Sophia Loren and Heidi Suzanne
© 01/24/16 by Sue Swinger-Ellbogen
All characters in this story are fictitious, and any resemblance to any real animals or persons, living or dead, is coincidental
Sophia Loren and I live in Marlow, Oklahoma with a couple of horse traders. They are not your typical horse traders by any means. They are retired; therefore, older people. I don’t like to call out anyone’s age so I am putting this gently. They work all the time even though they are retired. SHE is always up to something and HE has to go along with it. I think HE takes those trucking jobs just to get out of the work SHE wants him to do. They used to have greenhouses, vegetable gardens, ponds, strawberry patches and blackberry bushes as well as horses. It was a lot of work watering and taking care of all that produce and fruit as well as the horses.
All that work really does affect Sophia and me. You would not think it would, but we have to monitor everything that happens on the ranch so that means a lot of running back and forth. Sophia is scared of the chainsaw so she disappears when Mom starts cutting trees. Sophia hides when SHE brings the gun out too. Sophia can’t stand the pop, pop, pop sound it makes when SHE is killing varmints around the place.
Personally, I wish I had a gun. I would get a shoulder holster and be packing heat all time. Then when HE fails to get my dinner out on time, I would pull that gun out and pop HIM right in HIS big, ugly toe. If a dog wandered into our yard, I would point that gun right in his face and scare him so badly he would probably pee on the spot. I won’t shoot a cat, though. One time a little girl came to our front door looking for her grey kitty. SHE said, “There is no grey kitty here”. I think you can put two and two together to know why there was no grey kitty around our place. There would be no murders or robberies or attacks if dogs started carrying guns. Although, if a big dog carried a bigger gun than me….. Oh, well, I won’t worry about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow. It is our job and fundamental right to keep other dogs out of the yard. We take that very seriously, especially me. I don’t even let dogs walk close to the fence; with my weapon I could keep them all the way on the other side of the road.
Another thing you should know is that it is really hot in Oklahoma. I don’t know why we have to live in such a hot state. Sophia and I would like it if we lived in Colorado where it is cooler most of the year. We have heard Mom and Dad talk about it, so that’s how we know it is a pleasant climate. We know we will never move to Michigan or Chicago because we don’t like going anywhere north. We might run into cooler weather.
Oh, did I mention that we have a cat living with us? Ms. Kitty is her name—not Miss Kitty or Kitty, but Ms. Kitty—the title that does not tell you anything. We don’t know if Ms. Kitty is married or single. Mom is a feminist at heart and SHE says titles can be demeaning. Anyway, if you have never had a cat in the house, you are to be congratulated. Cats are sneaky, sly and mean. They look so angelic, but they are anything but angelic. Ms. Kitty causes Sophia and I to get into trouble all the time. Can you explain to me why SHE allows a cat in the house, but won’t let one on the property? Sophia and I have discussed it and we think SHE has selective ethics.
SHE opened a deli one time and we almost never saw HER. We were not allowed to go there due to cockeyed regulations against pets being around food—as if we would have contaminated something with our sniffing. Everyone knows that dogs are the cleanest animals around—I know, I know—you are going to say that you’ve seen the places we lick, but that is beside the point. The myth is that we have clean mouths, no matter what, and I am sticking to that story. Personally, I was glad when that deli closed down. It was entirely too much work. SHE even did baking and cooking when SHE came home. SHE was up all hours; it was difficult for us to get any rest when SHE was bustling around, banging pots, running a mixer, slinging silverware and slamming the oven door.
One time, my Aunt Sue—whom Sophia and I have long wanted to meet—was going to stop over on a road trip with her grandkids and SHE was too busy because it was opening day at the deli. Sophia and I were so disappointed because we have heard so many wonderful things about HER sister, Sue.
I guess that brings me to another point. Aunt Sue was taking her grandchildren on a long road trip that year. I am sure that she would have taken her dogs, if she had any, which she did not at that time. See—this is what I mean—Mom and Dad work too hard! They are retired and should be taking long trips with Sophia and me. Who knows how much time any of us have left—especially them; they are hobbling around and complaining about knees and hips while we are just waiting to travel and see the world.
