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life with critters

Let me tell you about my pets.

I wonder why they're known as pets, because you pet them?

Can't be, nobody pets a goldfish, do they?

I've seen people pet a parrot, damn near lost a finger, too.

Anyway, I was telling you about my critters. Right now, I've got four, two dogs and two cats. I've heard some folks say they own them. No such thing. Cattle maybe, or sheep. But pets agree to live with you, you don't own them. Especially cats. Anyone who thinks they own a cat isn't running on all cylinders. Cats have servants, not owners.

I guess I've always lived with animals. No, I don't mean my brothers, although they'd sure qualify at times. One of the first I remember was a pure white bitch when I was just a boy. Pretty dog, medium sized, just showed up one day. Back then, you didn't go to the pound for a dog, there wasn't any pounds. Sooner or later one would show up and agree to live with you.

No, I don't know why, and I sure as hell never asked her. She just did. She was a fine animal, gentle, happy, and as self reliant as all get out. Sometimes the table scraps were a little sparse and if she didn't think we gave her enough food she'd just go and get herself a rabbit. My older brother would take her hunting and swore she was the best dog he'd ever hunted over. She was deaf as a stone, so we never gave her a name, wouldn't have done any good, she couldn't hear it. Just called her the white dog.

And, man oh man, could she produce puppies. I don't recollect how many litters she had, but it was plenty. In a little town like ours everyone knew if you had a good dog, and her puppies were asked for when they had weaned. She had them under the back porch, winter or summer. Us boys would crawl under there and watch her skin a rabbit, tear it up, and feed the puppies. I swear that's true.

Where was I? Oh yeah, my pets, now. The dogs are Golden Retrievers. The male was given to us after we'd lost another one a year or so before. He's about six or seven now, and acts like a six or seven year old kid. Always ready to tussle and has a mind of his own at times, especially when his lady friend next door is in heat. Won't eat, just lays out back on his lead, waiting for her to show up. She will, too. I think she's a bit of a slut. She's a black Lab and produces gorgeous pups. The neighbor gets good money for them.

His name is Bullion. Whatta you mean, that's a stupid name. No, we're not going to make soup out of him. Didn't you ever hear a gold bar called a bullion? Where in hell did you go to school? We've always named our dogs something to do with gold. The one we lost was named Auric, that's Latin for golden, you ignorant boob.

Now, there was a first-class dog. He lived 'til he was fourteen. That's old for a dog that size. Couldn't get up by himself any more though, and stairs were a barrier to him. I had to put him down, he was suffering so much. When I took him to the vets I helped him out of the car but couldn't take him in for an hour or so. We just sat on the grass with his head on my lap and I petted him. When I did take him in, I gotta tell you, that vet shoulda been an undertaker. He calmed me down and assured me that Auric wouldn't suffer at all. I still cried like a baby all the way home.

Our other dog is named Aura. We didn't name her, so she doesn't have a gold name. She's Bullion's mom. My son raises Goldens and after she'd had a couple litters they had her spayed. I'd always liked her, thought she was a little lady, so we took her. Turns out, she's more like a fussy maiden aunt. She's not rambunctious like Bullion. She has impeccable manners, not like her son, who has very few.

Whatta you mean, no manners? He has some, they're just not visible all the time. Yes, I know he gooses any woman who steps in the door. No, I don't know why, maybe he's checking to see if they're in season, although what the hell good it would do him, I have no idea. Yes, I know he thinks he's a lap dog. Blame that on my brother, the minute he sits down the dog has all four feet in his lap, all ninety pounds of him. But my brother thinks that's cute, or something.

Still, I'm glad he's here, even with the noxious odors. What noxious odors? Have you ever seen three or four people, sitting around, just chatting, with a dog laying there? All of a sudden they start taking suspicious glances at each other trying to see if anyone's going to blush. Well, it won't do them any good, dogs don't blush. They might sigh after getting rid of that uncomfortable, silent gas. The dog probably thinks it smells good.

Yeah, I know dogs have better smelling than we do, but it's different some how. A dog will be outside and run across something that we'd be gagging at, but they'll stick their nose right in it. They must think it smells heavenly and they should roll in it. That way they can bring it home and rub it into the carpet for later.

I never said there wasn't downsides. With two dogs like ours, if you don't vacuum regular, the rugs turn orange in a couple days. You have to brush them regular too, or you'll find hair in your breakfast cereal.

Talking about eating, do you know how dogs pick the foods they like? You don't? I think they somehow read the receipt when you buy it. You can check the ingredients to make sure they get all the vitamins and such they need. And if you can find one that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, they won't like it. But get one that comes in a gold plated bag, even if it's crap, they'll gobble it up.

