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Etc.: On four legs
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The Platteville Dog Park will host its annual St. Francis Day pet blessing Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (Details on page 4B.)

We will have at least one of our two pets there. That would be our Chihuahua, Leo la Obesidad (“Leo the Obese,” for those who don’t read Spanish), who Platteville Farmers Market vendors and shoppers may have seen waddling down Furnace Street. Our Siamese cat, Mocha, may or may not make the trip because he really, really doesn’t like vehicular travel.

Pets have been part of my life for most of my life. We had two dogs growing up — first Curly the English Springer spaniel, then Dolly the West Highland white terror — I mean terrier. My brother had a job at a pet store, and thus one day brought home a lynx-point Siamese, named Clouseau for the bumbling inspector in the Pink Panther movies. Clouseau was later joined by another cat, named, of course, Cato.

By marrying someone whose sister bred dogs, we immediately got two Welsh Springer spaniels, Puzzle and Nick. (Welsh are slightly smaller than English, and instead of brown or black and white they are red and white, with black noses. The dogs, I mean.) Nick was a show dog whose chances of winning a championship faded because he ate something he shouldn’t  have and broke a front tooth. (You probably don’t want to know what he ate.) Puzzle was supposed to be a mother, but had bad hips. That gave her the unusual physique of spindly back legs but an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like front.

Dogs, of course, think you’re part of their pack, and they act accordingly. On too many occasions to count I’d go to the bathroom, open the door when finished, take one step and immediately fall over the dogs. Walking them was an adventure because Nick, trained as a show dog, would walk relatively straight, while Puzzle would go all over the place, tacking like an America’s Cup sailboat.

They briefly went to work with us. One of the sad things is that Puzzle died before our children were born; given how curious she was about people bringing in babies (she’d get on her bad back legs to check them out), she would have been a great aunt. They actually wrote one of my columns once. They also accompanied me to Cuba City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, where we discovered that these supposed hunting dogs were afraid of gunfire. (Specifically the VFW post and its firing squad.)

A year after we got married, we got a calico cat, named Dwayner (apparently for someone in northern Grant County). Our acquisition was delayed because, while the previous owners were moving, she disappeared, only to reappear one week later, having somehow managed to hide underneath a refrigerator. We fixed that by feeding her the quality cat food, meaning she ballooned to the point where she would lay down on her side, and her right leg would remain up in the air.

The cat, named Fatcat, was a source of entertainment for the dogs. She would run, and they figured out they could stop her by stepping on her back. So she’d go splat, and then turn around and bat the dogs on their muzzle, not remembering that she didn’t have front claws, and hiss at them. The effect must have been like getting hit in the face by an inflatable pair of boxing gloves.

The funniest moment (other than their adventures finding dead fish on the shore of Green Bay, which their owners did not find funny since we all had to ride together) with all three probably was the weekend where I had to watch my aunt and uncle’s two dogs, and decided to bring them home for the weekend. So one two-bedroom duplex had four dogs, and there is a photo of me giving out treats to all four at once, all of course sitting with rapt attention. Nick thought having two more girl dogs in the house was great. Puzzle did not; she followed me even closer than usual the whole weekend. Fatcat, meanwhile, bailed out and perched herself on top of a mounted fish on a loft railing.

We got Mocha from a pet store. He has white spots on his body and feet, so evidently we got him from the pet store equivalent of the scratch-and-dent sale. I should have remembered this from Clouseau, but Siamese are very verbal during waking hours, whether or not those are your waking hours.

We have Leo because, well, I didn’t go with the family to the in-laws one weekend due to other commitments. I met Leo after having spent most of the weekend dealing with a plugged basement floor drain. I wasn’t the least bit happy after bringing up yet another bucket of water from downstairs, and then I met Leo. Of course, once the pet is home, it’s too late to take it back.

Pets are important for mental health, entertainment, and even teaching children responsibility. (There is evidence as well that children raised with pets have fewer allergies, given that pets are not clean by human standards.) The “mental health” part may seem implausible when you’re cleaning up after them or they have damaged or destroyed something of yours. But regardless of how your day has gone, they’re excited to see you when you walk in the door, particularly dogs. (Unless they’re just waiting to be fed.) They also keep your bed warm at night, though they may be the source of your morning backache or sideache from their sleeping on top of you, or your sleeping around them, overnight.