Well, something happened after SHE closed the deli and they got rid of the horses. Did I tell you about the horses? Well, Mom and Dad have raised all kinds of horses from quarter horses to Percheron and Friesian draft horses. Draft horses are great big, giant horses with huge, hairy paws and super long tails. We had to be careful even of the babies making sure they did not accidentally step on us. The babies are giants too and much friskier—they could turn on a dime and not even see us underfoot. I tell you those horses liked to worry me to death.
Another thing is that HE and SHE spent entirely too much time with those horses. There was always a mare having a baby, getting ready to have a baby or trying to have a baby. It was never ending—running back and forth to the barn to check on them or feed them or water them or just stand and look at them. They would stand and look at those horses for hours. It nearly wore me out every day.
I don’t want you to worry about Sophia and me—we hatched a plan and it worked—those dratted horses are all gone now. We watched Tina on Facebook and set up our own account and hooked up with Aunt. Aunt Sue suggested that if we got rid of those stallions, there would be no more babies. Why didn’t we think of that? Of course, easier said than done, but I persevered and connected with more people on Facebook and soon found someone to buy Asher, the Friesian stallion—Mom’s favorite. One down and one more to go—slowly we got rid of all those horses. I can’t take the credit for all of it, it seems like Mom and Dad were getting tired of horse-trading themselves and ready to move on anyway—I just gave them a little nudge.
All of a sudden we are traveling more. I can’t explain what is going on, but we are hopping in that RV and taking off at the drop of a hat. Kylie and Cason have gone on trips, too. We love those kids. One time we went to a place where there were mountains and we had to stay in the RV and were only allowed out on a leash (which we hate). Apparently, around those areas there are animals that are bigger than Sophia and I and SHE is worried we could get attacked. SHE never worries about us running off because Sophia is too chicken to go far. In my opinion, I am the brave one and would like to venture out, but even though I am brave, I do not want to go by myself. By the way, having my own gun would solve that little issue.
One time we went to Thompson Falls, Montana and hiked for hours. There were so many good smells in that place. I cannot describe how exhilarating it was to smell those wild scents that you don’t get at home. Mom and Dad just love hanging out in “Big Sky” country. I am not sure why they call it “Big Sky” because the sky always looks big to us, but, people are weird--you know that! They worry too much, work too much and come up with all kinds of harebrained notions—like opening new businesses or growing acres of vegetables and fruits and flowers. I get tired just remembering all that work.
Our favorite place in the world—or at least the part of the world we have been to is Guadalupe River Campgrounds near Kerrville, TX. It is called “Texas Hill Country”. I suppose that most of Texas is flat but the eastern part is hilly. Texas is south of Oklahoma and is not any cooler than where we live except in this so-called “Hill Country”. There are streams with really nice trees and good shade.
Another awesome place we go to is Ingram Lake and Medina River. That is close to San Antonio, a really old and famous city in Texas. Along the river are some of the biggest trees that Sophia and I have ever seen. There are lots of good smells too and things to chase. I wish I would see a bear or a mountain lion—I know I could outrun them because I am very fast. Sophia and I think we would like to go hunting, but we can’t get away from those darn leashes. I am pretty sure I could catch something, but it is doubtful that Sophia has the fortitude or patience to stalk a fox and take it down. I know I could—especially with a gun. Bring those big boys on!!
We finally met our Aunt Sue and what a pleasure that was. She is everything we always dreamed about. She is older than our Mom, but like Mom, her hair did not turn grey like some people their age—for example, Dad. Her hair is red and curly; I am so envious. I wonder if they have hair dye for dogs. As often happens, bad news brought Mom and Aunt Sue together—their brother is ill and they came to see him, probably for one last time. We didn’t get to see Uncle Sonnie because we had to stay in the RV all day and night. That part was not so fun, but we understand that he does not need all the excitement of having us around.
Mom said that something good always comes out of bad—that reconnecting with Aunt Sue was the best thing that came out of this sad situation. They have had so much fun texting and talking about everything under the sun. Sophia and I hear Mom and Dad laughing and talking about some story that Aunt Sue sends periodically. They don’t know what she is going to come up with next, but they are having fun. I think they will try to get together more often now that they are all retired—well Dad is still working some and Aunt Sue’s husband, Rich, may never quit working. See what I mean—people are just plain crazy.
