Sunday Column: Mouse catcher, cow chaser, heart breaker…

Well, it’s all about the pets these days around the ranch. Just in time for the snow to fall we have a couple more furry friends to help keep us hunkered down and warm.

I tell ya, between keeping the tiny kitten inside, alive and well fed and working to prevent the puppy from destroying my boot collection and all of the rugs in the house, it turns out Big Brown Dog, the easy one, the established member of the family, just wasn’t having the takeover.

Seemed like he needed to create a way to be noticed…

So last week he went out for a run around the ranch, checking things out, making sure there weren’t any giant sticks or random animal bones he missed dragging into the yard. He needed to get away you know. The damn puppy was driving him crazy with his crying and jumping, and nipping at his nose.

He’s too old for this.

So he took a hike to clear his mind. He needed his space. He needed to follow his nose…

Dog in Night

Turns out his nose led him straight into some sort of trouble, because Big Brown Dog showed up back home after dark with one of his top canines poking through his lip.

And a scrape on his foot.

And on his face.

“What the hell did you get into you poor, sweet animal?” I asked him as I kneeled down by his bed in the garage.

He just looked at me with those sad brown eyes and said nothing, because no matter how I wish they could, they can’t talk.

I called Husband out and he scratched his head, and the dog’s head, and we wondered together there looking at him what sort of adventure didn’t quite turn out as our dog had planned…

So the next morning I hoisted the stiff, sore, pathetic, sweet 110 pound dog into the back of my car (front feet first, then the back end) and we drove to the vet where they fussed over him, put him under, did a few X-rays, put the lip back in place, stitched up the hole, pumped him full of meds, prescribed enough pills to sedate an elephant, and $430 later they sent us on our way.

But not before he took the world’s longest pee outside the clinic…I mean, it was like 45 minutes…at least three patients came and went before he was done…

And then I loaded him up (front feet first and then the back end) into the car and back to the ranch where he struggled up the steps to his spot by my side of the bed and slept the bad memories away.

Poor Hondo. Always a lover…never a fighter…

8 years ago, a month after Husband and I were married, we took a trip to a farm about 70 miles from the ranch and my new Husband picked out Hondo from a litter of squirrelly, wiggly, chubby, adorable brown pups. He picked the one that seemed the most even tempered. He picked the darkest chocolate one he could find. He picked the biggest. He picked the best.

I paid $200 for that dog. He was Husband’s birthday present. He was going to be his bird dog. His hunting dog. He was the third member of our family and he’s been quite the companion, the steady link, the wagging tail when we got home.

Hondo the lab as a puppy...awwwww

Hondo the puppy…awwwww

And he’s gonna be just fine. Right now he’s under the heat lamp on his bed next to the new puppy who is likely trying his damnedest to get the big guy to play with him.

I know from experience the softie will warm up to the pup, just have to let him heal up…and let the pup grow up.

And then the two of them will be off getting into their own kind of trouble out here together.

IMG_8882

I wrote this week’s column before Hondo went off and got himself buggered up, but he proved my point anyway. That these animals out here are part of the fabric of this place. Growing up out here as a kid, these dogs and horses and goats and cats and lizards we were charged with learning from and taking care of were what made the place magical.

But beyond their magic they served a purpose. They had a job to do.

Hondo’s job these days might be less bird-hunting and more companion, but the new members we’re growing up and introducing will have their place soon…

Mouse catcher.

IMG_3336

Cow chaser.

IMG_8972Heart breaker.

Rain on a Dog's Nose Coming Home: Learning many lessons from animals
by Jessie Veeder
11-9-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

But for the next few days the big brown dog and I have a date in the morning for three pills stuffed in summer sausage and another in the evening before bed.

IMG_8905 IMG_8942 IMG_3328

Puppy + Kitty

So this was basically my day…
IMG_2708IMG_8565IMG_8575IMG_8571IMG_8596IMG_8597IMG_8591IMG_8587 IMG_8608IMG_8615IMG_8624All I have to say right now is that getting a tiny puppy and a tiny kitten at the same time is a great idea in theory (you know, best friends forever and all that shit) until said puppy runs out to the living room with two cat turds dangling from his mouth.

IMG_8585

Annnndddd…..goodnight…

Bravo to the magic hour…

It’s been pretty scorching hot around the ranch these days, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of the sexy outfits I’ve been wearing to stay cool.

No, that’s not it at all. It’s just typical late July/early August for you. But you have to appreciate a place on the map where in the matter of six months you can experience a 130 degree weather shift.

March

July

Seriously.

I will be remembering this past weekend of 90+ temperatures when I am in my seven layers topped off with a hooded down parka that reaches my ankles.

Oh yes, I will remember.

But this morning as the thermometer stretches toward 80 degrees and it is only 8 am, I am remembering 30 below…and thinking no matter what, I like summer better. Hands down.

Because after a long, hot day where we’ve watched the sun emerge from the horizon and make its merry little way across the sky, beating down on our lawns and flower beds, sweating up our skin as we stand there, coaxing the flies to buzz around our ears and the corn in the east to stretch its arms a little higher, we sigh and sip our iced tea knowing that in a few hours we may be awarded a sweet reprieve. A breath. A sigh. A little cool-off before we hastily throw some burgers on the grill at dark and crawl under the sheets.

I call it the magic hour.

Others call it evening. Sunset. Dusk. Twilight. It’s that fleeting time where the sun moves slowly toward the west side of the world, promising soon to sink below the horizon, but not before it casts long shadows, turns the hilltops to gold, calls out the dragonflies, kisses the coulees with cool air, and fills our nostrils with the scents of crisp clover, wildflowers and grasses.

