The Cat in the Bag

English: Young Maine Coon cat in paper bagThe Cat in the Bag

James R. Aist

Cats can be not only good little buddies, but also good entertainment. That is, if you pay attention and take time to interact with them. This funny story took place because I paid attention and took a moment to interact with our cat, Clyde, at just the right time.

We were living in a small, two-story frame house on Snyder Hill, just outside of Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes Region of upstate NY. One lazy Saturday afternoon, shortly after we had returned from shopping and were unloading our shopping bags in the appropriate rooms, I lingered for a moment, in the small upstairs bedroom at the end of the hallway, to put away some of the spoils of our shopping spree. Then I heard behind me the familiar sound of “someone” rattling a paper shopping bag that, innocently, I had left on the floor. So, I turned to see exactly what I expected to see: Clyde was in the bag poking and scratching mischievously at the sides, just to hear the mysterious noise it made when he struck it.

Now, this happened not to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill paper grocery bag; this one had those paper loops at the top which served as handles for ease of toting. Ignoring the handles for the moment, I began to playfully poke and scratch at the bag from the outside, also mischievously, to see if I could spook the cat and get in on the fun. Well, it wasn’t long before Clyde became so spooked by (what must have seemed to him as) the bag poking and scratching back, that he panicked and burst suddenly out of the bag at breakneck speed in order to escape the “bag monster” within. Problem was, he was ignoring the handles on the bag as much as I was. Until, that is, it became evident that in exiting the bag in a panic, he had accidentally put his head through one of the handles and was dragging the bag ever so close behind him. When he heard the noise of the bag behind him, he looked back in full stride to see what was making the noise and saw that the bag was actually chasing him! This discovery put a sudden look of terror on his face, and he kicked it into high gear. I had no idea he could even run that fast.

By this time I was beginning to laugh uncontrollably, as compassion for my little buddy had not yet kicked in. Out the doorway and down the hallway he bolted, with the ensnared bag keeping pace with every leap and bound he made. Just then (after I had had my jollies, that is) my heart became flooded with compassion, and I ran after him to free him of the “bag monster.” Of course, this just added to his panic attack, because now he had both a “bag monster” and a “giant monster” chasing him! So, he went into overdrive. Turning the corner, he raced down the stairs at lightning speed, banged into the closet door at the bottom, turned left and began making circles through the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the living room again, etc. I was hopelessly chasing behind him, desperately trying to grasp the bag from behind and set him free (By the way, have you ever chased behind a paper bag moving at ~ 10 MPH, stooping forward every second or two to grasp the bottom of the bag with one hand, while laughing uncontrollably? I think not. Well, I can assure you, it’s no easy task!).

Fortunately, Clyde began to tire out, and I was finally able to get control of the bag, and, with expert precision, extract his head from the handle. Now, I’m sure he was thankful later that I had rescued him from the “bag monster”, but his immediate reaction was to run from both the bag and me as fast as he could go, the little ingrate!

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Plumpin’ the Puppies

Beagle de 60 dias

Plumpin’ the Puppies

James R. Aist

[DISCLAIMER: I meant no harm, no one really got hurt bad, I am opposed to cruelty to animals and I provide the answer to the big “research” question at the end (so that you will have no excuse for trying this at home; shame on you, in advance, for even thinking of it!)]

When I was growing up in central Arkansas, we had Beagle dogs for rabbit hunting and, of course, for instant affection and validation anytime, whether we wanted it or not. When I was 10 years old, my family re-located from our dairy farm in Cypress Valley to an equally rural area in the vicinity of Naylor, where we moved into a parsonage, located at the end of a dirt road off a dirt road; Daddy had received his very first assignment as a newly ordained Methodist minister. During our first Spring there, one of our Beagles gave birth to a litter of puppies, and we kept two of them for ourselves. I luuuuuv Beagle puppies! They are so soft, so cute and so affectionate; and, so much fun to play with.

