I have seen the devil …

bag o bandit…and she is peering at me from inside a shopping bag.

Meet Bandit. She’s one of our cats. But she’s much more than one cat.

She’s a cat who thinks she’s a dog and hangs out with them, who’s near 10 years old and refuses to stop being a kitten, who likes to act crazy but really is diabolical and because of that has devoted her entire freakish feline life – nearly every waking minute of it – to pissing us off because she thinks it’s funny.

Other than that she’s perfectly normal.

I’m watching her right now, doing yet again what she truly believes is perfectly normal. She’s chewing a handle on one of those cheap grocery plastic bags. Inside the bag is a pair of my wife’s shoes – sensible pumps, mid-height heel, nothing sleazy.

As she has done 3.89 million times before, Bandit will chew through one handle. Not both, never both. When she’s done she’ll go across the room and settle into some nice little niche. And wait. Until my wife tries to pick up the bag and finds it only has one handle.

Possibly with furry trepidation, she awaits my wife’s stamp of approval.

“Dammit, Bandit!”

Her work is done.

A candid moment in the Waterman living room. Please notice Bandit, at right, lounging alone on a large pet bed, and that the three large dogs have given it over to her. They know better. Also notice the mummified remains of an elderly gentleman on the couch. He passed away  in 2003. But the dogs liked him and we didn't have the heart to take him away.

A moment in the Waterman living room. Notice Bandit, at right, lounging on a large pet bed and that the three large dogs have given it over to her. They know better. Also notice the mummified corpse on the couch. He passed away in 2003. But the dogs liked him and we’ve not the heart to remove him.


Bandit came into our world in a box. While the phrase most often is used for beings who leave this world, in our house it’s usually how fur-ball beings arrive in it. I remember the day, vaguely. I was taking a nap, a peaceful one. One that was about to be interrupted.

“Honey, wake up.” It was my wife and a friend by the bedside.

“Huuuuuh?”

“We-were-driving-downtown-and-we-saw-a-box-by-the-road-and-we-stopped-and-looked-into-it-and-guess-what-there-were-six-little-kittens-in-it-and-somebody-must-have-just-thrown-them-there-can-you-believe-how-cruel-some-people-are-so-we-couldn’t-just-leave-them-they-all-were-crying-so-we-grabbed-the-box-and-took-off-and-can-we-keep-them-please-oh-please-oh-pleeeeeeeease?”

“Where’s the box?”

“In the kitchen.”

Game over. I went back to sleep. Once one stray animal or six stray animals get inside my house, they never leave. But don’t blame my lovely wife this time – it was my fault. I fell asleep. I let my guard down. I should have known better. Now you know why I constantly drink coffee.

Bandit doing her best to look ... normal. But do notice Emma, at right, fast asleep yet with both eyes still open. She knows better. Bandit is waiting. Should her eyes close, she will roar up into the demon that she is and pounce.

Bandit doing her best to look … normal. But do notice Emma, at right, fast asleep yet with both eyes still open. She knows better. Bandit is waiting. If Emma’s eyes close, Bandit will transform into The Demon and attack.

Bandit is named Bandit because of the triangular bandana-like white swatch under her chin and on her chest. Only this bandit never pulls it up over her face – she wants you to know who she is when she commits crimes against our humanity.
One thing you can pretty much bet will never be in my house is a gun. Need I say more? I thought not.

One thing you can pretty much bet will never be in my house is a gun. Need I say more? I thought not.

She’s also named Bandit because we thought she was a boy. Found out different when she went with the others to the vet. Cat’s been screwing with us from Day 1.

But while life has been no normal picnic since Bandit’s moved in, there are some moments of triumph for us human folk. Well, at least for me. Like when I’m shaving in the bathroom and Bandit jumps up on the sink. One reason is to get in my way but if that’s not enough to rile me she’ll go into “bad cat mode”, triple-time.

She honestly becomes almost frantic, looking around for something bad to do to get my attention. She might try to knock off my shaving cream can – only I’ve put it away. She pulls on the strings of my hoodie – only I’ve taken it off. Her last gasp? She starts pulling and chewing on my toothbrush, sticking out of the nearby canister.

“Good Bandit, that’s your mother’s toothbrush. Go right ahead and chew it.” And damn, with demonic abandon, she’ll start chomping on the one next to it.

Reverse psychology – works every time.

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We wish you …

Mom and Rocky kiss … a merry Christmas …
Merry Wilbur 1 … We wish you …
Merry Zoe … a merry Christmas!

