Tails of the unexpected

We asked our readers to submit short stories about an animal in their lives for this issue, with the top prize being a studio pet portrait valued at $150 with Randy Dawe Photography. Here is the winning entry, two of the runners-up, and more of the submitted stories. All illustrations by Ricky King.

Ice to meet you

by Justin Guzzwell

So I had this cat named Felix. When he was still young, and small—by cat standards—he frequently followed me around the house. This I assume was a habit he picked up from my dog, ‘cause we all know how bitchy and arrogant cats can be. Anyway, one day I walked to my back porch to grab a tub of ice cream from the full sized stand up freezer we had out there. It was a hot summer day, and I needed something to cool me down. Once in my possession, I walked back into the kitchen with the tub, placed it on the counter, then proceeded to dig scoops of the frozen treat into a bowl.

At the time I had a bad habit of leaving the ice cream tub out as I ate, but for some reason that day I decided to grow up, be responsible, and bring the ice cream back to the freezer. I’m a hero, I know.

I walked back to the porch, pulled on the air sealed freezer door, and my cat popped out.

My freaking cat.

He had followed me to the back porch when I grabbed the ice cream, and somehow I didn’t notice him stepping inside the freezer when I closed the door.

If I had decided to enjoy my bowl of ice cream before putting the tub back, it would have been the saddest bowl of ice cream I had ever eaten.

Nico’s Lament

by Marc Poirier

Nico is always running—even in her sleep I can tell in her little mind, she really isn’t drooling all over our new bed sheets, she’s somewhere else. What exactly a dog dreams about is beyond me, so I decided to ask her about it one day when she was sprawled across our couch.

“What exactly do you dream about?” I asked her as I rummaged through a fresh bag of dog treats. Her usual response to any question I ask involves the rolling of her eyes and a loud huff, but this time the thought of getting a fresh treat was incentive enough for her to give me a reply.

She told me her dreams all start in the same place—in a little crate she used to call home before deciding to adopt us and take over our bed. In her dream she is preparing for what will be her last race—because running in circles is never fun, neither is the cheering of obsessed fans. So this time she decided to run straight out of the auditorium. Whether she actually made it out or not didn’t really matter, but she was sick of chasing a plastic rabbit that she could never seem to catch. In fact, running around in circles made her hate what she was naturally born to do, to run.

“Yes, today will be different,” she thought as the trainer led her to the starting gate. “I just have to remember to keep running straight this time.”

“Did you make it out?” I asked, dangling a treat over her head as a reward. “Oh yes,” she grinned, licking her lips while gently taking the treat from my hand. “And running has never been quite so much fun as it is now.”

That night I went to crawl into bed, and, as usual, my greyhound was stretched across my side of the bed. I was going to poke at her and make her get down to the floor, but I couldn’t. I think she deserves it.

Escape From Gotham

by Dan Murray

My cat went missing. Cats, you know, they’re independent, they don’t want to be cooped up inside, so let them run free and have adventures. But mine went missing. I was ten and she was three.

We searched everywhere. My parents, brother, and I ran up and down the streets telling all of the neighbours. We put up posters, although we didn’t have a photo of her facing the camera, and goodness knows you weren’t going to get a collar on that cat for more than five minutes. “You’ve got to be kidding me, you must have me confused with some other pet,” she would say with her eyes as my mother approached, collar in hand.

No photo, no identification, and no sign of her for days. She was officially lost.

How many cats go missing each year anyway? How many marmalade tabbies were there in my neighbourhood? And how many more speeding cars did I see just waiting for a lone feline to mow down?

I wanted my cat back, but things didn’t seem hopeful.

A couple days later I saw Batman and Robin playing in my front yard. Not the real ones, just some kids in costumes. I looked to see what they were up to and saw a cat—and not just any cat, my cat. Those kids had my cat. Why did they have my cat? What were they doing with her? And why were they in superhero outfits, with my cat? I walked over.

“Hey! What are you doing with that cat? It’s mine!”

“No, she’s ours.”

“Nuh-uh. That’s my cat.”

“N… No, she’s Catwoman, and I’m Batman.”

“Shut up and give her back!”

Being an odd child does not make one less persistent, and our battle over the cat continued.

