Once You Pop, the Fun Don't Stop


 As intimately aware as she was about every set of eyes that gawked and stared in there general direction, secure behind the cover of sunglasses she kept pushing forward and didn't entertain a single one. She knew how it looked - but he was the one in a million cat that seemed to be enjoying himself enough to occasionally pull ahead enough to tug on the slack of the relatively short leash she allowed him. Just a woman and her house cat, now two blocks from home and enjoying another summer day.

 It was of course a hot afternoon, but it wasn't one of the unbearable one's, so she'd pulled the harness from it's hook beside the door and had been greeted with a one-man orchestra of mews and purrs. So yes, she saw them hesitating and considering the sight - but she also saw the tabby in question serpentine in-between and against planters set out to line cafe's and making stink faces as he stopped to sniff pots of pansies or abandoned wax paper burger wrappers.

 And along with fire and how to (mostly) control it, the past few months or so had taught her the precise and nonnegotiable value of not letting just anyone sway you when you set your mind to something. So if Pringle wanted to traipse through the town, live beyond a bay window and a potted catnip plant - well, they had one more block before she'd turn back and head for the apartment all over again.

 Glancing ahead a bit she caught sight of a cattle dog a few businesses down, watched as he tensed and his ears perked. "Nope nope nope, ..." Muttered to herself as she wrapped her hand around the leash a couple more times and reached down, scooped Pringle up and tucked him under her arm for safe keeping until they were past the dog. Cringing and flinching as the cat yowled and flailed a bit, not wanting to hurt him but also not wanting trouble. "It's great that you're independent but -" Grumbled as she tried to sooth him, stopped and leaned her hip against the wrought iron half fence that separate the outside dining of some restaurant from the rest of the sidewalk.

"Pringle, please -"




 Minerva had officially made hunting dog parks in Mountainside A Thing. There were admittedly a lot more than she had ever anticipated - truth be told, she had never really thought about taking Dude to a dog park. They lived on such a large chunk of property that he had plenty of space to run and play, and he was well-socialized, but suddenly it seemed like a good thing to do.

 There were two in Larkspur - at least, two that google had been kind enough to share with her. They were close enough together that once they were done scoping out the first one, she figured they could just take a nice little walk to the second one. Dude's energy knew no bounds, anyway, so he would still have plenty of juice for playing once they got there.

 A palpable change came over the mutt in the middle of their walk - his dutiful, focused pace slowed as something ahead caught his eye. Minerva glanced at him with a soft "what is it, buddy?" as his tail began a slow wag. He picked up his pace, marginally, remaining obediently close enough that the leash wouldn't grow taut. After a few more moments, Minnie would catch sight of the girl with her cat on a leash, scooping it up off the ground. Ah. She chuckled a little as realization struck her.

 "Hey! Does your kitty do well on that leash?" she called out jovially as they grew nearer, a peppy grin on her face. Dude, for all his happy curiosity, made no move to jump on the stranger, but did watch the cat with a gentle curiosity.

 If nothing else, she supposed she subscribed whole heartedly to the old saying about not judging books by their covers. Still, it was hard not to adjust her hold on the squirming cat and keep him against her side - not quiet ready to just set the feline down and trust the calm of a complete stranger. "Usually, he's just a little finicky about dogs." The smile was wide enough to crinkle the corners of her eyes, gently scratching at Pringles chest as she cocked her hip to the side.

 "Not that, you know - you and ...?" She waited for a name, pressed on anyway when she realized it might have seemed - she wasn't sure, demanding? "Aren't welcome to the sidewalk or whatever or, I'm Piper and this is Pringles."

 The other girl's aesthetic could easily be considered alternative, what with her holey ears and smattering of tattoos, but she was so lovely! Her freckles and glorious red hair and the apparently perfect liner around her eyes! Minerva admired her looks in the way she might admire a masterfully-made piece of art, but would not stare at her long enough to be too weird. Hopefully.