It’s the perfect time to grab your horse and head for the hills. Because if it was a windy day, the witching hour calms the breeze. If it was a hot and muggy day you might find yourself some cloud cover at the cusp of an oncoming thunder storm. If it was a sunny, 80+ day and you are out during the perfect time, you will literally feel the temperature dropping around you and your skin cool down as you ride or walk in and out of the draws and up the hill to catch the sunset.

We wait for it here, the magical hour, as we wipe our brow, salty and glistening from a day of work or play. But it’s all about timing, and we have turned it into a science.
See, if you jump the gun too early in the day, you will be saddling your horse in the intense sun of the late afternoon. The flies will still be nasty, you will be sweating profusely, your horse will be stomping at the pests and heat and you might get a little cranky riding toward that sunset waiting for the orange ball in the sky to move along already.
If you head out to the barnyard too late you will be rushing things trying to race the dark. And by the time you get on and move out you will have missed the the moments where the sun highlights the black backs of the cows on the side hill, the air shifts and cools your skin, the sun changes from yellow to pink and the deer might be moving and emerging from the thick trees. And your ride will be cut short, because once that sun touches the last hill your eye can see, it gets dark fast.
So you can see why it’s a craft can’t you?  You can see why we watch the sky, take notice of our skin and the shadows and when the sun is in the just the right spot, more west than middle, more down than up, more moderate than hot, we pull on our longer sleeves, head to the tack room to grab a bucket of grain and saddle up.
We climb on and head out along the edges of the oak groves and stay in their shadows while the sun moves a little closer to the edge of our world.

And when we’re cooled down we climb up to the nearest hill to see if we can catch a deer as it moves out of the trees to graze among the clover, to watch the dragonflies dart and dive, to catch the moment when the landscape turns from a painting with all the right highlights to a mysterious shadow with a strip of orange hovering above it.
And before that sun greets the other side of the world completely, we turn and head back home, cooled off, satisfied, decompressed, a little tired, a little hungry, a little more alive…
Because it turns out there are others who are waiting in the shadows for the cool down, for the sun drop, for the magic hour…
for the dragon flies…

And we don’t want to miss their show…


Bravo summer.
Bravo sky.
Bravo my crazy cats.
Bravo, bravo, bravo magnificent world.

Like a cat to my curtains…

I am having a bit of a complex, so bear with me here as I explain myself.

You know the cats?

The cats I swore were going to be in the barn, just as soon as they were old enough? The ones that were destined to be hearty mousers, country cats, tough cats that dart through the snow, sit on top of fence posts and watch over the homestead. The kind of cats who take on raccoons and live to tell about it, with one less eye or one less limb.

Cats who will whoop a dog’s ass and then turn around to take on a porcupine.

Remember that plan?

Well, somewhere between forgetting to name them, trying and failing to keep them off of the furniture, carting their feline asses to the vet for a $100 special shot, hollering “dammit CCCAAATTT” from across the room as they come screaming up from the basement, ricochet off the easy chair, do a triple flip landing on the love seat and then flinging their limber bodies, feet first to attach like velcro to the curtains…

…oh, and their developing love affair with the pug…

I have forgotten to let them outside.

I have decided it’s much too cold. Much too dangerous. There are too many hazards, too many big birds out there. Not enough fluffy blankets.

I have forgotten I am not a cat person.

I have lost my damn mind.

And up until now I have been at a loss as to why.

Why the strange, cat catering behavior? Why do I have a litter box in my home? Why do I tolerate cat hair on my stretchy pants and anything with fur to ever sit on my shoulder? Why is there a cat on my briefcase?!!!

What have I become?

I have been struggling with this question for months, making excuses for the hairy creatures while I search my fluffy soul for the answer.

And yesterday, while perusing through the family scrapbook, I found it.

But before I  reveal the truth, the way, the light, I must warn you, what you are about to see is not for the faint of heart…

…for various reasons.

I hope you’re sitting down….

….


Ok. Take a deep breath while I apologize for the alarm. I do hope you are not traumatized in any way, but I have to say, scary and revealing as it is, I am so glad someone documented my naked, cat squeezing behavior.

Because it helped me recall how I used to love the creatures.

LOWOVEEDD THEEMMMAAAA.

Their twitching tails, pointy ears, squishy bodies and soft coats–just like a real live stuffed animal. I couldn’t get enough. I’d chase them around this very house, grab them up and, well… I was too young to remember, maybe the episode is hidden somewhere deep down in my sub-concious…

…I would squeeze them…

Yes. I would squeeze them…so hard and with so much vigor and enthusiasm that the creatures would puke.
Puke.
And this happened more than once.
Let’s just skip over the question about where my guardians were during these episodes and why they chose to pick up a camera instead of saving the poor felines from clutches of Baby Godzilla while I say:
That is passion.
And I possess it.
I always have, no matter how much I have been trying to suppress it…
…and my tolerance of garbage digging, pug cuddling, chair flipping, litter box scooping, shoulder sitting and hair ball hacking is my way of dealing with the guilt of my past behavior…
So carry on crazy cats. I will not give you a name, but I will give you my couch.
And that’s my story. And I’m sticking (like a cat to my curtains) to it.