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy neeeew … Merry Rocky Whatever. Give me the damn treat you promised me.

Gone vacationin’

VacationMy wife and I haven’t taken a vacation in years, decades actually. Not because we don’t want to go on one, or can’t afford to go on one, or even that we can’t decide where to go on one.

No, it’s because of the kids. You know, the pets. We’ve got too many to take with us, unless they rent rooms with a view and beachfront access at a kennel on some Caribbean island. Of course we can’t leave them home alone – we’d come back to find most of the house destroyed and probably a few of them missing. We can’t leave them with someone – we’d come back to find most of their house destroyed and probably our friends missing.

No, we’ve got too many animals and not enough disposable friends to go on vacation. Which leaves us one choice when we yearn to see the world beyond our backyard. We have to live vicariously through others’ vacations.

But not just any vacations. Just the bad ones. Looking in on someone’s great vacation would make us sad. But looking in on someone’s …
vacation from hell … now that’s a vicarious vacation that’s well worth the, uh, vicariousing.

For the best in worst awkward vacation moments, or anything awkward when it comes to families, there’s no better place to click than AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com. Just possibly the most fun website on Earth. It’s so great, I love it. It’s so great, I hate it. With a passion. Because I didn’t think of it. Set up a website, let people from all over the world send you their awkward family photos and just post them for all to see. Wonderfully simple and wildly successful. I despise it.

Let’s see some “highlights” of what some fortunate families are doing with their paid-time-off and where they’re doing it, shall we? Yes, let’s shall.Drip Rock KentuckyWho needs a coast, or a beach, or even a sandbox, when you and your kin can get away from it all in Drip Rock, Kentucky? The only answer: “Ayup, damn straight … know whatimtalkinbout?” Bathing suits are optional. Beer, mandatory.
tree straddlersDear Charles Darwin: Hey Chuck, you were right. You just left off one part. It may have taken us tens of thousands of years to climb down out of trees, walk upright and become Man. But it only takes a week in Hawaii for us to get species-identical, scamper back up one and feel right at home. Evolutionarily yours, GW.
take a hikeAw, look honey – gotta take a picture here. We’ve got a couple of great girls, don’t we? I told you a couple of weeks hiking through the Cascades would be good for all of us. Not sure why they look like that kid on the porch in the Burt Reynolds’ movie, “Deliverance,” but it’s true – for a good time, get back to nature!
family squatIt’s said, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That said, take a look at this happy brood and what can one conclude? There must be a popular vacation destination out there called Toilet, and the family that squats together … are just doing as the Toiletians do. Of course. Now this makes perfect common sense.

And lastly, my favorite place not to get away from it all.
lobster potLooks like a fun family all piled into the hot tub, right? Look more closely. At the much happier crowd, lined up in a ring ’round the tub’s rim.

Ayup, damn straight. A vacationing family of lobsters … having a cookout.

Spring has dung!

dung hazmat banner

Spring is dung!
Da poop has riz!
I wonder where my damn lawn is …

Yes, it’s that time again. The birds are singing, the daffodils are blooming, the sun is shining, the temperatures are rising …

“Good Lord. They’ve come back again.”

“Who are they?”

“Robins.”

“God save us. It can’t be spring yet. It just snowed a few weeks ago.”

“It was just toying with us. We couldn’t be so lucky to be stuck in an Ice Age. No, we have to live during global warming.”

“You know what this means?”

“Of course I know what this means. Thar’s a ton of dog poop in them thar grasses.”

“Cute.”

“Well, I hate to bring this up again but we wouldn’t have this problem if you didn’t insist on feeding them during the winter. Humans adapt, maybe dogs probably do too. Who knows? We fatten them up in the fall, then cut the food chain and they might think they’re bears. Maybe hibernate even. Like I always say, it’s worth a shot.”

“And like I always answer, you should be shot.”

My wife and I have this conversation every year about this time. When you have a dog and you let that dog out into your backyard two, three, four times a day to “do his business”, the best season of year is winter. And the best things about winter are that it’s cold and there’s snow.

The cold freezes them. the snow hides them. Problem solved. Temporarily.

Because then comes spring. By my learned calculation, one large-size dog produces about 2 cubic feet of poop during the approximately four months of winter.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as the perfect dog. Yeah, sure thing kid ... and I rode a unicorn to work today. I've never owned one.

Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as the perfect dog. Oh yeah, … and I rode a unicorn to work today.

