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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Woodchuck bites dog
Wednesday, July 26 2006

setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

Today was the last day of Gretchen's brother's family's visit, and it was also the day I would be setting out to spend a few days in Virginia. Gretchen, Gretchen's brother's family, and I all convoyed to Rosendale on the way out of town. Originally we'd planned to have lunch at the Alamo, but it was closed (as it often has been since the Hubbert Curve of gentrification peaked in Rosendale some months ago). So we ended up at the Rosendale Café instead. At the last minute I'd brought the dogs (though they'd be going back with Gretchen), and (as always) we let them run loose while we ate our lunch in the café's back garden. (Also, as always, Gretchen and I ordered tempeh reubens.) Not long after we'd sat down, I heard a commotion some distance away so I ran off to check. I found Sally and Eleanor circling around a large Woodchuck. Periodically Sally would charge in and try to seize him. She even had it off the ground for a moment and shook him a few times as I began my urgent intervention. This particular Woodchuck was obviously experienced with dogs, but two was more than he could handle. He clucked woodchuck obscenities and even charged me at one point. Eleanor was easy to chase off, but I had to physically push Sally away. At about this time I noticed she was bleeding profusely from one her ears. Woodchucks have sharp teeth and one of their main defenses is to bite dogs, usually (for some reason) on the ear. Only after the dogs had retreated 50 feet away from me and the Woodchuck did he amble off the other way, disappearing beneath some bushes. He seemed to be perfectly fine.
Sally continued bleeding from her ear throughout the lunch, something that was surprisingly unsettling to my sister-in-law. When a few scattered drops of rain fell from faintly rumbling skies, she acted as though she feared she would melt. Meanwhile her kid, my two and a half year old nephew, was being unusually charming and articulate as he handled (and occasionally ate) his bland buttered pasta.

My first destination on this trip was my parents' place south of Staunton, Virginia. So I took my usual western route, using I-84 to get to I-81 in Scranton, PA and then taking that all the way south. Though I'd left past noon, there was still a little light over Staunton after the eight hour drive.
The big difference from my last time at my childhood home is that my mother now has a dog, a smallish female Blue Healer. She had been found in the woods near the I-81 in Verona with "Chaps" on her nametag, though no owner could ever be located. A friend had suggested that my mother ("Hoagie") should adopt Chaps, and reportedly the moment Chaps saw Hoagie it was that special doggy-form of "please be my human companion" at first sight. Chaps hasn't voluntarily left Hoagie's side since. Unlike Fred (the previous dog), Chaps is an indoor dog, though she sleeps in a crate, a place she often retreats to whenever something causes her stress.
The biggest stress inducer in Chap's life these days is my brother Don. Nobody can say why it is that Chaps hates Don, but she does. She anxiously watches him whenever he's within sight and will not walk near him. For his part, Don does his best to extend an olive branch, offering her his hand and even crouching down in absurd submissive poses, but none of it does any good. Chaps, who loves to shake hands, will occasionally extend a paw towards Don, but it seems she does this more out of loyalty to Hoagie than any real desire to be friends.
There's also a new cat in the back yard. He's a fluffy white guy with the informal name of Hobo. Don thinks he might have once belonged to the crazy Greek neighbor Demitra, though now that my parents are feeding him he spends all his time at their place. He's strictly an outdoor cat, though he does casually wander in through any open door. He gets along well with Chaps, though the Kitten, the black cat with ten years of seniority over these newcomers, despises both Chaps and Hobo. Unfortunately, the Kitten appears to be partially paralyzed in her back legs these days, and though she can walk okay, she can no longer jump up onto the kitchen card table, the place she used to enjoy spending most of her time. Since being treated with flea powder (something my father had long opposed), she is no longer tormented by scratching fits.

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