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Our Town – July 2, 2015

| Animals, Birds, Our Town | July 1, 2015

The Soupster unravels a garbage mystery.

Before the strolling Soupster even reached the bend in the road, he heard three things: the treble-triples and quads of bald eagles, the more purposeful caws of ravens and the baritone of the Soupster’s neighbor, Jean-Pierre, spouting loud, angry French.

After retiring from a large bicycle manufacturer in Paris, Jean-Pierre had built a sailboat and headed out to sea. Six years later, with a wife he’d met in Phnom Penh and a son born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Jean-Pierre came ashore in Our Town and declared it “Ze Heaven On Zis Eart’!” The son was married himself now and living Outside. The wife had moved back to Cambodia to be with her family. But to Jean-Pierre, Our Town was still “Heaven on Zis Eart’.”

Well, maybe not today.

Today, Jean-Pierre was in a furious competition with some ravens to return to their rightful place the contents of his trash can before the black birds pulled the items out again. As to who was winning, the scene still rated a toss-up.

In the hemlocks surrounding Jean-Pierre’s trash-strewn driveway, bald eagles watched the action from a dignified distance. Not so the ravens, one of which swooped low enough to knock Jean-Pierre’s cap off. Then the bird glided smoothly to the rim of the can, cackled happily and grabbed a piece of melon peel.

“Yo, Jean-Pierre,” the Soupster called. “You can’t win a battle against those odds. Let me help you.”

The Soupster tipped the scales some in Jean-Pierre’s favor. The ravens may have given the Soupster slack because he truly loved ravens. Or because he was not French. Whatever, they flew back up into the hemlocks and started harassing the eagles.

“What got this stuff all over, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster asked.

“I zink it was ze bear, mon Zoupster,” said Jean-Pierre. “It may have been ze land otter, but I don’t zink so. I zink it was ze bear.”

“Did you keep your trash in your garage until pick-up day like you were supposed to?” asked the Soupster.

“Oui! Yes!” said Jean-Pierre. “Always!”

“Did you put any fish or meat in the can zat might have smelled strong and attracted the bear?”

“Sacre bleu!” Jean-Pierre said. “My freezer needed repair. I thought for just a little while it would be all right. You are right, Zoupster. It was ze smelly fish that attracted ze bear!”

“Not such a “heaven on Earth” if you have to watch your garbage so closely, eh, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster teased.

“Au contraire, Zoupster!” Jean-Pierre said. “Zis is nature. In nature, zere is always something to capitalize on a mistake zat any creature makes. Nature, she is very efficient, no?”

“Yes,” the Soupster said.

“And, Zoupster,” Jean-Pierre concluded, as the two men hoisted upright the now-filled can. “We are lucky to live right with nature. With nature right on our doorstep. In our driveway. C’est magnifique, no?”

Originally published June 26, 2003

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 6, 2014

Our Town – November 6, 2014

| Animals, Dogs, Jokes, Our Town | November 6, 2014

The Soupster hears about charlatans, wrongly accused.

The Soupster stepped out of the rain and into the lobby of Our Town’s airport to pick up an express shipment. He hoped that someday the animal heads and fish lined up along the front beam could be made animatronic, like something out of Disneyland. Visitors would take it as noteworthy, the Soupster surmised, if a 70-lb. king salmon winked at them and said, “Welcome to Our Town!” or “Please come visit Our Town again.”

The gangway swung open and passengers spilled out. The serious travelers flowed right out the front door, having whittled their fashion and toiletry needs down to carry-on size. The rest of the crowd oozed slowly toward the luggage carousel. At the front counter, the Soupster was told he could retrieve his package in a few minutes.

“Hi, Soupster!” said Skye Claire, sideling up next to him. Skye was a professional entertainer who holed up in Our Town periodically to hide from her adoring fans. “How’s my favorite purveyor of miscellaneous items soaked in rainwater?”

“And my best wishes to you, Miss Skye,” the Soupster said with a barely perceptible bow. “What’s new in the entertainment business?”

“I met a talking dog,” said Skye.

“I’m listening,” said the Soupster.

“So, I’m in the office of a talent agent in Seattle who’s trying out new acts for the annual Rainier Review,” she recounted. “I’m standing by the door filling out some contract forms, when the agent lets in the next act for an audition.

“’Spartacus, the Wonder Dog!’ trumpets the owner of a speckled black-and-white, longhaired medium size hound. ‘Spartacus will now answer three questions.’”

“What was the owner like?” asked the Soupster.

“A bit forgettable,” said Skye. “Plus, me and the talent agent are busy staring at the dog.

