Mimi was reading in her recliner, feet up, when Felix jumped on her lap with no warning.
“Oh, hello, you! You want some attention, don’t you! Yes you do!” Mimi gave Felix a gentle rub behind the ears with one hand; Felix leaned into her hand and purred loudly. “So, did you just make a security patrol of the house? Did you? All safe and secure? Awww, who’s a good cat? Who’s a good kitty cat?”
Felix nestled into her lap while Mimi gently stroked the deep black fur down its back. It was getting late, and her eyes were getting tired, but she didn’t feel quite sleepy enough for bed. Maybe just watch some TV? She was into the second season of that British mystery show, with the handsome detective chief inspector; that was a fun show. Or maybe Felix could recommend something in a light comedy.
Felix suddenly became alert. Sitting up straight, the cat looked like it was listening to something. It gave a low warning growl.
“Felix? Felix honey? What’s wrong, dear? Felix?” The cat continued to growl. Mimi made eye contact with the cat and said deliberately, “Felix. Talk to me. What’s wrong?”
Felix looked back at her and said, “There’s someone on the property, Mimi. Large, bundled up, wearing a ski mask or something similar. He’s going around to the back door.” Felix looked like it was listening to something. “He’s at the back door. He’s trying to get in. Mimi, it’s okay, the back door lock can’t be picked. I’ve alerted nine-one-one anyway, and they’ll be sending someone shortly. Meanwhile, the back door can’t be opened.”
There was a crash as the back door was kicked in.
“However,” announced Felix, somewhat unnecessarily, “it can broken into. I’ve updated the police and the neighborhood watch.”
“Oh Felix!” Mimi, in many ways, fit the stereotype of the little old lady, and she knew it. She did not keep firearms in the house, and she was well past the age where martial arts were an option. “What should I do?”
“It’s okay, Mimi, the police will be here soon. Please just be calm, okay? Can you do that for me?” Felix rubbed its head against her hand reassuringly, while simultaneously emitting a purr programmed to have a soothing effect.
“Yeah, lady, listen to the stupid robo-cat and just stay the fuck calm.” The man who walked into her living room was well over six feet tall, clad in a rough winter jacket and wearing a ski mask. “I’ll just be in and out. You have that necklace here that you should have left in the safe deposit box; where is it?”
Felix jumped down from Mimi’s lap and assumed an attack posture. “I warn you, I am an advanced model and I carry dangerous weaponry! Unless you leave immediately, I shall have to use it!”
The intruder reached down, picked up Felix by the scruff of the neck, and brought its face up to his own. “Yeah, right, I’m fuckin’ terrified. You must think I’m totally fuckin’ stupid. None of you fuckin’ stupid robot pets can hurt anybody, or by doing nuthin’, allow anybody to be hurt.” He looked at Mimi. “The necklace, now, or I tear off the head on this fuckin’ thing.”
“Don’t hurt my cat! Don’t hurt my cat!” Mimi pressed the button on her recliner, which slowly extended upward to deposit her feet-first on the floor. “I’ll get it! Please don’t hurt Felix!’
There was a scampering sound as two calico cats and a schnauzer rushed into the room. “Ma’am, are you okay?” asked the dog. “The police are on their way.”
The intruder pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket and checked the display. “Oooh, yeah, the police are twelve fuckin’ minutes away. Gee, lookit that, a crook who knows how to use a scanner app.” He yelled at Mimi, “Tick tock lady, I ain’t got all fuckin’ night, get the fuckin’ necklace. NOW!”
He turned when he heard a growling sound behind him. A large dog, dark with a strong doberman mix, was advancing slowly into the room, accompanied by a Siamese cat. The dog bared his teeth and growled again.
“Jesus!”, said the man, “next time I gotta remember to close the fuckin’ door behind me. Go away, doggie, you don’t scare me none.” As the dog continued to growl and advance, the intruder pocketed his phone and pulled out a gun. He pointed it at Felix, who was making no attempt to wriggle free of his other hand. “Now, doggie, or the cat gets it. And I’m not pointin’ it at the old lady, so you can’t hurt me none. So GIT!”
The big dog jumped at the man, biting down on the hand with the gun. The man screamed in pain, fell to the floor, and dropped the gun and Felix. The schnauzer promptly picked up the gun in its mouth and scampered off. The man, still held by the big dog, watched as his blood dripped on the floor.
