Just Call Me Ethel: The Adventures of Stax the Conveniently Forgetful and Emmy Lou the Evil

Where should I even begin when it comes to telling the tales of the animals that share my house? I think it is fair to say that both creatures are certifiably insane, but I feel that my life would be a great deal emptier and certainly less comedic if they were not a part of it. However, it would make things a tad bit easier if either one of them could behave themselves.

img_2265For example, when a neighbor and her sweet dog comes over to our yard for a chat, it would be nice if Emmy Lou, the cat, didn’t full out charge the neighbor dog and leave claw marks running down the poor animal’s side. Also, when your friend and her son come to stay for the weekend, it would be nice not to feel that I must arm the child with a foam dollar store sword and instruct him to beat the cat with it should she nip him in the arm again. And finally, it would be much appreciated if yet another neighbor, with both dog and child in tow, could enjoy a leisurely chat with me on my front porch without the constant stare of glassy cat eyes and the twitching ears threatening impending doom at any moment.

You may be tempted to think that the cat has had a good long life, and it would be the best for everyone if her entrance into kitty heaven were somehow expedited. After all, she has had thirteen, possibly fourteen, great years on this earth. One can never be too sure about the birth dates of animals one retrieves from the backside of a shed that is on the property of a business establishment that you also suspect to be housing a bookie operation. I blame Emmy Lou’s rough edges on her early upbringing and pray that one day she will accept salvation in full. Until then, her “guard cat” status in this house appeases my child’s various and ever-changing fears of the night. May Lee may have a reasonable and completely healthy fear of that cat, but she sure does sleep well when Emmy Lou is curled up at the foot of her bed. For now, the cat has secured her place in this home by affording me a decent night’s sleep.

mlstaxThen there is Stax, the yellow lab pup without a home. I think the first thing that we have learned in this story is that I am a sucker for animals in need of a home. Yet, as I write this, Stax has been outside of my back door barking for several minutes and for no apparent reason, because he is not at all enthusiastic in his barks. There is clearly no urgent danger about to descend upon our house. He just feels like being heard, I guess.

To give him credit, he has calmed down since his “surgery”. He no longer throws all of his 80 pounds into my back storm door every time I go inside after feeding him. Stax and I have actually enjoyed throwing the frisbee around in the afternoons, because he is now calm enough to follow commands, like “drop it”. In fact, I was throwing the frisbee for him on Sunday afternoon as I was walking to the shed to get the lawnmower out. It was all fine and dandy until I stopped to pour gasoline into the mower. This is when Stax abandoned the frisbee and trotted off with the plastic carton of lawnmower motor oil in his mouth instead. He also conveniently failed to recall that he knows the command “drop it”, even though he had consistently and obediently dropped the frisbee into my outstretched hand several times just moments before. He was not, however, going to drop the motor oil. He trotted to the left of me, then trotted to the right of me while always coming close enough to taunt me into playing his game of keep away but remaining just out of arm’s reach. All the while, he never failed to hold his head up high as if to parade his superiority at this infuriating game of fetch.

I tried to run through the back door to grab the treats, a sure fire way to ensure compliance to conveniently forgotten commands. But of course, the back door was locked, because I had entered the yard through the side gate and not the back door. I banged on the door for May Lee to let me in. By the time she got there and fumbled with the lock a few times, Stax was circling close, and I was still fruitlessly calling for him to “drop it!!!”. I attempted to snag him, but he alluded me, tossing his head wildly as if to rub in my complete and total incompetence. May Lee opened the door at this point, and I turned to climb the steps. As I did, I heard the thump of the oil carton hitting the ground and turned just in time to see the carton burst open, it’s ghost-like contents spilling onto the grass. Somehow I made it to the carton before the dog did. Perhaps he had his first taste of motor oil and was no longer intrigued with this particular game of keep-away, and this significant drop in labrador motivation allowed me the time to move in. Whatever the case may have been, he earned himself some time in the crate while I mowed the lawn. Even so, I think the scoreboard would reflect that he won that round.

It’s hard to say who could benefit the most from calling in an animal trainer: the crazy cat, the impulsive labrador, or the owner full of good intentions who can easily match the blessed animal’s insanity and impulsivity on any given day of the week. I think for now we’ll just say that “it is what it is” and enjoy the comedy, much like one enjoys the I Love Lucy show… if Lucy happened to be a labrador and Ricky were a cat. As for me, just call me Ethel.

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