“’Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘What do you call the material on the outside of a tree?’

“‘Bark!’ yelps the dog enthusiastically. The talent agent raises his eyebrows.

“’Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘Name a three-masted wooden cargo ship from the 19th century.’

“’Barque,’ yips Spartacus. The agent crosses his arms and looks stern.

“’Spartacus,’ the owner says a third time. ‘What is the best brand of root beer?’

“’Barq’s’ Spartacus says.

“’That’s enough, you charlatans!’ says the talent agent, who comes out from behind his desk and scoots both man and dog out of the office. I slip out with them. The agent goes back inside and slams his door.

“Spartacus looks up at his owner. ‘Henry Weinhard?’ Spartacus says. I almost fainted.”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 9, 2014

Our Town – October 9, 2014

| Animals, Crazy Theories, Our Town | October 9, 2014

The Soupster does monkey business.

“Books about monkeys?” the Soupster asked Bobbi Lincoln, who was walking out of Our Town’s relief pitcher library while our starting pitcher library undergoes renovations.

“Indeed,” said Bobbi, an animated wisp who seemed to switch perches effortlessly. “I’ve been thinking a lot about monkeys. Monkey see, monkey do.” She held three books about monkeys.

“Have you ever heard that if you put enough monkeys at enough typewriters, one of them will type the Sitka phone book?” the Soupster quipped.

“I’ve heard they type King Lear,” said Bobbi. “Besides, what’s a typewriter?”

“Ha, ha,” said the Soupster. The Soupster liked Bobbi, which he indicated with a broad smile. Bobbi indicated her mutual affection by quick head movements. She switched perches again.

“We are so lucky to have a back-up library,” said the Soupster.

“I just found out the library moved,” said Bobbi. “I don’t know how it escaped me. I’m spending too much time online, obviously.” She tilted her head.

“The news must have reached the hundredth monkey,” said the Soupster.

“What?” asked Bobbi, standing on one foot.

“So there was supposedly this group of islands, each island with a different group of monkeys living on it with no contact between any of the groups,” explained the Soupster. “And the monkeys had to eat dirty sweet potatoes – don’t ask me why. And then one of the monkeys on one of the islands figured out how to wash the sweet potatoes. The other monkeys on that island imitated the first monkey and washed their potatoes too.”

“According to the theory,” the Soupster continued, “when the hundredth monkey on the first island washed his sweet potatoes, monkeys on the other, unconnected islands started washing theirs, too.”

“Sounds like a fruity theory,” said Bobbi.

“You’re right,” said the Soupster. “The theory is hockey pucky scientifically. But it does have an element of truth. When ideas reach a critical mass, they do seem to take on a life of their own and emerge at the same time from seemingly unconnected groups.”

“Of monkeys?” chirped Bobbi, switching perches.

“Could be monkeys,” said the Soupster.

“I gotta go,” said Bobbi. “Lots of monkeys today,” she called as she flew off.

“That’s why we measure ‘em in barrels!” the Soupster called after her.

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 25, 2014

Our Town – September 25, 2014

| Animals, Dogs, Our Town | September 25, 2014

The Soupster discovers new uses for seawater.

As he strolled up the uneven causeway to the seaside home of his new friend, Warren Peece, the Soupster thought, “My friends have funny names.”

It was a dark and stormy night. The Soupster trod carefully around the potholes that filled with rain in just a few minutes.

The kind of big-drop rainfall that another of the Soupster’s friends, Rex Havick, thought came down too hard on Our Town to be just falling and had to be the result of somebody throwing it at us.

Warren’s home was a snug-looking place, but on a night like this, perched precariously on some rocks the ocean could shift with a mere shrug, disappearing between sea spray and downpour, Warren’s abode looked awfully alone and the Soupster felt a pang of concern for his friend.

So, after greeting Warren, before even shedding his Tufs, the Soupster got right to the point.

“I would worry about being out here all by myself,” he said.

“Nothing is going to happen to me,” Warren said.

“What if a bad person came out here while you were sleeping?”

“No one’s coming out to bother this old man,” said Warren. “Seawater will protect me.”

The Soupster figured Warren was right – who would trek out to this lonely spot on the ocean? There were more convenient places for mischief.

Warren went into the kitchen to check on the dinner. As his friend bunked around in the other room, the Soupster couldn’t help but salivate. He had heard that Warren was a consummate cook and waiting for tonight’s fare – some kind of family-secret-wine-and-herb-poached halibut – the Soupster felt like a kid who couldn’t wait a second more to start eating.

