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I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat!

Homer decides to indulge in a beloved old canine pastime, and he is somewhat surprised that acting on an impulse can get you into a bit of trouble. Moral? "Look before you leap!"

Okay, if you've read my previous columns, you know that I like to chase cats once in awhile. It's not a crime, it's an international sport in the dog world. And maybe my eyes aren't as good as they used to be. But the outright humiliation from what happened on the side lawn last week has set me back, big time.

It was about 9:30 p.m.and Isabel had finished reading her latest book and had decided to head for bed. The Inn was quiet with only two rooms occupied; our guests had evidently called it quits for the day and turned in early.

I wagged my tail and took my usual stance by the door and waited patiently for Isabel to let me out for my evening 'constitutional' on the side lawn. I was relaxed and feeling good, and as I loped down the wide stairs to the yard, I noticed that the katydids and tree frogs were chirping, and the moon was full; a beautiful night indeed. As I reached the bottom step I detected some movement ahead of me in the center of the lawn near Isabel's circular flower bed. As I focused, I realized that I was looking at a large black and white cat that seemed to be rooting around in the impatiens that were planted around the perimeter of the flower bed. "Strange place for a cat," I thought as I increased my gait; "I haven't seen a cat around here in months. Oh, boy!"

The night was still, and as I began to run, I decided not to bark or growl but, instead, just swoop in and completely startle the little critter and immediately engage in the chase. As the gap between us narrowed, I realized that I was beginning to huff and puff a bit - must be old age - but the thought of surprising my feline adversary far overshadowed any bone and joint pain that was beginning to affect my concentration.

I was now moving at a full gallop; just like the old days; 'old Homer' was 'in the zone' and totally committed to the chase. My cat friend had still not looked up, and I knew that I still had the element of surprise in my favor. By now, my pace was established, and I was barreling toward my prey like an out-of-control yellow "Labrador Express" freight train. Pure poetry in motion!

But wait! Why hadn't kitty started to run? I was now only seconds from colliding with kitty's backside. Oops! Kitty's tail just went up! That's not usual kitty behavior! When you're a large dog running 'full tilt,' it's almost as hard to stop as it is to get going, and my 'brakes' were now locked . . . Abort! Abort! But, it was too late. The finite acrid spray hit my nose and eyes like a horrific, searing cloud, virtually blinding and disorienting me for almost a minute.

'Kitty' wasn't a cat; 'kitty' was a skunk! Still hurtling forward and completely out of control, I managed to dodge my prey and plowed headlong through a low picket fence into Isabel's beloved flower bed, rolled head-over-tail twice, and came to rest at the base of Isabel's ebony-black concrete birdbath, nearly knocking it over.

I must have taken a direct hit from the spray in my left eye, because I could only see out of my right one. From the corner of my good right eye, I could see Mr. Skunk ambling calmly toward the woods in the moonlight as if he didn't have a care in the world. In contrast, my situation was dire. I realized that I was now nearly blind and lying upside-down smack in the middle of Isabel's precious spring flowers!

My journey back to the porch was slow and humiliating. I was partially blinded, I couldn't stand my own smell, and I was rapidly becoming stiff from my recent overexertion. When I came around the corner of the porch to the stairs, Isabel was standing there waiting for me, and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by her response. "No sir, Homer, you're not coming into this house smelling like that! You've tangled with a skunk! Lie down right here, Homer! You are going to STAY out here until I figure out what to do with you!" And, with that, Isabel marched back into the Inn, slamming the white screen door behind her. With my superior intelligence, I hate being treated like a child.

Without Ray's advice to rely on, I heard Isabel pick up the phone and dial up Micah Davenport. She told him the awesome tale and paused waiting for his response. "No, we don't have any tomato juice here at the Inn, and it's almost ten o'clock at night; I just can't do that. Do you think I should call Dr. Stubbs and see what he thinks?" Evidently Micah's answer was "yes" because seconds later she thanked him and dialed Dr. Benjamin Stubbs.

Sometimes old Dr. Stubbs really 'earns his keep' in this community because, this time, he managed to come up with the magic formula that saved the day, or at least that spring evening. He told Isabel that I would regain the sight in my left eye naturally, within a half hour, which I surely did. Then, over the next twenty minutes, Isabel, following Dr. Stubb's instructions, concocted a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and liquid dish detergent, mixed them up in a bucket and began to wash away my troubles out at the hose bib in the side yard of the Inn. Yes, I did spend the night sleeping alone out on the porch, but I was sure a lot happier than I would have been without Dr. Stubbs' 'magic potion.' Dr. Stubbs later told Isabel that if she had used tomato juice, it just would have made the odor worse; so I guess Micah isn't always right. I'm becoming convinced that it really does pay to ask for a second opinion.

I learned an important lesson here. "If it looks like a cat, and it meows like a cat, the chase is on." Otherwise, leave it be.

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