Sunday, December 20, 2015

Heather Is Helpful

(Reclaimed from Blogjob. It didn't appear on a Tuesday there, either, although Heather's calico coat is blotched enough to qualify as "Tortie." Blogjob tags for this one were desktop computer,keyboard shortcuts in WindowsMicrosoft Word,Priscilla King’s cat Heather,social cats.)

Earlier today, I commented on one of GrecyGarcia 's posts ( ) that our pets do tend to take an interest in what we read or write. They observe what we're looking at; they wonder what could possibly be more interesting than they are.

Sometimes, the answer to this question not being immediately obvious to a cat, dog, or bird, they try to tear it apart and find out whether there's anything interesting inside what we're looking at. I don't usually allow the cats in the office room, for this reason.

Once in a while they get in. Mackerel sneaked in one day and typed a string of characters on the wasn't English, but it might have been read as an attempt to write "More baked salmon please."

I chortled over that for more than a year, and then, another day, Bisquit sneaked in and typed a string of characters. I didn't recognize any words, or mistyped words, in that string either, but...Bisquit was the talkative cat. Her sometimes annoying efforts to do all the talking, her slim build, her blonde color, the fact that even the vet had called her "it" right up until she had kittens, and her whole general attitude, had reminded me for some time of snarky political satirist Ann Coulter--although Bisquit never, never bit or scratched anybody, and Ann Coulter's "jokes" can be so biting they're not funny. I joked that whatever Bisquit had been "saying" on the computer had probably been some sort of political or celebrity gossip comedy bit.

Bisquit's granddaughter Iris, Heather's littermate, was brought into the office room on the coldest days of winter, while she recovered from streptococcal pneumonia. Iris was smart enough not to push her luck. So far as I could tell, she never touched the computer.

Heather, whose face has been preserved for posterity looking just slightly peeved because another cat volunteered to pose first and I let her, is generally a nice, kind, sensible cat. I wouldn't describe her as bossy toward the other cats, at all. If one of them really wants something, Heather usually seems to give in. She just happens to be the biggest, strongest, in many ways the smartest, and that definitely includes the most efficient hunter, in this social cat family. She's a sweetheart whose worst punishment seems to be this sort of "I'm so disappointed in you" body language, but definitely dominant.

It's been a long slow autumn. Cold-blooded creatures are still active. It was just a few weeks ago, after the chimney fire damaged the chimney liner and filter, when I noticed a tick clinging to Heather. The wood stove being disconnected from its chimney, I carried Heather into the office room to dispose of the tick in a candle.

I have to admit I was thinking that, if Heather batted at the computer, it would be interesting to see whether the garbage she keyed in suggested words.

She did.

It didn't.

Instead, Heather "typed" a key combination...well it's quite an old computer, as they go, built in 1998, and has an old, quirky keyboard with a few bugs in it. I had been wondering for years exactly what slip of my fingers, certainly not a standard Microsoft Word command, was minimizing windows I wanted maximized, ever since I'd installed this keyboard. Heather showed me the keyboard-specific combination that minimizes windows. Everybody knows how to click on the button, but on this keyboard the combination of left shift key and space bar work the same way.

So help me...Heather is a wonderful helper in many ways; she keeps rodents (including squirrels) away from my old wooden house, she nurtures kittens, she teaches visiting cats the rules without excessive hostility or drama, and she's even been known to help me communicate with other cats. But I never expected her to teach me anything about my own computer.

Did she know she was doing that? Who knows what a cat knows? Social cats...they never cease to amaze me.