Pat Wahler, Author

Penning stories to savor.

Tag: dogs

Why Am I Already Covering My Ears?

It’s true I’ve gotten older, slightly neurotic, and more than a little cranky, but in my opinion, some Fourth of July festivities have gotten out of control.  Count me in for parties and eating and watching parades, but other things are better observed from afar. Loud explosions and fiery particles landing on trees, grass, and rooftops do not fill me with joy.

Unfortunately, many of my neighbors don’t share this opinion. Fireworks have been exploding for several days now, and if history is any indication, the hoop-la-la will continue (with varying degrees of intensity) well beyond the Fourth. The noise terrorizes pets who run away to flee the scary sounds, burning embers are a fire hazard, and people sometimes lose a few fingers when they forget to run after lighting a fuse.

Another issue is my own dog, Winston, who would rather sneak a pee on the floor than go outside in the middle of World War III. No way, no how is he leaving the house when it sounds like the world is coming to an end.

Do you hear what I hear?

Bogey is less fireworks-challenged than Winston, although he does resent losing the entertainment value provided by watching birds and squirrels in the yard. I’ve often wondered what the woodland creatures must be thinking as they pack their nests and skedaddle from the area huffing, “There go those humans again, ruining the neighborhood. They sure know how to make property values decrease.”

When did Americans enter this love affair with blowing things up?

According to an article in Smithsonian.com, one year after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Philadelphia threw an enormous party.

One of the most elaborate celebrations in 1777, and the first organized celebration of its kind occurred in Philadelphia. This event had all of the elements of typical future celebrations-the discharge of cannon, one round for each state of the union, the ringing of bells, a dinner, the use of music, the drinking of toasts (it would subsequently be traditional to have one toast for each state of the union), “loud huzzas”, a parade, fireworks, the use of the nation’s colors, in this case the dressing up of “armed ships and gallies” in the harbor. 

Although my neighbors aren’t shooting cannons (at least not yet), my house is shaking from firecrackers and cherry bombs. However, reading about the first celebration did give me an idea on how to cope. If I drink a toast to each state of the union – all fifty of them! – most likely I won’t care what’s happening around me or puddling on my floor.

Bang! Sizzle! Kapow!

It’s true that we each must develop our own methods of getting by. From what Winston is showing me, it looks like one of mine will include a bottle of professional strength Resolve and a great big sponge.

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Cats or Dogs?

While crawling around on the floor after a stack of papers fell and scattered helter-skelter all over, Bogey took his place next to my sculpture of Mark Twain. Sphynx-like, he watched as I scrambled around picking up my mess.

The bronze bust of Twain is a work that came from a very talented local artist and friend of mine named Don Wiegand, and it has been sitting beside my desk for years.

He who is above mundane activities, and I'm not talking about Mark Twain.

He who is above mundane activities. (I’m not referring to Mark Twain).

I’ve long been an admirer of Twain, and I think most people enjoy reading his works. He created some of the literary world’s most unforgettable characters such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

What do I like about Mark Twain? For one thing, he’s a born and bred writer from my home state of Missouri. For another, unlike many authors of his era, his talent brought him a great deal of success and fame during his lifetime. That’s much more pleasant than being recognized only after you’re gone. Finally, his words had a distinctive humor, often slyly skewering the people in power who saw themselves as better than the average guy.

With Bogey posing so happily next to the sculpture, I decided to avoid a writing project and search the internet to read a few articles about Mark Twain. I discovered something I didn’t know.

Twain apparently had a lifelong love affair with cats. I’d already heard stories about Ernest Hemingway and his beloved extra-toed kitties, but had no idea Mark Twain also favored felines to the degree that he often had more than a dozen living in his residence at a time.

He respected his cats enough not to give them ordinary names. No “Fluffy” or “Puff” among them. Instead they were given impressive monikers such as Bambino, Sour Mash, Zoraster, Beelzebub, and Blatherkite.

Even when traveling, Twain preferred to keep himself in the company of cats. If he couldn’t bring along one or two kitties of his own, he’d find a nearby farm and rent kittens. I can only imagine the surprise of a nineteenth century farmer upon being asked if he’d rent kittens to Mark Twain for a few days. The farmer must have thought Mr. Twain had extreme phobias over mice.

Twain drew inspiration from cats. Not surprisingly, he wrote about them, too.

Here are a few gems by Mark Twain on the subject.

A pile of Mark Twain kittens.

A furry pile of Mark Twain kittens. (Photo by Elisha M. VanAken, 1887)

“I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.”

“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is a cat has only nine lives.”

“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”

There are some who suggest that the world is divided in two very distinct camps. There are those who love dogs, and those who love cats. If anyone asked me to pick sides, I’d be like Switzerland, with one foot in each.

I have no doubt at all where Mark Twain would pitch his tent.

How about it? On which side do you stand?

Mark Twain and friend.

Mark Twain and friend.

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