Friday, January 7, 2011


Setting the scene and a mea culpa
Apple in flagrante delicto
It was a five-course dinner party and all was going well; not like the time before when our house pets, indignant at being relegated to the back bedroom with my pre-teen kids, escaped and spent the better part of the evening loitering around my guests' feet. We lived in the cooler climate of the north of France where air conditioning is largely non-existant; and that summer evening was a warm one, so the French doors to the dining room were open, as was the kitchen window. This gave the family cat, once free from his initial confinement, excellent ingress and egress to both centers of operation, i.e., the kitchen countertop and the dining table.

No sooner would I give the cat a push out the kitchen window, than he would circle the house and stroll back in through the French doors to make his table rounds, or worse, jump up onto the sideboard, spread himself out next to a silver bread basket, and with a great deal of showmanship, preen his underparts.

Our Cavalier King Charles, Marie-Charlotte, was more direct. She had gained entrance by making so much noise scratching the bedroom door that it was impossible not to let her join the party. After noodling the ladies' knees under the table, her modus operandi was simply to hop up onto my chair and keep an eye on my plate and the company whenever I was off to the kitchen...

My guests were all very polite and tenderly feigned amusement; this was afterall the first dinner party I had given after having lost my French husband several months before.  When planning that dinner I had not imagined what solo animal control could entail.

Marie-Charlotte, self-appointed hostess with the most-est

A plan, and how not to spend New Year's Eve

So for this next and more successful dinner party I took two precautionary measures: I invited our veterinarian and gave the cat a fresh salmon tail to appease him just before the guests arrived. Our pets' olfactometers picked up the clinical scent; the cat took a powder and the dog retired under an armchair where she spent most of the evening.

Our vet and his wife had twins, and my other guests, had triplets, so the dinner conversation turned around multiple births--of all sorts-- until the vet asked, "Where's Apple?"

I explained that he was probably under a shrub in a semi-comatose state digesting a salmon tail I had given him earlier to keep him out of the way.

The funny part, or the not so funny part...
One of the guests then told an anecdote that he swore up and down was true. It seems that the parents of a young doctor he knew were hosting what the French call a réveillon, that is a late night dinner typically held on Christmas Eve, or in this case, on New Year's Eve. His mother had prepared salmon as the main course. To her dismay she discovered that during the first course or entrée, the family cat had snuck into the kitchen and eaten a good portion of the fish. She tossed the cat outside then called her husband into the kitchen to confer. There was just enough salmon left to serve their guests, but not themselves, so they decided to make do and hope no one would notice.

All went along as planned until the hostess returned to the kitchen, looked out the window, and noticed the cat stretched out, strangely immobile in the yard. She called her husband back into the kitchen, and after a quick check they realized the cat was dead. Fearing that the cause of death was the salmon, and feeling the heady weight of being the parents of a bright new doctor, and thus incidentally connected with the medical profession and its attendant responsibilities, they phoned the poison center and asked for advice. They were told, with a due abundance of caution, that if the cat had just eaten salmon and died, then the only safe thing to do was to promptly send all who had eaten the salmon to the hospital to have an emergency lavage gastrique, or stomach pumping.

So the guests, after receiving the bad news, begrudgingly left the table and headed to the hospital for the procedure. According to my guest, the worst part for the host and hostess was not telling their guests that they had to go to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped, but rather explaining why they didn't have to have it done themselves.

But the story doesn't finish there. The next day an apologetic neighbor knocked at the couple's door excusing himself for having hit their cat with his car the evening before. "I didn't want to disturb you with this last night because I realized that you were entertaining, so I simply put its body in your yard..."

Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

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