When I write creative nonfiction I take the facts that I know and then project myself into the mind of the main character and use my imagination to visualize details around the facts. Only the folks who know the facts can separate fact from fiction. It is a lot of fun. Enjoy!
A Dog’s Tale
Dedicated to Lee Anne who loved Bogey with all her heart.
I was born in Jackson, Tennessee along with three sisters and one brother. I have learned that I am a Feist. The name stems from the fact that we are small frisky dogs renowned for catching and killing small prey like squirrels and rats. That makes me very special. A young couple adopted me about six weeks later. At first I missed my brothers and sisters; romping and tumbling and playing all day. My new mom and dad worked hard to help me adjust to a life away from my mom and siblings. They played with me and cuddled me so much I soon forgot about everything else.
My folks named me Bogey; I was pretty sure it was after the famous actor, Humphrey Bogart but I learned later that I was named after my Jewish grandpa who acts nervous and jerky just like me. I didn’t mind being Jewish, I loved the Hanukkah gifts as well as the Christmas treats. And my grandpa is really cool.
One time my dad and mom stopped at a gas station and accidentally left me there. I saw them getting in the car and I raced back across the empty lot so I could get in the car too but my short legs could not get me there fast enough. The door slammed shut and mom and dad drove away. I ran as hard as I could to catch up with them but got distracted by a rabbit that zipped across the road in front of me. I chased that rabbit until I could not see him any longer. I sniffed the ground thoroughly before giving up and heading back to the road. I got sidetracked again and was investigating a mouse hole when my folks pulled up on the side of the road and starting calling out my name. My mom was furious at me for running away and with my dad because he was supposed to be looking after me. They both started hugging and kissing me. They even let me lick them right in the face. We were all happy to be back together again.
Dogs and Chocolate
Dogs are not supposed to eat chocolate but nobody told me that and I developed a taste for it. Mom’s good friends, Ellen and Jay, almost always have some good things to poach out of their trashcan when no one is looking. Sometimes I get careless and make too much noise and they call out “stop that, right now, Bogey”! I am an obedient little dog and I always mind. I was very careful about licking the chocolate off Ellen’s chocolate covered strawberries and did not leave a single tooth mark in the berry. Ellen is very proud of me because I hear her telling that story all the time. I would not suggest that other dogs eat chocolate because I have heard that it can make them very sick. I guess I have a very strong constitution so I can handle chocolate.
Aunt Ann is one of my most favorite people in the world. When Mom has to travel for a long period of time, she lets me stay with Aunt Ann. I like it because Aunt Ann talks to me like I am a grown up. She does not treat me like an ordinary dog. She always has good food smells in the house, candles burning, music playing, and plenty of treats for me.
There is always chocolate in the house somewhere and I can always find it. Because I am such a tidy little dog, most of the time Aunt Ann does not even know I’ve been into her chocolate stash. However, one time Aunt Ann left a box of chocolate éclairs tied up nicely with a string bow in the garage right outside the kitchen door. She was going to have some ladies over for a church meeting and the éclairs were supposed to be dessert for them.
I could smell the chocolate right through that box and could not resist. I untied that box and licked the chocolate off all the éclairs. Those were the best éclairs I have ever licked.
Unfortunately, I could not tie the bow back or Aunt Ann probably would never have known about this chocolate escapade. She scolded me really good but I did not worry about her being mad at me for long. I always act contrite and hang my head. When I think people are done venting, I look up with my big, innocent, chocolate brown eyes and tilt my head ever so slightly. Most people melt like a wet noodle and forgive me. It never fails with Aunt Ann.
Everyone falls for that trick except my Mom. She is not moved by innocence or pitiful looks. So I usually just hide and don’t confront her until I hear her stop scolding and muttering and stomping around. She doesn’t stay mad at me for long. I am, after all, her firstborn and favorite son.