 She mirrored the other's grin as she humored her with a response regarding her seemingly unhappy cat - apparently made so because of Dude. "Ahhh," she said with a connotation of understanding. She glanced down at her dog, who was still regarding the feline with a slight head tilt and a slow wag of his tail. She looked up again as she was being spoken to, her grin reappearing, wider this time.

 "Nice to meet you, Piper and Pringles," she chirped with genuine glee, laughing softly with joy. What cute names. "I'm Minerva, and this is Dude." She gestured lightly at him, the wagging of his tail increasing slightly at the mention of his name. "He loves cats. He has lived around them pretty much his whole life. But we have never had any success trying to convince one to come on a walk with us."

 "Dude? That's brilliant." Simple little names that were commonplace but peculiar, the sort of minuscule thing that pleased her more than it probably should have. "It's nice to meet you two too!" And maybe Minerva was wrong or she was sugarcoating the issue, but she decided to trust her enough to crouch and slowly set the cat back down on his own four paws.

 The bit about cats, making her chuckle even as she stayed ever watchful of Pringles, noticed the slow motion way he inched forward a bit and kept his head tucked down and his body still as he eyed the canine. "Pringle's a weirdo, I tried to walk a cat I had back at my dad's and he would just freeze and would't move - it's him. not you." She rolled her wrist, adjusted her hold on the leash.

"You two live around here?"

 Minnie grinned brightly at the compliment to Dude’s name. It had been Joaquin’s idea, and she had stuck with it because, well. It was awesome. She was easily distracted though as Piper set her wary kitty back on the pavement. She cast a glance at her dog, who was thus far well behaved, but watching the feline with rapt curiosity that dogs usually reserved for other dogs.

 She knelt down slowly to be closer to eye-level with the cat, laughing at the mental imagine procured by Piper’s story. Any cat she had ever tried to walk had always wound up becoming dead weight being drug across the grass.

 "Well, we live in Avondale, but we’re here today as dog park critics. Unprofessionally." She grinned, holding her hand out towards Pringles in an attempt to win his sniffles. "Too bad they don’t have cat parks! I wonder if that would ever work. I guess you two are Larkspur locals?"

 "I'm pretty sure that a cat park would just be a lot of kittens pooping in sandboxes and chaos." She giggled at the imagery that came to mind all the same, watched her own pet warily when Minerva tried to coax him closer, made no move to intervene one way or the other. "I bar tend at a spot nearby, Chupacabera's?" And lived there - but she sort of hoped that was implied by sharing her workplace. Anyway, hopefully Minerva wouldn't get too curious, she tried not to coax nor repel too many people tp or from the literal coyote den.

 At any rate, she crouched down now - briefly pressed the tips of her fingers to the pavement to adjust her balance before she scratched along Pringles back, just before his tail. "Go on ... look." Snapping her fingers in Minerva's direction as if to green light the idea and make it marginally more appealing. The cat looked back at her, a low yowl of sorts as he knocked his head against her knees before inching forward - craning his neck and moving as if to sniff at her fingertips.

"Thankfully, he's only a butt hole some of the time."

 Kittens pooping in sandboxes and chaos. Minerva matched the other woman's laugh, a pure sound from deep inside her as she also imagined such a scene. Cat chaos could entail so many things. Piper went on to explain that she bartended at Chupacabras, and Minnie nodded her head somewhat vaguely as if she had any idea about any bars around here. She was too young still to even be allowed inside such establishments, and frankly they held no appeal for her, but she resolved not to say as much aloud.

 Patient but brimming with hopeful anticipation, Minerva watched as the other attempted to coax Pringles into a level of trust that permitted being pet by a stranger. She wiggled her fingers gently as if to expel some of that giddy energy, but let them fall to stillness as the kitty inched his nose closer to her. She laughed quietly. "My cat is like that, too," she confessed as she dared to inch closer, seeking to lightly scritch Pringles' cheek. "Sometimes she loves everybody, sometimes she hates everybody. Unpredictable critters."

