DebraMilligan.com

 

Books for Everyone!

Pets, Real and Fictional

PART II

September 2020

The Home-Cat and the Hound


Gabrielle is the Home-Cat now, in the new house called Larkhaven. After her release from 10 days of spacious garage-captivity, she gingerly wandered to the area in the front of the Larkhaven house. And then she slowly walked straight to the Annabella marking stone by a potted azalea.


I’ve no doubt there was some secret message imparted by the celestial Black-Cat Sister to Gabby about staying in-bounds, even though, as yet, there are no fences to keep her in-bounds!

The Snowshoe has maintained a proper roaming distance from her new home. The other morning, I found her at the edge of the dirt road, across from Larkhaven, and called her back home. She gradually, slowly loped her way to me.


“That’s the outer boundary,” I informed her, eyeing the vast expanse of pine trees up a slope where AB would have already found a hiding place.


After the long, hot move out of the Rental House, we filled the new garage with boxes and furniture to phase-move them into the House. That organized arrangement of stuff created a Cat Maze for Gabrielle. During the early days of settling in, she’d look at me, so astonished and thankful for making her New Home so big and clean and comfortable and intriguing! To her delight, there were windows wherever she looked, and sunny views to love! Not a single meow or moan from The Gabrielle.

She did patrol the outside perimeter of the entire house late one afternoon. I joined her along the back stretch of the concrete patio, and we walked along the side, slowly, as she surveyed the tree-filled slope and paused to go on cat-point, warily watching all around us. When Sgt. Tibbs sensed the time was right, she led me to the front of the house. All in all, she looked pleased at her new and quiet surroundings. She performs her patrol duty around the exterior of the domicile every evening, toward sunset.


Chance keeps a vigilant eye on this feline whom, he realizes, was not left back at the Rental House. This morning, Dog and Cat met, eye-to-eye and nose-to-nose, at the glass of the door by the kitchen. I have to say that the Gabrielle resolutely stood her ground, something that made Mr. Chance whimper with frustration. The set-up here will be the same as in the Peach House: Dog in the Back Yard; Cat in the Front. If, and when, they meet along the sides, expect 2 species to collide!

The Hound has experienced a bit of a letdown, being confined to only 1 residence. During 2018, the year of the sale-of-the-Peach House, Chance enjoyed the landscaping upkeep at the former Primary Home, and returning to rest at the Rental Home. Construction of the Dream House began in August 2019, and he then got a break from the confining confines of the Rental to go explore that work-in-progress, Larkhaven. That structure became a Third Residence in his young beagle mind.


By the age of 4, Chance Beaumont has known more homes than the lovely Bridget, his predecessor who lived at the Peach House all during her entire, exciting life! He can still remember being a Jet-a-Pet, flying as a wee pup from Missouri to California on 14 October 2016.

There are times when he sighs, puts his snout on a pillow and gives me the look that says:


“I came a long way.”


Yes, Chancey Boy, we all have!


This beagle has now been reduced to living in only 1 house, although it has 2 floors, so he can think of each horizontal space as 1 domicile, with the Garage, the Cat House, forming that much maligned tertiary house.


As for their Owner, I’m just happy to be Home!

And, yes, Chancey Boy, the cat has more pix in this post than you do - because she leads a much more varied life! Sleeping on the couch, baying in the dead of night at a varmint outside, and running off with my boat shoe in your mouth is old-hat for you. Snouting into the storage box of boxes of shoes to locate the leather shoe is a new adventure!


In time, Chance will have his own fenced-in area. In that Doggie Corral he will keep an eye on all kinds of outdoor creatures, including the humans, planting trees and gardens. It’s a dog’s life at times for the people!

25 September 2021

Heading Into Autumn


The pets are heading into autumn, and, not far behind them, am I. Dear Husband is keeping pace with them!


The Problem at Larkhaven during the past ten days has consistently been The Coyotes. The time of the Harvest Moon only intensified their midnight moonlight gatherings.


“They’re nocturnal creatures,” I explain softly but firmly and diligently to Chance, who is worn-out, asleep, every morning, on the couch. He almost feels sorry for himself.


Last night, on towards nine o’clock, this wonder beagle cried, yet again, at the inside pane of glass of the kitchen door. He’d heard them, and even saw one of them by the detached garage.

Dear Husband told me that he threw a stone at the vexing animal, which he claimed was smaller than our rather large hound. The nasty critter skulked away, as all coyotes do, in a sneaky, snarly, almost human-like manner. He looked back over his shoulder, as if to say, “I’ll get back at you. I hold grudges.”


“That coyote is too close to Gabby!” I exclaimed.


“The doors are all closed,” was the comforting reply.