Eventually, our cat was returned from the dastardly duo.

Batman’s father later informed my mother that the boy found the cat and brought her home. They sometimes saw her walking around the area, and thinking she was a stray, decided to take her in to feed her. They kept her safe—safe inside their house.

Had my cat been able to escape, a life with twice as many meals would probably have suited her fine.

Unfortunately, she did not expect Batman to be such a conniving foe.

More pet stories

A Special Dog Named Whiskey
By Sandra Lynch

When I became a great friend with Helen I used to help her with a beautiful white dog named Whiskey. She was a fun dog. She made people love her who got to know her. She used to make me laugh with her and play with her and when she walked to the park she had an ice cream with me.

When Helen had a party at her house she would ask me to stay the night and I did. I slept on the sofa and the wonderful white dog would come up to sleep with me. Then I would clean up and talk to Whiskey and she would talk back to me. We became best friends and I did lots for Whiskey.

Then she got sick. I would call Helen and tell her Whiskey needs you and to come right now. I told my friend I had a very sick dog that needed me. So, I brought coffee over in a big coffee thermos and stayed all night with her. I told her “I will never leave you.” She looked at me and said -Do you mean it? And I said, “Yes”. I gave her a pink blanket. Whiskey loved it. She would sleep on it and I gave her music to listen to. She used to be relaxed on the bed and listen to the music.

She was a smart white dog. She used to drink coffee with me and we used to sit in the park together.

One day she didn’t eat her Vienna sausage. Sometimes I would put her pill in the Vienna sausage and she would eat them.

Me and Helen went to buy a big wooden pine box so she would have something to lay in. Whiskey liked to wear her pink corduroy coat with the wool collar.

So we took her to Bay Roberts to get an ultrasound done and they told us that Whiskey was going to die very soon. I used to rub her ears and rub her all over to make her feel great.

She was so frail. One day she was not great. Helen told me she was ready to die and it was OK. I told Whiskey it was OK, too. We love you.

She died February 26, 2008. She was a great dog to know and love.

Dad and Dorgie
By Tess Burke

This is my Dad’s cat Dorge, they go for walks together.

Dorge (rhymes with the beginning of gorgeous, it’s how my small nephew, Corey said it, “daugeous”, so the cat’s name is Dorge for short”)

Dad had a cat, Sam, for a long time, almost 20 years and when Sam died he said he’d never get another. My sister, Liz, who lived in town had two cats, one of whom was Dorge. Liz offerred to give Dorg to Dad to ease the sadness he felt over losing Sam but he said he was doubtful about owning another cat, especially a townie cat. Liz had to move away so Dad took Dorgie in and ever since it has been a tight relationship. Dorge, although overweight and a tad negligent when it comes to the grooming side of things, is probably the nicest cat you’ve ever met. Everyone loves him. He likes living around the bay and seems to have no regrets about abandoning his townie life. My Dad adores him and I am pretty sure it is mutual for Dorge.

A series of short stories about Mr. Kitty Babar
By Liza Abbott

Cats will sleep anywhere, especially the bathroom sink. I left the tap running once for kitty to have a drink, he ended up curling up in the sink for a nap. I went back a few minutes later and the water was up to his neck, he was sound asleep.

Cats are natural born hunters. Kitty has managed to bring home many “gifts” to the front step. His latest was an earthworm, he proudly walked in the house; carrying it in his mouth.

Mr. Kitty loves to play with just about anything that isn’t one of his toys-such as a wasp that got in the house last summer. He was chasing after it and batting it for so long that the wasp wanted to play back, by stinging kitty. It ended with kitty’s paw swelling 5 times its size. Nickname: Mitten.

If humans have a voice box then cats have a “meower”. Kitty got a throat infection once and lost his meower. As a very vocal cat it was odd not to hear him for a few days. His mouth would open but no sound would come out. It was great when he begged for treats: “’what was that kitty? I can’t hear you”…

I found a paddle ball at the house one day,…i thought id give it a go, i wasn’t very good at it. Kitty was looking it oddly as I made a fool of myself. All of a sudden the ball bounced straight off of his little head. He shot me a look of total shock and took off up over the stairs. I was laughing hysterically. I looked up the flight of stairs and there he was peeking his head around the corner, eyes glowing; caught one look at me and took off again. I think he steered clear of me for two days after that.

