"Are you kidding? It's my pleasure. Just one thing: do you think you could cat-sit for me?"
"Absolutely! No problem at all."
"Great! One other thing..."
I had the good fortune to be hosted by a dear friend of my sister's while I was staying in Seattle. She and her roommate had a beautiful townhome in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and soon both had to go out of town, leaving me in charge of Ginsberg, the resident cat and recipient of my overbearing attention for the coming days.
Ask me about the time I impulse-bought a cat. (Not this one.)
Ginsberg, or Ginsburger, as I quickly re-named him, was a self-assured grey ghost up to the usual feline shenanigans: book-blocking, counter-leaping, occasional exploratory urination.
However, Ginsberg stood out in two ways.
First, he was being toilet-trained -- successfully, it turned out.
Second, he was being trained to go on walks outside. In a harness.
My lackadaisical, solitary days in Capitol Hill essentially went like this: go to the gym, wander off somewhere, make food, read, write, and spend 30 minutes bargaining a cat-stranger into a harness and then venturing outside while we both navigated whose role was whose once he was plunged into the unfamiliar wilderness of the small front courtyard.
Over, under, around, and through.
Neither of us were good at this. It wasn't so much walking as much as continual disentangling. Fortunately, I like puzzles.
At the end of the walk, I was supposed to open the front door, wait for Ginsburger to walk in on his own volition, and offer him heartfelt praise once he completed ingress. Picking him up and transferring him indoors only delayed the progress of training.
Ginsburger seemed aware of this policy, and enjoyed siting on the front walkway and staring at me as I stood in the foyer by the shoes and umbrellas and stared back at him, an open door and quiet contention between us.
Many people resent the ruminative, self-absorbed, and fickle nature of cats.