I am a dog lover. Always was.
Got my first dog what I was seven. My parents absolutely refused when I asked if I could have a puppy, so getting one became a bit of a challenge. Three times I brought home a puppy from the litter of a promiscuous bitch up the road, and three times they repeated it.
Our family was moving to Morton's Harbour by coastal boat. I waited until the morning we were about to leave, ran up the road and got the puppy, hid it under my coat and said nothing about it until we were a couple of miles offshore.
The parental units were not happy, but they couldn't very well throw it overboard in front of the other passengers (which I was counting on) so we kept it - for 17 years. She died in childbirth in Halifax.
My next dog was a beautiful black lab, which I got to ease the emotional trauma of Other Half leaving me in search of something better. To her tremendous surprise, something better didn't exist. A few months later she returned, much relieved to find all I had replaced her with was a dog. I told her I hadn't looked that hard.
I am not enamored of cats. In fact, the honest truth is that I don't like cats. Never have. Cat owners tell me that's because they intimidate me, which is the same as saying I am intimidated by a dish of broccoli casserole or an asparagus tips sandwich, to which I have a strong aversion.
I can't say I hate any living thing, but I came close to it with felines the night one attacked me without provocation or just cause. She left significant physical and emotional scars.
OK, I'll tell you.
We were playing cards with some friends in New Brunswick one hot summer night. We were all stripped off as much as discretion would allow. I was naked from the waist up, thinking that the distraction would throw off the ladies on the other team. However, they were in the process of wiping us out. The table was somewhat tense.
Lying behind me in a wicker basket in a corner of the room was the family cat, having just returned home from the vet and not feeling very well. She was ignoring all of us the way only cats can. A dog with his dying breath will lick your hand. With his last ounce of energy he will wag his tail. What will a cat do when it's dying? Ignore you, or so it seemed at the time.
I was concentrating on my hand, as were the other players concentrating on theirs. The room was quiet.
All of a sudden, a blood curdling scream from the cat split the air, and with it came a tortuous, burning sensation on my back.
"Gee whiz," I shouted in concert with the cat. "What on Earth is happening!?" It should be noted that these were not my exact words.
Very quickly, it became apparent that the convalescing cat had launched itself through the air and landed in the middle of my back. I suppose it was natural that it would attempt to cling to the surface on which it found itself, namely the naked part of me. Unfortunately, the means by which it clung to my back was four paws liberally endowed with sharp feline claws. It felt as though a Siberian tiger was attempting to deflesh me.
Yes, "deflesh" is a word used when animals are being separated from their hides. I was there, I know what it was.
Even the cat's owner said she couldn't blame me for what happened next. No, I won't tell you. Too many cat-lovers out there to take a chance like that.
Even as I write that last line, I am reminded of another, more serious incident with a large English sheep dog belonging to my father. It wasn't as though the dog and I were strangers. I lived with my parents for two years and spent most holidays at home. Terry was a bit of a cantankerous animal, but father loved him almost as much as he did me, so we were both allowed to stay in the family.
One night, we had a living room full of people in for a singsong. I was home from university for Christmas holidays and having a good time. The dog was stretched out on the living room floor, seemingly as oblivious to what was going on as that cat in New Brunswick.
Perhaps the dog had New Brunswick blood in him - I doubt that he was related to the cat. Whatever, suddenly he sprang to his feet and with the most vicious snarls, threw himself at me. I was able to hold him off until it seemed he came to his senses and stopped in mid-attack. Even then, he tore my face and chest.
My father, without a word, went and got his 12-gauge shotgun, put Terry in the car and headed for the dump below Middlebrook, Gambo. When I realized what he intended to do, I raced after him and got there just as he was about to do the gory deed. I knew shooting the dog would be the same as Abraham putting the knife to young Isaac's throat, because he thought that's what God wanted him to do. So I played God and saved Terry's life.
While Abe and son got written up in the Bible, I didn't even make the Gander Beacon.
Anyway, I went a long time afraid to get goldfish. Get a piranha in that tank and you never know what might happen. My record isn't that good.
So, perhaps I should stay away from dogs and cats and whatever, and just take my chances with OH.
Some of her "attacks" have been memorable.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.