But as the Soupster looked around the living room, he had to laugh. Warren might be top chef, but he was no housekeeper. Newspapers and books in waist-high piles made impromptu tables for Warren to pile other stuff and he did, and then piled more stuff on top of that.

Warren came back into the living room and handed the Soupster one of his famous homemade brews. The Soupster noted a recent cut on Warren’s forearm.

“Nasty,” said the Soupster, pointing the bottle neck at Warren’s wound.

“Not to worry,” said Warren. “Seawater took care of it. Ready to eat?”

Warren brought plates to the table and the Soupster noticed they were sparkling clean – despite the messiness of everything else. Warren doled out the halibut only slightly faster than the famished Soupster scarfed it down.

Sated finally, the Soupster leaned back in his chair and patted his bloated belly. “Just delicious,” he said. “And I have to compliment you on how clean you got the dishes.”

“As clean as Seawater can make ‘em,” said Warren. The Soupster chuckled at the thought of his thrifty and unconventional friend.

There were still a few slivers of halibut and dollops of sauce on the Soupster’s plate.

“You going to finish that?” Warren asked.

“I couldn’t cram in another bite,” the Soupster said.

“Not to worry,” said Warren and put the Soupster’s plate onto the floor. “Seawater!” Warren called out and for the first time, the Soupster noticed an ancient hound sleeping on a blanket by the stove.

The old dog roused himself and went to work on the plate.

“See?” said Warren. “Not to worry!”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 3, 2014

Our Town – July 3, 2014

| Animals, Dogs, Our Town, Pets | July 3, 2014

The Soupster learns that bravery comes in many forms.

Prince Little, the chihuahua, huddled under a salmonberry thicket, hiding out. He was only a few blocks from his home, but little creatures don’t have to go far to have big adventures.

How to explain how he ended up in the salmonberries? First, the front door was left open, then the fence gate. He spotted a stunning poodle-corgi mix and before he made any kind of decision he was already in hot pursuit. He scarcely realized he was running, even as he was getting lost.

Mademoiselle Corgi was fleet and Prince Little could no longer see her. But he did see the two big cars that came very close and one honked angrily. Bicycles swished by, spraying him with drizzle. A jogger. A really big dog who smelled like teeth. Prince Little was an inside guy, and the salmonberry thicket seemed the closest thing to inside that he could find.

Only a few blocks away, Jennifer Boveen, Prince Little’s owner, paced her house with grief and worry. Tomorrow was the big parade and she was marching with the summer school band and had to practice her flute. But how could she? Prince Little was her practice partner, always listening, sitting quietly while she played, his thin tail swishing back and forth like a metronome. Where was Prince Little?

Jennifer couldn’t bring herself to even open her flute case. Her parents offered her all sorts of bribes, but nothing could dispel the dark cloud of Prince Little’s disappearance. She went to bed early, dreading having to march and play her flute, when all she wanted to do was pull her blankets over her head.

Morning – parade day. Jennifer had breakfast with her parents, who treated her gently. They told her they’d be cheering from the sidelines and they were proud of her. They watched their daughter leave, wearing her band uniform and carrying her flute — a brave little soldier.

Jennifer arrived at parade lineup and disappeared among the excited cacophony of band members. Her friends were so wired, Jennifer’s gloominess went unnoticed. The bandleader called for the musicians to take their places. And off they went, Jennifer doing her musical best as they played the song she had practiced for hours in her room, Prince Little wagging his tail at her side.

Two blocks ahead, inside the salmonberry thicket, Prince Little’s ears perked up. For the last hour, the street in front of the bushes had filled with chattering strangers, and the chihuahua had slid further back into the thicket. The crowd started making a lot of noise and Prince Little shivered.

And then a sound coming down the street, the blaring summer band belting out the tune that Jennifer had practiced for hours with Prince Little at her side. As the band got closer still, the dog’s small, keen ears recognized the familiar sound of a particular flute playing a familiar song in a most particular way. He picked up Jennifer’s smell, sealing the deal. Prince Little tore out of the salmonberries, ran past the Soupster and into the middle of the band, and danced around Jennifer’s feet. In celebration, she played her heart out.

The very next day, when they announced that the school summer band took first prize for musical acts, Prince Little’s dancing was awarded a special mention.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 8, 2014

Our Town – May 8, 2014

| Animals, Crazy Theories, Dogs, Our Town | May 8, 2014

The Soupster copes with unpleasant memories.

“You hate my dog!” Laura overheard through the library stack. “You revile my pooch.”

Laura the Librarian, with an armful of books, turned the corner, “Soupster?” she said “Is that you?”