Dogs and Fireworks
I don’t like fireworks. One time when I was still a puppy I stayed with Jay and Ellen over 4th of July when Mom and Dad were traveling. Jay and Ellen had a bunch of fireworks in their backyard and I ran away because the noise scared me. Everywhere I ran there were more fireworks all over the neighborhood. I finally found a place under a porch behind a big fir tree that muffled the sounds. I hid under that porch until I fell asleep. The next morning I was very happy that the fireworks were gone but I was confused about where Jay and Ellen were.
All the streets and houses looked alike to me. I kept looking for Stanley who was Jay and Ellen’s cocker spaniel, but couldn’t find him. I was very hungry and thirsty and had to find food in the trashcans behind the houses. One night I got sick and threw up. I didn’t go back to that trashcan again. I met some other dogs that were roaming the streets like me and I would stop to play with them for a while but then I went back to looking for my friends. I knew if my Mom came back and I was not at Jay and Ellen’s she would be very unhappy. I don’t like it when my Mom is unhappy.
On the third day that I was lost, Jay decided to use a trick that is commonly used by hunters. When one of the hunting dogs gets lost, the hunter takes out a shirt or pair of pants they wore on the hunting trip and places them on a chair outside. Often the hunting dog will follow the scent and find his way home. Jay used his UPS uniform and laid it across a chair on his front porch hoping this would work. Even though I have not done any hunting, I am technically a hunting dog.
The porch was a big white veranda wrap-around type of porch that is common in Tennessee. That was what was making it hard for me to find my way home—many porches looked exactly the same. I was cruising up a street and spotted one that looked like a hundred others I had investigated the last three days. Suddenly I caught a sniff of something familiar. I raced across the street, nearly getting run over by a guy in a red mustang who honked his horn and swore at me. I bounded up the steps to the porch where there was a chair with a brown uniform lying across it. I sniffed that uniform and knew for sure that Jay and Ellen were not lost anymore; this was their house and that was Jay’s uniform. I settled on the porch lying on the leg of the uniform and sighed with contentment thinking what a smart little dog I am and how glad Mom would be that I found Jay and Ellen.
We moved to Oklahoma one summer and I loved running all over that red dirt chasing chickens, rabbits, cats, and squirrels. We lived in a really neat trailer house that was just the right size for the three of us. We had a neighbor named Stan that loved dogs and invited me over all the time. Stan liked to drink beer and he would sit outside with his can of beer and throw sticks for his dog Bo and me to fetch. Bo was a coon dog and moved slowly. I could always get the stick first and would run circles around Bo before taking the stick back to Stan. We would spend hours playing like that. My Grandpa Swinger and my Aunt Ann lived in Oklahoma too.
I am pretty sure I am a big dog because I have never seen a dog that looked bigger than me except Bo. Bo did not count because he was so old and slow. Even though my Mom tells me that I am a little dog and should not be getting mixed up with big dogs, I cannot help it. It must be part of my heritage because I cannot resist chasing after big dogs. I know for a fact that I am brave because even after a dog beat me up pretty bad one time, I still chased dogs every chance I got.
Mom and I moved into town one summer and left Dad at the trailer house. I missed my Dad but my Mom and I are a team and we can’t be separated. Mom always makes sure that I have food and water and some very special treats. One time my grandma from Chicago came and stayed with us when my Mom had surgery. I was worried about my Mom and paced the floor until they came home from the hospital. I felt very happy when they came back home and everything was okay.
We had a loft bedroom upstairs. One night my grandma thought I had gone upstairs to the bedroom but my Mom is so smart that she knew I was on top of the bed because she heard the bed creak. She called out to me to get off that bed and I jumped off fast. You can’t get anything over on my Mom.
St. Louis, Missouri
It wasn’t long before Mom and I moved to St. Louis, Missouri because she had a new job. We had a really cool house in Central West End with a deck outside where we could sit and barbeque. I could tell that my Mom was very happy. I am happy when my Mom is happy. We had a lot of friends and we would walk to Forest Park to play on weekends.
We had so many visitors because people liked coming to St. Louis. St. Louis is an old and famous city on the Mississippi River. My Mom and I learned about the history of the city and about the big arch that is called ‘Gateway to the West’.
