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The revolving chairmanship

When the videotape machine and color television were set up within my big kitchen hutch, it became the center of our home and working life. The cats and I, with the black schnoodle (in whom schnauzer vies with poodle), gathered about this marvel of science, which allowed me to tape "Masterpiece Theater" and choice old movies to replay in the wee hours while I stuffed books into wrappers and made out labels for our one-woman publishing firm. However, though I may be the acknowledged president of our company, there has been a continuous battle for the chairmanship.

The bone of contention was two big peacock wicker chairs drawn up in front of the video setup. Since I am the only one of us who knew how to operate the multitude of dials, it was my contention that I should occupy the chair nearest the knobs. The schnoodle thought otherwise. By night he snored in the preferred chair, and by day it was difficult to persuade him to make way for the president. He is not a big dog, so one might suppose that dislodging him would be relatively easy. But while the poodle part wagged its tail ingratiatingly, the schnauzer paws clung to the cushion -- and hung on even while the chair was forcefully tilted at a 90-degree angle.

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Having learned that guile is more potent than force, I tried what George Bernard Shaw called the bribe of bread, in this case certain dog bits placed invitingly on the floor. The schnoodle wasn't fooled and looked down at the food and up at me. But he knew, and I knew, that within a few minutes he would succumb and I would slide into the chair. The question then was how he would get it back.

In the early days of our relationship, before he became my rival for the chairmanship, his tap on my knee meant that I should open the Dutch door into his dog run. But now, the moment I respond and am headed for the door, he takes possession of the chair and smirks his whiskers at me. I remonstrate, and the schnauzer part refuses to meet my eye while the poodle wags its tail to show we are still friends. More dog bits set out on the floor, and my chair is mine again. At this rate I figure he will soon become a very fat schnoodle, and our food bill will increase unkindly.

So my new gambit has become the dog leash, which indicates he can run outside on a lead with the big German shepherd who guards the driveway. This to him is even better than watching "Masterpiece Theater" or old movies, so for some weeks during the day I manage to occupy the preferred chair.

But even when I have the chair, it is an uneasy possession. Sooner or later I have to answer the phone or make dinner or take the day's load of books to the post office. I've tried to devise methods of holding my place, such as placing a packing carton on the chair, but my rival throws over the carton. Chairmen sit on chairs, not cartons.

For a while I thought it was the chair itself and not its position that held him so passionately. But when I switched chairs around he still opted for the space by the television. The cats, on the other hand, will sit in either chair, since only one of them watches TV and, at that, cares only for the evening news. The schnoodle has more respect for the cats than he does for me. They have claws. One day when both chairs had cat occupants, he went fretfully between them, crooning in his soft cajoling tones and getting not a rise out of either Mrs. Levy or Emily, who are two small, gray, and very determined cats.

This gave me an idea. When next the telephone rang and I had to get up from the chair, I put Mrs. Levy in my place. The dog stood agape. When I came back from a lengthy conversation he was in a state of unravelment. Mrs. Levy was her smug self, unperturbed by his perturbation. I picked her up, took my chair and held her in my lap. She and I are well suited, since on cold nights I like a warm lap.

This may seem a small victory, compared with the battles going on in the board rooms of the world's corporations. But I feel it is symbolic. It eas the female contingent who won our corporate battle. Now, on leaving the chair, I make a point of picking up a cat (female) to keep my place. This is the newly created vice-chairmanship, whose sole duty is to take the chair when the chairman (generic) is otherwise occupied. Since there is no lack of lady cats, I am never without an officer of the firm to support my position.

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We females now vote en bloc. It is the only way in our dog-eat-dog society.

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