When dog Boo was young and his senses were sharp, he’d never go further than his co-masters, my friends Allen and Steve, told him he could go. In his later years, though, he either went senile, or else he got to a point where he just didn’t give a damn. I suspect the latter.
One morning, Allen got a call. “Hey! This is the Mapco on West End. We’ve got a wiry-haired dog here with your name on his collar.”
“Is he all right?”
“Well, pretty much,” the Mapco girl said, “but you need to come up here and get him. We need to talk.”
Allen drove up to the Mapco, walked in, and found Boo behind the counter, scarfing down a sausage. Standing there with Boo were the Mapco girl and the bread man. Allen gave Boo a little you-rascal-you combination greeting and scolding.
After waiting patiently through Allen’s talk with Boo, the bread man spoke up: “You owe me $20. While I was in here stocking the shelves, that dog of yours climbed into the back of my truck and helped himself to a whole rack of bread. I don’t see how he didn’t just bust wide open from the volume of it.”
“Well,” Allen said, “it looks like he saved some room for a bite of sausage.”
“Oh, I gave him that,” Mapco girl said. “No charge.”
Allen, ever polite, mannerly, and fair, thanked the Mapco girl profusely and apologized to the bread man for the aggravation. Then he cheerfully paid for the bread and the sausage.
But Boo knew his time was short, and he knew how he wanted to go. A couple of weeks after the Mapco incident, Boo disappeared. Allen and Steve looked for days and finally found just his collar and a little hank-o-hair on the I-440 right of way. Our best guess is that Boo staged a predawn bread-truck raid, and this time, he purposely OD’d. No doubt, the force of the explosion carried him into that parallel universe where so many old dogs go.
Where Cats Go
When I started working at Old-House Journal, there were nine of us on the editorial floor. Eight humans (as best I could tell) and Chester, who was clearly a gray tabby cat. Chester (or Chet, as Texan Larry Jones and I called him) was a hardworking office cat. On the few days that I got bored and went in early with the management folk, we’d find Chet on the fire escape in his little padded-and-insulated trash-can house, waiting for somebody to open the window and let him in.
Chet would come in quiet and businesslike and climb up on top of the desk I shared with Larry. He liked to warm his ample cat belly with the radiation from our fluorescent light transformers. He’d stay there all day, except for his break times, like when Sarah, the catalog editor, would come back from her sushi lunch and feed him a piece of octopus. (I swear, I don’t see how anybody, even a mooching cat, could put anything with suckers into his mouth.)
On the few days I got really bored and stayed late, I saw the management folk gently put Chet back onto the fire escape and close the window. I didn’t give it much thought, but I figured Chet spent his night in his trash-can house, or wandering the canyon between the brownstones behind our block of Seventh Avenue.
One morning, Chet showed up with a note around his neck: Does anybody own this cat? He looks well-groomed and well-fed, but he comes to our fire escape every night at 6 o’clock. We feed him, and we took him to the vet when he threw up something that looked like octopus. If he’s your cat, please let us know. The note was signed by a couple on Berkeley Place, just around the corner. They signed their names and gave their phone number. (I don’t know about y’all, but I would not send a fur-bearing creature out into the New York night carrying any personal information about me.)
Editor Patty called ’em up and found out they were gone during business hours. So all parties agreed to continue with the cat-sharing arrangementbut everybody felt just a little bit used.
Walter Jowers can be reached at Walter.Jowers@nashville.com.