Midnight snack takes on new meaning: Kitty had to wear a cone due to an injury. During his meal of wet canned cat food a lot would end up on the inside of the cone. It was a usual occurrence to hear him smacking his tongue around the inside of the cone late at night.

Max, the Cat
By Mary Pike

I once spent $489.66 on a cat, a female tabby with just enough silver to cause her coat to shimmer in the sunlight. She answers to Max, a name chosen before I rescued her from a cardboard box of mewling siblings.

The $489.66 included a panic-outside-of-working-hours emergency fee of $60.00, a blood count, one bag of I.V. fluid, a total body panel (purpose unknown), an x-ray, an injection, two tests, and a day-and-a-half of boarding. The good news was that my dehydrated eight-pounder became as plump as can be managed with $489.66, the bad news, the money spent to find out there was nothing else wrong with her.

I took my expensive little fur ball home from her holiday at the vets. Released from her carrier cage she became reacquainted with her two floors of unrestricted freedom. Sniff, sniff, rub, rub, purr, purr against familiar objects until satisfied that she was indeed safely home.

Max.

The first night we were ever together she scrambled up my body and perched on my shoulder as I cooked supper. Fearful that she would land in my Spicy Italian I put her back down on the kitchen floor. Up she scrambled again. Down I put her. Open the drawer in the bottom of the stove to get a saucepan, toe it closed, scratch, scratch, scratch on the shiny white, and there’s Max, her head caught in the narrow opening.

Ever wonder how to teach a kitten not to roam? Put her in a tiny leash on the back patio until you find her swinging in her harness, meowing in the wind.

Encourage response to a name? Here, Max, Max, Max. Thump. And one dazed kitten rarely again poked her head and shoulders out through the second floor banister.

And training.

Pin bubble wrap over the corners of the couch to hamper claw sharpening? She popped those bubbles with glee. Teach her not to hang out in houseplants? Place a bowl of vinegar in the planter and watch her bathe her hind paws while attempting to scale the umbrella plant. Roll tinfoil over the top of a cast iron radiator to discourage using the rad as a launching pad to the kitchen counter? She batted around loose pieces of that stuff like they were toy mice.

Four hundred eighty-nine dollars and sixty-six cents. I didn’t give that much to charity last year.

My Pet Story
By Al

The best things in life arrive serendipitously, I find. So begins the tale of BIRDY the beagle, a research dog who came in on the coattails of an old love (long gone – I knew it was over when he said “You love the dog more than u love me”. True)

She was a bitch in every sense of the word. She hated other dogs, some humans (little children were not exempt) and woe be to anyone foolish enough to disturb her when eating (gorging), sleeping or guarding house or vehicle. She was an escape artist, a humper and a dumper (of course – but she ate it! A self-cleaning up animal).

But on the brilliant side, she was a great traveler – by land, air or sea. From the lab at Georgetown U in Wash DC her rescue mama took her to T.O., then to Vancouver where I claimed her, to Kelowna (with sidetrips bk to Van., to Ont. and Calgary) and finally to St. John’s. She even made it to France (St. Pierre) and Vermont.

Now let’s face it folks – looks r everything and she had them in spades (well okay, I may have been biased). She put a smile on my face every time I saw her coming. She loved who she loved, even if they didn’t love her back (cats, Ann and Lyne who know I mean u). She licked my tears away, gave me the courage to move on – she was my best girl.

The first anniversary of my decision to end her life (the most difficult one to date) is fast approaching. Let’s raise a glass to Birdy (u crowd at AC too). Not a NL beagle dog but the best kind nonetheless. God luv ya, my Beauty.

2 comments

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31 July 2013

  1. damian · July 31, 2013

    great issue….awesome stories…that would have been one sad ice cream indeed…Ricky King did some amazing work on those illustrations…

  2. Elling Lien · July 31, 2013

    He was headed out on holiday, and was worried he wouldn’t be able to do any illustration for the pet issue, but we made it happen. Animals are his spesh-ee-ality.

    My favourite is the arms and legs on the popsicle.