Now, I have three large dogs. So let’s do the math, shall we?

Exactly right – that works out to 359.74 cubic feet of dog crapola. You see? Those dreary math classes in school were well worth with it.

As you now graphically understand, the “spring thaw” is not a happy time around the Waterman household. At least not out in back of the Waterman household.

But does this stop us from perpetually maintaining a small herd of rather large man’s best friends? Hardly. We are undeterred. Yes, we may be up to our ears in it every spring, but the key to keeping our collective sanity while amidst and up to our midriffs in so much canine by-product is planning. And preparation.

dung suitsYessir, this is how we do it. This is how we beat it. So far, there ain’t been no mountains high enough.

She’s one mastiff con artist

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s 3:23 in the morning. I know that because my left eye is staring at the glowing red numbers of the alarm clock that’s staring back at me from my nightstand. My right eye ain’t seeing anything. It’s buried in my pillow.

At 3:22 in the morning I was in the midst of a ferocious battle with some kind of blobby, blackish maybe-alien thing that apparenty wanted to kill me or eat me, not necessarily in that order. Waking up had abruptly ended the fight.

I was half awake and fully annoyed. I could’ve kicked that thing’s ass. As soon as I located its ass.

I wake up a lot at night. A great sleeper? No. A great candidate for a sleep apnea study? Oh, yeah. Poster boy material.

In any case, at this early-morning moment I’m not doing anything but staring down the alarm clock. It hasn’t blinked yet.

The bedroom is dark. The room is at full occupancy. Three dogs, at least two cats. Oh yeah, and two people. Almost forgot. It’s dark and semi-quiet. The at-least two cats are curled up somewhere on my wife. They know better than to take up residence on me. If I’m awake I’ll push them over to her. If I’m asleep I’ll probably thrash them over there. Two of the dogs – the bulldogs – are fervently playing a heavy-breathing, lightly-snoring duet. Their usual virtuoso performance.

The third is awake. It’s Zoe, my bull mastiff. I know this because I can hear the sharp, constant beating of her tail on the floor. Even without looking I know she’s sitting at the end of the bed, on my side and staring at me. Happily beating the crap out of the floor and every now and then whacking a good, solid clang out of the baseboard next to her. If I turned my head I’d see her – just a big blobby, blackish thing, slightly darker than the dark.

She was asleep and on the other side of the room not 30 seconds ago. How the hell does she always know when I wake up?

You're saying this is your bed? You're sure? Well, imagine that.

You’re saying this is your bed? You’re sure? Well, imagine that.

No sense in wasting time trying to figure it out. I’m awake, she’s awake, why don’t we call the whole sleeping thing off. We get up. Walk down the hall to the kitchen. She’s leading the way and I’m stumbling and bumbling behind. That alien blob was a better fighter than I imagined, I guess.

I hit the lights in the kitchen and there she is, in the same spot she always is at these moments. Standing and facing the sliding glass doors, then looking back at me with big brown eyes that say, “open-says-a-me.”

The door is opened and she goes out. Doesn’t matter what it’s doing out there – raining, snowing, fiery-meteor shower – she goes. Waters half the lawn and then comes back. I let her in, she goes by me and straight to a corner in the kitchen counter. Where the “family-size” bag of Pup-Peroni treats sits. Standing and facing the bag, then looking back at me with big brown eyes that say, “open-says-a-me.”

“How do I know you actually did something?”

Thump-thump-thump. She knows I was watching.

“You do know that I don’t have to give you one of these things?”

Thump-thump-thump. She knows I’m bluffing.

Treat paid, I walk out of the kitchen, turn the lights off and say, as always, “c’mon girl, it’s still bedtime.”

It works sometimes … actually hardly ever. I’m halfway down the hall but she’s not behind me. I sigh, turn around and go back. Turn on the lights.

There she is, in the same spot she always is at these moments. Standing and facing the sliding glass doors, then looking back at me with big brown eyes that say, “open-says-a-me.”

Round two. She fertilizes half the lawn, I let her in and she goes … well, by now you know where she goes. And what she’s doing.

“How in God’s name do you pull off doing one and NOT the other? How did you learn how to compartmentilize doing that?”

Thump-thump-thump. She’s not talking.

Now, there was one night when I didn’t get up. Not that I didn’t wake up, but the night when Zoe thumped that tail so loudly it woke my wife.

I laid there, very still, as if sleeping. I know Zoe wasn’t buying it, but my wife did. They went down the hall. I heard the door open, then close, then open, then close. I heard the bag rustle. And then “What, you need to go out again?”

The door opened, then closed, then opened, then closed. I saw the lights go out, heard my wife’s footsteps coming down the hall and then …

Woof.

The footsteps went away, the light went back on, followed by some muffled words I couldn’t quite make out. Sounded a little angry, though. Lights out again, louder footsteps and as she got back into bed, I feigned coming to.

“What was that?” I mumbled.

“Your daughter.”

“Why’d she bark?”

“I let her out, two times in a row.”

“She barked because you let her out twice?”

“No, she barked when I was coming back to bed after the second time. I went back and she was sitting there, waiting for another treat.”

“Really? Strange. You give it to her?”

“She’s not barking now, is she?”

“Huh,” I grumbled as I rolled over. “You sure spoil that dog.”

The artist, the bulldog

a bulldog asleepIf there’s one thing people learn after a few years of having pets, it’s that you don’t own them, they own you. But if the pet happens to be an English bulldog, there’s something else. They don’t do anything unless they want to, and all they really want to do is … nothing. Most loveable but also the most stubborn and laziest beings on Earth. After people.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to read the story of Piper, the painting bulldog. Astounded by it, actually.

Piper strikes a very classic bulldog pose for her owner, Jessica Stone. This usually can be interpreted as "Smile? You must be joking." Copyright © Jessica Stone

Piper strikes a very classic bulldog pose for her owner. painter Jessica Stone. This usually can be interpreted as “Say cheese? You must be joking. I eat cheese,” but Piper’s different. Copyright © Jessica Stone

Piper is the proud owner of artist Jessica Stone. The one-bright-eyed rescued bullie was with Stone at her Austin, Texas, studio one day and evidently felt the urge to send a mental message to her owner – gimme a paint brush already, I feel an inspiration coming on. Jessica got the message, got a brush, dipped it in paint, held a piece of paper and added Piper.

Stone says Piper took brush in mouth and started a-wiggling and a-waving it on the paper. Good Lord, the girl was painting. And it was, well, as it turned out … there’s really no other way to put it … it was a painting.

The artist at work. Copyright © Jessica Stone

The artist at work. Copyright © Jessica Stone

“Her pieces are just so carefree and whimsical, and they amaze me.” Stone told a reporter in a story about Piper’s artistic ability.

She ain’t fooling. And she’s not the only amazed Piper-painter person down in the heart of Texas. The pooch has a following.

I think this one should be called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pup. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

This one might be called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pup. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

One painting hasn’t been enough for Piper. Turns out she is very inspired. More than that, successful too. We’re not talking about a starving artist here. She’s sold more than 120 of them, along with shirts with prints of her work and her used brushes (signed by her teeth, no doubt) for the benefit of the San Antonio Bulldog Rescue, the organization that brought Piper and Jessica together.

This pooch isn't a Piper, she's a Pawcasso. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

This pooch isn’t a Piper, she’s a Pawcasso. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

What a nice story. What a wonderful and very talented white bulldog.

Whoa, hold on. We have a white bulldog. We have a brown one too, but what if the white ones are special? What if they come along only once in great while, like the mythical White Buffalo?

You know, I always had a feeling Wilbur was more than your average English bulldog. But now I realize I wasn’t getting his messages. Wasn’t paying attention to the signs. I’m sure he’s been sending them. I went through some of the 3,965 pictures we’ve taken of him and his brothers and sisters, this time really examining, really looking at each one. The picture, once blurred, slowly began to come into focus.

Notice that an artist must be a quiet, yet keen, observer of life. And I thought he was just sitting in the sun. What a fool am I.

Notice that an artist must be a quiet, yet keen, observer of life. And I thought he was just sitting in the sun. What a fool am I.

But what artistic venue is Wilbur’s forte? He’s never shown an interest in paint, never asked for the camera when we’ve taken pictures of him … what the heck is this artist-in-my-residence trying to tell me?

I went back to flipping through the photographs. Nothing, nothing, more nothing. And then I found it. It was right there in front of me.

a bulldog painter performance artNotice the artistry. Pay heed to the passion, the canine creativity. I didn’t see it at first, but can’t miss it now. How had I been so blind?

Wilbur – choreographer. Wilbur – performance artist. Transformer of the physical sleeping dogs into a fantastical image … of the very Circle of Life!

Wilbur – the next Twyla Tharp.