We got to go down to Dexter to visit my Mom’s sister Heidi. We also would visit Mom and Heidi’s grandmother. Her name is Gram and she is ninety-seven years old. That is really old but we love visiting with her. She has the best smells and treats at her house.
One year a big event happened to our family. We got a new baby girl. Her name is Alison and she looked okay for a little person. As she got older I learned to hide from her because she is a squealer and scared me even though Heidi taught Alison to be gentle with me. As Alison got older we became very good friends.
Now there is a new baby and he looks just like Alison except with red hair and he squeals just as much as Alison did when she was little. I am not as scared as I used to be and Dodge just pets me all the time. I love going to their house. They have a big back yard with a pond and lots of wonderful smells.
Sometimes I run into the neighbor’s yard or the woods behind the pond, but then my Mom comes out and whistles and yells my name like crazy until I run back. Mom is such a worrier. She worries that I will have a fight with another dog or a coyote will get me or I will get lost. I think I have already proven that I can handle any situation but I don’t want to worry my Mom so I always go back when I hear her calling.
My Mom likes to move around because the next thing I know I am living in Tampa, Florida. She stills works for the same company but they wanted her to move to Florida so we said “okay” and off we went. We had another nice home overlooking the mangroves along Tampa Bay with St. Petersburg in the distance. Mom took me on lots of good walks. We went to the beach almost every weekend and I got to play in the water. One time I saw a dolphin swim close to the shore. I kept barking at it until my Mom came running and saw what I was seeing. She was really excited that I had spotted a dolphin.
We were careful on our walks because we had heard about alligators. My Mom did not want us to have to deal with anything like that on our walks. We stayed away from the mangroves because it just looked like a good place for alligators to live. We did see a lot of geckos but they did not scare us—at least not after we found one living in Mom’s big plant. Someone told us it was good luck, so we left it alone.
We got a few visitors in Tampa but not as many as we did in St. Louis. My grandma and grandpa from Chicago came to visit one time. When they were there we watched a storm come across the mangroves from St. Petersburg. They liked watching the storm. I liked watching them.
My grandma from Chicago would come more often. She was always showing up wherever we lived. She and my Mom were very close and talked almost every day. I liked my grandma but I love my grandpa. I guess I am a guy’s kind of dog! Except for my Mom; she and I are best friends always.
I really liked living in Tampa. Mom met a nice man and they dated for a while. If my Mom liked him, then I liked him. He had a house he had been fixing up for years and it still needed a lot of work. He had a cat that he gave baths to; my Mom and I thought that was really weird because we both know that cats don’t like baths.
Unfortunately, this guy did not make the grade. I did not think it would last, but I did not discourage my Mom. I just want her to be happy.
My Mom got laid off from her job and then rehired by the same company but the job was in Dallas. So we packed up and moved to Dallas where we have lived for a long time.
We moved into a nice apartment complex and my grandma from Chicago came down to help us. She does that everywhere we move. After living in our first place in Dallas I started having some seizures and Mom was beside herself with worry. We don’t know what caused them and I had them off and on for quite a long time so we moved out of that apartment and bought ourselves a townhouse. Now I am all better and still like to chase cats and big dogs.
My Mom and I live in a wonderful place in Dallas with a courtyard in the middle where I can go in and out when Mom leaves the door open. It is a very restful place. I don’t chase cats and dogs as much as I used to but I still walk my Mom every day. She depends on me for getting her exercise.
My Mom is still on the go a lot. She has to travel for her work and I get to stay with some of her very good friends. Sometimes I get to go back to Oklahoma and stay with Grandpa Swinger or Aunt Ann. They really like me there and I make them very happy.
Sometimes I just want to sleep all day and not go out for a walk, but Mom needs me to walk with her. My Mom and I have been together for a very long time and I worry about her. She needs me so much that I try hard to please her and go for long walks and smile with my tail. I don’t like to think about her being alone so I make myself play with her so she will keep smiling.
My hearing is almost gone and I know that I do not protect my Mom like I used to when I would jump up barking whenever I heard a noise. But she does not mind; she still loves me and takes extra care of me. We take shorter walks than we used to. Pretty soon I am not able to go outside by myself and my Mom is really worried.
