they transmit data on the humans they have under observation back to their home planet. While transmitting, they will be staring hard at you, without blinking and with a serious expression on their faces, while their ears slowly rotate back and forth. Sometimes their eyes will glow as they transmit, but that is rare. If you're seeing that on a regular basis, then you have an alien cat.

I once had two alien cats, gray twins names Ned and Buns. They were sent specifically to observe me, so I must have been of some interest to their home planet, although I don't know why. They flagged me down in the middle of the night, as I drove down an isolated stretch of road in the mountains near Taos, NM. I was an easy mark, and fell right into the trap they set, muttering "Oh, you poor kitties! What are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere? You must be hungry!"... and then, before you could say Bob's your uncle, they were loaded into my truck for the drive back to my house where they set up their transmitting station.

Fisher said...

Well done - I feel like I now know Erica. Such a sweetheart.

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