Monday, October 13, 2008

How the Kracker Cats came to be, part 11: Bird dog is given fake duck, spots live cat

After I rescued her, Kaboodle did not acknowledge my heroism; she expressed no gratitude that I had saved her. She just hid, like she was frightened of me.

On a crisp, golden September afternoon, Nabysko and I sat on the back porch. Kaboodle frolicked in the yard, batting at the dried-out remnants of the once-glorious fireweed, occasionally knocking down one of the remnants of the insect population from its course of flight. The mosquitoes were gone. It was pleasant to just sit on the porch, and watch Kaboodle, the trees of the forest, and Gene working on his dog house.

Gene had never struck me as a dog person, but now he had a golden retriever which he had spent a substantial amount of money on.

Gene and I always got along well, though our views of the world were quite different. When we moved out into this subdivision, fresh-cut from the wilderness, I was pleased to have a one acre yard filled with the trees, plants and inhabitants of the forest which surrounded us. Gene and Myrene were also pleased with the beauty of the location, but were intent on making their piece of it look just as it would if they still lived down south, in domesiticated Minnesota. Although their driveway led to a dirt road, they paved it. They cut down all but the most stately of their trees, then hired a bull-dozer to come in and push their earth around. This was followed by a truck which spread several tons of top soil. In this, they planted grass.

Our conversations in those days were friendly and polite, but a little strained. "You know," Gene would offer, "as long as he's here, if you wanted to ask our landscaper how much he would charge to do your yard, it would be fine with us. We sure got a good deal!"

"See that squirrel?" I would point into my own, wild backyard. "See how it leaps from tree to tree, over that patch of flaming fireweed? Damn, it's wonderful!"

"I suppose. Well, we've got a little girl now, and she is going to need a safe place to play, a yard, with grass."

I thought about noting my own five kids, growing up frolicking in the trees, playing with yellowjackets and frogs, but that seemed kind of confrontive. I did not want to generate bad feelings, but, if I had wanted to fritter away my few, free, precious summer hours at home mowing some damned grassy lawn, I would have stayed in the Lower 48.

Gene never had a dog when he was a kid, but now he had one. He took the whole thing pretty seriously. He named the dog "JB."

Gene's had never been a hunter, either, but now he was.

A duck hunter.

His dog would be a duck hunter, too.

Kaboodle and Wry - during a less stressful moment.

In the evenings Kaboodle and I would listen as Gene blew his shrill whistle, again and again and again. With this whistle, he would teach his dog to hunt. He would throw a fake duck, blow his whistle, then make the dog go get the fake duck and bring it back to him.

It worried me a bit, having this hunting dog living next door to Kaboodle, with no fence between us, but Gene assured me that JB was gentle, and harmless and that, if she were to get a little “playful,” he would be right there and would immediately bring her under control.

On a fine Sunday afternoon, Gene was once again making JB fetch a fake duck. Nabysko and Tryskuit had taken Kaboodle out into the back yard. I had been lazily curled up on the couch, relaxing happily as I read stories of war, murder, political sleaziness - all the usual fare of the Sunday paper.

As cat and girls romped happily in our back back yard, Gene was training JB in his. As usual, Gene tosse his fake duck, then blew a command on his whistle. JB looked at the fake duck that he was supposed to fetch. Then JB looked at Kaboodle.

The duck was a fake.

Kaboodle was real cat, made of genuine flesh, blood, and fur.

If you were a born hunting dog, which would you prefer to pursue?

Fake duck? Live cat?

Suddenly, the peace of Sunday disappeared in the screams of little girls, the barking of JB, the shouts of Gene, and the hissing and snarling of Kaboodle.

Dropping the newspaper, I shot out onto the back porch.

Kaboodle had just conducted an evasive maneuver, which had caused JB to stumble harmlessly past. Now, the cat turned to face the dog, to see what it would do. I was impressed with the classic cat arch, and the classic baring of teeth Kaboodle demonstrated. I had not seen her quite like this before. I felt bad I did not have my camera.

Kaboodle's theatrics failed to impress JB, however. Recovering, he turned, and charged.

Kaboodle dashed for the far end of the house. I knew where she was headed. I charged back into the house, through the living room, and out the front door. Kaboodle had already rounded the last corner and was dashing for the front porch. JB was hot on her paws. I expected Kaboodle to dash underneath the porch, but, in her panic, she overshot the mark.

Realizing what she had done, Kaboodle turned back for the porch.

It was too late. JB was closing in.

Making a flying leap, I snatched Kaboodle up just as JB's open jaws prepared to clamp down upon her. Leaving JB to the shouts of her master, I plunged through the door and into the house.

Kaboodle was safe.

I expected a little gratitude, some sign of appreciation that I snatched her out of the very jaws of death.

I put Kaboodle on the floor.

She fled, and hid under my desk, as if I was the one who had been chasing her. For the rest of the day, she fled in terror every time her eyes fell upon me. This irritated me greatly.

The next day, Kaboodle was fine. She followed me around as usual. Wherever I went, she went. It was nice.

Tryskuit comforts Kaboodle. Kaboodle sticks her tongue out at me.

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