Too hard to say no

Because of my inferior intellect (and this, I'm convinced, is the opinion of my animals) I am faced with four-legged con artists who can sell me any idea which pleases them. At exactly eight p.m. it is as if my dog Shadow glances at the clock, and says, "Time for bed." He rushes down the hall toward the bedroom of his choice (mine), comes back, leaps with delight to get my attention, charges down the hall. I open the door for him, he lands on the bed and starts making it up to suit himself, rearranging pillows, bunching up blankets. My rule is that he must sleep at the foot of the bed and on his own side. About this we quarrel and I lose.

In the morning when I start putting on heavy jacket and boots all dogs know that I am going to the barn. Eyes are bright with eagerness and hope, every dog jumping around and shouting. I explain that they can't all go, that they are too many, that when they get together they run in a pack and I don't know where they are or what they are up to. I tell them, "Only Shadow and Robert can go this time, the rest of you will have to wait until we come back."

Hearing their names, Robert and Shadow accelerate their excitement. The little terrier, Annie, goes to work on me. She absolutely has to go to the barn , chores won't be done right without her, rabbits and squirrels will not be properly chased. Before I get the back door opened more than a crack Annie has squeezed through, is off and running.

Shadow and Robert shove me out of the way in their haste to join her. As I cross the meadow on the way to the barn I hear the laments of the unfortunates left in the house. Foxy Face, my yellow cat, walks with me. He is a master of persuasion. Should a day be cold and rainy there is no point in letting him outdoors because right away he wants to be back in the house. But until he tests the outer chill he doesn't know where he wants to be. I tell him that it's too cold, yet he stands on his back legs, twists at the doorknob with his front paws and makes such pathetic sounds that I have to yield to his wishes.

If I'm late heading for the barn, Wallace the pig lets me know. He comes halfway across the meadow, stands and shrieks, trots a few steps toward the barn , turns back toward the house and shrieks some more, keeping this up until I appear. But I'm not often late because the whinnying of the horses, the bawling of the cows, the braying of the burro, and the house animals loudly announcing the time of day leave me no choice. Even the mice urge me to hurry; they bang around in their cage traps although there is plenty of peanut butter bait. It is as if they know that I'll take them out and free them as soon as I start the day.

The mice are a separate story.

There are the bedroom mice, the kitchen mice, the bathroom mice and the living room mice. I can't put a trap for the living room mice because the dogs and cats would spring it. Accordingly, the living room mice are bold. Occasionally one saunters across the floor and all I have to do is sneak up on it, seize it, and take it outdoors.

One day while I was trying to eat breakfast the trapped kitchen mouse kept peering at me through its bars. I imagined it had a most imploring and anxious expression as it watched every move I made, every bite I took.

I wanted it to wait a few minutes but it is a con artist like all the others. I had to leave my food, take the mouse outdoors and free it in a place where it could hide. As I did this I reflected that it is bad enough to have to obey the larger animals without a mouse telling me what to do. I remembered a line from Alice in Wonderland. "How these creatures do order one about!"

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