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We'd always had a dog but I wasn't in the market for another one just yet. It was just so painful to take the last to be put to sleep. Heidi had been a Shepard mix stray living in the woods when we got her - (the wife has a thing against homelessness). Heidi was with us probably close to 15 years, even though she was fully grown when we got her. Her spirit had been broken and it was months before we could even pick up a newspaper and she wouldn't go cower under a table or something. I just wasn't ready for a new dog. Long about then Gretchen (some sort of Shepard mix)'s owner had died, had no one to take care of her and the wife brought him home for me rather than seeing her get taken to the pound. Fair enough.

Okay I say, we can keep the new dog but it's CLEARLY understood Gretchen is the wife's dog (that way whenever I clean the yard I'm doing the wife a favor cleaning up after her dog. Or feeding her dog. Or washing her dog. Or walking her dog or ....

Get it? Ya do learn a few tricks about guilt trips after having them pulled on you over 2 or 3 hundred years of marriage. "Don't worry dear, I can carry out all this heavy garbage myself. Even though I'm worn down from all this housekeeping, AND working a job teaching all day AND taking care of you AND 3 kids AND 3 cats AND a dog all by myself, AND AND AND ........" Really floored her when I wised up enough to pull the same trick on her. Probably thought I'd never catch on. Probably wouldn't have either if I hadn't been laid up for a few years and had some time to think and put it all together.

How does this relate to cats? Well we've always had a cat or three (usually the daughter bringing them home "Honest Daddy, I'll clean up after him and feed him." (Wanna guess who did the cleaning and feeding and brushing and going to the vets and paid the vets and ...?). "Honest Pop, I'll take care of them. This time I mean it." (ya wanna venture another guess?) "Honest Dad, when I get my own place they will be coming with me and I'll pay all the vet bills." (She's been out 8 or 10 years and we still got the damn things. She did pay most/some of the vet bills though while she was still at home).

By the time Gretchen passed on, we were down to two - Jack, a kind of laid back, take it easy kind of cat. Always laying around. Not especially active. Just fat. And Ernie, the neighborhood character, a hunter and bringer home of various indigenous wildlife, ... frogs, mice, birds, ... usually alive which of course thrilled the wife. Disappearing for days, even a week at a time. Would sometimes follow me around like a puppy during short walks

Neither cat got along particularly well with the dog even though the dog was there first, uneasy truces and all that. And after Gretchen went west they figured they were in Fat City. Well then I brought home a Lab/Rotty mix from the pound (another whole story in itself). For my wife, of course.

The cats were out when I brought Samantha (as she later came to be known when the wife named her dog. ) home. When the cats finally came home and saw the dog, they walked in the house, took one look around, gave each other a disgusted look, Meow "Goddammit! We just rid of one pain in the ass and here they bring another in. The hell with it, let's beat feet. That'll fixem." Meow. and immediately went back out.

Jack came back three days later, skulking into the back door and decided to stay. Ain't accustomed to too much fresh air, being a natural homebody and all. Within a day it was too much work for him to even bother to hide from the dog.

Ernie showed up the next day, came in the house, took one spin around the living room (Samantha was upstairs), Meow. "Well if that daughter of a bitch is going to be here, I ain't! This ain't the only house I'm welcome at." Meow. And stomped back out and didn't come home for a solid year and a half.

We'd catch glimpses of him up the street under the boardwalk. In the summer he stayed in a big house on the beach with some summer people. We'd get reports from time to time of his whereabouts and who he was staying with, even see him across the street. He even got arrested once (some young girls were feeding him for a few days on the boardwalk, then scooped him up and took him to the police station. The fuzz called us but he had escaped from their pen. (Only jail breakout ever in the history of the town. A bit of a scandal actually.)

He finally came home a coupla falls ago and has been here ever since. Probably just didn't want to face another winter on the bum. Came in the cat door one day and started eating. Even plays with the dog now a little.. Still disappears for a day or week or so once in awhile but not too often or for too long. Gettin' old I guess.

End of Ernie

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