Saturday, August 2, 2014

I can't make this stuff up

Subhead: The glamorous side of dogs and living in the country

One night earlier this week, the Farmer and I went to a funeral visitation for his uncle. The Farmer's mother doesn't drive any more, so we took her with us. We took her car, because she can't step up into R2 and even if she could, there's no room for 3 people. (The Farmer's mother is very nice. She keeps a car so other people can drive her places. It works out.)

When we got back from the church, we parked her car at her house and walked up to our place because it's not that far away. I let Phoenix out of his outdoor kennel. He was in a state. He was wild eyed, his ribs were heaving and his tongue was hanging out a mile. If he'd been a horse, he would have been in a lather.

I looked around. It was a quiet summer evening. Nothing could account for this state of affairs. I turned him loose. He ran across the yard and had profuse diarrhea. Then he seemed much happier so I cleaned up the mess, we went inside, I fed Banner and started to fix our supper. The jury was out on Phoenix, so no supper until he settled down.

Within minutes, Banner threw his supper back up in a series of tidy little piles all over his crate. Why make one big pile when you can make six little ones? This either distressed him or was cause for celebration because he began bouncing around in his crate, sending slimy kibble grenades shooting out across the kitchen floor. I put our supper on hold, took the puppy out of the crate and cleaned up the mess. Banner seemed no worse for the wear. I decided he'd probably been too hungry and had gobbled his food down too fast.

The humans' supper got cooked, served and eaten. Phoenix hung out under the table, which is customary. After the meal was done, he got up and left. There was blood smeared all over the floor where he had been laying. I called Phoenix back and did a fast inspection of paws, which are always the most likely culprits. Keep in mind that Phoenix has a pain threshold that is off the charts. I quit expecting him to yelp or cry when he's hurt about 5 years ago when he ran through the rotary hoe in the barn (chasing a cat) and sliced his flank open, then gave absolutely no indication that anything was wrong, only irritation that the cat had eluded him.

His paws looked fine. He seemed unconcerned. Poking and prodding on various body parts elicited no response other than a "Don't you have anything better to do?" look. I cleaned up the mess.

Since I'd already dealt with diarrhea, vomit and blood in the last 30 minutes, I figured a big old pee puddle was probably next on the agenda and decided to take Banner outside as a pre-emptive strike.

I glanced out the kitchen window. A black cat was staggering around the back yard. We do not have a black cat.

The cat lurched around on the inside of the fence, stiff-legged and jerky. It ran into the fence. It fell down. It got up and ran into the fence again. It wandered in a circle and started running. It was nearly skeletal in appearance, dull black fur stretched over protruding bones. I yelled for the Farmer.

"Where's the rifle?"

There are some things you never say at our house unless you absolutely mean it. These include "The barn is on fire," "The cows are out" and "Call the ambulance." "Where's the rifle?" is another and it's largely a rhetorical question because it means "Get the rifle, something needs shootin'."

When you live in the country, sometimes things need shootin'. Usually it's raccoons, possums, groundhogs, skunks and other vermin that end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have a .22 that serves as a multi-purpose varmint gun.

"It's in the machine shed," the Farmer yelled back. He was already out the door. The cat was stumbling across the yard. I bolted for the machine shed, grabbed the gun and met the Farmer just in time to see the cat disappear around the grain bin. I handed him the gun. I hate shooting things, even when it's a mercy killing. I'm always afraid the animal won't die on the first shot and I'll cause more suffering.

The Farmer knows this. He took the gun and disappeared. In less than a minute, a single loud crack echoed off the buildings.

"The cat didn't even act like it saw me," he said when he came back. Pause. "You're gonna clean that up, right?"

I cleaned up the mess.

So many times, when a wild animal is "sick," we never know what's wrong with it - only that it's "not right." Over the years we've been married, there have been several "not right" raccoons and skunks that we've shot near the house and barns. While doing carcass disposal, I wondered what was wrong with the cat. Rabies? Distemper? I'll never know.

Back at the house, the barn cats (who am I kidding - the PATIO cats) had all reappeared and were demanding their supper. I carried their kitty kibble out to the garage, stepped inside and walked into the fifth mess of the evening.

Phoenix's outside run is 6 x 12 foot chain link kennel both inside and outside of the garage. The inside portion was a train wreck. The big water bowl had been overturned. Ring gates and PVC jumps had been knocked off the top of the dog box and lay in a haphazard sprawl across the floor. Things that had been leaning against the outside of the chain link panels had been toppled over. Clearly, Phoenix's meltdown earlier in the evening had been directed against something inside the garage. I'm guessing it was the black cat and I'm guessing he was throwing himself at the chain link panels, trying to chase it off. I cleaned up the mess.

Sitting in my recliner later, I was blissfully enjoying a moment in time that did not involve a funeral visitation, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding, "not right" feral cats, gun shots, blood spatter or carcass disposal. Phoenix leaped up on the recliner with me and began licking his paws. This is an evening ritual. He licks his paws, me, the chair, my book, my phone, my laptop and anything else he can reach. He is a serial licker.

Only that night, he was only licking his paws. One paw in particular. One spot in particular. I grabbed the leg and held it up in the light. He'd ripped the skin off most of the "bumper pad" on that leg, probably while trying to chase the cat in the garage. Well, that accounted for the blood on the kitchen floor. Mystery solved. Fortunately, those are quick to heal.

Mama said there'd be days like this.