I then gave thanks that Annabella is in a much better and safer place. By now, my beloved black cat would have discovered a much beloved cachette, somewhere here among the pine trees and leaf-covered slopes. And one of those punk predators would have found her. AB in her celestial cachette is a soothing thought for me on this day, on many days, and during many nights, particularly those of the past dozen eventides.


For almost two weeks, the after-dark slumber has been interrupted, most definitely interrupted, by the Call of the Coyote (See Night of the Coyote Here).

The beagle-sentry watch begins in the evening, although it never truly ends during the day. Chance cannot get the taunting yapping cry of Canis latrans out of his head. That signature note of the West has become the signal to do his duty to the non-sleeping Homo sapiens. There’s more than a power struggle going on here; it’s an endless haunting refrain that even the strains of Chopin cannot soothe.


Whenever the coyotes yip, and yap, and yip, Chance dashes outside, and those infernal mammals stop. Obviously, the intentional training here is that He, Alpha Male Dog, has silenced the noisily annoying carnivorous creatures.


He’s shut them up!!


Who in the world, upon this day, would not like to have a similar power over the jokester vegan-beasts of prey as they assault the right to pray, the right to bear arms, the right to speak freely, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to laugh at them, the right to live, and the right to be???


I suppose that I can learn some valuable lessons from my canine pet, if only I could sleep soundly enough to be able to focus on contemplating whatever those learning moments might be!

My REM moments, though, are quite plentiful, almost dream-like, compared to those of Dear Husband. He is the one who must contend with the All-Day and All-Night Champion of Coyote Chasing. This round-the-clock rapid instinctive response of the doggie does not go unrewarded. We gently praise Chance Beaumont for his beagling; and then we pray the coyotes are gone for this season. They’ll move elsewhere, to scavenger and sleep-deprive another domicile filled with humans and the pets that so diligently and vigilantly protect them.


Chance takes his mission a little too seriously. Actually, he takes himself a little too seriously. One would never know, judging by his slumbering pose on the sofa and by the lumbering way in which he deals with most of his every-day routine, an activity that involves a lot of inactivity. He only reliably comes to life, in lightning-fast motion, whenever he hears the call of the wild. The call of nature does not move him with such impulsive urgency.


He is a hunter, which means he needs something to hunt. The Coyote is filling that need. The high-speed puppy-playtime of Houndey-Boy has evolved into the Adult-Dog Crazed Chase . . . of the Coyote.


Chance has two speeds: full-bore adrenalin rush and the mopey slump, akin to a sack of wet concrete. There are no IV drugs involved in this behavior pattern. It’s all natural body chemistry.

Gabrielle seems oblivious to the entire over-turning of the people’s shuteye schedule, and to the trembling and whimpering frustration of The Dog. At least he’s not baying-fretting over getting to her! She, the pretty but demure provocateuse, was born knowing the art of diversion, distraction, red herring and smoke-screen. She’s lived in enough smoke during the summer to have mastered those techniques of survival.


Gabrielle the Snowshoe has thus earned the rank of a contented queen in her garage-castle. Consequently, I humanely and charitably took the appropriate step of purchasing a new cat-bed, along with a much better Magic Heat Source, to ensure her abundant comfort during the cold, wet months of winter in our region.


My research work of reviewing the feline repose-merchandise on Wayfair and Chewy was made much easier, once I surrendered to the inescapable fact that such products are Only Made In That Commie-Country. With a sigh, I felt some semblance of gratitude that the packaged pet food is no longer made Over There.

When first the Milligan Family adopted the two abandoned and very small, very young and nearly emaciated cats, in March 2008, we had to steer clear of purchasing certain brands that were undergoing massive Pet Food Recalls. That manufacturing had been hornswoggle-outsourced to a nation whose human beings eat pets for dinner, and consume, as delicacies, bats, rats, and creatures you’ve never heard of, and don’t want to hear of. If only the coyotes would make the desperate journey over that land bridge!


One online reviewer of foreign-made cat food expressed palpable fear about her cat. “She’s only 12 pounds, and is losing 10 percent of body weight a day. You do the math!”


At that time, Gabby was a cat-junk-food junkie. Meow-Mix, made in the USA, was her meowy-favorite. Annabella would have none of the stuff, which is a smelly blend of fish broth, chicken by-products, corn gluten meal (ugh), beef fat and artificial food colorings. This bewitching creature-blend of black Burmese and American shorthair turned her little cat nose up at those delightful shapes. She turned her back on the entire set-up (food bowl and water bowl) and walked away. She’d have no part of the colorful corny cholesterol in that saucer.

A very intelligent cat! (There were birds to kill, and eat, in that upper parcel of untamed land.)