To be a cat…


To flinch, to twitch, to leap and play
To catch a string as it’s pulled away
To tweak
To flip
To scat

To be a cat

Ears permanently perked straight up
A tail that sweeps, sleek legs that strut
Rough tongues
they lick
and lap

To be a cat

Striped and plain, spotted, plaid
Mischievous, obnoxious, bad
Scraggly
Fluffy
Fat

To be a cat

Shadow lurking, eyes that glare
Curtain hanging way up there
Quick
and smart
and way too fast

to catch them in the act

Oh to be a purring, overbearing,
whisker tickling, bare feet licking,
curiously lovely,
oh so cuddly,
naughty

Cat

 

Thank you to Jingle at Promising Poets Parking Lot for giving “until we’re warm again” the Perfect Poet Award last week. Thank you for creating a warm supportive  space for poets!

As part of the award acceptance, I would like to nominate another poet Lynnaima who has submitted her poem about words titled “The Best There Is” to the Promising Poets Parking Lot.

Onward poetry!

 

And our world is quiet again…no thanks to the cat.

So ranch life slows down a little around here in the winter when the snow is up over my knees, the horses have been turned out for the season and the cows are off to be fed up nice and plump in a more civilized area for the winter. So we go about our business, moving snow, graining the horses, feeding the dogs, feeding ourselves and taming the cats.

The cats we have in our homes to keep the mice away. The damn dirty rodents who are looking to get a taste of the crumbs we may have dropped on the floor (not that I would ever drop anything) or the sunflower seeds we have hidden in the closet.

I am not a fan of mice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type of girl to stand up on a chair and scream bloody murder as the sneaky little rodent makes his way across my kitchen floor. But I have been known to wake husband out of a deep, dreamy sleep to go check out that squeaking noise I heard. And I may have used the phrase “it’s your manly duty” to convince him to find the creature in the depths of the dark night while wiping his eyes and wondering how on earth it came to this as he proceeded with caution in the war zone area of the living room in his full on mouse hunting stance…in his underwear.

(No underwear photo available)

See that’s what usually happens around here. No matter how many cats we have, these wild animals turned domestic house pets usually wind up finding just enough to eat in their food dishes so as to completely lose their taste for the hunt. Well, at least their taste for hunting real, moving, heart beating pests.

Funny thing, they seem to be really good at attacking my curtains, rugs and that little patch of sun that streams through the window and onto the carpet. Yup, they’ve killed all of those things flat dead about three hundred and thirty times already.

But mice? Eh. They’ll get to it later.

Which brings me to my point about how there is never a dull moment, even in the depths of winter. Because my momma lives down the road…and she has a cat.

A devil cat.

A cat I picked out for her from the Humane Society because she reminded me of a feline we had when we were growing up named Belly (don’t ask). But I distinctly remember warning my dear mother not to blame me if all hell broke loose in their house when I brought this kitten home.

Because they asked for it.

(The devil herself)

And I delivered.

But who would have known that this cat would turn out to be all spice and not a hint of sugar. This pet does not allow cuddling, moves from room to room at lightning speeds, has eyes that stare into your soul and read all of your most hidden secrets and swats at my feet from underneath the chair every time I come to visit while I scream “Why? Why? I saved your life!”

And most annoying, if not the most unreasonable thing of all, this cat has a taste for high places and makes her home on the top of my momma’s cupboards, between the wine glasses and the fine china. A smart and perfect spot really, because if you make any sudden swatting “dammit cat get down” motions, the devil cat will indeed flee, leaving a wake of glassware and fancy, shiny things behind her.

So there she sits on top of her world despite my momma’s best efforts to find her a new favorite spot.

But this could work out right? I mean, if she’s going to be up there at least she has a great view of any rodent shaped intruders and she can finally put the moves she uses tackling my feet to good use.

So when my momma called one evening during dinnertime to let me know that pops was gone and there was a minor emergency that involved a mouse, I told her not to worry. I told her that me and my feet have been suffering and grooming this cat for a moment like this. Do not worry. That cat is ready for battle. She hasn’t lost the taste for blood.

I know from personal experience.

So I hung up the phone and carried on with my tuna noodle hot dish (my night to cook).

And when the phone rang again I thought for sure it would be a report on how her heroic pet finally earned her keep and swallowed the tiny beast whole and then got back up on her throne of wine glasses and waited for her next attack.

I put down the noodles and answered the phone.

Me: “Hi mom. Did she get it?”

Momma: “Oh, hi Jess. Ummm, well, no…no she didn’t.”

Me: “Really? Well what is she doing? Where’s the mouse?”

Momma: “Yeah, well…yeah. The cat? The cat is on top of the piano…”

Me: “Ok.”

Momma: “And, well, the mouse is on top of my curtains.”

Me: “What? What do you mean on top of your curtains?”

Momma: “Well, you know the curtains in my family room?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Momma: “Well the mouse is sitting on top of the curtain rod and the cat is on top of the piano right next to it–just staring. Just staring at it…”

Me (with a noodle hanging out of my mouth):  “The mouse is on the curtain rod? It’s just balancing up there like a little rodent gymnast?”

Momma: “Yeah. Well, and they’ve been like this for a good thirty minutes…I have my broom here and I’m just waiting for her to make her move…”

Me: “Oh gaawwwdddd. What are you going to do with the broom mom?”

Momma: “Well, I don’t know…”

Me (running out the door): “We’re coming over.”

So I grabbed husband who was secretly happy to be saved from the tuna hot dish and glad to be dressed in more appropriate mouse slaying gear and we drove down the road in anticipation of saving my momma from having to use her beloved broom for anything other than sweeping.