“Uh, oh,” the Soupster said. “Was I talking out loud?”

“Something about dogs?” said Laura. “Something about hating dogs?”

The Soupster reddened. “I am a confirmed animal lover,” he said guiltily. “I actually like dogs third best, right after cats and Australians.”

“Then why did you say you hated your dog?” said Laura.

“It’s just an expression I use to control my bad thoughts,” the Soupster answered.

“Stay there,” said Laura, as she tipped the books in her arms onto a nearby empty shelf. She smoothed her blouse and gave her shoulders and head a little shake. “Now,” she said to the Soupster, “Tell me what on Earth you are talking about.”

The Soupster looked around to see if anyone else was listening. “Well,” he said, lowering his voice, “When I say, `You hate my dog,’ it really has nothing to do with dogs, or hatred, or even you, for that matter.”

“You know, when a person has a memory of something that didn’t turn out so well?” the Soupster went on. “And when they figure out what they should have done that would have worked out fifty times better? Or when they remember something somebody once said and only now can they think of the perfect thing they should have said back then?

“I don’t have these problems,” said Laura,

“Consider yourself lucky, then,” said the Soupster. “But my mind sometimes gets locked in kind of negative territory. My saying, `You hate my dog’ breaks me loose.”

“Tell me Soupster,” said Laura. “how did you come up with saying you hate your dog… er… my dog? Oh, you know what I mean.”

“Well,” said the Soupster, “It started a long time ago with the old saying, `Love me, love my dog.’ That morphed into `Hate me, hate my dog.’ Finally, just, `You hate my dog.’”

“Fascinating, your noggin,” said Laura.

“Show me the noggin what ain’t,” said the Soupster.

“Well, your noggin, especially, ain’t ain’t,” Laura said.

“You hate my dog!” said the Soupster.

“Wait just a minute,” said Laura. “Didn’t you just finish telling me that all this had nothing to do with me or dogs or hatred or dog hatred or anything?”

“Ooops,” the Soupster said.

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 27, 2014

Our Town – March 27, 2014

| Animals, Our Town, Pets, Small Town Stuff | March 27, 2014

The Soupster asks if there is ever anything new.

“Always the same, this town,” the Soupster muttered, reading the newspaper. “Always arguing over the same things. Paving the same roads, painting the same walls. The same people day after day. Can’t anything be surprising?”

With decades of residency under his belt, the Soupster didn’t entertain illusions about Our Town’s complexion being blemish-free. But what great lover is put off by a few zits? While he might moan in private, publicly the Soupster deflected criticism from outsiders like any loyal lover of a place (or person).

But today the Soupster was bored and instead of taking ownership of his boredom, he decided to blame Our Town. “Same, same,” he moaned. “Same, same, same.”

Fresh air sounded good, the Soupster thought. “Shake off my cobwebs.” This being herring season — hence, herring weather — the Soupster dressed in layers in case the present spectacular sunshine turned instantly to pounding hail.

Out the door down the road to the park went the Soupster, looking over the same sites he’d spied for years. He greeted a familiar face. He turned onto a trail he knew as well as the big vein on the back of his left hand.

While the herring spawn along the ocean’s edge was a mere fraction of that 20 or 30 years ago, the air still reeked with a salty, springy maritime smell. “Uncle Milt,” thought the Soupster. It was too early for new shoots, but the ground felt softer – ready to do something very soon.

A man leading a small black-and-white dog on a leather leash turned the corner of the trail. A strange dog – small and prowling like a cat. The closer the Soupster got, the stranger the dog looked – especially the prowling.

The small dog on a leash turned out to be a rather large cat on a leash.

“I trained him as a kitten,” the man said as he went past. “Now he loves it!”

“That,” said the somewhat delighted Soupster, waving, “is new to me. Yup, tomcat-on-a-leash is a new one for me.”

The sound of wheels turned the Soupster’s attention to a woman pushing a high-tech stroller. The stroller contained an extremely hairy baby. The closer the stroller approached, the hairier the child looked.

With relief, the Soupster realized the hairy baby was a dog.

“She hurt her leg playing Frisbee and she really misses her walk,” the woman said to the Soupster’s puzzled expression.

“Thank you,” said the Soupster.

“For what?” she asked.

“I was thinking everything in Our Town was `same, same, same,’” said the Soupster, more to himself. “I stand corrected.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – October 10, 2013

Our Town – October 10, 2013

| Accidents, Animals, Cats, Nicknames, Our Town, Telemarketing | October 10, 2013

The Soupster hears the gruesome story of a cat’s name.

Originally published October 7, 2004

Tony held his new cat in his lap, stroking its head, a slightly deranged-looking head, but Tony didn’t seem to notice.

“What’s his name?” asked the Soupster.

“This cat?” said Tony. “There’s quite a story connected with this critter.” The cat looked up at its owner with its moist, loving, remaining green eye. The cat was also missing one ear and the whiskers on the same side. One front tooth had been cracked in half. There was something wrong with one foot.

“This cat spent kittenhood living in the home of the most hated man in his neighborhood,” Tony said. “Some kind of free-lance international telemarketer. Anyway, people came in and out of the house all hours of the day and night on telemarketing business and everybody wanted to handle the cute little kitten. Two or three o’clock in the morning was the business day somewhere on the globe and somebody was always asking about the cat.”

“A free-lance telemarketer?” said the Soupster

“Oooh-boy, did they hate him in the neighborhood,” said Tony. “The telemarketer. Wasn’t just this cat that was kept awake. All those telemarketing people stopping by all the time kept the neighbors awake. And the teenage kids in the neighborhood started making a big hero out of this hated telemarketer, and don’t you know the parents didn’t like that very much.”

“So, as the cat got older,” asked the Soupster,. “did it get a name?”

“Right,” Tony continued. “The neighbors finally convinced the telemarketer to telemarket elsewhere. He abandoned the cat. So this poor guy found himself all on his own under a trailer, snuggling up to an electric heater for warmth, when he snuggled a little too close to the main electrical element and started a small fire on his head.” Tony rubbed the stump where the cat’s ear had been.

“Then he moved in with another family, one that already had these three really old other cats. Well, old cats and new cats can be like Classic Coke and New Coke — under the influence of different planets. They ganged up on our friend here – the three cats attacked him in sequence – and each one bit off a toe.”

“Ouch,” said the Soupster.

“That was the point I got him,” Tony said. “I took my new cat to the veterinarian to get his foot treated and the vet said the cat should be fixed, so I let him.”

“How did the tooth get broken?”

“That was just last week,” Tony said. “I guess I shouldn’t have brought such a lifelike stone bird into the house at the same time I got a new cat, but I really didn’t expect him to attack it.”

“So what are you calling this bad boy?” asked the Soupster.

“Lucky,” said Tony. “Just Lucky.”

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 1, 2013

Our Town – August 1, 2013

| Animals, Birds, Environment, Our Town | August 1, 2013

The Soupster is unaware of criticism of his trash handling.

The second raven spread its wings and caught the air to slow its descent as it landed atop the roof of the covered unloading area of the Solid Waste Transfer Station on Jarvis Street. It picked a spot close — but not close-threatening — to the first raven who had been sitting on the roof for about five minutes already, studying the trash items spread out below.

“Patience, my tail feathers, I’m going to kill something,” quipped Raven Two in greeting, re-telling the old joke about the hungry vulture complaining to his fellow vultures. “How are you, you old grouch?”

Both ravens cawed and cackled, as a third circled overhead and landed on a nearby hemlock branch. Various other ravens, alone or in groups of two and three, occupied other trees and ledges in the vicinity, deep in their own business.

These were healthy Our Town birds, shiny and waterproof with stiff outer feathers and feathers underneath as soft and thick as fur. They were well fed.

A pickup truck pulled into the station and onto the scale outside the drive-up window of the Transfer Center office building. The window slid open and the human inside the truck and human at the window exchanged sounds that were incomprehensible to the ravens.

“A pickup truck,” noted Raven #1. “Fewer than there used to be, with all the SUVs and hatchbacks humans are buying instead.”

“What’s up with that?” said Raven #2.

“But isn’t a bed full of fresh groceries in a pickup parked in an empty lot just about the sweetest thing in Creation?” said Bird One.

“And we should know!” quipped Bird Two who cawed loudly, along with One, for a solid six seconds. This caused the raven in the hemlock to circle around and then land back in the same hemlock.

“Trash, in general, is disappointing these days,” said Raven One. “These humans are composting so much of what we used to find delicious about trash.”

“The bears have ruined it,” said Raven Two. “With bear proofing, we can’t even get the trash cans open half the time, even if the wind has knocked them over for us.”

Both birds watched as the Soupster drove up in his hatchback. He had a rickety wooden chair and a shovel with a broken handle to discard. The Soupster had just been to the grocery store and the “eagle-eyed” ravens could see three grocery bags lined up tantalizingly in the cargo area. The second bag in had green grapes at the top, Raven Two’s favorite. While not as big a fan, Raven One wouldn’t throw a green grape out of its beak.The grapes taunted both birds from behind shatter-proof glass.

The Soupster got out of the hatchback to toss the shovel and chair into the refuse pile, leaving his door ajar. Raven Two almost swooped down to make a grab for the grapes, but calculated the theft would be impossible.

Raven One looked down at the out-of-reach grapes and a trash pile with no food matter in it. It motioned toward the two dozen other ravens in the trees surrounding them. “An unkindness, as far as I’m concerned” it said sarcastically. “An unkindness.”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – November 15, 2012

Our Town – November 15, 2012

| Animals, Dogs, Guest Written, Mary Ann Jones, Our Town | November 14, 2012

Our Town resident Chauncey Whelan was riding his bicycle down Lake Street when he happened to glance over and saw a large dog chasing the ducks at the lake. “For Heaven’s sake,” he thought. “I need to go over there and break that up.”

Being a good citizen, Chauncey stopped, got off his bike and started to walk towards the commotion. The dog saw him and suddenly turned its attention away from the ducks, growled and glared at Chauncey with a look that made the young man tremble.

The ducks, in the meantime, had apparently forgotten about the dog and had wandered over to Edith Goodrich who was throwing leftover bread on the ground nearby for them. “Thanks for distracting that dog, Chauncey! You’re doing a great job!” Edith shouted.

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Goodrich,” Chauncey said, trying not to make any sudden movements that might escalate his precarious situation.

A group of people soon appeared and Chauncey breathed a sigh of relief, but they didn’t seem to notice what was happening and walked past him on their way to the wooden pier. They stood there, looking at the lake and talking among themselves for a few minutes, then turned and headed back to the street. “Pardon me,” Chauncey said politely, “Would you mind helping me with this dog?”

One member of the group smiled at him and said, “We have this area reserved for our fundraising event this morning. You’re welcome to come, but we’d appreciate it if you left your dog in your car.”

“But it’s not my……” Chauncey’s words trailed off as the group walked away. “It’s not my dog. It’s…..it’s…George Clooney’s dog.”

Just then, one of the women in the group wheeled around and shrieked, “Are you serious? That’s George Clooney’s dog? Is he in town? Oh, my God!”

The whole group was excited by that time and rushed back to Chauncey, ignoring the dog, whose demeanor had magically improved with the arrival of more humans. “Why, yes”, Chauncey went on. “I heard that Mr. Clooney is in town on his yacht and that he’s been desperately looking for his dog because it ran away this morning.”

“I just love George Clooney,” one of the women sighed. “And he has such an awareness of pressing social issues.” The others in the group nodded in agreement.

“So,” Chauncey said, “You know that he’s also a big supporter of….what is your group called?”

“Society for Bluer Lakes,” one of the other women replied.

“Yes, he’s a big proponent of bluer lakes,” Chauncey explained. “I hear he’s quite a contributor. Maybe he would even agree to be your spokesman!”

“That would be awesome!” they all agreed.

So, off the group went with the dog, giving Chauncey an opportunity to walk back to his bike.

The Soupster had come out of the dentist’s office across the street about the same time this was happening and observed the conversation between Chauncey and the group. “Well, young man,” he said, “looks like they just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.”

– Submitted by Mary Ann Jones

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 25, 2011

Our Town – August 25, 2011

| Animals, Dogs, Guest Written, Jennifer Truman, Our Town | August 25, 2011

“Whoa!” Simon exclaimed, tightening his grip on the leash and pulling his border collie Spruce out of the path of a run-away German shepherd.

“Sorry!” the owner of the shepherd called out as he jogged on by, his dog running merrily ahead, dodging in and out of the bike lane, oblivious to the cars rushing past.

Simon shook his head and continued his walk. Around the next turn he ran into his friend Betty, who was walking her chihuahua LuLu.

“Thank you!” Simon immediately said, stopping next to her.

“Well, you’re certainly welcome! … But what for?” she asked with a laugh as their dogs greeted each other.

“For walking your dog on a leash! I can’t believe what a problem it has become in Our Town – it seems like nobody wants to walk their dog on  a leash anymore,” he explained. Betty nodded.

“Oh, I’ve noticed that, too,” Betty agreed. “It’s kind of surprising, really. Not only is it inconsiderate of other people and their pets, it’s so dangerous for the dog! My LuLu is very well trained, but I would never take the risk of her running away from me, running into traffic, or running into another BIGGER dog! I care about her too much.”

“I feel the same way. Also, if your dog is running around loose it’s not always easy to tell where they’ve gone to the bathroom and now you’ve created TWO problems. There is nothing worse than setting out on a nice walk with Spruce only to end it by walking through someone else’s mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after my own dog, but I don’t like cleaning up after other people’s!” Simon pointed out.

Betty shook her head. “If a person can’t stand the idea of their dog being on a leash, then I would suggest they go to the dog park before walking them loose around Our Town. It’s a nice little area and a great way for dogs to socialize with each other – not to mention the owners. That’s where I’m headed right now to meet up with the Soupster and his new friend.”

“Hey, that sounds like a great idea!” Simon nodded. “How about I join the two of you and let LuLu and Spruce play a little more, and maybe seeing a group of dogs having fun SAFELY will inspire other people to stop by.”

“See? A perfect solution for people who don’t like to use a leash to walk their dogs – and ESPECIALLY for people whose dogs seem to like to walk them!” she laughed, pointing down the street. Simon turned around to see the Soupster heading in the direction of the dog park, waving happily at them while being all but dragged off his feet by one energetic Lab – on his leash and looking happy as could be.

– Submitted by Jennifer Truman

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 19, 2011

Our Town – May 19, 2011

| Animals, Cats, Our Town, Parody | May 19, 2011

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Our Town – April 7, 2011

| Animals, Cats, Downtown, Fish, Movies, Our Town | April 7, 2011

Decorative tattoos for animals? the Soupster pondered as he walked on the Our Town downtown sidewalk. He had heard the identification tattoos that people put on their dogs and cats had blossomed into an art form. But the previous evening, he had witnessed the unseeable – a cat with the face of Celine Dion smiling up from a shaved part of its foreleg.

And then he had heard the unhearable – the news that one of Our Town’s newest tattoo shops was tattooing pet fish. Naturally, the Soupster had resolved to see one of these tattooed fish forthwith. Ergo, he was downtown early (for him) in the morning.

A goldfish with the chemical symbol AU for gold would, perhaps, be an apt tattoo, the Soupster considered as he passed a store. A printed notice taped to the window caught his eye, from the Local Illness Network Team. Another offshoot, LINT had grown out of a collaboration between Our Town’s foodies and healthies. An official ceremony would be held later in the month, declaring a certain type of fluid-filled growth that appeared on the right flank as a “Sitka cyst” – joining the esteemed ranks of Sitka rose, Sitka alder and Sitka black-tailed deer. It was no joke – it drained and hurt.

Could put a tattoo of the devil on an angelfish, the Soupster thought mischievously.  Betta are the pretty fish with those swirly, airy fins that make them look like they’re flying through the water. What could you possibly tattoo on a betta? he wondered.

Just beyond the cyst notice, the store owners had placed in their window a clever new device for Our Town motorists. “As Seen on TV,” said the lurid poster, mounted adjacent to theWindshield ProjectionTM. The device projected scenes from the most beautiful places in the world – Tahiti, Switzerland, Kilimanjaro, Patagonia – onto the windshield of your car in a way that allowed you to drive safely while enjoying the world-class view.

Our Town already had a world class view, the Soupster judged, but even the most gorgeous waterfront commute could be boring if unchanged day after day. At any rate, there was way more of a chance of his buying a Windshield ProjectorTM than of having the face of a Canadian diva – any Canadian diva – tattooed on the shaved forearm of his cat.

Across the street, the cinema bi-plex offered up two films. “The Sea Lion King,” which the Soupster had not seen, and “Give ‘Em Hell, Herring,” which he had. In smaller letters, for movies showing at the out-the-road bi-plex, the sign advertised “Shallow Halibut” and “Rocky.” Do two bi-plexes equal one multi-plex?

Ooohhh, those little seahorses could sport wonderful tattoos, the Soupster thought, as he continued down the street. A saddle, for instance. Or a tiny jockey. Maybe they should tattoo seahorses on the sides of regular horses?

He ignored the light rain that had started. The Soupster had money in his pocket and no appointments till afternoon. He considered the coves and forest surrounding Our Town as paradise, but with money and time in his pocket, even downtown – even in the rain – seemed like paradise to him.

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 6, 2010

Our Town – May 6, 2010

| Animals, Birds, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | May 6, 2010

The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood and park in the street. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came the cawing of excited squawks and warbling calls, as the early birds recognized each other and descended on their destination.

“Lydia’s Moving Sale!” The Soupster’s eyes popped open and he leaped from his bed.

His beloved long-time neighbor, Lydia, was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son and his family. They had already remodeled the lanai into an apartment. Lydia’s daughter-in-law had come into a sizable inheritance, so her son had closed up his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, the son and the wife decided to give the 50th  a whirl.

The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that American and European men no longer need to comb their hair. He hurried over to Lydia’s.

His neighbor’s modest home was overrun with early birds. But of course! For Lydia had had the temerity to put an ad in the previous evening’s newspaper: “Aloha Moving Sale! Everything must go! Items free or you set the price. 9am-1pm. No early birds.”

Nothing inflamed an early bird’s lust for cheap but serviceable household items like those last three words. “No early birds?” he thought. “Really, Lydia?” He looked at his watch. It was just past 8:30.

At the front door, Lydia was negotiating with one of the early birds, who held a DVD player and a lamp. The early bird held cash, but Lydia pushed his hand back. “It’s okay to take them for free,” she insisted.

“I’m sure you could use the money,” said the bird, placing a $50 bill in her hand and hurrying out the door.

“It’s been like this,” said Lydia, acknowledging the Soupster. “I tell them they can have the stuff for free. I must look pitiful or something, because they keep forcing me to take money.”

“Why don’t you want to take money?”

“I feel like I should pay them,” said Lydia. “To take this stuff away. You know how much you accumulate in 30 years? I was going to take everything to the White Elephant store, but do you know how many trips that would have made? This way the buyers come right to me. Cuts out the middleman.”

Lydia turned her attention to a bird holding a sewing basket, a Mr. Coffee and two tin buckets. More early birds arrived as the Soupster surveyed the scene. Lydia’s household was being demolished peck by peck, as surely as ravens worrying a dead salmon.

But Lydia seemed happy, the Soupster surmised. “Hey Lydia, what are you going to spend all this unexpected money on?” he asked.

“Oh, it all goes to the White E.,” said Lydia. “Do you know how much trouble this is saving me? By cutting out the middleman?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 24, 2009

Our Town – September 24, 2009

| Animals, Dogs, Guest Written, Kathy Ingallinera, Our Town, Pets | September 24, 2009

My old dog, Grizzly, and I round the corner in the park and I spy the Soupster sitting on a bench. I sit beside him as Grizzly sniffs some Cow Parsnip. “Hey, Soupster, you like old dogs or young dogs better?” He reaches over to scratch Grizzly on the head, causing both of them to grin with pleasure, although only Grizzly’s leg starts tapping.

“Well, I like young pups better; so full of energy and doing funny things. They’re a lot of work though, with housebreaking and their constant chewing. What about you?”

“Been awhile since I had a pup. I’ve grown fond of older dogs. They have so much to teach us, if we’re willing to be their students.”

“What do you mean? I’ve heard of taking dogs to obedience school, but never of people being trained by dogs,” the Soupster says.

“Got time to take a stroll around the park with us? Grizzly might teach you a few things I call the ‘P’s’” of senior dogs.”

We walk until Grizzly stops near a totem pole, closes his eyes and lifts his nose into the wind. “The first ‘P’ of older dogs – pleasure. You saw this earlier when you were scratching his head and now as he stops to inhale the smells of the sea. Old dogs take pleasure in small, simple things.”

“Older people do, too,” the Soupster mumbles to himself.

We amble along the level trail for a few more minutes until Grizzly sees a salmonberry bush. “Now you’ll see passion – the second ‘P’.” The Soupster stands back, not sure what to expect. I reach through the picked-over branches and find some plump salmon-colored berries that Grizzly quickly inhales. When the pickings get slim I try to sneak a few ruby-colored ones into his mouth. He spits them right out. “That’s another ‘P’ of older dogs – persnicketyness. Once in a while he’ll eat a red one, but that’s his prerogative.”

Continuing on the trail, I reach in my bag and give Griz a biscuit. A piece of it falls into a hole at the base of a tree, and is partially hidden by the roots. He uses his right front paw to reach in and slowly drag the piece forward until he grabs it with his snout. “That ‘P’ was persistence and Grizzly has it, especially when it comes to food.”

“Tell me about the last ‘P’s’ so I can get back to work.”

“Well, then you should stay with us a little longer. Grizzly could teach you about patience like he has taught me. I walk slowly, glad for every minute he is by my side. There’s one more ‘P’ too – that’s peace. That’s what we share each evening when I give him a kiss goodnight and he returns it.”

The Soupster is deep in thought. He says, “You know, the dogs in our town have it lucky. We live in a beautiful place where we have time for slow walks and good smells and peace.”

“Yes – and plenty of salmonberries!”

– Submitted by Kathy Ingallinera, in memory of Grizzly, who died 9/1/09 under a salmonberry bush

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