The Snowshoe cat adored the cute itsy-bitsy shapes, and the wonderfully varied shades, of this feline form of Lucky Charms. It was like being in kitty-kindergarten! Princess Gabby was quickly deprived of this kitty snack food, thereby permitting the lure of the Black Cat back to the social contract of civilization and prepared cuisine. Only the very best cat chow, also Made in The USA, would ever enter those royal blue enamelware cereal bowls (which, alas, were not Made in The USA).


It was an intensive, exhaustive effort to wean Gabrielle from the treacherously tasty mealtime snacks, but she successfully got over at least this one symptom of her Abandoned Cat Syndrome:


an instinctive but panicked freak-out over any alteration in the shape, size, texture, taste, and smell of the food in her serving container.

We’ve wisely maintained the same feeding bowl to conform to her finicky tastes, a decision that aided in her more serene acceptance of any change in her diet. Those nutritional swap-outs have been frequent because the manufacturers of the salmon entrée would consistently stop making that particular variety. Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s not for a sweetly neurotic furry animal who has completely come into her own since her “sister” left her side, physically.


The heating pad tries to replace those arms of Annabella around her in the wintry weather, but I believe that warming device is merely in addition to the big warm hug that holds the Snowshoe now, in spirit.


In honor of Annabella’s month, October, I wanted to assure The Gabrielle that she has achieved the regal status to which she’d always aspired. I joyously purchased online two vintage Fenton shoes for my new work space (that is still being assembled). The pink shoe grants recognition to the Snowshoe, with her femmie-pink q-tip paws. The other piece of art glass, the one with the Art-Deco style feline head, unmistakably gives humble but minxy tribute to my black cat.

The type of glass and finish, or glaze, used for this shoe with the cat-head is known as Burmese. Yes, the Burmese one is a beauty — just like Annabella!


Chance is gonna have to take some chances tonight and let go of his ingrained obsession with Catching the Coyote. I’ve tried going to bed late, after midnight, hoping he’ll have the hunter-hunger out of his system. The results were miserable. After midnight is when the race to the door gets its most intense.


Confidentially, I think Chancey Boy is having the time of his life. His Houndiness just wants his night to yowl, every night. I’m starting to think my dog has coyote-envy. Perhaps the black cat in me can help him to satisfy his inner wolf:

We can howl, in harmony, together!


As for my Snowshoe and me, we can think along similar lines. The social needs of this sighing lovely keep me busy, especially at 4 in the afternoon. The Gabrielle runs a tight extroverted companionship ship, but I am rewarded for my dependability with her sweet affectionate loyalty.


I also try my best to tend to her sensitivity to cold. She’s prone to catch a chill. The first 45-degree F dawn arrived today. I donated one of my old used hats to her. She’s ready for winter!

25 February 2022

The Snowshoe - Ribbon of Honor


Gabrielle is such a brave cat that I once wrote an essay to detail her exploits against an annoying and intrusive raccoon (Mid-August 2014 Essay). I’ve continued to feel that she does deserve a cross of courage for an animal who stands her ground.


We all need heroes to look up to, especially in the face of so much human cowardice, at least in my country. I therefore fashioned a ribbon of honor to place around the neck of my fatally lovely feline. Gabrielle the Snowshoe Cat has been a real trouper during these past 4 years of moving from the homestead-house, living in a dump of a rental, and moving during the heat of summer into a newly built garage, jam-packed with boxes and furniture.


She was a quiet, calm and courageous spirit all throughout the fraudulent roller-coaster year of 2020. She continues to be a soothing sigh for me during moments when The Predicted and The Inevitable just keep happening in the world well beyond my country domicile.

Placing the ribbon of honor around the soft white neck of this snowshoe was quite a different matter.


The past week has been extremely cold in my habitat: 20 degrees in the early morning, with high temps of perhaps 50. Around 10 a.m., Gabrielle leaves the warmth of her heated cat-bed in the mid-morning; and she goes into the sunlight. Gleamingly, she sits there, looking out upon the pine forest.


I can surmise by her squinted blue eyes that she does not understand why the mid-morning sunlight is not warming her. Soon enough, she retreats into the garage, to her Magic Towel, the heating pad in her cat bed.


This morning, Dear Husband was able to drape the Ribbon of Honor around her neck. There were about 20 victorious seconds that elapsed before she wriggle-escaped the feeling of a physical acclaim upon her skin. My Gabrielle knows very well, in her loving heart of hearts, that she needs no ribbon of honor from me, or from anyone.

There is more valor in her little q-tip paw and more audacity in her adventurous spirit than in whatever passes for fortitude in many humans out there in the public sphere. The spineless frauds of the politico-stripe ought to have, not a ribbon strung around their necks, but ropes. Come to think of it, those cretins are hanging themselves with the ropes of their greed, gluttony and ghoulish amorality.