(Certain to be prepared this time)

I told husband she must be exaggerating. I cannot picture this. A mouse, balancing on a curtain rod?  My momma really has a flair for the dramatics, so you see, I come by it naturally…and on another note, she really should start wearing her perscribed glasses and maybe she’s on some medications I am not aware of…oh, maybe I should be worried about her…and….

….oh…oh really? Really?

(small photo taken inconspicuously with a super secret camera phone)

Really.

And while momma and I huddled together in a corner holding our breath with our hands to our chins, husband took one look at the situation, walked right over to the mouse perched up on top of a three inch diameter life line having flashbacks to his rodent childhood and all of the things he would do if the sweet Lord would save his tiny little mouse heart from a death with whiskers that had been staring him in the face for the last thirty minutes (which on mouse time, I am sure is more like a good week and a half) and reached out his manly, hero hand, grabbed the trembling creature by the tail and threw him out the door.

Game over.

Breath released.

Broom back in the closet.

Tuna noodle casserole still not delicious.

Momma found her glasses.

Cat returned to her perch.

And our world is quiet again…

…for now…

But maybe momma wants to trade in the demon cat for something more like this:

(I mean, they seem to get along…)

Just a thought.

Here’s to a rodent free weekend.

It’s Friday and there’s a cat on my shoulder

It’s Friday and I have a cat on my shoulder.

And now she’s on my lap.

And now she’s eating my computer keys.

Delicious.

It’s Friday and there is so much to get done, so much to do before a great weekend. See my little sister is coming to see our nephew (and me. I’d like to think she is coming to see me too). And so are my grams and gramps on their way to Arizona (didn’t think North Dakota was on the way to Arizona did ya?).

On the agenda is some baby snuggling, a massive consumption of cheese and wine and dips and tortilla chips and dessert and everything my little sister demands for her visits and my momma is sure to deliver. Also on the agenda is a break for me to torture little sister by asking questions about her boyfriends and parties and grades and what’s up with all of the flannel? (she is 21, but she is still my little sister you know).

Then I will ask to borrow her clothes and she will insist I don’t get them dirty and that I promptly return them for inspection. And then I will kiss her face with the dimply cheeks just like when she was a baby and promptly pick a playful punching fight where we fly around the kitchen knocking over chairs until I am laying flat on my back on the living room floor while she annoyingly performs some sadistic torture move that she learned in prison or something while I scream “Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!” and whine cause she gave me a bruise.

Cause little sister is way stronger than me.

Anyway it should be good.

But I’ve got work to do, people to get back to, music to practice, surfaces and socks to clean. A basement to organize. You know, grown up things to accomplish before I can relax this weekend.

And as I sit here hunched over my computer and look down to find a kitten purring and dozing on my lap who then promptly pops up, as if electrocuted, only to jump into my briefcase and check on the files to make sure they’re organized  I am suddenly jolted, like the kitten, by my life right now.

Because last night I ventured out into civilization to go to a restaurant, drink some wine and catch up with an old friend. And we got to talking about growing up and work and where we used to be and where we are right now.

As we were talking I recalled how I used to be in a classroom, then on the road two weeks a month, then on a stage somewhere, then in an office in the mountains, then in an office on the plains.  I used to be on my hands and knees helping to tile a bathroom shower and scrubbing saw dust off of the floor. I used to be overwhelmed at the thought of it all…all the responsibilities, all of the push and go and competitions and deadlines and waiting for the next step, waiting for my life to start.

And sometimes I feel like that still.

Sometimes.

But right now it is Friday and the pug has his head on my knee and the kitten has found a nice sunny spot to lay and the lab is out digging in the yard and the horses are grazing on a hill top way above the house and I can think of nowhere I would rather be.

And the jolt I was talking about…the jolt came when I realized I don’t give a damn about all of the above tasks mentioned.

Who am I?

Because at this moment there nothing else I would rather do than sit here with my coffee cup and rub a few bellies and bury my head in their fur and to hike to the hill and scratch a nose and thank these crazy pets for knowing always what life is really about.

And dirty socks be damned, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Oh, and while I am at it, I will give them all an extra treat to thank them, the animals, for understanding, somehow, that when husband is gone for the week it is perfectly acceptable to sleep in bed with me…and for never attempting this when husband is indeed here. I will always be perplexed and grateful for your intuition.

And thanks for helping me get all this work done.

Really. Thanks.

Happy weekend everyone.

Do something you love.

Kiss someone you love.

And lay in a sunny spot.

Oh, and by the way, little sister has never been to prison…

…I don’t think….

Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the pug

You know when your husband nudges you in the morning and so sweetly says “time to get up” and  you barely open your eyes enough to squeek pathetically back “I don’t wanna” and then in a huff roll over to finish that dream about Matthew McConaughey?

And then your alarm goes off, but not loud enough for it to rouse you from your coma and most definitely not loud enough to prompt you to throw the covers off and take on that meeting you so bravely scheduled for 8:00 am.

So when you finally peel back those eyelids you panic as you notice that you have exactly three minutes to shower, feed the dogs, round up the cats, find your pants, tame your hair, make the coffee (because coffee is essential) and drive thirty miles to town.

And in the frantic search for your pants, you curse your compassionate heart as the baby kitten you so gallantly saved from an immanent death, in her desperate plea for attention, attempts to climb up your exposed leg drawing a fair amount of blood as you dash to the basement for the laundry you left in the dryer.

Then on the way back up the stairs one of those hornets, (you know what they look like) the ones that have been threatening to swoop in from the sky and sting you all season, finally makes good on his promise and smacks you a good one right on the bare, pant-less, ass.