You don't believe me? Which will they go for, an expensive steak or a hot dog? Well sure, both, but which one first? I think if you put down a jar of caviar they'd fight over it. They will eat anything that you're eating if you present it right. You have to hold it over their head and watch them salivate for a while. Drop it and it won't hit the ground. They don't taste it, just scarf it down and make room for more. I've fed them jalapeño peppers that way. But put some broccoli in their dish and watch them spit.

It's all worth while when you go to get the mail and when you return they act like you've been gone a year, jumping around and pushing their heads in your hands. Makes you think about how you've been treating them if they think you're some kind of idol or something.

That kind of reminds me of a disagreement I had with my wife. What? Sure we disagree sometimes, doesn't everyone? Not too often though, she's a pretty forgiving woman, most of the time. The disagreement? Oh, yeah, that.

Well, sometimes the dogs would be lying right in the way when I wanted to get by, so I'd give them a nudge with my foot. Huh, what's that? No, I said nudge not kick, what kind of person do you think I am? Yeah, I guess she thought so too. She'd tell me to bend over and push them out of the way instead of kicking them. I'd calmly explain it was a nudge, not a kick, and the damn dogs didn't know the difference between my foot and my hand anyway. I lost the argument but still nudge the dogs when she's not looking.

Now the cats are a different story, you never have to nudge cats. You know they'll get out of the way but they have this nasty habit. They'll wait until the last split second to move, so you'll end up off balance to keep from kicking them and then they'll scoot away. I bet they're laughing like crazy, seeing you wobbling all over, catching your balance, but you can't tell.

Why not? Because they don't have any facial expressions like dogs do. Oh yes they do. Whatta you mean, you've never seen one. Maybe you take it as a snarl, they look a lot alike, but it's a smile. And then there's that expression, hang dog, meaning sad or that they're sorry about something. How can a dog look hangdog if they don't have expressions? When they look up at you like that, with those sad eyes, then you melt and forgive the chewed slipper or whatever.

I think that's why most people like dogs more than cats, facial expressions. But cats can be good pets too, but different. How, you ask? I don't know, just different, they're more independent like. You'd play hell teaching a cat to fetch, or roll over. I can tell the dogs to lie down and bang, they're down. A cat will just give you a superior look and saunter away.

We have two cats now. We started with one, a stray that came to the door one day, asking for food. No, more like demanding. Well, the wife gave her some and she decided this was a good place to live. No, I guess I didn't tell you she was a female, but she was.

She was a pretty tuxedo cat. Yeah, sure I will, that means she looked like she was wearing a tuxedo, black with white paws, a white face and chest. After a couple of days of feeding her she moved in when the door was open and made herself at home, but stayed an indoor outdoor feline, coming and going when it suited her and the door was open.

As cats will do, and people, she got pregnant, and made a nest in a suitcase in one of the spare closets. I tried to make her a nice box, all padded, but she knew what she wanted and gave birth there, four kits. One didn't make it, but the other three, two coal black and one light gray, did. Momma cat disappeared one day, I think the coyotes got her. The black male my brother in law took. That's why we have two girl cats.

How the hell would I know how they got their color, I'm not a geneticist. And no, I don't know what the daddy cat looked like. The momma cat probably didn't either, I'm sure she had more than one suitor. Why are you asking me all the dumb questions anyway? If I'd known I would have told you.

Anyway, our cats are as different as night and day. The black one, Sheba, might as well be stuffed, she only moves to eat and crap. She lives almost exclusively in our bedroom and spends most nights sleeping on my wife's hip. The other one, Gray, is constantly prowling. Yes, I know it's not a very original name, but it fits her just right. She was a beautiful light gray with blue eyes when born, now darker with green eyes.

You want to know who rules the animal kingdom in the house? Of course I'll tell you. Gray does, hands down. She doesn't stand for any guff from the dogs at all. Bullion has been trying to make friends with her for years, trying to sniff her with his tail going twoforty. She'll only put up with it for a while, then it's sorta comical to see a couple pound, spitting cat chase a ninety pound dog across the room, up the stairs and down the hall. What the hell she'd do if she caught him I've never figured out.

Is it all worth it you ask? You bet it is. Just the times when you're in your chair reading and a dog puts their head in your lap to exchange love with you, or Gray curls up atop your book and lies there, purring while you pet her is priceless. Or like now, when Bullion sticks his nose under your arm to let you know he's there.

Okay, come here, that's a good dog, what are you saying with those big brown eyes, of course I love you, shh.

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