Those topics I do not mention to my Snowshoe, and she does not mention to me her kitty version of the wisdom of Blaise Pascal:


The more I see of Mankind, the more I prefer my cat.”


I’ve already read the French version of that truism. I’m currently seeing it, play itself out — live — in the American one.

June 2022

The Last Waltz

The Normand Hound


It’s always easy for me to see, in retrospect, how a novel of mine comes to be. I’ve a fixed pattern of planning one activity, or a series of activities, only to postpone them until after I write another novel. This delayed gratification is the carrot portion of my carrot-and-stick reward system for accomplishing my work, or mission!


The stick part is determined by My Muse, who allows me just enough sleep each night so that I can wake up each morning with revisions and dialogue in my head. The next chapter is on the way . . .

When I purchased this art print, “Hounds At Rest” by John Emms, in late March of this year, I’d thought the picture was merely decorative, and amusingly so, but not necessarily functional, except in the sense of profound appreciation of the scent hound.


By the beginning of May, I knew otherwise.


I began to organize research materials in my writing room, known as The Buckaroo Room. By the beginning of June, my days and nights were engaged in writing this novel, and in making revisions to the text. Final edits to the text are about to take place. By the summer solstice, I hope to present THE LAST WALTZ in e-published form on Smashwords and Amazon.


In truth, I wrote many passages of THE LAST WALTZ during the summer, autumn, and winter of 2014. I performed an enormous amount of research, almost without realizing it, during the next several years, while I was working on other projects, including designing and building a Dream House.

I stored away THE LAST WALTZ, thinking that I’d get to it, later, much later . . .


Life, however, can be quite a catalyst for the art of writing.


After I’d completed translating THE DAWN into L’AUBE in January 2021, I began to settle into my new house. Settling in led to more creative catalysts. I wrote my first Western, SHADOW, earlier this year. By spring, the images and visions, whispers and rhythms of this novel re-emerged, as if for the first time!


And memories of Bootsie, my Puppy Boy, returned to me, with affection and vitality, an aesthetic energy materialized in the person of a fictional dog.


The canine character of Antoine honours my beloved Bootsie, the noble hound who died in early February 2011 while I was writing THE DAWN.

Antoine belongs to Monsieur Cubré. This Great War veteran keeps watch over Sophia during her “period of confinement”, or pregnancy, while her husband, Charles, is engaged in the final operations of World War II. The final bloody combat comprises the Battle of the Bulge. The Ardennes Offensive by the Germans begins on 16 December 1944.


Hitler’s last gamble plays itself out while Sophia prays, and waits, and hopes, in her maison de maître in Staint-Hubert, France. Antoine plays his part as a scent hound for protection of that domestic realm. Such loyalty and devotion are the proper domain of le chien Normand, the Normand dog.


The illustration shown above is taken from the classic French dog book entitled Les Chiens, le Gibier et ses Ennemis: The Dog, the Game, and His Enemies.

A scent hound can be a loving animal, a fantastic pet, and an intensely devoted and dependable friend. Do not, however, mistake his gentle demeanour or his softly pleading eyes as signs of submissiveness, much less a willingness to obey a command. When the enemy is smelled, or heard, and then seen, there’s no stopping the French sniffer dog from tracking his prey, and then, meeting his objective, according to his primal instinct — killing the critter.


Domestication of the scent hound that became known as the beagle has trained into the beast a strong need to bond with his master, but the desire to obey that cherished human remains problematic, at best; elusive, at heart; and impossible in mind.


I still recall the deeply voiced cry of Dear Husband, standing outside, in the middle of the hot summer night, calling to Bootsie, who had been let outside to attend to his private call of nature. Nature then called Puppy Boy to the pursuit of — a skunk!

BOOTSIEEEEE! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!


Bootsie, yes, got his piece of the skunk, an odeur that fragranced The Home for almost a week. Bathing Bootsie in tomato juice helped, to a point.


The point for Bootsie was to protect The Home and his pack of inhabitants. This faithful sentinel took his job very seriously, patrolling his portion of the perimeter at the Peach House, a half acre that he surveillanced like a sentry. Images of Bootsie, on-duty, remained tenderly in my mind long after he’d gone to his celestial reward.

When Dear Husband and I moved out of the Peach House in May 2018, countless souvenirs images of that magnificent and dignified dog traveled with me.


Those souvenirs of the ever-faithful scent hound with a noble soul, dedicated to his humans, have since journeyed in time, all the way to the year 1944. And to a place called Maison Charpentier, a maison de maître in St. Hubert, France . . .


in my northern French novel — THE LAST WALTZ.