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My dogs’ favorite time in the chicken soup cooking process is when I separate out the skin that cooked for hours in the big pot and set it aside to cool. They’ve smelled it for the entire morning, rousing themselves occasionally to stalk back and forth beside the stove before collapsing in a heap again to wait. Mixed in with the skin that falls from the gently cooked chicken is always enough meat to make a dog delirious with joy.

So, they patiently sit by the stove and watch me work. On the few occasions that the outdoor cat Simba has sneaked into the house, there are three in the line waiting for handouts. A golden retriever, a yellow cat and the schnauzer mix all sit primly in a row, displaying patience and complete, utter focus. Only one of them is drooling – the retriever, of course. And only one of them is a cat.

Simba always comes running when the dogs assemble; I’ve concluded that he believes he is a dog. So, when he’s in the line for chicken, I humor him by putting a small piece in front of him, figuring that eating chicken shouldn’t be that much of a stretch for a cat that hunts mice.

But he invariably sniffs at it and looks puzzled until the golden retriever snatches it away. The same drama is performed when I feed the dogs. They run wildly toward the sound of their bowls being filled and Simba comes with them. This otherwise ruthless killer then looks on while the other two wolf down their dry food. If I give him a piece, again he gives it a dismissive sniff before a dog shoves him out of the way. For a cat trying to pose as a dog, he’s got a lot to learn. At least he knows how to go on a walk with us along the country road by our house. He doesn’t require a leash and he jogs along beside the dogs. He also knows to dive off the road if he hears a car coming.

If only we could train Simba to hunt grasshoppers in addition to mice. The hopper invasion this year has taken a twist; they’ve become fond of coffee. Walk into the garden with a cup in your hand, and a hopper is sure to jump into the cup. As they grow bigger, they not only land in the coffee but splash it all over. I hadn’t said anything about this until my husband confessed that he also had grasshopper coffee one morning.

When you quickly toss the coffee and critter to the ground, the grasshoppers don’t seem troubled by the hot bath and jump away even higher like the caffeinated insects they’ve become. Since they’ve been around since the Triassic Period, a little soak in coffee is nothing to them.

But I do have a theory about their continued good health; they seem to love Swiss chard. The grasshoppers haven’t destroyed much in our garden for all their efforts, but the chard looks like someone neatly cut it down with scissors. On a diet of chard and coffee, the hoppers seem set to thrive for another 200 million years.

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