Felix sauntered over to where he could address the man eye-to-eye. “I believe you are done threatening my owner, and I believe Mimi would appreciate it if you would stop bleeding all over her hardwood floor and leave. Now.” Felix looked at the dog, who was watching the man and the cat intently, still maintaining a steady grip. “Bruno! Good boy! Release!” Bruno let go of the intruder and backed away slowly, head down, keeping his eyes on the man at all times. The man awkwardly stood up, looking around in confusion. “Actually,” said Felix, “I think you’d better RUN!”
The man tore out of the house.
The front door unlocked and opened as the two patrol officers approached. “Ms. Gonzalez? Ma’am? Police officers, ma’am, we’re coming in!”
They found Mimi back in her recliner, clutching Felix and stroking it while it purred away. Bruno was on his back, being belly-rubbed by the two calico cats, who were telling him, “Who’s a good boy? Bruno’s a good boy! Bruno is a good, good boy, yes he is! Yes he is!” Bruno’s tongue was lolling out and he seemed very happy. A cleaning unit was rolling back to its charging station, having removed the blood from the floor before it had time to set.
“Ms. Gonzalez, I’m officer Forster, this is office Flinn. Sorry we got here so late, there was a disturbance at the other end of town. We think the guy who tried to rob you took advantage of that. We caught him, just so you know, Petzz4U had a couple of the neighborhood robo-pets follow him when he left here, so we had his picture and license plate number and everything. Actually, the little dog who took his gun had already run it for prints, so we knew who he was by the time we picked him up. It’s all okay. How about you, ma’am? You doing alright? Want me or officer Flinn to stay with you?”
“Thank you, officer, I’m fine, just shook up, is all. I was worried that Felix would get hurt, but he’s fine, aren’t you, Felix?” Felix licked her face and purred.
“Good to know, ma’am. You sure got lucky— hey, you! I know you!” Forster went to one knee and started rubbing Bruno’s belly. Bruno rolled over, stood up, and began licking Forster’s face. “Where you been, Bruno? People been lookin’ for you!”
“Oh dear,” said Mimi, “is he a stray dog, then? I thought I remembered him, but he used to go walking with a nice older man.”
“Yes, ma’am, Bruno here belonged to Mr. Ohsati, but he passed a few months ago. Mr. Ohsati’s kids lost him, I don’t think they know how to handle dogs is all. We’ve been keepin’ an eye out for him.” Forster, obviously a dog person, was giving Bruno behind-the-ear scratches while Bruno occasionally licked her cheek.
“Ah. Yes. Officer?” The Siamese cat jumped on a guest chair to bring its head closer to the policewoman’s. “Bruno has been purchased from the Ohsati estate by Petzz4U LLC. He assists the company with our secondary services such as neighborhood watch. Since he is not bound by the artificial intelligence restrictions that I and my fellow pet bots are, he is a very valued member.” The cat looked at Bruno. “And he’s a good boy! Yes he is! Yes he is!” Bruno licked his lips and looked pleased with himself.
“Okay. Can I get documentation on that, just for my report?” Forster’s phone dinged. She pulled it out, glanced at it, and returned it to her pocket. “Thanks!” She turned back to Mimi. “Okay, ma’am, we’ll check your back door is closed okay until somebody can get to it tomorrow, and we’ll be on our way!” She addressed the cats and Bruno. “You guys coming?”
The cats said goodbye to Mimi and left with the police, taking Bruno with them. Mimi sighed and gave Felix a hug. “Oh, you were a good cat, yes you were, Felix! Such a good cat!” She looked around. “My, the Roomba cleaned up everything so nicely! I guess there’s nothing to do but go to bed, but I don’t feel sleepy after all that excitement. And I don’t feel like a mystery show.” She made eye contact with her cat. “Felix. Talk to me. What’s a good half-hour comedy show that I’ll like?”
Robo-pets. Yes, they’re a thing. They’ll get better. And provide an opportunity for companies to upsell their services for things like security.
In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort?
As seniors find themselves cut off from loved ones during the pandemic, some are turning to automated animals for…
I like to write stories that speculate about directions technology might take us: