• Jack McBride White

The Amazing Adventures of Dusty & Goat

This is a story that we ran in Sykesville Online in May of 2014. I've shortened it and I took out the camel. Enjoy.

Goat Escapes

Clearly the biggest news in the Freedom area today is the continued freedom of an escaped goat, who’s been spotted just about everywhere, but has somehow managed to elude capture.

People on Facebook have been trying to come up with a cute name for him, but I’m just calling him Goat, because he probably doesn’t want a cute name.

That's a picture of Goat in someone’s backyard. Lisa Wheeler Grimes took the picture.

Now if you look closely at Goat, you’ll notice a couple things, first off, he’s quite attractive. Second, he seems to be saying, “You looking at me?”

Anyway, no one has come as close to capturing Goat as Lisa, who grew up with goats and speaks their language.

Here’s what she told me. “Just had the goat trapped in someone’s backyard. I followed him from Piney Ridge town homes. Had to be the most interesting trip to the store ever. As I came back into the complex, I saw what I at first thought was a Great Dane.

“Then I saw his horns. He was very scared. He crossed piney ridge into the housing development and finally went into someone’s backyard with a wooden fence, so I closed the gate, and he went onto their deck.

“I didn’t want him to destroy their property, but I didn’t want him to get hurt either. And, don’t laugh but, I spoke goat to him, lol. I grew up on a farm and that’s what we used to do.

“That got his attention, and we had a fine conversation in ‘Goat language.’

“I called animal control and gave them the address and they were there in five minutes. He jumped the fence into the next yard. Another animal control person came with more equipment and I just stood back to let them do their job.

“He got out of that yard as well, but it looked as if they had it under control and hopefully this beautiful creature will be taken care of and returned to his owner.”

Lisa did her best, but unfortunately, she was wrong. Animal control did not have the situation under control. She called back later and found out that animal control had failed. Goat was still on the loose and desperately confused and hoping to meet someone else who spoke goat. Hopefully Goat has an owner, who is out looking.

Dusty Escapes, too

It’s a traumatic thing when you lose an animal. We had a pair of stray cats my wife brought in. She promised she would find homes for them, since we already had a dog and a couple cats.

They lived in our garage a few weeks, while she searched for someone to take them in. Eventually, she found a home for them. It was our home, in fact, and I wasn't happy.

Before they made the transition from transitory to permanent members of our family, I started to like them. I certainly learned to respect them. Every morning I would go out to the garage to go to work, but first, before starting my car, I would pop my hood and get the cats out of the engine.

I don’t know why they were always in there. I guess because it was warm, but even more perplexing was how on earth they managed it. They were like two cat Houdinis. We would tie them up with chains at night, lock them in an iron safe, then sink the safe in our swimming pool, and next morning they’d be in my engine. It was uncanny.

Okay, that was an exaggeration, but I'm not kidding. No matter how well we wrapped them up and boxed them in for the night, they always escaped and got in my car.

Eventually, of course, they moved into the house proper. Then one day, Dusty, the smart one (talking relative here, they were both geniuses) escaped. He was gone three entire days. I doubt he was six months old and couldn't imagine he knew what he was doing. He had been a street cat in the past, though, so maybe he had somewhere to go.

Andrea went immediately insane, and I must have looked out the back slider for that cat a thousand times.

Eventually, after hanging signs all over the neighborhood with snippets of Dusty's DNA and renting the Good Year Blimp to hover above Sykesville flashing pictures of the cat, Andrea started getting desperate.

When the seance didn't work (although we did make contact with my hamster from eighth grade), she hired these people who use dogs to track strays. The dogs came to our house and sniffed around, sniffed the cat’s litter and things like that, and then they went off in search of Dusty.

Now this is absolutely true, whereas the part about the blimp and the seance are actually exaggerations. I’m at work. I get a call. It's Andrea. She’s all out of breath. She’s calling from like the middle of the Patapsco River. I’m not kidding.

She and the dog lady and the tracker dogs are crossing the river, or some big stream, or something, on Dusty’s trail.

