Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Baxter on the Cat Walk

This was a banner day for cat-watching. Today's walk got off to a great start. Baxter walked cheerfully at my side and I walked cheerfully absorbing the pale morning sunshine. We stopped to chat briefly with a neighbor and that's when it all started. A little orange cat, affectionately called "Julius" by the neighbors (not their cat) wandered into Baxter's field of view. Baxter immediately went into stealth mode, crouching behind some tall grass and making himself as flat and inconspicuous as possible. It was actually pretty funny to watch. Problem was, Bax refused to leave and I literally had to drag him away. Eventually, after hollering "leave it" about 20 times (I know, such repetition is overkill, but I can't help myself when the battle is on), Bax settled back into the speed-walking groove.

We had another brief "leave it" episode with a dead skunk in the road and then, when we got to our turnaround spot at a lovely little farm shaded by large cottonwood trees, another cat came forth. This cat saw Baxter and immediately started walking toward him. Baxter froze. The cat stretched out on the ground about two feet in front of Bax and started rolling in the leaves and stretching and rubbing his face on the little house number sign in the yard. Baxter seemed to be holding his breath. Every muscle was tensed and he was quivering. Then yet another cat came slinking up to check out the dog torture action.

Perhaps I was at fault for not letting Baxter go right up to the cats, but I was afraid they'd take a sudden turn and I'd be at the vet with a scratched-up dog... Then I thought, "hey, this might be an opportunity to let Baxter calm down around cats..." So we sat there and I spoke in soothing tones and scratched Bax behind the ears and tried to calm him down. It didn't work. So I tried to pull him away and this time I had a full-on battle with him. He twisted and turned and tried to slip out of his collar. He would not leave the cats. Meanwhile, the cats just sat there, seeming to be amused at the show. Finally Bax made a menacing jump toward the cats and they scattered. At long last, his job was done. He turned and decided it was OK to go now.

All the way home he heeled like an obedience champ. I think he knew he had been a bad boy, but the drive to spark a chase was just more than he could hold back on. He was making amends, winning his way back into my good graces. He didn't even make a big deal about the dead skunk, which was now on our side of the road. But I did catch him looking back occasionally to see if the cats were following him. I expect to see some major sleep-running legwork and whining when Baxter goes to bed tonight...

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