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Monday, September 28, 2009

FRIENDS FOUR-LEGGED

waiting for it


While Jr was sleeping in the early afternoon, I made a run to town to get some cat food. All out of dry and would need more wet after today. Now that I'm driving Jr's car, I leave a window open so TarBaby can jump inside and curl up on the driver's side of the back seat. As soon as he's had his meal, out the door he goes, and later when I leave I find him in the back seat looking at me. He doesn't like to get out. If I leave the back door open and start the motor, he's gone.


TarBaby's only riding experience is inside the travel box in the front seat of the truck. He didn't like it. He never got used to it. I don't like to have to put him in it by surprise. I'd like to give him a little notice so he'll understand what's going on. But I've found the element of surprise is the only way to go. If I tell him what I have in mind, he'll disappear and I'll never see him the rest of the day. When I bring the box in the house, all the cats know what it is and they don't like it. But I leave it on the floor with door open and cushion inside. One will step inside and look around, but that's it. It only has one meaning for them: the vet. Get grabbed by the back of the neck and held with slits for eyes, needles, something in the rear end that's a surprise. They all 3 stand there and take it, but they don't like it.


TarBaby is the biggest baby of the 3. He curls up in the back of the cage and cries. Meao! Meao! Meao! I talk to him, telling him we're going to the doctor, because if we don't he'll get bad sick. It doesn't soothe him at all. The only thing that works with TarBaby is to put one finger through the wires in the gate and let him rub the sides of his face on it. Every critter I've had along the way has gone into shock at the top of Twin Oaks Mtn where the scents from the vet's office flow up that holler beside the road. Our noses don't even notice, but a dog and a cat nose sure do notice. Like the dogs I've lived with, one might be lying down curled up on the seat while I'm driving on highway. I pass skunk roadkill and dog is up on feet looking all around for something to chase.


All the dogs that have lived here rode on the seat in the truck. When I drive on a gravel road they'd be up watching. As soon as I'd get on pavement, they'd curl up and have a snooze. With the first one, Sadie, when I'd come up on a fox in the gravel road, it would inevitably take off running down the road in front of the truck. Sadie would have her front feet on the dash squealing at me to stop and let her out. She was half fox dog. Anything we'd come up on the gravel road, she would get anxious about and want out to go catch it. But foxes really got her going. For me, it was beautiful driving down the road and 20 or so feet ahead of me is a fox running. Like those times when a hawk flies in front of the hood.


I do miss a four-legged companion driving. Cats aren't much fun to ride with. They like to walk on your shoulders. Years ago in rural Georgia, east of Covington, I was stopped at a stop sign on a rural road that ran beside I-20. A woman in a rough looking old pickup made a right turn from across the road from me, to take the bridge over the interstate. While she was in the turn, the Siamese cat that was on her shoulder went flying out the window with all paws fanned out trying to fly. It hit the road and tumbled a couple of times, got up and dashed to the grass beside the road. It was my turn at the stop sign and I went straight ahead. I had a strong impulse to help her get the cat, but there was so much traffic at those stop signs, I had to let it be one of those misfortunes I witness in motion and it's outside my reach. I can't control everything, starting with myself.


When I think of dogs, first one that comes to mind now is my great great grandfather's dog. I don't know the dog's name. The place: Ninemile, Tennessee, between Crossville and Pikeville. 60 miles due north of Chatanooga in the Cumberland Plateau. Great great grandpa shot himself in the barn lot when he was 74. His dog wouldn't let anyone near the body until the 3rd day. That, in my way of seeing, is a good dog. It's not that I want a mean dog, but all dogs have in them a loyalty to their human, ready at all times to take on anything to protect the human, never needing a moment to think about it. What I found interesting about the people is they didn't kill the dog. They let the dog do what it had to do. It's not like killing a dog in that time was anything but easy. Pop. That's it. Just a dog. I find everything about that story remarkable, am glad I know it.

Great great grandpa is another thing. I'd say he was a hard core man in his time. Worked on railroads in Alabama young making money to buy a farm back home. Bought the farm, wife and kids. The Civil War. He and his 4 brothers went. All but one returned. He died in a Yankee prison in New Jersey. When I hear Jimmy Arnold sing Rebel Soldier I think of him. Will my soul pass through the Southland? It must have been terrible for a Southern boy to die up North.

Great great grandpa reconstructed his farm when he returned home after no telling what kind of horrors for wife and kids. He had some degree of post-war syndrome, angry all the time, drove all his boys away from him. There were no heirs left in the county for his will. I expect he tilted the fruitjar a bit too. Most likely a good dancer, a proud dancer who made fancy kicks. He is said to have caused at least 4 illegitimate kids and blamed them on his boys. I imagine him everybody's friend outside the house, but in the house, look out. Daddy's drunk again. But the man had a dog that loved him.

Love between a human and a dog is a beautiful love. Same with a cat. They've been bred to be our pets for so many thousand years they've become part of us. They wouldn't do well on their own. I suspect one motivation for the love they have for us is that we give them shelter in a human world that has no place for a dog without a human. Without a human, a dog is in trouble. There's no place for it. Other dogs' territories everywhere. My dog friends are as loved in my memory as my human friends. Possibly one of the great attractions of pets for humans is they don't gossip, they're not fickle, and they don't judge. That's the big one.

It used to bewilder Tom Pruitt that people told him things they didn't tell anybody else. He said it had been like that all his life. He didn't know why. It's because he didn't judge. And he didn't gossip. If you entrusted something to Tom, it went no further. We all need a friend like that.











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