 For all his hesitation at first, the cat took the scratch without any retaliation, bowed his head lower and briefly raised his shoulders before giving in. He paced closer, rubbed against the other girls knee which made Piper all the more pleased. A little more trusting under the genuine pleasantness of Minerva's temperament, she only briefly glanced over to dude before slowly standing up when it became clear that Pringle wasn't going to behave like a total jerk.

 "You have a cat too?" She watched the two interact, less than surprised based on what she was seeing. "I'd love to have a more permanent dog-friend for Pringle, but apartments a jerk where their pet policy is concerned."

 Pringles gave in! Her petting was irresistible. She was the Cat Whisperer. A toothy grin spread on her face as her hand wandered further down his furry little neck. Dude watched patiently, though his excitement was obvious in his bright eyes and perky ears as he sniffed at the air between himself and the cat.

 "Yeah," she piped happily, glancing up at Piper. She had no idea how apartments worked, but dog problems seemed to be a common theme among some of her friends. She frowned. "Well. You’re welcome to be friends with Dude! Pringles, too, heh. He’ll love you forever." With that, she stood up, leaving the kitty with one last scratch before she pointed at Piper. "Go on, Dude, say hi!" Instead, the mutt took that as an invitation to get to know the cat better, and stepped up to press his nose eagerly into his personal space.

 Split second first impression: this was one of the rare ones, the sort of person who almost never ticked anyone off in the history of ever. She could find envy in that and she did in droves, even as she gently snapped her fingers and patted her knee with the other hand. Little efforts to try to pull the dogs attention away from Pringles and his somewhat aloof disposition.

 The cat, bristling when Dude took to sniffing about, maybe her moved forward at once and scoop him up and into her arms. "Okay ..." A sort of nervous chuckle as she twisted her body away from the dog to keep the two further from one another, reached down to scratch behind an ear all the same. "Maybe we can arrange a meet and greet between them another time." Somewhere more distracting, maybe a little less seemingly peculiar to random folks passing by.

 Dude should not have been oblivious to the social cues of a cat - he should have known that its angry face and suddenly-fluffed fur was a sure signal for get the heck away from me. But he persisted anyways, as if testing his luck or maybe thinking he was capable of winning the kitty over with his big dumb tongue, and Piper was probably smart to scoop him up into her arms again. Minerva did her part, too, gently pulling Dude back a few steps by the leash.

 "Yes! I'm so down!" Minerva piped agreeably, bouncing one time on her toes as if she needed to expel some of her eager energy. "If you have Facebook or something I can find you there, or we can swap numbers - either way is good for me!" Besides, Pringles was probably pretty ready to be out of the vicinity of her annoying dog at this point.

 "Facebook!" Less an issue of not wanting to share her number and more so that it just made everything that much easier. But with Pringle half squirming, half clawing his way up her shoulder, she flinched and tried to politely rush through the details. "Piper Rutherford, but you can also - Pringle" Firm but not unkind as she hooked her fingers under his front legs and unhooked him from the hold he had on her shoulder.

 "If you look for the Chupacabera's page, I listed them as my workplace." Multiple forms of communication, a subtle way of trying to push that the offer of friendship was a genuine one and not just buffer. "I hope to be hearing from you, Minerva!"

 Facebook it was! What a great tool for networking, without the potential weirdness of asking a practical stranger for a phone number - even though she was still far from above such a thing. Piper Rutherford. She repeated the name a few times in her head, hoping that if it wasn't spelled the way it sounded, Facebook would at least help her out with suggestions or a good profile picture. She wouldn't press for any further clarification, as it was easy to see that Pringle was not making things any easier as she rushed to relay the necessary information. Minnie rolled her lips together and set her teeth against them to keep from giggling or making any other potentially-insulting face or sound.

 "Definitely! I'll send you a friend request as soon as I get home. Take care!" She was quick, but no less friendly, with her farewell words, gently tugging on Dude's leash to encourage him to come along on the path they had been headed down previously.

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