Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Life With The Pooch

Ow ! Ow ! Ooo that hurts. I feel sandpaper scraping across my forehead. Then, my eyes are being scoured. Pucci stop. Stop ! I've grown a winter beard and luckily my fur gets in the way of the tongue lashing. It's barely 5:45 am. He knows I'll not get up nor let him outside. It is dark since the full moon waned or waxed or whatever. He settles next to my face, head on my pillow and rumbles. At 6:30 it's Dawn's turn. No, she doesn't lick my face and eyelids. She wants to cuddle. I want to keep warm on another below zero night, so we spoon. At 7:20 she sits bolt upright. She has to be at work in 40 minutes. The drive is 18 miles.

A nice, dark roast Bay Blend coffee is percolating. I open the deck door. Fierce Canadian cold air wafts through the storm door. The windows steam up instantly. The Pooch looks, hesitates, turns around and walks to the living room. It's cold when the Pooch doesn't beg to go outside. We discovered catfish nuggets on our last trip to Woodman's in Lacrosse. Although El Gatto will eat anything-cheese, pizza, raw venison, nachos, mice, Box Elder beetles-he loves catfish. I defrost and micro wave three nuggets. He's pacing the kitchen counter. The micro wave beeping is his Pavlovian signal-there's food coming up. I pull apart the small fillets while they cool, occasionally pushing Pucci away from the ceramic cat dish. When it's sufficiently cool, I slide it toward him. He laps the fish gravy and snags a nugget with his paw. We were amazed when we first watched this maneuver. He'll curl and dip either paw( he's ambidextrous ) , snag a chunk with his claw and put it to his mouth. The cat feeds himself like a human!

I'm making another lumberjack breakfast. Hey, it's cold outside. I may have to tote a barge, heft a bale or compose another episode of Life With Pucci. I toss onions, tofu, chunks of smoked pork shoulder and a mixture of egg substitute and jumbo eggs into a pan. Accompanied by a toasted slice of bread and my coffee with steamed milk, I set breakfast on the table. The pooch jumps on my chair while I grab the book by Art Buchwald: I'll Always Have Paris. I quickly add Louisiana hot sauce to the egg mix. The pooch doesn't care for hot sauce. He sniffs at the coffee and looks at my eggs with disgust. I make the mistake of leaning slightly to the left. He jumps to my shoulders and curls around my neck. Hey, it's kinda hard to eat breakfast with a fur stole wrapped around my neck. He jumps down and is content to watch me eat.

With a full belly, the Pooch gives me his best, "Let me out" meow. It is a question of training. For almost a year, the Pooch has patiently explained Cataguese. For example, he sails by me with what sounds like grunts. That's catguese for "let's play hide and seek." This particular morning he's full of the old nick, as my grandmother Olga would say. He hides in the usual places. I do the same. When he catches me, however, he decides to grab hold of my ankles and pretend to bite my toes. I'm proud to say that I've trained him to pretend fight, although Dawn shows me teeth marks on her arm Saturday night after tickling his stomach. He loathes being tickled there. "Well, at least you're not bleeding", I say. After the game he'd sufficiently warmed up to face the snow and cold.

My office is the second warmest place in the house. It's a great place to work on a day when my Yahoo front page says 40 below zero-1 dead. I hear a thwok on a window. When I walk to the kitchen I see a chickadee lying in the snow. Of all the winter birds, chickadees are my favorite . They must consume their body weight daily to stay alive. They are friendly little fur balls. One picks a sunflower seed and flies to a perch to eat. I'm out the door. The Pooch beats me by one step, grabs the chickadee and runs into the house. I grab him by the scruff of the neck until he squeals, telling him NO, NO. He drops the bird. I cradle it in my palms. I'm not sure if it is alive. I can't see any damage . Perhaps, he's just stunned by the force of the blow. I place him on the cedar chest in the back hall. If he awakens, he can flutter there without causing himself further damage.

The chickadee didn't make it. Damn. Burial or cremation? I'll think about that later.

It's time to let the Pooch come in and warm up. I do it more for my own concern than for his. He rarely jumps up on the deck railing next to the kitchen window and thumps at it with a paw. His previous life as a barn cat gives him resources unknown to most tabbys . The clear area under the neck, the neighbor's barn, a box in the woodshed lined with felt, a sunny, covered bird feeder on the deck-these are all places of shelter. Sometimes he'll patiently wait at the back door or if it's during the afternoon, he'' ll sit near the workshop door. I've also trained him that a knock on the new thermopane windows- a hollow conk-means I'll let him in. He always comes when I knock because there are treats waiting for him.

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