Keeping Your Station
Inspired by Ophelia the Cat
© Copyright 2005 by Lynford Turner
My wife and I have been married for forty-eight years. During that time we’ve been blessed by the presence of intelligent felines that have enjoyed life spans up to nineteen years. We deeply appreciate their help in making our marriage a success.
From time to time there have been dogs that joined our family. There have been as many as five dogs living with us for as long as ten years. Everybody knew his or her place; therefore we all lived together with mutual respect. It was on a beautiful morning in mid-spring that the story below took place. “Ophelia” was quite optimistic and thought you’d enjoy the revelation by “Old Dog” as it happened. Because of her inability to type, caused by the extended tufts between her toes, “Ophelia” asked me to write this story. “Havoc the Cat” who is an excellent typist presently feels uninspired to do anything. He places naptime as his highest priority and prefers at minimum twenty hours of sleep per day.
In the morning I often sit in the patio and enjoy the fresh air beneath our shade trees. It’s really a nice place to spend a few moments to relax while talking to our “Old Dog” and our two cats. “Havoc The Cat” and "Ophelia" usually move in close to me when the "Old Dog" and I are discussing something. We exchange stories about current events with some occasional reminiscing. On this particular morning, “Havoc The Cat” was bored with the small talk but just to be certain that he didn’t miss out on anything he remained close by.
"Old Dog" Had been out near the pond trailing a young rabbit all night while "Ophelia" sat on the chicken house roof and watched. "Ophelia" is a very sophisticated pussycat who believes in getting a lot more for your efforts than most dogs. While "Old Dog" was tracking his heart out in pursuit of that rabbit, "Ophelia" simply jumped down from the chicken house roof when the occasion called for it and caught the rabbit. She brought it to the spare bedroom where we feed the cats and placed it on the floor.
I was unaware of her catch so while we all sat there enjoying each other’s company, "Ophelia" had her own secret. "Old Dog" was completely exhausted from the night’s run and was in desperate need of some nutrition. Realizing that "Old Dog" was pretty well done in, I suggested that he needed a bite to eat and that for an extra kick I would put a little bit of bacon grease on his dog pellets.
When I began to talk about feeding "Old Dog" I noticed that "Ophelia" suddenly jumped up and ran around the corner of the house. Shortly she reappeared carrying a half grown young rabbit in her mouth. “Havoc The Cat”, "Old Dog" and I were somewhat startled by her arrival carrying a rabbit that completely covered her head. "Old Dog" looked at me and said: Boy! That gal is a good hunter! We both agreed that she was a very good huntress.
"Ophelia" placed the rabbit down in front of "Old Dog" and then stepped back. "Ophelia" admitted that she had caught the rabbit during “Old Dog’s” chase early on in the morning. I asked "Ophelia" why she caught the rabbit if she didn’t wish to eat it herself. She said that she had watched the sad state of the chase during the night and felt sorry for "Old Dog.”
She asked "Old Dog" why he never caught a rabbit and continues to chase them with all that vigor. "Old Dog" reminded "Ophelia" that he was indeed a Beagle Hound Dog. He said, “We have very short legs and love to track rabbits.” He went on to explain that tracking was what a Beagle’s life was all about. Further, “Old Dog” emphasized that it’s the hunt that turns a Beagle on. "Ophelia" was amazed that all that effort could be put into a night’s chase without any real concern for catching the prey.
"Old Dog" sat there for a few seconds then mentioned that he had a rather rough start in life because of a similar misunderstanding by his first master. “Havoc The Cat” was literally nauseated at "Old Dog" for mentioning that a previous owner had been his master. "Ophelia" quickly came to "Old Dog’s” rescue by reminding “Havoc The Cat” that dogs openly show their love for humans whereas felines make the owners show their love for them. To avoid further boredom “Havoc The Cat” asked why "Old Dog" couldn’t get along with his first owner.
"Old Dog" was just finishing the last part of the young rabbit so he hesitated to answer while swallowing the last delicious morsel. Then, rising up on his front legs and walking forward about six inches while holding his rear end stationary he did a regular hound dog stretch and then lay back down.
“Havoc The Cat” was growing impatient for an answer when "Old Dog" began to talk. He said, “Havoc”, I was just a young pup when this all happened but it’s something I’ll always remember. I’ve never heard of anything like what happened to me being a problem for anybody else. My first master was a very non-forgiving person! It was like he had magic. Well, as a matter of fact, he really did seem to possess some kind of magic. After I ran away from him he followed me everywhere I went for months before he finally gave up. That first master held grudges like you could hardly believe!”
