Monday, November 19, 2012

A Dog, A Cat, and A Cabin

I learned from my mother this week that the Festival of Trees (as in Christmas trees) is already over in my hometown. Here in the Bluegrass, some of my neighbors have already erected Christmas trees inside their homes—not to mention wreaths, lights, and miscellaneous decorations displayed outside—and set it all alight in the evenings.

Now I like Christmas as much as anyone, but this is a wee bit early for me to get into the holiday spirit. I haven’t let go of October yet! Autumn is one of my favorite seasons and I try not to cut it short.

Autumn brings memories of a handful of long weekends spent with my husband in Door County, Wisconsin. Each time, we stayed in a utilitarian cabin at the northernmost tip of the area, away from the quaint of the touristy villages nearby. Each time, we attended a fish boil and ate enough buttery white fish and potatoes and onions plus homemade cherry pie to tide us over until we could return some other year. Each time, we bought sour cherry preserves, experienced something new (an artists’ retreat one year, a self-guided scooter tour of Washington Island the next), and each time we pined for our pets.

So one year we decided to take them along. We figured they’d be thrilled not to be left behind with a sitter. We couldn’t wait for them to smell the woods and the lakes, taste the buttery fish, watch a few wild turkeys.

Before we even reached the state line, though, we were reminded why we always left “the girls” at home. Traveling made the pooch sick and nervous, even with her best feline pal beside her. The more she fretted, the more the cat talked. The more the cat talked, the more the pooch fretted. Soon the cycle escalated into howling and vomiting; we were still four hours away from our destination.

Thankfully, once we settled into the cabin, the payoff of including our girls on our mini-vacation began to materialize, though not quite the way we’d anticipated.

Precious, our 18-year-old special-needs kitty, was in exploration overdrive. She LOVED the cabin—ran from one corner to the next as if they were Disneyland rides. She was ECSTATIC to be included and HATED when we left her alone to go somewhere. She embraced the warmth of the fire in the fireplace and “helped” with every kitchen chore.

The pooch, on the other hand—who looked for all the world like a typical country hunting dog—woofed and whimpered at every new sound. She never slept, which only exacerbated her lack of courage. The fire was evil and she couldn’t fathom why her white pal wasn’t picking up on the sinister atmosphere enfolding them. We thought some playtime in a small field would get her mind off her worries. Things went well until her face made contact with the Kong we threw for her and her eyebrow swelled. So we thought a jaunt through a wooded area would take her mind off her swollen face—the scents, the critters, the new terrain. We encouraged her to explore, but she wanted us to go in first and clear the path of the goblins she was sure lurked beneath leaves and travelled on breezes. This became difficult to manage because the pooch didn’t want to wait by herself at the edge of the woods nor did she want her people separated from each other. Clearly, our 70-pound “country” dog would have preferred to experience this alien territory in our arms rather than on the ground. Have you seen that Subaru commercial where the group of dogs go camping and end up locking themselves in the car at night after hearing the local wild animals? Our pooch should have been cast in that commercial—no training or acting necessary.

Oh, how we wished our pooch had more courage. But we didn’t hold it against her or push her to do more than she could handle. We were delighted that our elderly cat, at least, took such pleasure in her vacation environment. Her increased interest and activity alone made the entire trip worthwhile. Of all the Door County experiences we fondly remember, the weekend with our four-leggeds will remain the standout.

[Top pic is Miss P ready to go; photo of Mertha’s Cabin at The Clearing by Denny Moutray.]

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