I dream about a place where I can chase cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and big dogs all day long. I want to run in open fields and stop and sniff out the mouse holes and then run again as hard and fast as I can.
One day my Mom told me that it was okay to leave and I did.
By Sue Swinger-Ellbogen
Dedicated to John Marinelli and Stuart Hartzell
I was born in Chicago, Illinois along with three sisters and one brother. The names we were given were very silly: Missy, Sissy, Krissy, Booger, and Boo. My name was Booger. I barely remember my mom and siblings because I was adopted at six weeks old. I remember missing them at first because they were fun to play with and my mom was very nice to me and let me snuggle close when I got cold or hungry. I barely think about them anymore but I am always on the lookout when I go for a walk just in case they move to my neighborhood.
I have learned that I am a beagle and that beagles come from the Hound Group and are very intelligent. I already know this because I am very smart and I have a great sense of smell. I really believe I could be a very good hunting dog; however, I live in a city and there is not a lot of hunting to do in our neighborhood.
Beagles are very popular because of our even temper and good health and small size. I am very tolerant of people especially little children. I am the most popular dog in our building and in the entire neighborhood. I even won a contest one time because I am so cute.
My first family had a bunch of kids and I loved romping and playing with them. They carried me all over the house when I was little and I slept in bed with them. In the morning we would all smell like pee but we liked that smell so it was not a problem for us. The kids got in trouble but no one paid any attention to me.
The kids would take me to the park and we would run and play and chase each other for hours. The smells in the park are awesome; pee and poop are my favorite smells but I do appreciate the aroma from the barbeque grills and ice cream vendor. I love to sniff the flowers and then pee on them. Most of all I love running wildly chasing butterflies and birds. When I hear the kids calling “Booger, Booger, Booooger!” I race back to them so we can walk home together.
One day when we started to go to the park the kids fashioned a wire hanger around my neck. I tugged and pulled because it was so restrictive but I stopped resisting because it hurt my neck. I figured out how to lurch along with the hanger around my neck without hurting myself but I was really mad at those kids.
As soon as we arrived at the park I leaned forward to race off in a gallop but was flung back to the ground by the wire. That hurt and I sat on the ground trying to kick the hanger loose with my back feet. It was hopeless and I sat still feeling very sorry for myself.
Just then a man and woman came along and asked the kids why there was a hanger around my neck. I looked back at the kids expectantly because I was wondering the same thing. When the kids explained that they could not keep me any longer I felt tears come into my eyes. I had no idea that I was not wanted.
The man reached down and picked me up while the woman took the hanger off my neck. They told the kids that they would take me and find a good home for me. I watched over the man’s shoulder as the kids cried while we walked away. I felt really sad for those kids but I was excited to see my new home.
I was plopped into a car and I jumped up on the seat so I could see out the window. When the man braked the car I flew into the floor but was not hurt. I climbed back up and gazed out the window as streets flew by. Pretty soon I started burping. I burped loud enough that the woman turned around just as I threw up all over her and the car. I am pretty sure that couple regretted rescuing me but they cleaned me up and hustled me into their house where they plunked me into their bathtub and scrubbed me vigorously. They dried me off with a towel—extra hard I might add but finally I was dry and clean. They spread a quilt on the floor and I curled up on it and promptly went to sleep. I was exhausted.
Shortly I felt myself being picked up again. I hung over the man’s shoulder as we got into the car to go on another ride. This time the couple was prepared and had the backseat covered with an old sheet. The ride was not so long or fast and we arrived at our destination without further incidence.
Two men named John and Stuart became my next family. We looked each other over and I decided they suited me just fine. It did not appear that there were any small children around and only a couple of cats. I knew I could handle those cats. John gave me some food to eat. The food tasted odd but I was so hungry that I devoured it and belched loudly. They seem to think this meant I liked the food but it was really because I ate so fast. The food I had been eating was table scraps and that is what I really like best. Stuart gave me a treat for belching and that was very tasty. I begged for more but he would not give it to me because the other couple had told him about my throwing up all over their car. That was not really fair so I glared at them until the couple left.
