We frequently bring up pets that we have cared for and laugh at the dachshund that wanted to attack swans twice his size
or the one-eyed English dachshund that disappeared into a badger hole,
or the puppy that grabbed a frozen squirrel and ran away from us.
It's no different here in the Berkshires where we're caring for a 15-year-old, arthritic yellow lab and two cats.
We were warned before we arrived that the dog, Jenny, is having trouble with incontinence. And that has proved to be true. Most mornings when I come downstairs to teach at 6 a.m., I have to clean up the floor where she has left her pet nuggets overnight. But that's part of pet ownership, isn't it?
The cats are quirky in that they follow us when we walk the dog.
We don't go on real roads, but we do walk along a dirt road sometimes, and if a car should come along, the cats are smart enough to disappear into the ferns and plants along the road. The problem is, they don't always come back out.
There have been plenty of times that Earl or I have had to go back searching for them, and there they are, hunkered down in the same spot where they jumped off the road, as if they couldn't possible find their way back.
One day last week, the pet's dinner time arrived and the cats were not milling around underfoot. I fed Jenny and asked Earl if he had seen the cats. They're indoor/outdoor cats. We lock them inside at night because there are so many predators that would like a tasty cat morsel.
We both tried to recall when we'd last seen the cats.
That morning, Earl and I had gone for a 5-mile walk, but Jenny hadn't come and the cats usually only followed when the dog was along.
Earl went onto the front porch and started calling for the cats (they do come when they're called sometimes).
Jenny ran to the front door to be let out. I opened the door and she raced past Earl and up a path into the woods, barking crazily. She barked and sniffed and ran a zigzagging path until we couldn't see her anymore but we could still hear her.
After a bit, she came into view still barking and running.
We couldn't believe the way she was moving. This is an arthritic dog that gets medicine every morning and evening. But we had been out of her meds for three days.
"I feel like I'm in an episode of Homeward Bound," I muttered to Earl.
He went in search of the cats, heading toward the grandparents' home down a different trail.
About 10 minutes later, as I stood on the front porch, I saw Kepler, the black cat come bounding down the same path that Jenny had gone up. He stopped and looked behind him in a paranoid sort of way. There came his sister Tanna after him down the hill.
They both came into the kitchen for food as if nothing had been amiss.
I could picture them up in the forest, lost, until they heard Jenny barking and searching for them. She led them home.
So, in a way, it was like the movie Homeward Bound, only the cats were lost because they just don't have a good sense of direction.
Not too long now, we'll be leaving behind these pets that we've grown attached to, but we know there'll be future pets to enjoy.