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How not to welcome guests to your home

Yesterday, due to a miscommunication, my parents came to visit a week before we expected them.  They were only passing through for a few hours, so it wasn't a big deal, but it reminded us of a time a few years ago that makes a much better story...

Simon likes boxes, just not litter boxesIt was August, 2010.  Jessie and I went up to a summer camp in Nebraska for a week, taking our dog (Marcel) to her parents' place and leaving our two cats (Simon and Warren) in the care of Jessie's student Shubha.  Simon (pictured at right trying out a garden planter for size) was accustomed to spending most of his time outdoors in the summer, but we figured he could still use a litter box and would be fine inside for a week, so we told Shubha she only needed to check in on the cats once a day.

The camp ended on Friday morning, and we were spending a few hours with Jessie's family when I got a call from my Uncle Carl.  Carl lives in Hawaii but was taking a summer road trip on the mainland, and we were expecting him to come visit us in Emporia the following week.  As I answered the phone, I figured he was just calling to check in, but he said he was pulling into Emporia at that moment!  I don't remember anymore whether he had told me the wrong week or I had written it down wrong, but there he was in Emporia, and there we were four hours' drive away in Nebraska!  Shubha had told us everything was fine at home as of that morning, so I told Carl where to find the spare key and said we'd get there as soon as we could.

Unbenownst to us, Simon had decided using the litter box was beneath his dignity, at least for pooping.  He had apparently been holding it in all week.  Sometime between Shubha's last visit and when Carl opened the door, he let loose what Carl described as "a small mountain of feces" on our living room carpet.  Also, the carpet was full of fleas.  They attacked Carl as soon as he set foot in the house -- and I imagine the smell did as well -- so that he turned right around and bought a can of Raid from the corner store before venturing back in.

Warren in his last days, beset by fleasBy the time we got home, Carl had cleaned up the cat poop and made friends with the cats, and if he was upset with us for the unpleasant surprise, he didn't let on.  We shampooed the living room carpet over and over until the smell went away.  I don't recall how we took care of the fleas during Carl's visit, but after he left we used all manner of weapons to get rid of them.  Warren, unfortunately, was already in poor health before this (see awkward pose at left), and the fleas were too much for him to handle; he was gone by the end of the month.  He had a lot of personality, and we remember him often.  Simon is about to turn 15 and still going strong; we just don't expect him to use the litter box anymore!