My time with John and Stuart is very pleasurable. We have a nice patio and some good neighbors. One day when we were sitting on the patio the door opened and a beautiful woman named Cathy walked in. I was so enamored with her that I humped her leg and peed on her foot to show her my affection. She did not seem to appreciate those gestures. Cathy had a lot of boyfriends but I was her biggest admirer and the most faithful. I tried to show her affection every chance I got. By the way I hump the other neighbors too and get more respect from Rich than anyone else.
Time has flown and I have celebrated my fifteenth birthday and am not getting around as well as I used to. I sleep a lot and dream of days bygone. I never did see Missy, Krissy, or Boo again, but I think I saw Sissy one time. We tried to cross the street to see each other but Stuart held me back. I know he was trying to be protective but I regret that Sissy and I did not get to visit.
Sometimes I just want to sleep all day and not go out for a walk, but John and Stuart need me to walk with them. We have been together for a very long time and I worry about them. John and Stuart need me so much that I try hard to please them and go for long walks and smile with my tail. I don’t like to think about them being alone so I am happy when they adopt a new dog named Woody.
My hearing is almost gone and I know that I do not protect John and Stuart like I used to when I would jump up barking whenever I heard a noise. But they do not mind; they still love me and take extra care of me. We take shorter walks than we used to. Pretty soon I am not able to go outside easily and John is really worried.
I dream about a place where I can hunt and roam around freely. I want to see my sisters and brothers again and play all day with them. One day John and Stuart told me that it was okay to leave and I did.
By Sue Swinger-Ellbogen
July 26, 2013
The Big Mouth Cat
Dedicated to Richard Ellbogen who owned the original big mouth cat, Cody
Some creatures are supposed to have big mouths. A lion needs a big mouth to roar in the jungle. A bullfrog needs a big mouth to swallow flies. Fish need big mouths to catch food as they swim through streams. Cats do not need a big mouth. Cats need to daintily slurp their milk and purr quietly.
My orange tabby does not know how to be a proper cat. She opens her big mouth and yowls loudly. Every morning before my alarm goes off my cat stands at the end of my bed and yowls over and over. I am jarred out of the sweet sleep that comes early in the morning while I am snuggled beneath warm blankets. I put a pillow over my head hoping she will go away.
Cats are persistent and my big mouth cat continues to yowl at me taking two steps closer to make sure I hear her. I know it is useless to resist. I throw a pillow at her but she is swift. I grab the water bottle beside my bed and squirt water at her but she is smart. She leaps off the bed and stands just outside the arc of the water spray.
Just as I start to talk on the telephone my cat slips quietly into the room and opens her big mouth and yowls. It is futile to wave your hand or snap your fingers at her. She is oblivious to all attempts to deter her.
When I have guests over, my big mouth cat is on her best behavior. She butts her head against people, swishes between their legs, and mews softly. She is adorable.
One night last June, my big mouth tabby started her routine in the middle of the night instead of early morning. I had modest success ignoring her for a while. It is harder to ignore her in the summer because I do not have thick blankets to put over my head. I wriggled deeper into my pillow and pulled the sheet over my head. Just as I was about to doze off, I felt the sheet slide gently off my face.
I kept my eyes closed until I felt something wet on my nose. I opened one eye and peeked at the intruder. I was startled to be eyeball to eyeball, nose to nose, with this orange puff of fur. She opened her big mouth and from deep within her came a huge yowl. The sound traveled through my nose into my brain and out my ears. She did not stop.
I jumped out of bed prepared to chase her from the room but I heard a persistent ringing sound from the next room. I opened my door to investigate. The sound was coming from my neighbor’s smoke detector. I pounded on the neighbor’s door but no one answered. I smelled smoke.
The fire department was called and I helped the building supervisor alert people and get them out of the building. Before the firemen could arrive, smoke was billowing out of my neighbor’s window. I was holding my big mouth cat close and telling everyone how she woke me up. For once I was very proud of her. When the firemen came to tell us that the fire had been contained, a cheer went up.
As the firemen took turns holding my big mouth cat the neighbors told them the story of how the adorable orange tabby had saved the building. The cat nudged them with her head and mewed softly as each of them patted and stroked her and told her what a hero she was.
When one of the firemen put her on his bright yellow shoulder she looked straight at me with a smug expression. I knew I would never hear the end of this and I am positive she closed one eye and winked at me.
