The Mystery of the Missing Steak

A steak went missing off our outdoor table a few years back. We had friends over that night, and it was their steak that mysteriously disappeared off our outdoor table while it was left unattended for a while. The two men had taken the meat outside to cook on the barbeque, and left it on that table when our friend received a call from their daughter to fetch her from work, and so the meat was left unattended, but the two guys never told me that they’d left the steak uncovered. Open. They left and when they returned, walked outside to barbeque the meat and the next thing I heard was: “Where’s the steak?!!”

Now our family has two dogs and a cat.  One of the dogs is a Jack Russell crossed with a Kelpie, with probably some Red Healer in there as well. She has the most beautiful, loyal, intelligent nature, she watches behaviour patterns (ours and the cat’s) and reacts accordingly – as an example, our previous cat preferred to drink water from the bath, and eventually T decided it was a good idea to jump in the bath to drink some water as well (next to the cat), and nowadays we hear her jump into the bath and know she’s waiting for water; she tries to herd the cat by blocking its path and trying to get it into a corner, she anticipates when the window where the cat goes in and out will be opened or closed and runs towards it at such a pace that she skids on the stone floor regardless of the fact that she’d run past the cat who bemusedly watches her on her way there, while at other times walks so quietly on the pads of her feet that you can’t hear her nails as she stalks the cat, and then sometimes she lies still on her back while the cat play-attacks her; she picks up on our moods and in general tries her best to make everyone happy. But having a Jack Russell mum and a Kelpie dad meant in her case that she has short little Corgy-type legs with a long body like a sausage dog, plus she’s put on a bit of weight over the years. Not the type of build that is predisposed to jumping very high…

Our other dog is a little Jack Russell crossed with a Fox Terrier. Another beautiful girl whose ears and nose pick things up way before her friend T’s do, typical of the Fox Terrier in her. She gets so excited when child No 3 (her owner) gets home that she whines with excitement until No 3 takes off her shoes, and then Z carries the shoes (one at a time) to the couch where she loves to lie down. She never chews any shoes, but she has to have some in her lair. If no shoes are around, she’ll run into No 3’s room and if her wardrobe is open, take out a shoe and run with it to the couch. I keep saying that we need to train her to take shoes to bedrooms and not out of them, but it keeps falling on deaf ears. She loves to sit with us whenever we eat outside, and seats herself on a chair like the rest of the family. She is built the opposite to T, with long legs and a small body that enables her to jump vertically into the air. If the pooches happen to be inside the house when you come home, they both race to the front door so excitedly as if you’ve been away for hours even if you’ve only been gone for ten minutes, and Z jumps up into the air, vertically, so you can see her through the glass pane of the front door bobbing up and down and looking like a bouncy ball or a yo-yo. Very cute. She has been called the jumping fleabag by another of our friends, something No 3 takes personal offense to. The bottom line is, this little dog has an extremely strong sense of smell and the ability to jump vertically into the air, and quite high…

On the night the steak went walkabouts, there was general confusion for a moment and at first I thought it was a joke, but it quickly turned out to be serious and the steak was really missing. The container it had been in sat glaringly empty on the table. It hadn’t gone far though and since the dogs were the only real suspects, we soon enough discovered to our absolute horror, our two dogs on the lawn happily chewing on two beautiful pieces of steak!  I was mortified, but the whole situation was also hilarious. Z has never before (or since) stolen food off our table, but at least she was kind enough to share it with T. She shouldn’t have done it though, but in her defence: the steak was left uncovered! For a temptingly long time! The worst part was that, apart from other shared food, we were planning on having a low-key dinner that night which meant hamburgers for us, and we therefore only had hamburgers to share! More mortification!!

We’ve laughed and joked about and re-told this story numerous times since, but never again left meat uncovered and unattended on the outside table. In the meantime we got a new little rescued kitten who is an absolute character. She is playful, loving, cute, adorable and sometimes acts like she thinks she’s one of the dogs. She jumps on them as if they’re her playmates, and T tolerates it patiently while Z reacts instantly by either counter-attacking or running away. In the garden she runs around like a cat possessed and mock-attacks me as if she’s a ferocious beast, and waits for me outside the front door in the shrubs in the afternoons when I get home from work and again, storms to me as if she’s going to attack me, then meekly rolls over on her back and looks up as if to say: look at me – I’m so cute! Ever since her early days in our family, she took to jumping onto the kitchen bench when I was preparing food, and no manner of picking her up and putting her on the floor demotivated her – she just kept coming back. Eventually I started keeping a water spray bottle handy and even just the motion or sound (without actually spraying the water) taught her very quickly not to go there, but she still went and sat on top of the water cooler and watched the proceedings from there. None of us could bear chasing her away from there because she did nothing wrong and was just too cute for words.

Our routine on the days when child No 1 finishes work late, has become to leave his dinner out for him on the kitchen bench so he can just heat it up or eat as it is, whichever he wants to do. One night a while ago when I put his plate there for him I thought I’d better cover this with some paper towel in case M (the cat) decides to investigate the kitchen bench as she does think that no area is out of bounds to her and as we were having hamburgers (again!) the meat might have been tempting to her. I then got busy doing something else, child No 3 was out and child No 2 was playing the piano when next minute she burst out laughing and admonished the cat at the same time. I went to see what was going on, and it turned out that M was on the floor eating No 1’s hamburger patty! No 2 said she’d noticed that the paper towel covering No 1’s plate had moved so she put it back but didn’t notice that anything was amiss until she saw M and the hamburger patty on the floor. How on earth that tiny little 4kg cat managed to pick up a hamburger patty and carry it in her mouth while jumping down to the floor is beyond me. She hunts insects on a daily basis, and brings them into the house to show off and play with until she’s bored with them, but never has she carried anything bigger than that. (She wears a collar with a bell and won’t be able to catch birds because the bell will warn them if she’s coming.) That was a hamburger patty wasted as it went straight in the bin, but it was too funny to be angry at her. What is it with our pets on the nights we eat home-made hamburgers? Needless to say, tonight’s leftover meat was covered with a plate while it cools down to a suitable fridge-storing temperature, but the funny thing is that our pets aren’t undisciplined. Really. The dogs do as they’re told, even though sometimes it means going outside so slowly and with their heads and ears drooping so low it nearly touches the ground so you feel really guilty for sending them out, but they still obey, and M is learning not to jump onto our bed in the mornings until my alarm has gone off, even though she has a relapse every now and then when she thinks it’s time for us to wake up and she then jumps onto the bed and then onto the headboard, walks across the headboard and jumps down on Ironman’s side (this must have maximum effect in her mind as she gets to jump on both of us in the same lap) and she does this repeatedly, but it’s all small stuff. Their only minor little shortcoming is that we have to watch them around meat…

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