HUNTINGTON

So, there’s a cat in my crawl space.

Now, he’s not trapped in there or anything, like the Minotaur in the labyrinth. The door is wide open — he can come and go as he pleases. And it’s not a feral cat, either — at least it’s not feral yet.

But it is a problem — a problem I’ve been tasked with.

Here’s the animal ecosystem in Culvyhouse household.

Before I ever asked my now wife on a first date, Odie the cat was the man of the house. He’s a pampered little boy who enjoys crawling on you in the bed and will scratch the ever-loving crap out of you when you pick him up. When he was younger, he didn’t liked cuddled, but my wife and step-daughter have broken him of that to an extent.

About a little over a year after I moved in, we got Scooby. Now Scooby looks almost identical to Odie — he’s gray and white — but he’s a slightly smaller and has the eyes of an animal that isn’t quite all there.

At first I really liked Scooby. As a kitten, he would pounce on Odie, he would get on our laps and purr. He was the little cuddle bug who was looking for affection.

Have you ever met a person, perhaps at the bowling alley or the bar or church and think, “you know, this a stand-up guy,” but after hanging out for a spell you slowly realize he or she is a complete jerk?

That just about sums up my relationship with Scooby. First it started with dinner — whenever we’d sit down to eat, the little boy would come around meowing for scraps. Initially I found it interesting, because this cat would eat things I’ve never seen a cat eat before — french fries, hot dogs, hamburgers etc. That novelty wore off the day he jumped up on my daughter’s plate and stole her piece of pizza.

Over time, it became pretty clear Scooby only wanted to purr and rub up on you whenever he was hungry. Everything was transactional.

We’ve all known that guy — the one who comes around when you got money for a round of shots, whenever they need help moving a couch or whenever they need a ride. The Taker — always needing this favor or that, but never giving back.

And to be clear, there have been points in my life where I’ve been that guy. Heck, that guy still lives inside me; that’s one of the reasons I don’t like that cat. He reminds me of the worst parts about me.

Last Christmas, Santa Claus came early and dropped off a gerbil on our dining room table. After the cats tried tipping his cage over a couple times, he’s blended into the background and has become another chore on the list (for the record, I don’t do animal poop, so that’s my wife’s detail. She doesn’t do dishes or laundry, so those are mine).

Then, in February, our last animal came to the home — Dolly Parton the Destroyer.

We were told she’s an American Bulldog mixed with a labador retriever, but there’s no telling what all she’s mixed with. I’d say she’s got a touch of Pit, but after months of me bringing up her breed my wife did a Google reverse engine search on her and the results came back with Doggo Argentino, the premier breed for hog hunting.

Either way, she’s 100% a good girl. Her likes are people, going hiking in the woods, checking on any objects she can fit in her mouth, begging for table scraps, pup cups and going for car rides. Her dislikes consists of other dogs (she’s not aggressive, she just gets scared), water, bees and hard biscuit treats.

And the cats do not like her — not one bit.

When Dolly was a just tiny little puppy and couldn’t even climb on the couch, Odie established dominance straight away. He swatted her, pounced on her and growled at her. Although she still chases him to this day, all he has to do is raise his paw and she’ll run away, despite the fact she’s four times his size.

Scooby took a different tact — he hid from her. From the time she’s let out of her overnight crate until it’s time to go to bed, Scooby is a ghost — he either holes up underneath the couch or perches on top of the dryer.

So after Dolly was introduced to the house, the cats — both indoor cats — did something fairly unheard of.

They started escaping. Odie did once, staying out for a whole day and night before he came with a few tufts of fur missing and a mess of another cat’s fur scattered about the front yard. While I always figured he was too soft for the Great Outdoors, Odie proved himself to be a warrior and a survivor.

Ever since that adventure, Odie — who once upon a time would creep out the door for a second and pop back in — has never shown an inclination to run out of the house. Between the dog inside and the tomcats out there, he’s picked where it’s warm and the food bowl never goes empty. Sure, he’ll look out when the door’s open, but he quickly slinks back as if recoiling from a hot stove.

Scooby is a different story. His whole plan is to escape.

Which brings us to the crawl space.

Last week — for the third time, mind you — Scooby slipped out of the door and shot off to the crawl space. We don’t know when exactly he did it — probably whenever we let Dolly out to use the can.

The last two times, my wife, who truly has the touch with all our animals, was able to coax him out with food and kissy noises.

This time, it’s no dice.

With winter coming, she’s concerned the poor little feller is going to freeze down there — also, since she’s gotten him out the last few times, it’s now my turn.

All last week, I tried everything with him.

I set dry food out to bait him, but I think he and the neighborhood toms ate it all up. I set the carcass of a rotisserie chicken outside the hole — he dragged it in and picked it apart, but I still couldn’t catch him. I’ve shined my flashlight in there and spotted him a few times, but no amount of calling and bag-shaking seems to do the trick. He just stands there and looks at you.

This past Sunday, I crawled up in there to try to see if I catch him on his turf. It was the last thing I wanted to do — I’ve worked in many crawl spaces and I can say without a doubt this is one of the top five tightest ones I’ve ever been inside of.

As I was calling for him, I could hear the dog upstairs barking at the floor, at the unknown voice from below. That, of course, didn’t help things with Scooby.

I eventually found him in a corner. At first he stopped and stared at me, then he went on to what he was doing — stalking crickets.

“My God,” I thought. “This cat has turned into Kurtz.”

I tried spooking him out. I was so successful he darted out of the crawl space and into the ether. I came back upstairs and reported what happened to my wife.

“Listen, if he comes to the door begging to be let in, I’ll let him in,” I told her. “But I ain’t going back into that hole.”

Finally, she relented.

Here’s the thing — I’m still checking the crawl space, just on the off chance I’ll catch him at the entrance.

November is the month to be thankful for what you have. Being thankful is important, but I think of greater importance is gratitude. See, I can be thankful for a cup of coffee, and I can be thankful for the turkey at the table. But to be grateful is a whole other ball game.

Gratitude — at least to me — means being thankful for your blessings, then doing whatever you can to maintain and improve them. If I’m grateful to have a car, I’ll change the oil. If I’m grateful for a job, I’ll show up and do the work. If I’m grateful for the meal my wife cooks, I’ll wash the dishes without even being asked.

I can’t just be grateful — I have to show it.

Sometimes showing gratitude is doing something for somebody else that is a royal pain in the butt. I’m grateful to have a family today, a household — I didn’t have that four years ago. While I like that cat about as much as a rash, my wife and my daughter love him.

What better way to show that gratitude than to catch that darn cat.

Reach HENRY CULVYHOUSE at henry@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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