Yup. Not even on the nice fleshy part you have been growing all summer with beer and hot dogs and fried things, but the underside, the tender side that never had a chance.

And it stings. Oh lord it stings.

So you whimper a bit, and hold your hand over the violated flesh and stop only to find the little bastard and squish it in all your rage…

But you don’t have time to cry. Or to find ointment.

You have to get your pants on dammit…

…and round up the herd so you can bring home the bacon.

Yeah, I may have had one of those mornings…once or twice….

And I would take this time to complain, but it could have been much worse.

I could have been the pug.

The pug, whose passion is too big for his short, stubby body and who curses the day he was put into a stumpy dog outfit with short legs, a curly tail and a nose that has so much to give to the world, if only it were just a little more practically designed…like for smelling.

Or breathing.

But he gets by. No, he doesn’t let his body, which is much better suited for napping than for chasing wild animals around the ranch, get in his way. Because in his mind he is 110 pounds of fierce muscle and pure instinct.

Pure, animalistic, instinct.

See when the people are away, you know, earning the money that pays for their kibble, the dogs…well…

…there is so much to do out here when no one is watching….

Like chase squirrels.

Bark at the horses.

Dig giant holes.

Watch TV.

Chew on my favorite shoe.

Eat poop…all kinds of poop.

Swim.

Roll in poop.

Show the cows a thing or two about who is boss.

Run after deer with high hopes of bringing home a leg or two…

Eat poop…and…well you get the idea.

So while I was suffering through that meeting and trying to balance comfortably on one butt cheek, I imagine the pups were doing all of the above, having the time of times, a day of days, taking it all in so they could tell me about it when I got home (cause they were a little worried about me I am sure, the way I stormed out of the place)

But when I got home….the pug was gone.

But the pug is usually gone.

Cause his best friend lives at my mom and pop’s about a mile down the road and he takes that trek, against my wishes, every day. Sometimes two or three times.

Yeah, he’s in big, big trouble most of the time. So I wasn’t particularly worried as the lab and I went out for our usual walk,  just like the old days when he was the only dog. And it was kinda nice, but I didn’t tell the pug.

Cause he was gone.

Anyway, on my way home it was getting pretty dark and from across the coulees I could hear the pug yelping.

But I wasn’t worried. I figured he was being dramatic as his BFF was playing a little too rough. So I continued on my merry way, thinking about dinner, thinking about my bed, and thankfully, not thinking about my wasp sting. And when I arrived home refreshed from the beauty of the evening, a flush in my face, my lab loyally  by my side, I asked husband if he has seen the pug lately.

Have you seen this guy? 2 feet tall, 35 pounds of pure muscle, black hair, brown eyes.

“Nope.” He replied. Also, not concerned

“Well, I think he’s at mom and pop’s. He’ll be ok until morning. I am ttttiiiiirrreeeddd….and did I tell you that a wasp stung my bare butt today?”

I pulled down my pants to show off the evidence.

“Good Lord,” said husband.

“Good night,” said me.

And we snuggled down in bed proud that we were finally turning in before 11:00 pm and happy that we were going to finally get that full night sleep we deserve.

The lights went out, the pillow went over my head, my eye lids closed, Matthew McConaughey appeared again and….

“Rrriiinnnnggg, rriiinnnngggg…”

Oh shit, someone’s calling. Something’s happening. Something’s wrong. My sister’s in labor (this was pre-baby…she’s not having another one, don’t be crazy). We won a million dollars. We lost a million dollars. There’s an alien invasion….

“Uhhh, hello.” I said meekly when I finally found the phone.

“Ummm, yeah. Hi Jess? Dad here.”

Oh, phew…ok it’s dad. Not the aliens. Now for the terrible, terrible news. What happened. Who do I have to take to the hospital?

“Oh, hi dad, ” I said shakely.

“Yeah, hi. Ummm, well, yeah. You know your little black dog? The little one?”

“Yeah, I know him.”

“Yeah, well he’s over here and he found a porcupine….yeah… a porcupine. And I think he lost. I think the pug lost the battle, cause there are quills all over his face and in his butt. I feel really bad and don’t think I can hold him down by myself to get them out. I think you guys better come over here and help me.”

Now here I’ll admit I experienced a wave of relief knowing that no human was missing a limb and no babies were being born and no flying saucers were coming down to suck out our brains today…

But when the relief passed: Seriously? Seriously? Chug. Chug the pug. What the hell were you thinking?

“Ok dad, we’ll be right over. Sorry bout that. So sorry. Just thought I could get him tomorrow. Oh gosh. Sorry. We’ll be right over.”

After the moans and groans of husband cursing the day the pug was born and giving me a brief but stern lecture on how he was my dog and I should keep a better eye on him and that he just can’t go frolicking around anywhere he choses, he pulled on his clothes and his manly slippers and drove us over to the scene.

Oh, and I was expecting a scene. Because for how much passion and delusion that pug possesses, this was sure to do him in. In my mind pug was going to look like a dog shaped porcupine, quills protruding and spiking out from all angles, the pug limping and gasping and saying his last goodbyes.

But by the time we arrived, my very favorite pops had already removed the quills from the pug’s face and the only evidence of the apocalyptic encounter was left in about 85 good sized quills poked into his butt (I guess it wasn’t the day to be a butt).

And I felt for him as my mom paced back and forth as if this was one of her grandchildren who was enduring this hateful, quill removing procedure. I told mom to keep it together as husband put on his gloves, pops held the pug down and I shook my head and tried to calm the little dog down, pluck after yelp, pluck after yelp, by saying things in my sweet calming voice like:

“It’s ok, you stupid dog, this is what happens when you run away…oh poor puppy, puppy, if you would have stayed home like a good boy you could be snoring safe and sound right now…dumb dog, dumb, dumb dog….what made you think you were going to win that fight…oh poor puppy…poor dog…wish your brain was bigger, wish you would listen…sweet pug, oh pug, calm down…bet you learned your lesson there….puppy, puppy.”

20 minutes, hundreds of deprecating, but sweetly spoken words, and 85 quills later, the pug was free from the pain of his seemingly smart and brave-at-the-time adventure.

And because I thought the situation so grim and the hour so late  and my mind so groggy, I didn’t grab my camera…hence there is little evidence except for the emotional scars and the photos of the actual quills we pulled from the pug’s butt.

He survived.

So, once the pug was released from what he was sure was the end of days, I helped the boys clean up and looked around to find that the little dog had cowered and slunk and sulked his way right up to my mom’s lap. On the couch. In the house where dogs are not allowed. And both had their dramatic, sad faces plastered on.

And as I grabbed him up to take his wounded pride and wounded butt home, I was just a little disappointed that he stole my thunder. Cause that blew my wasp stung ass right out of the water there.

Yeah, sometimes that short little snorty nose leads you up the wrong tree.

And sometimes, just like momma says, there will be days like this.

I guess that’s why God invented band aids.

And moms and dads.

Hope your day was free of stings and pokes.

Heaven help the cat farmer…

Ok, so I realize I am running a major risk of turning into one of those ladies….

But last night, after I had so clearly declared my feelings about the state of the cats in my life and posted it with authority and a couple necessary exclamation points for the world to see, feeling pretty free and right with the world and where I stand as far as cats are concerned, I headed out to the barn to practice taking pictures with my shiny, new fancy nancy, big girl camera.

I was glowing. This machine could quite possibly be the single most beautiful thing I have ever owned (besides the pug of course, but I don’t own him….no, that’s a free spirit there…free as the wind…and I’m pretty sure he owns me).  Ok, the camera…yes, it’s more complicated than any woman I know. With more bells and whistles and mysterious features, not only is this contraption equipped to capture some undoubtedly precious moments, I am pretty sure, if I find the right button, it could very well send me back in time, or at least to the moon or something.  Yes, my life is sure to be transformed with this little piece of magic…or, you know, allow me to capture an image in lowlight for starters.

Anyway, I was out gallivanting around, looking at the world from the other side of a lens that really, I’m not sure I’m worthy of owning. And as I was taking pictures of the inside of the barn, reveling in how beautiful old things can become when you spend enough money to be able to see them in high resolution (as opposed to the resolution of real life, which, as it turns out, sometimes doesn’t seem to compare…especially if you don’t wear the glasses you were prescribed), I heard it…

The lab, who had been hot on the trail of a mole or something heard it….

The pug,? Yes, of course the pug heard it…

“mew…”

Faint at first, I ignored it, certain it had to be the crazy cat from the house following me again. Cats take a while to learn a lesson.

I continued my quest for a Nobel Peace Prize winning photograph…

“…mew…mew…mew…”

Shrill, high pitched, panicky…

Ok, that’s not the noise of a creature I feed from a bowl.

But look at that magnificent spider web and those old horseshoes…

“…mew…mew…mew…”

Shit.

This is a plea for help. This is the sound of a creature that needs rescuing—this means business. And no doubt another house guest.

So, as you can imagine, even though I didn’t get around to making the pug the cape I promised him, the super-dog was all over this investigation.

Just call him the Cat Whisperer. Actually, I think his first book is scheduled for release this winter.

“mew…mew…mew…mew…”

It just couldn’t be ignored so off we went, the pug gallantly leaped through the window of the barn and landed nose to the ground toward the pathetic squeaks. And the lab, not to miss a good hunt, squeezed all 105 pounds of him right behind.

Well of course I couldn’t be left out, and going around to the door and out to the source of the “mews” would waste precious time, so I squeezed through too….you know, all of me…somehow…

Anyway, after the nose of the lab and the nose of the pug took them screaming through the barnyard, weaving in and out of the hay bales, very dramatically collecting burs and kicking up birds, I took two steps and looked down at my feet to discover what I had expected:

A tiny, fluffy, noisy, pathetic, desperately adorable, fit in the palm of my hand, kitten searching high and low for her momma, you know, in an old tire.

Oh, I’m no momma, and I couldn’t find one around anywhere, especially not in the tire, so, well you know what happened next.

I mean, how could you leave something like this out alone in the world?

Not possible.

So I swept her up and pulled her close to my face and said a few things like:

“Oh, hewo widdle kiddy kiddy…awen’t you the cutest widdle kiddy kiddy…whews yo mamma? Huh? Whews yo mamma?”

Yup, I was her.

I was that.

Crazy.

Cat.

Lady.

Crazy cat lady.

Fast or slow, punctuation or no punctuation, any way you dice it,  it always spells:

C R A Z Y.

And that kitty kitty, I’m sure was glad to be saved.

It took me .5 seconds after that to get back to the house, which was not nearly enough time to concoct a story to tell husband about why oh why I was bringing yet another furry thing into our tiny, tiny home.

But as soon as I opened the door and sweetly presented our little gift from the cat gods (or from someone who is playing a dirty, nasty trick on me for ever having said an ill word toward the species) husband grabbed her up.

And when I began the inevitable photo shoot of the new addition?

getting acquainted...not going so well at this point...

He told me to stop.

Stop?

Yes stop.

“You are scaring her.”

And then, after my failed attempt at giving her milk, he fed her spaghetti.

And put her in his pocket.

And told me to stay back.

“She’s mine. “

Good Lord, what have we become?

The crazy cat lady has created a monster.

Or a cat farmer.

I wonder if this one will get a name?

Heaven help the softhearted.

I give up.

NOW IF YOU’LL EXCUSE ME, I’VE GOT TO GET A CAT OFF MY CAPS LOCK…

It’s a jungle out here.

I’m telling you, it’s a jungle out there.

Well, I’ll be honest here (because I am what I am) it is generally a jungle in here as well.

You know, with the four critters, two humans and occasional visitor popping over for supper…oh, and lovely brother in law who is living in his camper in our yard while on a job out here. Love him. He washes the dishes and brings me Oreos and grills us chicken.  I’ll tell you more about him later, because you are sure to like him too…

but today I want to tell you a tale about adventure—a tale of travel and danger and betrayal and close calls with death and rescue and heroism and reuniting, passionate, true love.

A real Indiana Jones type story…

Only this involves a pug, some disheveled horses, a couple humans and….a cat.

A damn cat.

Damn the cat.

Dammit cat.

Cat, dammit

Dammit.

Cat.

Ok.

So last weekend was lovely and I spent it with an old friend and a new friend and they came out to the funny farm to take a nice relaxing ride in the hills, breathe in the fresh air and take in the beautiful fall day.

I’ll note here that I was all alone out here last weekend with my momma down the road, because you know, it’s hunting season.

The boys didn’t even leave me the lab.

Anyway, so I was excited for a ride with the ladies, but unsure of the equine skill set my guests possessed. So I decided to play it safe, because, well, you know my track record with luck and injuries isn’t so great. I didn’t want to put them in harm’s way. I didn’t want a rodeo. I wanted peace and peace of mind.

So out to the pasture I went to retrieve our best-tamed broncs.

Well, broncs isn’t quite the word.

Nor is tamed really.

Old and relatively lame might be better adjectives.

Oh, and absolutely full of cockleburs and mud from spending their elderly days out to pasture relaxing, chomping on greens and pretty much letting themselves go.

But it was time that Stormy and The Mare earned their keep around here and after literally waking them up (I think I caught the entire herd snoring) and dragging their fat asses back to the barn, I proceeded to use my hair dressing skills (I have some sweet skills I haven’t told you about yet) to remove a field of burs from their manes. After much cussing and sniffing and scratching and chunks of hair flying, I decided they might be able to pass as dignified, although slightly older, members of the equine family.

They were ready for their close ups.

They were ready for a stroll.

They looked so good, I actually had to go inside and change to my fancy shirt so we matched.

 

Stormy and The Mare

 

Anyway, we were ready and presentable just in time for my old friend and my new friend’s arrival. I introduced them to their mounts and, after an explanation on why The Mare doesn’t have a real name, we were off into the crisp, clear autumn morning.

The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. There was a flawless breeze. Not a cloud in the sky.

Perfection, just as I had planned.

And then…

“Meow….meow….meow….meow….”

What the hell is that?

“Mmmmmeeeeeoooooowwww…..meow…meow…MEEEOOWWW”

Oh, ha ha, how cute, the cat followed us.

I explained to my guests:

“Oh, that’s ok, he’ll turn back. He’ll turn back. How funny. Ha ha.”

They weren’t quite sure.

The Mare started to cough.

The sun shone warm on our backs.

We took in the scenery and talked about how great life is and…

“MEOW. Meow. Meowmewomeowmeowmeow.”

“MEOW”

Well, I guess the cat was not only coming along, he was intent on weaving his little body between the legs of the old beasts’ feet. I mean, anything for a scratch. Anything for attention.

I explained to my guests:

“Here, I’ll try chasing him back. He’ll go home if I just encourage him with a little sound effect…you know, scare him home…..”

My old friend said:

“Good luck with that.”

I said:

“Pssst….pssstt….get back….go home….psst…shhhhhh…..pppppssssssttt…..you little sh…..hahaha…..get back kitty….ppppsssstttt…..”

The Mare groaned.

My new friend was reminded why she is allergic to cats.

Stormy fell asleep.

 

Stormy

 

The cat didn’t budge.

“Meow.”

We continued on our merry way and tried to ignore the panicked screams for attention going on below us. A cat that thinks he’s a dog. A cat that thinks he’s a horse. A cat that thinks he is far more adventurous despite the lack of appropriate outfit or gear for this type of wilderness travel.

Then our attention was diverted to The Mare who had somehow developed a major limp since the last time we took her on a stroll.

My old friend wasn’t so sure her horse was going to make it.

I told her it was an act, a ploy for sympathy and attention. She has to exercise. This is good for her. She really has let herself go.

My new friend sneezed.

“Meow….meowwwwwwww…….

Reeeeeaaarrrrrooooow…..REAAAR!”

Silence.

New friend:

“I think my horse just kicked your cat.”

Old, animal loving friend:

“Oh no! Is he ok…is he…”

“Meow, meow, meow…”

Oh, good he survived.

Thinking now would be a good time to head toward home and wondering how much bleeding would be involved with carrying a cat on a horse, we turned toward the corrals.

