Wendy and Possum hit a rough patch in their pairs slacking training this week. As you may recall, they were having a lot of issues in February. They were becoming increasingly frustrated, and it was showing in Wendy's face and Possum's ear-and-a-half. No matter how relaxed Wendy's body appeared, she always had a wild expression and dilated pupils, as though she were contemplating biting someone.
Now, Wendy is the gentlest cat we've ever had. She has never bitten anyone who wasn't also biting her at the same moment, so we thought we could work out this problem pretty easily... but no. The mental stress and physical strain of looking perfectly at ease during her daily training sessions had proven overwhelming. She frequently looked as if she were about to spring into the air and flee — the antithesis of the Slacking Aesthetic.
Meanwhile, Possum was having an inordinately difficult time keeping his right ear from looking as if it were about to take off. An alert, active ear is also a big no-no in pairs slacking. When he'd focus on relaxing it, his tail would go out of control, waving itself irritably or flopping off the table, both of which would be a significant point deduction in competition.
We were getting nowhere. We decided they needed a break, and then a return to practicing some fundamental slacking concepts, where all beginners start. So, after a few days off, they are back to Square One, or just about, working on their Sprawling Rest Positions, Sleepy Expressions, and Heaviness (appearing to made of lead or cast iron).
Below, you'll see Wendy is demonstrating the Tucked Sprawl, while Possum is in Reverse C. We're not going to attempt mirrored, perfectly symmetrical positions again until they have mastered more of the basics of the sport independently.
Here you can see they are working on Crossed Paws:
This may not look difficult to you, but judges want it to look unselfconscious, which is pretty tough for most cats to pull off. Possum is actually a natural at this; he does it so often and so well that it was one of the things that made us realize we had Pairs Slacking potential in this couple. Wendy is getting better, but still looks like she is posing or trying too hard.
Below, Snalbert has joined the kids for some coaching. As you can see, they're working on the bed these days instead of our round table; beds are easier places to practice, with less chance of part of them falling off the edge (although it happens on the bed, too). Here Snalbert is helping them work on Sleepy Expressions:
Although Snalbert never competed as a slacker, he's fully informed on the rules and has acquired an impressive arsenal of coaching techniques. For example, his old-man-cat breath is so bad that all he has to do is silently open his mouth and the kids experience a wave of punishing stench, which works in behaviorist fashion to train them out of whatever they were doing wrong. They'll work hard to keep Snalbert satisfied. We all do.