Every school-day afternoon while the puppies were still quite small, I could hardly wait for the school bus to get to the end of our dirt road. I would spring off of the school bus and run all the way to our house so that I could spend the next half hour or so just playing with “my” precious little puppies. Of course, these little darlings seemed to always be hungry when I got home, and I liked nothing more than to bring out a small pitcher of milk and a couple of cereal bowls and settle down with the puppies in a patch of fresh green lawn beside the house. They would eagerly lap up all the milk in the bowl, and I would just as eagerly give them “seconds” just to watch them do it all over again. What fun!

Well, one day I got an idea for what would turn out to be the very first of many biological experiments I would conduct over a long and successful career in biological research. I was pondering the gusto with which these innocent little biological units would scarf down all the milk in their bowls, including the “seconds”, and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to find out just how much milk they would drink if I provided an unending supply of it. Would they drink only until they were full, or would they just keep on drinking until they just couldn’t keep any more milk down? With an innocent curiosity and no malicious intent whatsoever (keep in mind that I was just an 11 year old boy and I really loved those little puppies), I resolved to find the answer to this monumental question.

So, the next day I filled up the milk bowls once and then twice, and then I went where no boy had gone before (at least not to my knowledge); I filled the bowls yet a third time! To my surprise, these valiant troopers just kept on lapping up the milk and wagging their tails for more. After the third round of refills, I began to get a little worried, because now, the puppies were visibly swollen in the middle. Yet, they weren’t whining or whimpering yet, so I filled their bowls for a fourth time, determined to get the final answer to my seemingly innocent research question, but without inflicting any harm on the little guys. This time, I noticed that they were slowing down but still lapping and swallowing eagerly, and so I decided to take some additional, preliminary data on the progress of the experiment. With no little trepidation, I reached down and very gently squeezed their swollen bellies between my thumb and index finger to assess the degree of danger I might just possibly be exposing the thoroughly plumped puppies to. Their bellies were now tight as a drum, and this put a serious scare into me. Had I gone too far, already? Will they bust open right before my eyes? If they do bust open, how can I explain it to my parents so as to escape the punishment I so richly deserve for heartlessly murdering these tiny little helpless bundles of life just to conduct a silly scientific experiment? So, like a flash, I jerked away the milk bowls to minimize any further potential damage, and I was not prepared at all for what happened next.

I observed that these two little puppies turned, in unison, to walk away, still lapping and swallowing as fast as they could, but now just to try and keep down the last of the milk that was dribbling out of their mouths. I observed also that they were breathing heavily and with great difficulty, because there was no room left in their little bodies for a lungful of air, thanks to their excessive intake of cow’s milk. And finally, I observed that their now-bloated bellies were actually dragging along the ground as they waddled slowly away. In some sort of sick way I suppose, this scene was to me both humorous to watch and scary to contemplate, at one and the same time. But, as I continued to keep my eye on them, it became apparent that they were, indeed, way too full, but not to the point of bodily harm. This realization enabled me to take a deep sigh of relief and get an, albeit somewhat sinister, little chuckle out of the entire affair, especially the ending.

So, what is the answer to the big question: how much milk will Beagle puppies drink if they are given an unending supply? The answer is… just as much as they can possibly keep down with constant lapping and swallowing, once it starts to come back out as fast as it goes back in! Oh, and by the way, my parents never found out about this experiment. Hey, what they don’t know won’t hurt me, right?

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The Cat and the Collar

The Cat and the Collar

by James R. Aist

We have been cat people for many years now. Cats are a most entertaining animal form, if you just pay attention to them. Quite some time ago we had two cats, Bonnie and Clyde; Clyde because he had large feet and looked like a Clydesdale (horse) when he walked toward you, and Bonnie because, well, it goes with Clyde.