“I came from a litter of five pups and as it happens in most cases somebody has got to go. My mom had told me that as soon as I was weaned I’d better hit the road because all of my half brothers and sisters from a previous litter had suddenly disappeared and she was afraid the same thing would happen again.”
“It was a fine spring morning in the mid-fifties when I departed. Before leaving, mom told me I should always remember that my purpose in life was to track rabbits. I said goodbye and began my trot down the road of life.” “Very quickly I discovered that I could sustain myself by eating road kill while looking for a master to love and obey.” Ophelia’s eyes sparkled at that statement. “Havoc The Cat” seemed on the verge of throwing up. Old Dog continued, “I tried several houses but they already had one or two dogs and I wasn’t welcomed to stay.”
“Back on the road again I was trotting along on the bypass skirting Memphis, Tennessee, when a gold Cadillac came to a screeching halt! I stopped and observed the car for a moment then the driver stepped out and called, ‘Here boy, come here ya hound dog!’ He opened the back door and I quickly jumped in. I sat down and placed my paws on a pair of shoes resting on the seat beside me. The driver suddenly became very excited and yelled at me! ‘Get those feet off uh-my blue suede shoes!’ I quickly obeyed and he quieted down.”
“He really did seem like a nice person. His clothes glittered in the reflected sunlight like the minnows in a creek. That was because he had sequins sewed all over his clothes. I didn’t mind the glitter as long as he took me someplace where I could practice my trade, you know, tracking rabbits. It wasn’t long before he pulled up to a rather nice looking place and announced that this was home.”
“I jumped out the door and ran to the new master and waited for his first command. He looked at me for a moment then said; ‘Go find me a rabbit!’ I immediately struck out and hit-up a trail on a rabbit. Wanting to make a good impression, I trailed that rabbit for two days before reporting back for new orders.”
“With shyness and expectation I walked up to the master and wagged my tail waiting for his approval of the great job I’d done. He said, ‘Hound Dog, you get your butt out there and find me a rabbit or your going to be in trouble!’ His response was very disappointing! Obviously there had been a misunderstanding. With renewed vigor I took off and struck-up a new trail. I was hungry and tired but I tracked that rabbit by the master’s house a dozen times to prove how good I was.”
“Finally I couldn’t go any further, I had to get something to eat. I went to my master’s house and whined at the door. Suddenly the door swung open and there stood my new master. He seemed to study me for a few seconds while he evaluated my effort. In my own heart I knew the master would be very pleased with my performance for I had done exactly as he had asked.”
“The master began to shake all over, his body became distorted and he screamed at me in a voice that was more than I could stand. He yelled out! ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog, just-a whining all the time! You ain’t never caught a rabbit and ya ain’t no friend of mine.’ It was almost like he’d found some kind of new inspiration. As I ran away from the sight of his twitching body that seemed to gyrate at the mid-section, he yelled, ‘I thought you wuz high class! But that was just a lie!’”
“Now I was not only scared but I had been insulted too. I made the decision to leave immediately and never come back to that crazy master. I ran as far as I could that day, even passing up good road-kill in my desperately weakened condition. I lay low for days trying avoid contact with anybody who might return me to that person.”
“Havoc The Cat” had begun to snore at times during “Old Dog’s” dissertation. “Old Dog” continued, “Three weeks had gone by and I was just beginning to get over the shock of the first bad experience in my life when I passed by a roadhouse down in Arkansas. That’s when I heard him again! While trotting by the building my former master screamed out, ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog! Whining all the time!’ I was startled at hearing his voice and became temporarily disorientated. I began to run as fast as my little short legs could carry me away from the area and to the safety of another building a few miles down the road.”
“Having traveled all day with little to eat I nestled down by some parked cars and tried to sleep. There was a young couple in one of the cars necking away. I dropped off to a deep sleep but was rudely awakened when that master found me again! He screamed out, ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog! Just a whining all the time! You ain’t never caught a rabbit and ya ain’t no friend of mine!’ I was out of earshot before he could yell at me again.”
“Needless to say, that master chased me for about six months before he finally gave up. Everywhere I went, there he was! He was in cars, restaurants, bars, hotels, and people’s homes, everywhere! Afterwards I migrated to Missouri. I’ve been here for many years. There are a lot of rabbits around these parts and I spend all my spare time running and doing the thing that mama told me I was supposed to do.”
Sensing that “Old Dog” had completed his story, "Ophelia" asked "Old Dog" an important question, "Old Dog," “you’re over fifty years old, what do you attribute your longevity to?” “Well, said "Old Dog", I always watch about the traffic when I cross the streets and roads. I try to eat a little bit when I get hungry, but I suppose I can attribute the better part of my longevity to “writer’s license.”
The conversation ended and the four of us went about our day doing the things our mamas told us we were supposed to do.
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