The Usher menagerie

A reader mailed me a lovely watercolor of the front of the Usher house, which I will definitely hang on the wall. These are the kind of little treats that we journalists sometimes receive, which make us forget about the stupid emails.

I hardly ever write about the Usher house anymore, but every week someone tells me about it. That, and my roast chicken recipe published during the pandemic.


A watercolor received by our columnist, from a reader

All that was missing from this watercolor was the hoe of Nanette, my 7-month-old kitten who will soon reach maturity, and the face of Angie, my beloved shih tzu for five years now. And the damn pair of pigeons that I can’t scare away. Nanette likes to stand in front of the window to observe them, while Angie prefers to bark at them.

During a month’s absence from my lover, I was all alone in the Usher house, but the word solitude does not exist when you live with a cat and a dog. And maybe a mouse, which I thought I saw passing by, unless it was a speck of dust in my eye. That’s a bit why I wanted a cat in this old house, but Nanette doesn’t care, it’s Angie who always reacts to the natural or supernatural presences of the house.

Since Nanette’s arrival, I have rediscovered the mysteries of the cat, after 25 years without a feline by my side, where I only swore by dogs. I notice that a cat gives off, while a dog gives off. In fact, the dog gives everything of himself, constantly, Colette made her Toby-Dog say “I would like to be sure that everything that lives loves me”. Whether I go out for five minutes or five hours, Angie welcomes me with the same overflowing joy when I return, while Nanette does not interrupt her sleep. Nanette’s life doesn’t revolve around me, and I must admit that that gives me a break of Angie, apple of my eye, who doesn’t let me go one bit, even in the bathroom in the morning. Dogs adore us and touch our hearts, sometimes too much, they are even very jealous. Cats come to us in our capacity for wonder, because their beauty, their grace, their agility and their independence command admiration.

I also explore the cat-dog dynamic, which has always been caricatured, with human beings being a little too fond of opposing them and inventing categories. Which one is better, which one is smarter? There’s no point in this hierarchy, but their differences make me laugh.

When I look at Nanette and Angie, I see above all that they love each other, “like children, like before the threats and the great torments”… As feline as she is, Nanette is the youngest and the latest to come, she Angie models several things and waits impatiently for her when she goes for a walk, a little indignant at not having this privilege. To get her revenge, she sneaks into every corner she can reach and is able to open just about any door.

They also share a schedule of locations. They sleep with me at night, while they take an afternoon nap with the gentleman. Around 10 a.m. and around 5 p.m. in the evening, it’s play time, they chase each other like crazy and sometimes break things. Finally, if I spend more than 11 p.m. in front of the TV in the evening, they put pressure on me to go to bed. Nanette turns on the TV and Angie waits for me looking serious on the stairs.

Cat and dog are creatures of habit.

The cat has always been preferred by writers, but here is my diagnosis as a reader: both cats and dogs are excellent reading companions, I would even give a slight advantage to the dog, who can quietly sleep at your feet for hours, while the cat often wants to lie down directly on your book.

But Nanette’s new presence makes me branch off in my quests at the bookstore. After reading a lot of books about dogs, like Its smell after the rain, by Cédric Sapin-Defour, or A dead dog after him, by Jean Rolin, I am now attracted by titles about cats. I just bought Feline philosophy – cats and the meaning of existence, by John Gray, which is quite amusing. According to the author, it was the cat who domesticated humans, not the other way around, and humans invented philosophy in a sad attempt to cure themselves of a life ailment that cats do not know. “Human life is very often a struggle for happiness,” he writes. In cats, on the contrary, happiness is a default state that they find when their well-being is not directly threatened. Perhaps this is essentially why many of us love cats. By right of birth, they enjoy a happiness in the quest of which humans most often fail. » I agree, but the same could be said of dogs, and probably most animals.

You see me coming, I hope. Do you have any good cat books for me? I need to rebalance my library to be a fair reader with my menagerie.


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