Ringo’s Big Adventure
Those Crafty Croatian Cats
by Dallas Doctor
Ringo’s not like other dogs. I’ve been lucky enough to have shared my life with dogs that could be trusted to run and play off-leash. Ringo is not one of them.
Mongo rarely saw a leash in the 12 years he lived in Key West. He was a big black lab — a neighborhood dog. Mongo was a regular at the Green Parrot in the early 90s when dogs and people all got along in the world and everybody worked it out.
Then the angel-with-fur, Ginger. The only reason Ginger ever needed a leash was for the emotional benefit of those few strangers who would see a big yellow labrador and panic. Ginger was a New-Yorker; she took to the streets like they were her own. She wore her leash between the front door and the park, for no other reason than to not frighten the passers-by, but the moment we got to Central Park, the leash came off and there was never a problem … not once.
But Ringo is not Mongo. And Ringo is not Ginger. Ringo seriously needs a leash for his own protection. For one thing, within 10-seconds of being off-leash, Ringo will find road trash to get into. Ringo has an internal magnet for garbage — and the grosser and juicier it is the more likely he is to want to chew on it. But Ringo’s predilections for misbehaving are far more dangerous (and far scarier) than just the garbage factor. Ringo’s crazy. He’s deathly afraid of things like awnings and umbrellas but he’ll step directly into the path of an oncoming car without a second thought. He does it every single day (no, that’s not accurate — he does it multiple times per day). He has no understanding or respect for traffic. None. He never has. It’s never occurred to Ringo to get out of the way of an oncoming bus. And he’s never had to learn his lesson the hard way because Doc saves Ringo’s life constantly. Doc has to be ready every single second of every single doggie-walk to yank Ringo out of imminent, life-threatening danger. And it’s led to some interesting interactions with local wildlife.
For example: It took the cats in Klis, Croatia about a week to figure out that Ringo was on a leash. In fact, we didn’t see any cats at all that first week. At first, as far as Doc could tell, it was as if there weren’t any cats in town at all. But as soon as the sneaky local felines worked out that the new big brown dog was tethered to his human, the cats began to make their moves. And they became quite bold about it.
The one thing you need to know about Klis is that it goes up and down more than it goes side to side. The village is built into the side of a giant cliff, so you’re more likely to enter your neighbor’s house through his roof (or his basement) than you are to work your way around to his front door.
And living on the z-axis changes the way you look at the world; it adds another dimension (up and down) to your experience. Birds live in three dimensions and I imagine fish do too. They live along the up-and-down as much as the side-to-side or forward-to-back. But most of us land-dwelling mammals (squirrels might be an exception) are confined by our experience to essentially the surface of the planet. We tend to big-picture the world in terms of north/south(x-axis) and east/west(y-axis). Yes, there are ripples in our two dimensions (we call them mountains) and our sphere folds around back into itself, but even in the mountains, or out on the curve of the ocean, we still spend most of our lives clinging to the surface of our sphere, which is essentially a two-dimensional experience in a universe of three-dimensional possibilities. That’s why living on a cliff in Klis is such an opportunity for a perspective reorientation. The village is much better understood on the z-axis than x or y.
And Ringo, being a land-dwelling mammal, generally, as was his habit, only initially looked to his left or his right (or forward or behind) whenever he was in search of the elusive Croatian cat. I think he knew they were there. I think he could smell them, but he couldn’t see them, at first. Because the cats were not where Ringo was looking. They would typically attack us from above, strike quickly, then disappear away from us below.
And the Klis cats were fearless. From the moment they realized Ringo was leashed, they patrolled over our heads and followed us. They stalked us and set up boundaries that were not to be crossed. There was one spot in particular where the local cats set up a no-go zone. It was at the top of a narrow path where two large dumpsters collected the village trash. The cats may have been defending their food supply, or perhaps just territory in general, but they most definitely decided that Ringo would not be allowed to pass.
They would lay in wait for us, hiding behind the stone walls over our heads, or in and around the dumpster. The moment we got too close, they’d come out and challenge us. Sometimes they’d leap down in a guerilla-move from above and startle us (much to Ringo’s delight), and then disappear below as quickly as they’d materialized. They did it to warn us to stay away. It was an effective strategy because it let Doc know we’d entered the danger zone.
There was one big, grey cat in particular who was most adamant about Ringo’s presence not being acceptable. He looked more like a house cat than a feral creature (almost like a fat, furry Russian Blue). He was the definitely the boldest cat of them all. He’d challenge Ringo and stare him down. He moved like he was ready to pounce at any moment. His courage may have stemmed from the cadre of mangier compatriots he had at his back, although I’m convinced would happily have taken on Ringo one-on-one without fear of consequence. He would walk slowly right out into the center of our path; he’d hiss, warn and posture. He made it clear he was not only ready, but eager, to fight.
And Ringo would have gone for it in a second. Ringo always wanted to engage. Every time. Very much like an oncoming car, Ringo still has no conception of what a real-life clash with a cat might actually entail. Ringo always wanted to get right in there and mix it up, but the first time that big gray cat took a good hard swipe with his claws at Ringo’s face, Doc became convinced the cats were capable of things Ringo didn’t realize he didn’t want any part of.
“That cat will tear you up, Ringo” Doc used to try to explain, but of course, Ringo never believed it. Ringo would have run right into the fray, if not for the leash. And like I say, it took the cats about a week to figure out the leash … And it took Doc about two days after that to figure out that Ringo’s leash was just as necessary here in this little village as it had been in the city.
Doc and Ringo did find some spots where it was both fun and safe to go off leash. Outside of town, under the aqueduct was fine; there was a creek and lots to explore and no trash to speak of. Also down at the beach. Ringo could run in and out of the sea; he could romp and get smelly and wet. But as soon as we started climbing the cliff back into town, the leash had to go back on to protect Ringo from the traffic and the trash … and from the cats…
Please feel free to share this story in any way you consider appropriate. This is part of a collection of simple short stories called: “Ringo’s Big Adventure” which is NOT to be confused with a similarly titled, but entirely different set of (hopefully) more-literary stories with the working title “Conversations Overheard While Traveling with Ringo” which are ONLY available to the awesome humans who are making these adventures possible. Please visit patreon.com/dockity/overview to learn more… Thank You! Sincerely, dockity.