Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cats and Dogs

This is my cat. Her name is Cleo.

As much as I love her, most of the time she really isn't very nice. There are moments of course. Moments when she jumps up into my lap and purrs. Moments when she curls up on my pillow at night and cuddles. But these moments inevitably end with her biting me. Sometimes she slaps me. And no matter how much I try to kid myself, I still end up having to warn house guests not to touch the cat.

But sometimes even the warnings aren't enough. There have been a few recorded incidents where she attacked someone in the bathroom in the middle of the night. But we won’t get into that. Today I want to talk about Cleo’s relationship with Alasse. Now, despite her feline heritage, Cleo is the top dog in our little family.

In most instances she simply ignores Alasse. She walks by her as if she wasn’t even there. And all Alasse wants to do is play. She begs, every day. Please, please play with me. If she does this begging from a safe distance, Cleo will simply walk on by.  But more often than not, her attempts to engage Cleo in some friendly tussling result in her getting just a little too close. This is the point when Cleo smacks her. Right across the nose.

This smacking does not phase Alasse one bit. Sometimes Cleo smacks her three, four times. Alasse just sits there, begging. Please, please won’t you play with me. But recently, the dynamics have changed. One day, after Cleo had been smacking her for some time, Alasse had a realization.

This is the game.

She sat up and held up her paw in the air, just like she does when she gives me a high five. Cleo did not reciprocate, nor did she approve of this new development. Instead, she hissed. This was a response that greatly puzzled Alasse, who was now not so sure about things. Maybe this wasn't the game. It was then that Alasse had another realization. Maybe this is the game. Alasse swung her paw down in a slow arc, a swipe that Cleo avoided easily. 

Cleo was not amused.

She hissed, and ran into the closet. 

I don’t get it.

Original illustrations and prints available here

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Walk In The Rain

Take me out. Take me out. Take me out.

This is how it starts.

Alasse keeps me in check. She always lets me know when she wants to go out. Sometimes I get tricked. Sometimes she doesn't actually have to pee, she just wants to get out. I’ll take a moment to add that despite what she might say behind my back, she’s out for at least two hours a day, usually three. And an hour of that is always off leash on a hiking trail where she can run around and do whatever she wants, as long as she stays in sight. And while we’re on the subject of what she says behind my back, I really do feed her, I swear.

But back to the walk. Alasse lets me know when she wants to go out, and we go out. Normally, despite previous training to wait for me to go through the door first, she rushes out ahead of me. However, if it’s raining, which is a frequent occurrence here in Oregon, she stops short at the door and looks back at me, pleading.

Please, Please, Please don’t make me go out there.

I’ll shut the door and help her into her coat. Alasse likes her coat. She doesn’t have a ton of hair, and hardly any on her belly, so she gets cold easily.  So she loves her coat. It’s pink. My mom even had her name embroidered on it. Alasse. When I pull her coat out of the closet, she gets so excited. She jumps up and tries to stick her head in before I’m even ready. I have to ask her to settle down and stay still so I can help her into it.

But even with the coat on, she still wavers at the door. I’ll open up my umbrella as we step out, and she’ll huddle next to me. But pretty soon, the excitement of the walk overcomes her discomfort and she’ll leave the shelter of the umbrella and start sniffing around and doing her dog stuff.

On these days she’ll stay on the sidewalk as much as she can, she doesn’t like getting her feet on the wet grass. And mud? Forget about it.

And then there are the puddles. Alasse will avoid puddles at all costs. We usually walk on the local bike path. There is this one part of the path where a puddle always forms. Now, if it has only been raining for a day, this puddle will be relatively small. Alasse will jump over it with ease, never stepping in it. However, if it has been raining for multiple days, or if it has been an especially heavy rain, the puddle will be quite a bit larger.

When the puddle is large, Alasse starts to run. She runs, she leaps, and most of the time she clears the puddle. But sometimes, inevitably, her back paw lands in the cold, dark water of the puddle. She’ll kick back her foot, trying to shake the water off. If she gets wet enough, from the splash, she might shake.

The weird thing about the puddles is that she’ll go into a lake or a pond just fine. She’s not crazy about swimming, but if there’s a ball involved, it’s no problem. But puddles, for some reason, puddles wig her out.

She’s better than she used to be, about rain that is. When I first got her, when she was just a little puppy, she absolutely would not go outside if it was raining. And she definitely wouldn’t go pee. To get her outside, I had to follow her around, holding the umbrella over her while she sniffed around, leaving myself exposed to the elements. Which was all okay, because she was so cute, she could get away with anything.

She still gets away with anything.

Original illustrations and prints available here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Home Is Where The Turkey Poop Is

The Ranch (and Alasse)

        Every few months, Alasse and I go visit my Mother on the ranch. The ranch is home to a great many critters. There are sheep, cattle, and horses. Ridgewood also sports a herd of white deer, bought by the Howards (who originally owned the ranch) from the Hearst family, who got them from Europe. Then there is your standard northern California wildlife. Squirrels, mountain lions, coyotes, bear, turkeys, chipmunks, oh, and lots of raccoons.

When I lived at the ranch, I was forever doing battle with raccoons. Alasse loved them of course; she wanted to play. She loved them even though they washed their food in her water bowl. That’s just the kind of person she is.

They got in through the cat door. All the time. I don’t know if you have ever seen what a raccoon can do to a case of Top Ramen, but it isn’t pretty. A lot of the time the raccoons scheduled a raid while we were asleep, or not there, but sometimes they lingered too long. When this happened they usually hid behind the washer and dryer. To get them out, I would put on a pair of rubber boots and shoo them out with a broom. This was difficult because  raccoons are very cute.

I remember once, a pair of juveniles had gotten in through the cat flap and made a huge mess. Dog food was everywhere. The two coons went straight behind the washer. They poked their heads out, one on top of another and I just couldn’t be mad anymore. Alasse of course, was never mad to begin with. She stuck her head through the cat flap so she could watch me. Alasse never gets mad. Ever. Sometimes I try to follow suit. I sit down beside her, cock my head, and say “Hmmmm, that’s interesting.”  Alasse takes this as the cue to start licking my face.

Now, while Alasse would have loved to play with the raccoons, her all time favorite ranch animal is the turkey. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Big fat bird with great big plumage. Think again. These are wild turkeys. They kind of look like big brown bowling pins with feet. And while I’m sure Alasse would love to play with these birds, unfortunately she is more interested in their poop. Turkey poop, as far as I’m concerned, is the smelliest excrement on the planet. And Alasse just loves to roll in it. There’s no stopping her.

The ranch is crawling with these suckers. They are all over the place, shitting everywhere. Alasse is constantly on the look-out.

Now Alasse is pretty well behaved. She’ll heel off leash no problem- unless there is turkey poop. Then there’s no getting to her. By that time, the only thing on her mind is “must roll in it, must roll in it…”

However, though this experience is by no means pleasant, not all hope is lost in situations like this. There is one thing, and one thing only that will rid a dog of the odor of turkey poop. Victoria’s Secret So Sexy Shampoo. And don’t forget the conditioner.

And after the bath, Alasse will not be satisfied until she has been blow dried. She loves the blow dryer almost as much as she loves turkey poop. Almost. Even if she’s not wet, she stands in the bathroom while I’m drying my hair and waits her turn. She gives this little exasperated sigh when she’s bored, or not getting what she wants. She does this when she wants me to blow dry her.