Barnyard bound, Stormy, who had been trailing a half a mile behind the crew (no doubt facing pangs of jealousy as his much younger rival took up the lead) caught up to give my horse a good kick, you know, to remind him to respect his elders and stop looking so shiny and sleek.

The Mare miraculously recovered from her bad hip or foot or whatever ailment she was faking and picked up speed.

And the cat disappeared.

Oh shit.

Me to my guests:

“Don’t worry, he’ll find his way home. Cats can smell home. Cats are smart.”

Me to myself:

“He’s a goner. Eagle bait. Coyote bait.….shit.”

My old friend was not so sure. My old friend was concerned.

My new friend sneezed.

Onward we pushed, my posse and I, mourning the loss of our adventurous little mate, sure he would pull through, sure it would turn out fine, weary and ragged from the drama of it all (or the dust and bur particles swirling in the air).

We arrived, unsaddled, picked our wedgies, brushed our beasts, gave them a treat…

 

The Mare, rolling off the drama of the ride, trying to get the stink off...

 

and listened for the cat….

“Oh, there he is,” old friend exclaimed pointing to brave cat’s identical brother, sleepy, lazy cat. “He made it home after all.”

And honest-to-a-fault me, who has been caught in every untrue story I have woven, pulled off the ultimate sin and lied to my old friend’s face.

“Uuuhhh, yup, there he is. What a trooper.”

I didn’t have the heart.  I didn’t want her to worry. I didn’t want her to feel like she needed to get in on the scavenger hunt that would ensue after her car pulled back into civilization.

So my old friend and new friend, who turns out was allergic to pretty much every particle at the ranch, but held it together so graciously and wonderfully for the love of the ride, despite a swollen eye and slowly closing throat, took off back to town, where there is no dirt and cats stay in the house and eat canned food from a fancy dish and there is no toxic dust.

And I convinced myself that the cat would come back.

And hummed that little childhood tune…you know:

The cat came back, the very next day.
The cat came back.
We thought he was a goner.
But the cat came back,
He just wouldn’t stay aaawwwaaayyyy!

I made myself some lunch. All will be well.

Took a bite.

Looked out the window.

Finished my chores.

Looked over the horizon.

Made some supper.

Turned on the yard light.

Read some pages out of my book.

Yelled for the cat.

Fell asleep.

Woke up.

Wandered around the barnyard.

No cat.

Damn cat.

Cat dammit.

Dammit cat.

Now I’ve done it. I’ve lied and will have to explain this to my old friend or risk living a life with one cat who has to play the role of two, you know, like the girl in Parent Trap, in order to convince my friend I’m not a heathen.

And I kinda missed the crazy cat. He was the yin to calm cat’s yang.

He completes….ok, well never mind.

Anyway, it was time to find him. After all, how long could he survive out there with out a proper hat or cargo pants or canteen at least?

So I rounded up Chug the pug (who would have to do in the absence of the lab) and put on my scouting outfit and we went on our own hunt, thank  you very much.

 

My search partner

 

We backtracked and marched diligently along yesterday’s route, staying on course, except for an occasional pause to take a picture or chase a bird or pet the horses, we were thorough in our efforts.

Through the thick brush, up to the tallest hill I scoured the landscape with one hand on my hip, one to shade my eyes and point, Lewis and Clark style. The pug sniffed the ground and followed hot on the trail…oh wait…not a cat, just a jackrabbit. Keep it together man!

I listened in the silence for brave cat’s cries for help.  I scoured the earth, high and low…oh wait, what a beautiful tree….oh, the sky is just stunning today…beep, beep, click…

FOCUS!

The pug slapped me. I slapped the pug. We were back on track, traipsing past where brave cat was allegedly stepped on, past where he meowed, and meowed, and meowed and finally, past the place I was sure he disappeared into the mist of that fine morning.

Oh no, could hope be lost? This was my last resort, my last chance at retrieving this animal that was stupid…I mean loyal… enough to follow his beloved human out into the wilderness….

Oh cat, our time was brief together, but so full of love and life…I’ll miss you…good…

“meow…meow…meow…”

The pug stopped in his tracks. That never happens.

“mmmeeeooowww….mmeeoowww….mmmeeoowww.”

I turned toward the snarly brush behind me…

“meow.meow.meow.meow.”

I looked down. The pug followed. I dug through the brush, moving closer to his pleas for help…

“meow meow meow meow.”

Close now, I looked to the sky to catch a glimpse of two little eyes blinking with worry and anticipation. Our eyes lock and the pug went crazy and started chasing his tail and brave cat, way up in the highest tree, where he undoubtedly built himself a little cat sized hammock and settled in for the night in the middle of the most gnarly brush patch on the ranch, came barreling down to the ground at full speed.

The pug gave him a nuzzle. I gave him an apology and felt really guilty for giving his instincts too much credit.

Brave cat started purring, so I think he forgave me, but wasn’t over it enough to let me carry him home.

 

Not my biggest fan...

 

He chose to follow the pug.

 

"Don't worry buddy, I got your back."

 

The entire way.

To hell with me.

And Chug the pug proudly lead the way…

 

Homeward Bound...Milo and Otis...anyone? This is my life....

 

 

"C'mon buddy, don't give up, we're almost there..."

 

And when we finally made it, I got in my car to head to the big city and found that a mouse had taken up residence in my glove box.

What did I say about the jungle? Yeah, it’s out there.

 

Reunited and it feels so good.

Reunited, and it feels so good...

 

Damn cat.

 

Thanks for the help buddy...I really should get you that cape I promised...