The Little Dog Who LIves Up The Lane

Sally Mae is a Welsh corgi-mix who lives half a mile up the road.  She is a frequent visitor and playmate with our dog Rosie, and has become an important member of our animal kingdom.  She frequently joins us for our daily walks and loves taking a dip in the pond along the way.  She also hangs around for a dog cookie after the walk, and if she is out and about, she pays an evening visit for a little supper with Rosie and Lady.  Dogs are territorial, and occasionally Rosie has fits of jealousy if we pay too much attention to Sally, who is hard to resist.  She has an infectious grin, and slyly wriggles into our presence looking for a hug, a few pats or a rub. If she is outside when we head into town, she will streak up the road as fast as her very short legs will carry her to try to beat us to the cattle guard, and she often does.  She then turns around with a triumphant toss of her head, grinning with her tongue hanging out, victorious that she won the race.

. . . let's get this walk underway already!

She and Rosie both enjoy tracking whatever is out in the sagebrush on our walks, but Sally does it with a ferocity that is surprising in so gentle a little dog.  Whenever a rabbit emerges, she is on it!   And while she never catches them, she gives it everything she has, tearing through the grass and sage, leaping over any obstacle to catch her prey.  She also used to like to heel and nip at the horses in the corrals around her place.  We have yelled and hollered at her repeatedly to stop this endeavor for fear she will be stomped or kicked by the horses, who do not enjoy this aggravation.  One afternoon shortly after she joined me for a walk, she broke away to bark and nip at one of the horses just through the fence. On this day a big bay gelding let fly with a hind leg and struck her in the head with its hoof.  She was able to escape back under the fence and onto the road, where I reached for her with my heart pounding with fear.  I gathered her up and raced for home.

Sally was bleeding profusely from her nose and I could not tell whether she had bitten her tongue or what the damage was.  I wrapped her in a horse blanket and layed her in the old Dodge Rambo.  I will never forget the pleading look in her eyes as she struggled to breathe with blood filling her nostrils. Just our luck, the vet was out of town and not expected back for a few days.  Sally’s owner was also out of town. I  kept calling until I located a family member who said they would come and attend to her.  As we waited, I examined her more closely and could find no damage other than to her nose, which was swelling but showed no external damage.  Her tongue and teeth were intact.

Sally recovered and although she snuffled a lot for a few weeks while the cartilage in her nose heeled and she was able to clear her nasal passages, she seemed almost as good as new.  And she no longer displayed any interest in horses whatsoever.  She does continue to have one overriding interest, however, that keeps her pretty close to home: Her ongoing love for her master who died a couple of years ago. I know Sally still expects he will return one day, and we’re told she sleeps under his desk in the house at night.   I was reminded of this by a movie we watched recently about a dog in Japan whose master died unexpectedly.  Based on a true story, the dog’s name was Hachiko, and he was an Asian Akita who returned to the train station to await his master’s return for nearly a decade.  The Japanese people were so moved by his single-minded devotion they erected a bronze statue in his honor.  This story of unconditional love and the unbroken bond between a dog and his master even after death left me so moved I was still weeping the next day. I will think of this story always,  and I will try to hug Rosie and Lady and Sally a bit harder whenever I get a chance.

Mr. Mouse Rules

. . . I'm sittin' on top of the world!

Mr. Mouse, top cat enjoys late afternoon rays of sunlight in the driveway.  He reigns supreme in the heirarchy here, as he is so old none of us can quite remember how old, and he’s been around longer than any of the other domestic animals.  His primary residence is an old garage, but he has been known to lodge in the loose straw in the attic of the chicken house or in a corner of the garden shed.  His daily patrols take him to wherever he can hunt mice, and lately that is the coop where the guinea fowl reside.  He enjoys the best store-bought cat cuisine twice daily, but still hunts just to keep the mice in check and to show us he can still do it.  He has his routine down pat, heading out early in the morning and patroling the outbuildings, sagebrush flats and creek bottom in search of prey which he occasionally brings to us as his offering. He is cautious to avoid raptors, coyotes and other predators that could end his earthly delights, but his biggest threats are feral cats that seem to appear from nowhere and move in on his little fiefdom in the garage.

A couple of months ago Mr. Mouse appeared for his supper with his throat slashed in a gaping wound that ran from his chin to his ear.  A visit to the vet revealed he had missed being killed by just a hair’s breadth.  We began the tasks of nursing him back to health, and hunting a giant black cat that had been stalking the area in recent weeks.  (I mistook this cat for the neighbor’s dog as he raced from the garage one night like a ball of black fury, which was a good indication we were dealing with a supernatural cat).   It became apparent this larger-than-life black monster was an uninvited regular guest at Mr. Mouse’s dinner table, and was probably responsible for his life threatening wounds.  We set out a wire cage to trap him, but all our efforts were for naught.  He was too smart for any of the bait we set out, and continued to evade our efforts to capture him.

We devised a scheme whereby we secured the garage door each night and closed the cat door where Mr. Mouse had previously been free to come and go.  During the day, the garage door was left ajar just wide enough for Rosie to inspect and do her search for stray cats.  (Rosie knows not to give Mr. Mouse any trouble, and Lady used to be bunk mates with him on the back porch before a remodeling job did away with the porch).  So in our house and barnyard the typical dog/cat enmity is not a problem: Mr. Mouse was here first, and he rules!  Rosie continued her search and destroy missions of the garage in the hopes of flushing out the Black Interloper.

A peaceful hiatus ensued and Mr. Mouse began enjoyin his exclusive domain in the garage once again.  Sightings of the black feral cat continued in outlying areas, and one evening as we ate supper, we saw two cats streaking across the hillside.  My heart nearly stopped beating, as the cat in the lead was a blue-grey cat who looked like Bleu, our Russian Blue house cat who had escaped the house earlier in the afternoon for a walk on the wild side.  He got more than he bargained for.  I was out the door and up the hillside in hot pursuit (actually it was not hot all, as a freezing sleet-laden wind was blowing a gale and I hadn’t bothered to get warm enough gear to be out in it).  Stumbling over cactus, sagebrush, rocks and frozen patches of snow, I searched the hillside and over the top to the other side and saw not a trace of the two cats.  I walked back to the house to worry and wonder what shape Bleu would be in when the Black Interloper had finished with him.  (Bleu has no front claws, so even though he is big and fast, he is no competition for cats who survive outdoors.  Mr. Mouse, who was the runt of the litter and is very small in stature, has sent Bleu fast-tracking back to the house on the few occasions where they have come in contact).

Bleu found a temporary refuge somewhere, and my cries and calling must have frightened the Black Interloper away for the time being.  Bleu made it back to the house, humbled and in one piece.  Shortly thereafter, a propitious event occurred.  We were working outside and noted the rural electric utility service truck driving through on the road to our neighbor’s house up the hill.  We had experienced no loss of power, and wondered what might be the problem next door.  Our neighbor reported that the evening before he had seen a large black cat running for its life and it shot right up the electric utility pole in front of his house.  He pondered whether he should attempt a rescue or not, but decided if the cat could climb up the pole, the cat could climb back down the pole. He went to bed and forgot about it.

In the middle of the night, the power went out.  We have frequent power surges, and usually it comes back on within a few minutes.  Not this time.  The Black Interloper used up the last of his nine lives when he apparently decided to climb to the top of the pole and hug a transformer.  He had to be physically removed, or what was left of him.  We did not inquire where the remains were taken, and that evening we joined Mr. Mouse in a celebration of his survival against the biggest, meanest black cat any of us could remember seeing.  Bleu gave a sigh of relief.