Now Bonnie had, somehow, learned to play “fetch.” One evening I was sitting in the dining room trying to write a letter, and I had a hard time getting the letter off on the right foot, so to speak. I had just tossed my third paper wad to the floor on my way to yet another fresh start, when I noticed that Bonnie had walked up to me with the last paper wad in her mouth. She looked up at me with that excited “Let’s play fetch!” look in her eyes. Now, how could I resist that?! So I retrieved the paper wad from her mouth, showed it to her and gave it a good fling through the doorway and across the kitchen floor. Now the kitchen floor was linoleum and very slick, whereas the dining room floor was carpeted and had really good traction. So Bonnie got off to a rapid sprint in a split second as she raced through the doorway in pursuit of the paper wad. Just then my daughter, Liesel, opened the refrigerator door to get a snack, not seeing Bonnie racing toward her. Bonnie, intent on retrieving the paper wad in record time, failed to notice Liesel opening the refrigerator door, which was square in her path. Seeing all of this unfold before my eyes, I was already getting ready for a really big laugh (don’t ask me why; maybe it’s a guy thing) upon her inevitable collision with the refrigerator door. Well, into the bottom of the refrigerator door she slammed at full bore — BAM — and then bounced back violently, from the impact. At first, this seemed hilariously funny to me, but then I noticed that Bonnie was flailing around on the kitchen floor “like a chicken with its head cut off.” That threw me into a panic, as I thought “Oh no, she must have broken her neck… I killed the cat!” So I sprang from my chair and rushed into the kitchen to see if there was anything I could possibly do to save her. She was still retching and flailing when I finally managed to get her into my grasp to see how badly she was hurt. Then I saw it. Her neck wasn’t broken at all. Instead, her lower jaw had gotten caught in her flea collar when the impact with the refrigerator door forced her head suddenly downward, and she was just struggling violently, in sheer panic, to free her jaw from the flea collar!

Whew, I didn’t kill the cat after all. Then the hilarity of the whole scenario struck me, and I began laughing so hard it took me a while to free her from that demon flea collar and send her on her way, relatively unscathed. Needless to say, that was the first, and the last, “fetch” of that evening!

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The Hound and the Hare (Redneck version)

English: Pharaoh Hound trying to get trought t...The Hound and the Hare (Redneck version)

by James R. Aist

This true story happened when I was a young boy growing up in central Arkansas. We lived in a rural area and had two beagle dogs that we used for rabbit hunting. One fall day a large, red-bone hound dog showed up at our doorstep, and we sort of adopted him. Now mind you, these larger hounds are not particularly good for rabbit hunting, because they tend to try and outrun a freshly “jumped” rabbit instead of slowing down and tracking its scent (trail) with their nose, like beagles do. Consequently, after a very brief burst of speed, they usually will lose track of thebounding bunny and that will be the end of that.

Well anyway, we decided to go rabbit hunting one morning, and we let the red-bone hound tag along with us and the two beagles. Right away we got to a small brush pile at the edge of a small wood, next to some open fields. Well, the fields weren’t entirely open, as there was a woven wire fence down the middle. This was one of those wire fences with open rectangles about 4 inches by 6 inches, you know the kind. Suddenly, the beagles began to act excited and nervous, like they do when they can smell the scent of a rabbit in the air (the scent was in the air, not the rabbit, silly!).  Anyway, with a rustle and a ruckus, a cottontail rabbit suddenly burst forth from the brush pile and raced lickety-split across the field. All three dogs lit out after him, the beagles with their noses to the ground tracking the scent, and the red-bone hound with his head held high racing 90 miles an hour to try and catch him on the run. Now the rabbit was just small enough to dive through the fence without losing stride, while the red-bone hound was not. He was so intent on catching up with the rabbit that he didn’t notice the fence, so he just kept on going at full speed. And here we are watching this whole scene unfold before our eyes, knowing full well what was about to happen. We were already about to crack up laughing when the rabbit cleared the fence cleanly. Then came the red-bone hound, seeing only the terrified rabbit ahead of him. He promptly plowed into the fence, rolled up into a ball from the counterforce of the now-sagging fence, paused for a moment as the fence reached its maximum extension and prepared to fling him back in the opposite direction, and then went shooting backwards about 15-20 feet.

By this time we were howling and bent over with laughter, as the scene had unfolded exactly as we had anticipated. Not to worry, though, as the red-bone hound regained his composure after finally coming to a stop, picked himself up off the ground, shook himself off and carried on as though nothing unusual had just happened. It took a little longer than that for us to regain our composure!

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