By Sue Swinger-Ellbogen
Winifred Louise Mills
For Carol Mills, Winnie’s Best Friend
My name is Winifred Louise Mills and I was born in Bakersfield, CA to a couple who named me “Cupcake”. My parents were modern-day hippies named Sunny and Herb. Their kids were named Montana Moon, River Silas, and Ezra Forest. We had a wonderful time when they were babies and I was just a puppy. We slept together and ate together—well, they would slip me food and I would eat right out of their plate if they handed it down to me. Sunny was a relaxed mom and didn’t mind if I ate table scraps and ran wild in the house. There were so many wonderful smells at that house because Sunny didn’t believe in doing anything on schedule. The kids nursed and wet the bed for years. I can still remember those delicious smells.
We used to take a lot of camping trips. Sunny and Herb would load up the kids and me along with camping equipment and off we would go to a forest somewhere to run around the campgrounds and wade in streams. At night we would snuggle together on a quilt in front of a campfire while Sunny and Herb cooked dinner. By the time dinner was over and all of those kids dressed in pajamas I was exhausted. The next morning Sunny and Herb made us go on walks through the woods and learn about bird songs and wildflowers. Sometimes I would run off the trail when I smelled a rabbit or squirrel but Herb would whistle and I would come running back.
One day Sunny and Herb packed us all up and we took a very long drive. We left the warm weather of California and headed into the desert then on to the cooler mountains. We were making a trip to see Sunny’s parents in Cleveland, OH. I had never heard of Cleveland but I was always ready for an adventure. Once Ezra and River and I all started burping and then threw up as we were going over the mountains and around some sharp curves. After that Sunny barely gave us anything to eat. I was glad when we got to the plains of Kansas and we could eat normally again.
When we got to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Cleveland everyone went into separate bedrooms except me. Montana was sleeping with her Grandma and Ezra and River sleeping with their Grandpa. I followed Sunny and Herb but Herb closed the door in my face. I had to find a rug on the floor in the kitchen to sleep on. In all the excitement Sunny had even forgotten to give me dinner. I could not get anyone’s attention and soon the house was dark and quiet.
The next morning Grandma made sure I was fed and let me outside in the backyard but then she forgot to let me back in. The yard was pleasant enough and I did not mind roaming around for a while by myself. When the sun filled the backyard and I could not find any relief I discovered a small opening under the fence. I wriggled under the fence and found myself on a sidewalk. I trotted down the sidewalk for a long time looking for Grandma’s house but never found it.
I curled up under a bush and slept that night having learned not to whimper or bark because some big dogs had chased me and would have caught me if I hadn’t been small enough to scoot under a fence. I had found some scraps in an alley that made me sick so my stomach was still sore and empty. In the morning I peeked out cautiously before setting out to find my family. Just when I stuck my head out of the bushes some big hands reached down and picked me up. Someone had captured me and it was not Sunny or Herb nor the Grandparents. I did not know what to do when they carried me into a building and offered me some water. I tried to hide and plan my escape but the smell of food overcame me and I joined the other dogs for dinner. Soon we were all playing and chasing each other around the room. I missed the kids but I was having fun and did not relish going back to live on the streets.
One day I was taken into a room without any other dogs where I met a woman who cooed and stroked me fondly. She picked me up and said, “This is the one.” Before I knew it I was going home with that nice woman. She talked to me all the way on the drive home. She said I needed a special name; I liked that. She called me ‘Cutie’ and ‘Baby’ for a day or two but then named me Winifred Louise. I love the thoughtfulness of my naming process and feel like I finally have a dignified name. My mom’s name is Carol but I just call her Mom and she calls me Winnie.
We have a big yard where I can play and Mom sits outside with me in the evening when it is nice weather. In the winter we get a lot of snow and we stay inside where it is very cozy. There is a big window that I can see out and I make sure Mom knows when someone is walking by. My Mom does not mind my jumping around and pressing my nose to the window. I think about Sunny and Herb and the kids sometimes but I would not trade places for anything in the world. I am where I belong and my Mom and I take care of each other. I am a lucky dog.
February 18, 2015