Waiting out the storm with the Dogs of War.

Last Monday I worked a couple of horses in the morning. The temperature dropped in the afternoon–by 54 degrees. I raced to the feed store to get an emergency stash of senior feed and when I came out, there was a wall of black cloud from one horizon to the other, bearing down on me like a bad B-movie about zombie-locusts. Frozen zombie-locusts.

It’s my fault. Last week I made fun of a Dylan Thomas poem and then chided us all for the annual loss of winter chops. Perish the thought. It hasn’t been above 10 degrees since. I got some of my chops back–it soared up to 6 degrees and I almost took one of my hats off.

So I have been in the house all week, except to feed and have brief outdoor frozen hose wrestling matches. The dogs and I have cabin crazy fever in November. A poor sign. Also an opportunity to update you on the Cat Sirens, aka the rescue corgi delinquents, Walter and Preacher Man, both enthusiastic about their new careers here: It’s not a job, it’s an adventure.

Strange I have managed to live all these years without even one cat siren, before the Little Corgi Men came. For just the last 45 years or so, my cats and dogs have always been friends. Until now.

Hank is no help. He is a huge cat–sack of potatoes huge. And he has a reputation.

Years ago, friend was over with her Australian shepherd. We were all at the table, when her sweet little Aussie came barreling into the room with a loud whiny-howl and crash-landed under her owner’s chair, quivering. We all looked expectantly at the doorway she just careened through, to see Hank saunter to the threshold, sit and casually lick a paw. Music from a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western swelled in the background. (Okay, I made that part up.)

Eventually Hank went on to bigger game: I found him and a coyote fighting over a rabbit Hank has just killed. They were having a loud tug-of-war on the front porch. Hank developed an affection for bullying dogs. It didn’t matter, none of my dogs took him seriously.

That’s until the Little Men came, dead certain that the big black dogs were stupid enough sleep though Armegeddon and the rest of us lacked the intellect to understand the true security threat Hank and Squirrel posed.

This cat/dog war was complicated by Hank’s sister, Squirrel, who is a chronic nose-butt fanatic. She can get right up to you and nearly snap off the end of your nose if you don’t see her coming.

The ginger cat, Lulu, is bored by dogs and stays in her master bedroom most days. She appears so rarely that the Little Men think she is the ghost of a warrior princess cat, probably of Viking descent. It’s complicated territory.

The war began when Walter arrived here two years ago. He immediately recognized what the rest of us had failed to see. Have I mentioned that even on this scale–war is hell.

I negotiated with Walter (there is no negotiating with cats, of course) and gained a frail truce. It deescalated to a cold war of stares and gamesmanship. It was nearly bearable.

But a year ago, reinforcements arrived. Fresh from a secret anti-cat training center in Texas, Preacher Man arrived, girded for war. Well, actually there seems to be some question about his urinary habits, so he wears a belly band (complete with a long-lost feminine hygiene product) while inside the house. But it has a very intimidating pirate pattern to the fabric and he looks just like Stallone in it. Without the cartridge belts and a little wider in the waist. Still, very, very scary.

Walter has a grumbly old bass voice, like somebody’s weird uncle who is always muttering about something just under his breath, until it percolates up to a full rib-spreading bark–an operatic bark. Preacher Man has a high, staccato Irish tenor of a bark. Like glass shattering, like an ambulance howl.

Hank torments the Little Men with cruelty and sinister intent. He sits in the middle of the threshold, and looks away. Such insult can not go unanswered. Hank has a wicked sit. He is tall. He never blinks. Again and again, the insult can not go unanswered.

Hank feels invincible. He is almost 13 years old now and only has two teeth left. He hasn’t gotten this much bang for the buck in years.

And still, the door to my studio must be protected at all costs. The Little Men must hold, they must soldier on. I hear a shrill yip with each hit of toenails on linoleum, as Preacher bounds not-quite-forward towards Hank, sleeping in a basket of gloves. I make the shushing sound, and Preacher runs to me full tilt, wiggling to see me alive and rewarding his Little Man bravery. With no time to rest, he attacks again.

Walter and Preacher Man can feel your dismissive laugh, dear reader. This is how countries become enslaved, you know. See it through their eyes. Hank is huge. They are fighting for a lifestyle here and your apathy will be your demise.

Consider yourself warmed. I mean warned.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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