Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

At present I am well along in an advanced seminar on territorialism that began on Christmas Eve. It is not a course in the normal academic meaning of the word, but rather an experiential study being taught by two individuals who are learning as they go themselves.

To begin, ‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house every creature was stirring, when lo and behold out on the porch appeared a visitor from afar, but unlike Santa, this one appears to have come to stay. The new arrival was a cat, who clearly was hungry and ready to be fed, but not anxious to be petted. Given her December 24th arrival, we named her Eve.

Last year we had a cat who moved in under our barn whom we fed, but who never allowed us to be closer than six feet from her. After a few weeks, she moved on, perhaps to greener pastures. This time, the guest is also somewhat distant, but at least she has moved up to the house, and is willing to dine on the porch, which brings me to the question of territorialism.

For the first week, Maggie, our corgi, would stand at the door barking ferociously, obviously convinced that Eve was eating her meals. When she would be finished, Eve would come over to the door and stare at Maggie, who would stop barking. Then after a few more days, Maggie started wagging her stump of a tail.

When I would take Maggie on her leash for her constitutionals, Eve would jump up on the rail to avoid direct contact, which had been fine as long as the glass door had been between them. For the last few days, they actually have moved in the directions of the Eskimos by rubbing their noses, but Maggie remains food oriented. Immediately after the nose rubbing, she rushes to Eve’s dish to see if any morsels remain. They do not.

Perhaps the lingering aroma of the cat food in Eve’s bowl is the reason for Maggie’s sneering at her own food when I serve her. Previously, she would sit while I prepared her meals, and begin eating after I had told her it was ready. Eve, of course, is impossible to control at mealtime. She runs around, excitedly anticipating every serving, and, as I noted, she always leaves the bowl antiseptically clean. Of late, she has been accompanying Maggie and me on our walks, much to Maggie’s distraction from the essential purpose of the outings.

Initially, clearly Maggie viewed Eve’s arrival as a threat to her own animal hegemony, in fact I do not need to use the word “animal,” for Maggie thinks of herself as having total territorial hegemony. She understands that corgis are herding dogs, and in that vocation, she is quite proficient.

Sometimes I think that I even could teach her to remind me of medical and dental appointments, despite the very sad look on her face whenever I leave the house, but that is compensated with the joy I see upon my return. She does not object to my departure, as long as I take her with me.

Observing Maggie and Eve, I am reminded of the adage that a dog has a family and a cat has a staff. Maggie, who never has had puppies, thinks of herself truly as a mother hen, a Dutch aunt, a watchful parent. Eve is far more of the attitude of “When do I get served?” or “What has taken you so long?” If she could, I think she would dock my pay.

Lastly, for two-and-a-half weeks we have assumed that Eve is a female, hence her name, although she is not named for our original mother as I have noted. In that vein, I question if Eve turns out to be a tom cat, should we call him Santa, rather than Adam?