I'm listening on my cell phone at work. Her voice is loud. She's panting loudly. She's shouting over rushing water. Everyone at work is like, “Jack, is your wife okay? Why is she shouting? Why is your mouth hanging open?”

And I really don’t want to tell them that my mouth is hanging open because my wife is calling me from the middle of the stream she’s fording with a pack of dogs in search of our kitten.

Anyway, people are helping on Facebook. People are calling around. Everyone’s looking for Dusty, but the dogs fail, the people fail, everything fails.

But the tracker lady, who I'm convinced by now is insane, gives Andrea a trick to try. So, here’s what she does. Andrea goes to the last spot where a tracker dog got a sniff of Dusty’s scent, and she makes a trail of cat litter back to our house.

She goes through the yards of other people. She climbs over fences. All with a bag of cat litter, which she’s sprinkling about like pixie dust. Except it’s not pixie dust. It’s dirty litter with Dusty’s scent on it, because if you’re a cat, naturally you’re going to follow a trail of your own urine home. At least that’s the theory.

One guy caught Andrea in his yard. The guy comes out and goes, “What are you doing in my yard?” And Andrea says, “I’m leaving a trail of cat litter so my kitten will follow it home.” And the guy’s like, “Oh.”

So, she gets home all sweaty and wet and tired and smelling like cat litter, and still no sign of Dusty. We go to bed that night. Andrea’s hopeful, though. She's very excited about the litter trail. She thinks for sure it's going to work.

When she falls asleep, I find her little address book and write down the number of her therapist.

Around 4 a.m., I wake up and start thinking about the cat. I realize that I've become fond of him. I'm not thrilled with his brother, who spends all his time sleeping in our bathroom sink, but I like Dusty, and so I think, “Let me go see if the stupid cat followed the litter trail home.”

I open the slider. I yell his name. I’ve been doing it for days. I feel like a hopeless idiot at 4 a.m., sticking my head out the window and shouting, "Dusty. Dusty."

Well at least I haven’t been caught trailing used litter through some guy’s yard yet. And I haven’t forded any streams.

I catch a whiff of litter on the wind. Or is it my imagination? No cat. Of course, there’s no cat. The whole thing’s ridiculous. He’s lost. He’s gone. He’s only about six months old, or maybe even less, maybe three. I don't know, and he’s dead.

He screwed up. He’s trapped somewhere and starving, and he’s been devoured by...I don’t know. Do we have wolves? Isn’t there some sort of Sykesville monster?

I know something must have devoured him. I hang my head and go back inside.

I just sit on the couch and sort of stare toward the slider. I blink. I nod off a bit. I open my eyes. I blink a few more times. And between blinks, the cat appears at the door.

Then I blink several times really fast. I shake my head a few times. I slap myself on both sides of the face. The cat is still there. I jump to my feet and run to the door.

I open it. The cat walks right past me and starts slurping from his water bowl. I stare at him to make sure he's real. I watch his little tongue jab at the water. I hear the little splashing sound.

Upstairs, our two kids and Andrea are all sleeping the sad sleeps of sad people who’ve lost their kitten.

I fly up the stairs. I don’t actually hit any steps. I flick on the light in the hallway, and I shout.

“He’s home.”

Immediately the hallway fills with people. Andrea takes one look at me. She says, “No.” I say, “Yes.”

And she jumps straight into the air in my direction. I believe this is the first time she’s ever jumped and actually gotten her feet off the ground. Her head hits the annoying fire alarm on the ceiling that beeps whenever its battery gets low, and she lands in my arms with her legs pointing straight out. I fall down and we land on the cat and kill him.

No, actually the cat’s still downstairs calmly crunching on dry food. Andrea goes running after him and so do the others. Everyone’s shouting, “Dust Bunny, you're home.” There’s a big celebration. Dusty seems a bit perplexed.

"What's the big deal?" But mostly he takes it in stride.

Meanwhile his brother's upstairs in the sink, and as far as I know, Goat is still on the loose in Eldersburg.