Thursday, November 4, 2010

ranch domestic animals

There are two domestic animals, aka pets.  First, there is Buster, a beautiful border collie.  He is a herding animal, but he hasn't been trained, so his instinct is satisfied by herding around his master, "The Boss".  He especially loves riding around on the back of the quad while chores are being done.  Riding saves him more energy for chasing squirrels up trees and barking at them to come down (they don't).

Buster never barks at people.  He trots up the driveway to welcome everyone and gets petted by all visitors.  I give him little dog biscuits out on the cabin front porch.  Sometimes this ritual happens two or three times a day, as I must always observe it when I return from town or the dump.  Border collies are supposed to be the most intelligent breed of dog.  I didn't think he had much upstairs for quite a while, but we will see how wrong I was in a minute,.

Buster has a friend, a cat that sort of came with the ranch.  The cat is a black and white, holstein type named KitKat.  She and Buster hang out together, sleep together when they are outside and it's cold.  For several months, KitKat would allow me to pet her, but not pick her up.  Above all, she would NOT come into the cabin.  I tried every kind of cat food to lure her in, but she just turned her nose in the air and walked away.  I have had cats all my life.  Or they have had me.  Never before has a cat snubbed me.  She always seems very busy, a hard working ranch cat,

One day I was down the road about 40 miles at a small town which has a nursery, with real plants.  I had bought some shrubs and a couple of trees and was paying for them when I noticed huge hip joints from a steer, oven baked, wrapped in plastic wrap.  I was enough besotted by Buster to blow $4+ on one for Buster to gnaw on forever. 

Even before I unloaded the plants, I tore off the wrapping on the big bone, with Buster watching, tailing wagging frantically.  He knew that this big thing was his, and his alone.  He took it off to the lawn, and no one heard a peep out of him for hours while he worked on it.  I went about planting trees and shrubs around the cabin, then went inside to make dinner and watch Criminal Minds.  I love serial killers.

In the morning, I came out to see what the cows were up to.  They had been looking in my bedroom window, so I figured out it was fair to go out and stare back at them.  They win that contest due to their huge warm, gentle eyes.  You just know that things are going to be fine when one of them stares at you. 

When I opened the front door, surprise!  Both Buster AND KitKat were sitting out  on my porch.  This had never happened before.  I gave Buster a cookie, and he went off to eat it, while the most amazing thing happened.  KitKat walked up to me, and spoke, "Meep."  She had never talked to me before.  Then she rubbed up against my jeans-covered legs, weaving in and out as if I were a very old and dear friend.  I opened the door, and in she walked to explore for the first time. 

A couple of weeks after the grand acceptance scene, I asked if I could borrow KitKat.  I had a cute little taupe colored mouse running around.  It loved it in the cabin, and all efforts to enourage it to leave had failed.  So I brought KitKat inside and sat down with her on my lap to wait for the mouse to emerge.  After a few minutes, sure enough, out he came.  She sat in the folded up meatloaf position cats get into when they want to doze but pay attention at the same time.  Her ears perked up, pointed foreward, as she watched the mouse casually walk across the living room rug, in no hurry at all.  This is going to be an easy catch for her, I thought. 

But she sat there, on my nice warm lap, and I watched her head turn slowly, following the mouse across the floor and down the hall.  She was fascinated, transfixed.  As he disappeared into the other room, she put her head down and went back to sleep.  She may be a hard working ranch cat, but her job is clearly not to bother with little mice.

So it's now a few months later, earlly November.  I took something to leave at the ranch house.  Both animals wanted me to let them in.  I know this was not allowed when everyone is gone.  So I went back to my cabin and called both animals to come with me so they could hang out in my place until Mom and Dad got home. 

At the moment, Buster is sleeping on rug, and KitKat is on the Sleep Number Bed.  One side is set at 50, one side set at 25.  She prefers the 25 setting.  She especially prefers this if there is clean laundry on the bed.  She really loves clean laundry.

It is my belief, when I came home with that spectacular bone for Buster the day before she spoke to me, that somehow he spoke dog language to KitKat, who somehow understood him.  I think he told her about the bone and that I was definitely someone she should consider befriending on a long term basis.  She had ignored me for so long until after that episode,  it is clear they can talk to eachother.  I would love to know how that works. 

I wonder if Buster and KitKat realize that there are pets who are homeless, or trapped in tiny suburban yards, menaced by cars and other civilised perils.  I wonder if they know that they live in paradise and are the luckiest "working" pets in the world.  I hope they know.

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