Friends, I fear that Stax may have read my previous blog about him and found encouragement to reignite his penchant for wild living. I must admit, that I did not anticipate this turn of events on the morning that I published Just Call Me Ethel, though I did pause as I put on a white t-shirt that morning and think “wearing white is an invitation to trouble”. You see, my work takes place in a very outdoorsy environment that includes numerous canines. Then, I personally have a pup, a cat, and a child. The white that I learned to love to wear during my residence in Florida is now an invitation to disaster in my life in Arkansas. Little did I know that I my white-shirt intuition was actually a prophecy of impending doom. I will take heed from now on.
I had been at work somewhere around an hour and a half, when I finally paused to check my phone. I had a text message from a neighbor letting me know that Stax had gotten out. Fortunately, my courageous neighbors were able to corral the eager escapee and return him to the back yard. I thanked the neighbor, hoped for the best, and took my phone off silent in the event that this was not a one-time deal. You see, Stax had gotten out before. I suspected that he may have figured out how to unlatch the gate, but I also had a small suspicion in the back of my mind that possibly someone let him out. I did not dream up this possible scenario out of my own paranoia, but because of the discovery of a mostly empty can of dog repellant laying beside the fence several months ago. Since then, I have wondered if someone has been messing with my dog.
About an hour later, my phone dings. It is a 2nd neighbor inviting me to wager a guess as to who may be hanging out in her backyard. Of course, it could only be my unruly boy child, and so it was. Fortunately, I was only working 2 miles away that day, so I hopped in my car and headed home to put an end to Stax’s reign of annoying, slobbery foolishness upon the neighborhood. As I drove, I debated my best course of action. Do I go in heavy handed? Do I go with the full harness or just the leash? Treats or no treats? NO TREATS FOR BAD BEHAVIOR! I ultimately decided on the harness, knowing full well that it was likely to result in a very humbling experience as I attempted to put the harness on the yellow beast in the full view of my neighbor, but I was willing to chalk it up to one of those vulnerability moments between friends that Brene Brown talks about so fondly.
Of course, it didn’t go down like that at all. In fact, it was the easiest harness putting-on experience to date. Because, like a child, he knew that he had done wrong and the fact that mama had to come get him was a bad deal. Therefore, he ran to greet me then immediately laid at my feet, as if to beg for mercy. You see, when Stax came to live at my house, we spent the first 4 weeks establishing that I was the mama. Nay, I was THE MAMA. As far as he was concerned, I was the Alpha. And the Omega…though I’m starting to doubt my ability to outlast him. For me, he will sit, shake, lay down, and drop it. These things he will do for me and absolutely no one else. Meaning, my neighbor comes out to talk, and my dog charges right at her with the full intent of greeting her with giant paws and copious amounts of slobber. This made for a neighborly chat that involved a great deal of movement, somewhat like interpretive dance minus all the grace.
So Stax was once again returned home and to the crate this time. After I bathed my arms in the kitchen sink and changed into another white shirt (I’m a slow learner), I went back to work. At lunch, I stopped by my favorite local hardware store for gate reinforcement supplies. When the man at the counter asked if he could help me, I explained my situation. He promptly cut me 2 feet of chain as we exchanged stories of dog antics gone by. After he helped me pick out a weather proof lock, he kindly sent me on my way to secure my gate.
When I arrived home, Stax looked penitent enough and was also limping a little when I let him out of the crate. I tried the tough love bit and lectured him about the natural consequences of wild living, but then I checked his paw and stroked his soft fur. Oh, but then, he implicated himself of his crime. He walked over to the gate, inspected the newly placed chain and lock, and then made a half-hearted attempt to lift the gate latch with his nose. He slowly turned and walked away, resigned to spending his days in his own back yard. Clearly, there were no nameless, shadowy figures wielding cans of dog repellent, only Stax the brilliant learner. I sat there amazed at how this animal is always thinking one step ahead of me and questioned my own intelligence.
I went back inside and sat on the couch to eat and unwind after the morning’s adventures. The cat, sensing that “the other one” was in trouble, took advantage of an opportunity to ingratiate herself upon me by offering an uncharacteristic display of affection by curling up on my chest and purring sweet nothings into my ear. I should have enjoyed the tender moment, but mostly I feared what the repercussions would be when I attempted to move. I’m pleased to inform you that I made it out unscathed.
Emmy Lou has spent most of the week being uncharacteristically sweet to both me and May Lee. She even allowed the neighbor to pet her. I was beginning to get comfortable and settle into this new sense of cat security, believing that maybe we had finally turned a corner and arrived at a place where we can freely pet and enjoy our cat without blood being drawn. Even as she began to resort to her old antics of jumping up on the table like she’s not supposed to do or of jumping into my chair and staring me down, daring me to try to sit back down or move her in any way. Still, I clung to starry-eyed hope that at least she wasn’t biting people. Then, last night as I moved into triangle pose, it happened. Unbeknownst to me, that stealthy feline had found her way onto my yoga mat and had settled right where my foot was trying to land. She got a small section of her fur stepped on, and I got a bite on the ankle bone. She got a startled smack in the head, and I got a prolonged death stare from evil, green cat eyes as she sauntered off clearly planning her revenge.
So, as you can see, things are back to normal around here.